by LWF India Trust
Maku Hansda, 40 had no choice but to start work at the age of 10 at a stone crusher unit. Her father’s illness compelled her to start work as a day-labourer in Mohammad Bazar, Birbhum in 1980.
Her work was to pour stone of about 6-7 kgs into the open crushing machine without rest using a Dhama, a can made of iron. The12-hour strenuous labour gave her only 10 rupees. She’s been doing this for 30 years now. The stone dust was suffocating and work taxing. More often than not there was pressure to stretch and putting up with harassment of the managers. She kept mum lest she lost her job.
Things became worse when she was married off at 13, to a daily labourer, who wouldn’t work. Along with the hard work in the stone crusher unit, she was burdened with household work in the evenings. She had a miscarriage due to the hazardous work she was doing. And was consequently ill-treated by her in-laws.
In the year 2002, labourers like Maku started receiving an increased daily wage amount of Rs. 50, which was much less than the government stipulated amount.
This is a common picture of exploitation in every stone crushing unit of that area. No one has had the courage to stand up against such inhuman and unjust practices as this business has been in operation for at least three decades.
With LWSIT’s intervention since February 2010, they are more aware of the rights of employment and they want to change things. A long, continuous protest movement of the tribal people, for the rights of stone quarry workers has finally borne fruit.
Now, the workers have found some respite. The working hours have been reduced from 12 hours to 8 hours and the daily wage rate has gone up from Rs 50 to Rs 100. The Quarry owners have arranged for water spraying in the units to minimise the effects of stone dust.
Maku and others are now not abused by the owners or managers. No extra work or mandatory overtime can be implemented by any unit holders.
Maku, along with other stone quarry workers have formed an SHG that will address worker issues. They are ready to demand for identity cards, health insurance and better working conditions with toilets, resting rooms and free accessibility to drinking water.