We, sequestered in our brick-and-mortar mansions, often think that slavery is a relic of the past when its modern version is rampant in our very own backyard i.e. bonded labour. Most of our local industries practice one or the other form of debt bondage and one of the worst perpetrators are the brick kilns. Almost 96 percent of the workers employed in the kilns are in a vicious circle of debt bondage and their entire family is then sucked into this vortex of labour exploitation as the wife and children of a bonded labourer are then forced to join him.
This Mother’s Day, I would like to acknowledge the abject suffering of these women who work in oppressively harsh working conditions, take care of their children and families, all the while in the claws of an exploitative system of peshgi. That there are other aspects to the exploitation of these women in addition to economic exploitation should make us think about the sorry state of labour extortion in the country. These are the hands that make the bricks that make our houses; yet there travails are trivial to us.
So on a day when we purport to acknowledge the contributions of mothers to society, we should also acknowledge what we don’t acknowledge: the distress of the mothers that tend and fend for their children in these kilns whose hands stoke the fires of their own misery.