David Knight P ’21

There are millions of men, women and children making bricks out of mud in horrendous conditions throughout India. These bricks are used to build houses and office buildings.
The workers are hired against a loan by an employer, which they have to pay back by working for them. The debt grows and it quickly becomes impossible to pay back and leave their work in the brick kilns. Debts can be passed on from generation to generation. Bonded labor is illegal in India but continues as it has for thousands of years. The workers face extreme heat, hazardous materials such as arsenic, burning rubber/plastic, and dust. The average working day is 15-16 hours and children as young as five years old are in the brick kilns. It is common for several families live in one room. Often, to survive, new loans are taken to pay back old loans so the cycle of perpetual bondage continues.
I've been privileged to work with these bonded laborers, mainly Dalits (untouchables) in India. I've worked with local organizations to help improve working conditions, educate, and unionize bonded brick kiln laborers in villages outside Amritsar, a city in the northwestern Indian state of Punjab, not far from the border with Peshawar, Pakistan. Their hardships in life are unimaginable but in every house in every village I'm treated like a new friend and what little they have is always offered to me. I often wonder, who has more?

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