Nepali Times Asian Paints
Nation
Smoke and dust


TEXT and PICTURES by SAM KANG LI


The dry season starts from November, but it will not last. To make the most of it, workers, usually Indians and rural Nepalis, toil in 24-hour shifts. Just above them, a flag carrying the symbol of Hanuman flies in the wind. It will bless them with strength, a factory owner says. They might as well be blessed with speed too, for time is also critical. Each day, the kiln gobbles up 50,000 rupees worth of coal. Slow production means greater losses.

The main ingredients though, soil and water, cost next to nothing. Both are found on the very same land that the chimney sits on. They are mixed - by hands and feet - to form mud, which is cast into bricks and left to harden in the sun for several days. Once hardened, they are moved to the kiln to be baked at high temperatures for hours, gaining a reddish tint in the process. Above the kiln, workers stand amid hot air escaping the vents to seek warm comfort in the winter chill, some even topless.

Nearby, trucks wait to be loaded with bricks ready for sale, even as another buyer drops by to place an order at the nearby office. For the workers, the same cycle simply repeats, until the first monsoon rains fall in April and wash the dust off their faces.


An Indian child worker takes a puff while waiting for the next truck to fill with bricks. Indians and rural Nepalis provide cheap labour for the factories.


Asses, often guided by young children considered too weak to work, are used to transport heavier loads.


Bricks are laid out to dry after being cast. A single kiln can produce up to 70, 000 bricks a day. Each brick is sold for Rs 3.5.


A worker wets soil with water drained from nearby streams to form mud for moulding bricks.


Children are a common sight at brick factories because both parents work, often on the same site. Most of them will never receive proper education.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


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