CHUNIAN - Bricks Kilns in Chunian went on strike against the imposition of 16 percent general sales tax on the industry in the federal budget for fiscal 2012. Kiln owners are of the view that their industry should be declared tax free as they are the cheapest small medium enterprise in the country. They claim to have been providing reasonable wages and employment opportunities to around 1.8 million bricks kiln workers in the country. Before the imposition of GST, previous Kiln rate per 1,000 bricks was Rs3,200, which was increased to Rs5000 per 1,000 bricks after the imposition of GST. GST is supposed to be paid by the owners from their profit. However, this is strange practice by the kiln owners that they have transferred the whole burden of the GST to the consumers, the general public. Adding fuel to fire, bricks kiln owners have now gone on strike to increase pressure on the government. There are 1.8 million workers in brick kilns. Most of them work under inhuman conditions and the majority are like bonded labour because of the peshgi system. Under the system, the bosses offer advance money to workers, who cannot leave until they repay the whole amount. Most of the workers are illiterate and they do not know how much money is being repaid. The take advantage of this and impose many so-called fines on workers. The Peshgi system is a form of bonded labour, which allows employers to keep workers as virtually slaves if a cash advance has not been repaid. It was formally abolished 12 years ago by the Supreme Court, but it was never abolished practically by the bricks kiln owners. Mehmood Butt, general secretary of the Pakistan Bhatta Mazdoor Union warned the bosses that they better stop taking peshgies and it has been declared illegal by the courts. He said, Somewhere between two-fifths to two-thirds of all the working children in Pakistan toil in brick kilns. According to UNICEF estimates, it comes to around 250,000 children. But these are not just cases of child labour. Entire families work in brick kilns, striving to pay off their debts that are so much beyond their means that they will remain unpaid even after decades of continuous work. Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research estimates that there are 11,000 brick kilns in Pakistan. Of these, 5,000 brick kilns are in Punjab alone, mostly (about 90 per cent of them) in rural areas. An NGO Ercelawn estimates that there are anywhere between 750,000 and 900,000 people from 200,000 families languishing in these brick kilns, most of them as bonded labourers. The workday starts at 4:30am. By sundown, Mehmood said, he would finish 1,200 bricks and earn 200 rupees. This is the clear example of bonded labour whereby the owners are paying Rs200 for 1200 bricks to the brick labour and selling it as much as Rs5000 for 1000 bricks ex-kiln. It is therefore necessary that brick kiln owners shall be taken into account on human rights issues. They earn handsome and pay nothing to their labour. Generations of these labourers are their slaves. Going on strike against GST is not understandable and is just a way to hike prices, pressurise the govt and reasonably damage the progress of the country by creating a hindrance in the on going construction projects.