03.07.2012 in23:28 in Documentary -->
Soham Gupta is a social documentary photographer from Calcutta. People Of The Bridge is a photo-essay about a group of people living near the Howrah Railway Station, in West of Bengal. Mostly portraits, very dark, it shows people weakened by time, by poverty. Most of them have taken to drugs and many of these people have developed mental disorders in the course of their life. These photos give off an intense emotion. A magnificent work.
‘When work is a pleasure, life is a joy. When work is a duty, life is slavery.’
‘What is work according to slaves, then?’ I’ve tried to ask myself again and again. According to reports, 15 to 20 million people are debt slaves in the Indian Subcontinent. People have always acquired workers (or slaves, rather) by loaning money to families in need. Dishonest accounting and extremely high rates of interest would ensure that the families remain in debt for years, often generations. People silently toil away, in the bracelet factories, in the brothels, in the kilns; living as slaves or living like slaves, as the world moves on uncaringly.
In the Indian subcontinent, brick making is typically a manual process. The most common type of brick kiln in use is Bull’s Trench Kiln (BTK), based on a design developed by British engineer W. Bull in the late 1800s.
Thousands of laborers work in the brick-kilns of India. For as much as two dollars a day, men, women and children work endlessly in the heated and dust-choked atmosphere of the kiln. For every 1000 bricks carried, a worker is paid Rs. 80. According to the owner of PGM Kiln in West Bengal, the average number of bricks carried by a worker each week is around 12000. Workers, from as young as 10 years to as old as 70 are involved in the process of brick production. This job, while not restricted to just unclean castes, goes largely to the Untouchables; their low status condemning them to the most menial work. While mothers and fathers and elder siblings labor under the sun, the younger children loiter around in the dusty kilns, dressed in tattered clothes and covered thickly in dust. These zones are not only accident prone, but also hazardous to health. ‘Pet ka sawal hai,’ Murrari says, flashing a smile. It’s about the stomach.