CHENNAI, India (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The building of a new capital city in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh will fuel demand for migrant labor and put thousands of poor workers at the risk of debt bondage, campaigners said, demanding a "dignified work policy" for them.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of Amaravati, on the banks of Krishna river, in June 2015.
Construction has already started on the site, where 5,558 hectares of land will be developed as commercial and industrial space with residential areas spread across 8,050 hectares.
"Building of this modern city will attract workers from some of the poorest districts of the country," said Umi Daniel, a migrant rights activist with campaign group Aide Et Action.
"The project report for the new city talks about money being spent and grand ideas, but it does not talk about the people who will build it," Daniel told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Tens of thousands of laborers are trafficked each year to work in brick kilns to feed India's flourishing construction industry, campaigners say.[L3N1BJ2Y9]
Traditionally, thousands of poor workers from India's eastern state of Odisha migrate every year to the brick kilns of Andhra Pradesh, where they cut, shape and bake clay-fired bricks, mostly by hand.
Many of them are duped into offering themselves for work as security against a loan they have taken or a debt they have inherited.
Campaigners calling for workers' rights to be protected in Andhra Pradesh, are demanding hygienic living conditions, a safe working environment and guaranteed wages for laborers in the process of being employed to build Amaravati.
Many brick kiln owners have set up operations at the site of the new city, getting ready to cash in on the construction boom, campaigners said.
"To ensure there is no exploitation, special officers, including labor inspectors have been appointed and the inter state migrant workman's act will be implemented," said labor official Ramachandra Murthy.
The need for a new capital city arose after Andhra Pradesh was split into two - Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in 2014.
At present, Hyderabad city is the joint capital of both Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
In a first, "A Bricks Initiative" was set up to invite the public to invest in the construction of Amaravati by paying for the bricks that will build the city.
To date, 226,289 people have donated more than five million bricks.
(Reporting by Anuradha Nagaraj, Editing by Katie Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)