Tuesday, May 1, 2018

#LabourDay - #Pakistan - From Karachi to KPK: Child labor on May Day

Parvez Jamil

It is highly revealing how the entire nation and indeed the whole world commemorates the 1st of May as Labour Day, while countless children sweat and struggle for their livelihood throughout the entire year.
The holiday, moreover, means little for the impoverished children who work even on May Day in Karachi’s Kharadar, Meethadar, Ranchor Line, Jacob Lines, Orangi, Korangi areas as monkey, snake and street-charmers, batlipaper walas, chana jorgaram walas, golaganda walas, champi malish walas, car cleaners, flower-sellers, cart-pushers, street vendors etc. 
Unfortunately, the world continues to celebrate May Day, oblivious to the pitiful little ones who struggle for what amounts to a meager income as puncturewala helpers in Gulberg or in Chaburjee, Lahore, or as the little “chai walas” in the back lanes of Jinnah Road, Quetta, or as minor helpers for plumbers, masons and electricians in Saddar Road, Nothia, Chowkyadgar, Peshawar.
Indeed, one of Pakistan’s greatest and most renowned assets are our cute little laboring Sialkot kids whose magical fingers stitch the world’s best footballs that are used in tournaments which boast audiences numbering in the millions. These footballs along with other sporting goods serve as a major source of foreign exchange for Pakistan.
A similar story underlies the helpers in our cottage industry which produces carpets, textiles, embroidery, jewelry, ceramics, cutlery, woodwork, quilt art, leather bags, hats, glass works, pottery, basketry, needle work, leather craft and metalwork, all of which act as a significant fillip for the national economy.
Although it remains true that these talented kids are exploited by their employers, we must incorporate ethical values and stringent labor standards into these industries without attaching the stigma of child labor to these children.
We must aim to achieve a balance between the rapacious profit motive of industrialists and the national interest, and this includes taking care of the minor children working in different areas of the economy.
It is, therefore, essential that we provide these kids with a decent work schedule, good stipends, basic education in English, Maths and general knowledge, and recourse to healthcare and recreation.
The solution in fact is quite simple: It is only child labor if creative little kids’ promise and potential are exploited solely for enriching the financial coffers of industrialists and proprietors. It is not child labor if for national and humanitarian concerns, we remain conscious of our little magicians’ dignity of labor and personal development.
 It will truly be a success if private-public partnership can design an able, noble, humble and gentle policy that replaces the stigma of child labor and at the same time spurs growth in our industries. Such a policy will also lead us towards a better and brighter Pakistan.
For as the adage goes, if there is a will, there is indeed a way.

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