Child labour continues unabated in capital
ISLAMABAD: Pale-looking innocent children pressing their bodies against cars standing at the twin cities’ busy intersections and tapping people for alms or selling small items on the roads not only reflects the society’s growing insensitivity towards their plight but also the weakness of our governments oft-repeated resolve to wipe child labour off the map of the country.
Peshawar Mor, Karachi Company, I-8, I-9, I-10 and 1-11 sectors, bus and wagons stations, taxi ranks, hospitals, mosques and Bari Imam shrine are the stamping-grounds of these children, where you can see them in groups of 3-5 either idling away their time or chasing after pedestrians and slow-moving vehicles for alms.
The country’s swelling coffers and “economic turnaround” has not brought them good clothing, cushion from hunger, better medical care and better education. During the winter season anyone can see these shabbily dressed children shivering with cold or cuddling together under poked blankets to keep warm. People just pass a look at them and go about their business.
“I am selling pencils since morning and have earned Rs 300,” said five-year-old Saqib who was standing at China Chowk traffic filter.
A detailed interview of that child revealed shocking facts. Saqib said he was working for a contractor with the consent of his parents, who lived in a slum close by Zia Mosque.
He said the elder boys of his group had abused him many times. “I reported the matter to the contractor but he gave me a shut-up call.” He smilingly admitted that he smoked cigarettes and sniffed glue.
He said the elder members of the group and contractor also abused girls. “Some members of our group sometimes burgle houses for a change. I too join them in this activity,” Saqib said.
The fate of the young children serving at workshops and hotels is no different either where a chota is part and parcel of the system. These chotas get up with the sun and can be seen bearing away at different chores all the morning. Very meagerly paid, sometimes just meals, these chotas are often bullied and abused by their masters.
“My father sells fruit. He sent me here because he cannot afford to send me to a school. Though I hate working here because I’m often thrashed and abused by my master, I have no option but to stay over here,” said Ikram, a 5-year-old garage assistant.
According to a survey of Society for Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC) the estimated figure of child labourers is seesawing between 8 and 10 million.
“The problem of bonded labour has aggravated with the arrival of refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh,” said Khurram Babri, an official of a local NGO. He said mostly child beggars were of Afghan nationality and they lived with their families in the capital’s slums.
Fayyaz Baqir, Senior advisor on Civil Society, United Nations, Pakistan, said that it was a responsibility of the state to provide modest shelter and free education to these children. He said though different NGOs were working for sexually exploited children, they could accommodate few of such children due to limited resources. Baqir said besides the civil society it was also responsibility of philanthropists to take care of such children.
Source: Daily Times