Poverty, hunger, bad education system root-causes of child and bonded labour

Karachi: Speakers at a consultative seminar identified poverty, hunger, bad education system and rising cost of living as major causes of rising child and bonded labor in Pakistan. They urged the present government to eliminate the social malady by dealing with its root causes. Addressing a consultative seminar ‘Status of Implementation of ILO Conventions on Child and Bonded Labour in Pakistan’s organized here on Friday by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARC), the Sindh Labour Minister, Amir Nawab, said in his keynote address that the present government is making all-out efforts to eliminate child and bonded labour in the country by addressing its root causes.

“Efforts are being taken to implement relevant conventions and laws in letter and spirit to check exploitation of children at all levels. Besides, the government realizes that support of civil society organizations including media and non-governmental organizations, which are working against child and bonded labour, is inevitable to combat the social menace,” he remarked.

Though he admitted that state has major role to play for combating the child and bonded labour once and for all, but society and parents have come forward to help government address this problem. Because, parents, society and state are guardian of the children of the society.

The minister also came under strong criticism by the members of civil society organizations including leaders of trades unions for failing to weed out the child and bonded labour. Farid Awan, general secretary of the Pakistan Workers Federation, attributed government’s such failure to lack of political will and interest.

He slammed role of the provincial labour department in weeding out the problem of child and bonded labour from formal and non-formal sector. “In fact, laws exist but they have never been enforced in true sense,” he pointed out.

Bonded labour is commonly practiced by the landlords. Poor families are trapped through different tactics and made slave forever, said Zulfiqar Shah, rights activist and member of the Pakistan Institute of Labour and He said:

“The poor families are initially given credits and when they default on their credits then the treacherous landlords snare them into unending bonded labour. So much so, political bigwigs having vast tracts of farmlands are also involved in this heinous practice.”

Regional Manager of SPARC, Iqbal Detho, spoke on the current state and problems of children in country. He said that situation of child rights in the country is very much critical and has growing from bad to worse over the years. Iqbal Detho pointed out that solution of to the child and bonded labour lies in enforcement of not only the relevant laws and ILO conventions, to which Pakistan is signatory, but also fighting the fundamental causes.

He also highlighted importance of the relationship between civil society, legislators and media and underlined need for their
collective role to free the society of the child and bonded labour forever. Earlier, annual report ‘State of Pakistan’s Children 2010’ was also launched by the provincial labour minister, which deals with different aspects of child related issues in the country. The report has also recommended some measures for addressing the key problems being faced by the children.

About the author

Saleem Shaikh

The writer is a development journalist. He writes on water, sanitation, environment, climate change, agriculture, women development, human rights, education, health, development budgets and economy.

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