Innocence untouched by the menace of child labor
Aftab Alam and Shaista Malik
ISLAMABAD,July 10, 2010: Riding a donkey-driven cart loaded with empty cement bags, these young kids at H-11 Sector near International Islamic University, Islamabad, are busy in performing their routine work assigned to them by their poor parents who want them to become a helping hand to earn a livelihood for the whole family. There is no such word as ‘Child Labor’ in their lexicons but as the hard luck would have it, their whole life is, ironically, a practical explanation of the word in its true shades of meaning.
Aged 5 to 13 years, these young souls personify innocence and vitality of life. Even the persistent exposure to poverty and deprivation from the basic human needs has failed to take away the spark of life that is visible in their eyes and the charming smile on their faces. The elder ones seem to have grown a bit dull in their appearance and the spark too has faded considerably- perhaps they have realized what wrong their fortune has done to them.
On the other hand, the younger ones with less exposure to poverty are still enjoying their childhood bliss in oblivion. They still manage to do so even though they do not have any toy as companion of their childhood. Though the four-wheeler, they are boarding, is no match for the luxurious cars owned by the haves of our society yet the smile and contentment on their faces is also unmatched ,the world over.
“I want to become a truck driver” replied excitedly the boy driving the cart in response to a question about the ambition of his life. Stating his personal account the boy told that he and his 2 brothers have to work from dawn to dusk in order to earn bread and butter for their whole family of 11 members.
When asked about studying at a school they simply refused saying their parents would never like to lose the earning hands by sending them to a school. Although, they are living in the immediate vicinity of an international university where the students are busy in specializing in different disciplines, yet they have to live without the basic right to education.
With only five years left until 2015- deadline set by United Nations under Millennium Development Goals to eliminate child labor altogether, the depressing conditions still prevailing in Pakistan need to be attended on war footings. Despite the continuous high sounding claims made by national and international ‘so-called’ champions of human rights, nearly 40% of Pakistan’s total population still has to live below the poverty line according to the latest reports of State Bank of Pakistan (SBP).
But whatever modest effort is being done to bring these victims of child labor to the limelight, is being acknowledged by the ‘chocolate hero’ dressed in brown shirt in this photograph who gestures at the sight of camera lens to salute all those people fighting to save him from the eternal depth of ignorance and suffering.