Kids selling water at public transport stops
By: Yasir Ilyas
ISLAMABAD, July 14, 2010: When a van approaches a public transport stop, particularly the busy ones to offload or carry passengers, some kids aged 9 to 12 are seen having a sprint towards it, carrying a jug of water and a glass. It is surprising to see these kids sell water throughout the day in the scorching heat. Who makes them do so? Who instructs them to be away from schools, peers and the playful childhood?
They are not here by their own choice. Off course, they are forced to run this day long business. They are trained to go to the driver first, offer water and earn a coin worth Rs.2 or Rs.5, in return. This rate very much depends upon the will and generosity of the driver. He pays as he likes. Then they come to the cleaner of the van and offer him a glass of cold water and in return get a coin again. Afterwards, they go round the van looking through its glass panes in search of potential customers from amongst the commuters.
This profession is nameless but yet being exercised at different stops of the public transport. And most of its practitioners are kids. Noor khan is such a child, who sells water on Faizabad stop. He is hardly 11, lives in a slum area located along Islamabad Expressway. He said that he is doing this work for more than one year.
“I and my elder brother Zahir Khan are forced by our parents to get up early in the morning; bring water from the tube-well in three water coolers, purchase ice from the market and then both of us have to sit there under the shade. My brother pours water into jugs and I come here near the vehicles to sell it,” Noor Khan sadly described.
He further told that there is no fix rate for the glass of water but usually drivers and commuters give us Rs.2 to Rs.5 for a glass. “We don’t want to charge for water as it is an act of virtue to offer a glass of a water to drink to a thirsty person. But as we neither have any other source of income, nor a free will to exercise, so we have to take the coins given by drivers and commuters.” Noor Khan said
When he was asked that how much he earn through this exercise, he said that he manages to earn Rs.150 to Rs.200 daily in hot weather and gives the whole amount to his fathers who plays at cards the whole day with his friends.
Saifullah is another young boy practising the same profession in front of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS). He is a bit angry with the female commuters as they usually carry a bottle of water with them while traveling and he is beaten everyday by his parents for earning less than they expected. His story was equally tragic as of Noor Khan.
Saifullah also deals in the coins in the off season i.e. during the winter when there is no demand for water. He is given coins and he makes small packets of those containing Rs.18 and exchanges it with cleaners of vans with a note of Rs.20, as drivers and cleaners always remain in need of change to deal with the commuters.
“I have three coolers of water with me, two of those contain cold water for drinking and third one has flavored water. I charge Rs.2 to 5 for cold water while flavored water is available in Rs.10 only” Saifullah said. “I am allowed to drink water by my parents but if I dare to drink flavored water I am beaten severely by my father,” he told gloomily.
While the government proclaims to be the savior of children against any activity that comes under the odious umbrella of child labor, the plight of these poor children should also be attended to. -- INFN