Amid corona virus scare and lockdown May Day is being observed across the globe, including Pakistan commemorating the international labor movement. It aims to pay tribute to workers’ sacrifices in achieving economic and social rights all over the world. Year-after-year May Day sermons, speeches and seminars pay tributes to those who laid down their lives in Chicago, USA in 1886 for labour rights.
UN strives to protect child rights the world over to abolish child labour, exploitation and abuse whether they were flood-hit kids of Lakho Pir, Raajgoth, Jharak, or flood-affected little folks of Jhando Marri, or Tando Hafiz, Sindh, Pakistan; be they poor, hungry and sick street children of Calcutta, Bombay or Delhi, India or those in wretched life conditions in Chad, Gabon and Mali; whether they are physically, mentally and socially suffering kids of Bolivia, Peru and Guatemala in this regard.
But in practical reality it is a different story. Here are just a few of the countless absorbing, revealing and thought-provoking examples of May Day in the streets of Pakistan: Dragging old cart-pushers in the tight and grubby lanes of Hyderabad. Laboring adolescent car-cleaners at Jinnah Super Market, Islamabad. Sweating little monkey and snake charmers of Lee Market, Karachi. Walking tea and ‘Qahva’ vendors of traditional and downtown Quetta. Loading round-the-clock ‘Qulis’ at the bustling railway junction, Lahore. Labor hunting labourers of Chowk Yadgar and Qissa Khawani, Peshawar. Carving, printing and engraving folks of the cottage industry of Pakistan. Walking and toiling long for meager livelihood home maids or ‘masis’ of the nation.
As such, fancying the very thought of taking a day off to commemorate the May Day, formally and officially practised at the local, national and international levels, is a very far cry for the dawn-to-dusk labourers of livelihood in the slums and streets of many countries, including Pakistan. While many, if not all, men at the helm of affairs and men of letters merely conceptualise and sermonise the May Day for the cause of the labourers, the teeming majority of our labourers, the real labourers, continue to undergo agonising times and exploitative pressure of labouring long and tedious hours for negligibly peanuts of pay.
It is startling that the delightful craftsmanship of our artisans, despite being second to none in the world, and the magical fingers of our cute little children of Sialkot, in spite of producing the best sports goods of the world, are merely exploited: dubbed, projected and labelled as child labour.
Is it not the call for private and public sectors organizing with grace and dignity for these kids to be decently educated and trained on-the-job with a harmonious blend of creativity and skills towards a better of quality of life and more laurels for Pakistan. It is time to deliver practically than by lip-service on May Day.
Parvez Jamil writes for media on human-interest topics and on national and international affairs.