May Day-2016 was observed yesterday across the globe, including Pakistan under the theme “Celebrating the international labor movement”. It aims to pay tribute to workers’ sacrifices in achieving economic and social rights all over the world. Seminars were held in different cities to pay tributes to those who laid down their lives in Chicago in 1886 for labour rights. President Mamnoon Hussain and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said the government believed in the dignity of labour and is committed to providing workers better working conditions. In their separate messages on the occasion of Labor Day, they said the government has resolved to provide better housing, medical and education facilities to the workforce.
Meanwhile, 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 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 peanuts of income.
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 dubbed, projected and exploited 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 mere lip-service on the Labor Day.Parvez Jamil, is HoD Public Affairs and Senior Faculty, CBM, IoBM, Korangi Creek, Karachi