LAHORE:In order to eradicate menace of bonded and child labour, the Lahore High Court has directed the Punjab government to register all brick kilns in six months and banned employment of children...
LAHORE:In order to eradicate menace of bonded and child labour, the Lahore High Court has directed the Punjab government to register all brick kilns in six months and banned employment of children below 14 years in all sectors relating to economic activities.
The court directed the federal and Punjab governments to ensure implementation of all laws in letter and spirit and faithfully discharge their duties and perform their functions for eradication of forced and child labour from all sectors of the economy including agriculture, brick kilns, mining, tanneries, carpet weaving, glass-bangle making, construction and fisheries and all other such fields.
The court observed that the bonded and child labour is on the rampant despite all steps to eliminate it. “We are trapped in a vicious circle. This can be broken only by a holistic approach and the first step is the effective enforcement of the laws which is the duty of the government and its functionaries.”
The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition of Muhammad Suleman seeking recovery of eight persons allegedly detained by an owner of a kiln factory and had directed SHO Police Station Noshehra Jadid, Bahawalpur to produce the detainees. Later, the court converted habeas corpus petition into constitutional petition and treated it as a Public Interest Litigation.
The court was of the views that there was no enforcement of fundamental rights of a downtrodden section of society and implementation of a number of laws, including, the Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992, the Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Act, 2016 and the Punjab Restriction of Employment of Children Act, 2016, etc.
Justice Tariq Saleem Sheikh, in its 32 page order issued at LHC Bahawalpur bench, made comprehensive guidelines to streamline the working of labourers at kiln factories and curb the menace of child labour.
The court directed Punjab secretary labour and human resource department to ensure registration of all brick kilns under the Factories Act, 1934 within six months commencing from Feb 02.
The court ruled that the deputy commissioner of every district shall arrange issuance of CNICs to brick kiln workers and registration of their children by Nadra within six months.
No child below the age of 14 years shall be employed or permitted to work at any brick kiln. Every engagement or appointment of a worker at a brick kiln shall be subject to a written contract in the prescribed form as required under Section 3 of the Punjab Prohibition of Child Labour at Brick Kilns Act, 2016.
No brick kiln owner or manager shall give any advance to a worker engaged by him exceeding Rs 50,000 and every brick kiln owner/ manager shall maintain a register of advances in the prescribed manner.
No industrial, commercial or agricultural establishment, factory, mine, workshop, business, trade, industry or other place where any economic activity is carried on shall employ or permit a child below 15 years to work as mandated by the Punjab Restriction on Employment of Children Act, 2016. It shall also not engage any adolescent (15-18 year-old) to perform any hazardous work in the establishment as specified in the schedule to the said Act.
The work hours of every adolescent shall be in accordance with Sections 5 & 6. The government shall notify District Vigilance Committee (DVC) for every district within 30 days in terms of Section 15 of the Punjab Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1992.
The brick kiln owners shall pay statutory contribution to the Employees’ Social Security Institution in accordance with law and if they fail to do so their dues shall be recovered with penalties under Section 23 of the Provincial Employees Social Security Ordinance, 1965, as arrears of land revenue.
The Punjab Secretary Health shall depute lady health visitors to attend families of brick kiln workers on regular basis and provide immunization to their children. The Punjab Secretary Education shall direct the relevant departments to make arrangements for enrolment of workers’ children in schools and establishment of literacy centres.
The Provincial Vigilance Committee constituted under Section 15-A of the Punjab Bonded Labour (Abolition) Act, 1992, shall formulate an action plan to prevent return of freed labourers into debt bondage through relief, rehabilitation, welfare and social assistance programmes.
The Sessions Judge in every district shall nominate a dedicated magistrate for disposal of cases registered under the labour laws. The government shall ensure implementation of the Minimum Wages Act, 2019, in letter and spirit across the board. There shall be zero-tolerance for violation of the labour laws and criminal proceedings shall be initiated for all offences.
However, no illegal harassment shall be caused to any employer. In case of any complaint against any field officer of the Labour Department the employer may approach the District Complaint Officer.
The court observed that bonded labour is one of the severest forms of human rights abuse in which the powerful become vicious masters and the weak turn into captive toilers. When a person becomes an oppressed menial worker in exchange for repayment of a loan, he or she becomes a bonded labourer and the lender becomes his/ her owner.
As a result, the bonded labourers are forced to forfeit their basic human rights, including the right to employment, to live freely, to exercise the freedom of association and even the right to sell the product of their labour at market value.
“Child labour is condemned because it deprives children of their childhood, potential and dignity and is harmful for their physical and mental development. Child labour reinforces intergenerational cycles of poverty, undermines national economics and impedes progress towards the sustainable development goals.”
The court also directed all government functionaries to furnish compliance reports.