Syed Hammad Ahmed
May 1, is celebrated as Labour Day in Pakistan. It is a holiday in government and private sectors. This day functions, seminars, rallies and processions are organized and the rights of the labourers are demanded. New resolutions for the betterment of the labour class are made and it is pledged that their rights would be delivered at every cost. The whole day passes in these claims, slogans and promises. The sun sets and the next day start with same routines which were on April 30.
Promises are made and the year passes without keeping those. This happens not only in Pakistan but in all the courtiers where the rights of the labourers are not protected. It is very unfortunate people who talk about the rights of labour class on this particular day; usurp these rights the whole year. What is more painful that with every passing year people are becoming least bothered about the significance of this day. They have started to spend this day as a holiday and doing their pending tasks which they can’t do in working days. Secondly, labour issues in our country receive little attention because it is not glamorous enough for the mass media and nor does it drive up ratings. So passing this day like every other public holiday is a sad reflection of our society.
Labourers and workers are the real backbone of every society and country. No country can deny their worth and importance in industrial and agricultural fields. But when we talk about their wages and the returns in form of facilities which they get after their hard work, it is peanuts comparing with what they are contributing to the national economy. In Pakistan workers are exploited mostly in factories and in other business organizations because there is no effective mechanism of check and balance. It seems as if there is no labour laws or organisation exist in our country which can protect the rights this class and take action against the usurpers and exploiters. All the factory owners and industrialists enjoy the highest standards of life. Most of them get their medical treatment abroad; they drink mineral water and eat food cooked at highest standard of hygiene. Their children are almost ignorant about the common problems faced by society like load shedding, unemployment, contaminated water etc. They enjoy all worldly luxuries and spend millions of rupees to maintain this standard. But they are least bothered about the plight of their workers who give their blood to keep the wheel of industry running. These workers get so meagre amount in return of their hard work that neither they can give quality education to their children nor proper health facilities. Their whole concern remains how to make both ends meet. They spend their lives at the lowest level of living standard.
This labour class is exploited because most of the people are illiterate, unemployed, and poor. They are unaware of their legal rights and labour laws which provide them security. But the case is not very much different with literate people and doing white-collar jobs. The working staff members in private and semi government institutions in rural areas are paid meagre salaries. There is no provision of any kind of other allowances such as increments and medical coverage. Similarly, Polio workers, hired on a daily wage are paid very less amount for their hectic job. The employees of petrol stations and private security guards get hardly 10,000 a month and it is more disturbing that their salaries are deducted if they take a leave due to any illness or emergency.
Despite many reforms and efforts to upgrade the standard and making some progress on labour rights, Pakistan has yet to fully grasp the movement's true purpose, as workers across the country continue to be subjected to gruelling, and often unjust, working conditions. It means only observing the Labour Day is not enough but the people at helm of affairs have to take it seriously the injustice made by the entities. The Article 11 of the Constitution prohibits all forms of slavery, forced labour and child labour while Article 37(e) makes provision for securing just and humane conditions of work. If these existing laws are not enough to protect the rights of the labourers then either these laws should be amended or the new one should be made to find the permanent solution. Above all, the government should enforce these laws by making effective mechanism to ensure that workers not only get their due wages but are also provided congenial working environment. Secondly, this down trodden section of the society should also be given basic human rights, health and education facilities, residence, jobs and security.
On personal level we all can make new resolution on this particular day that instead of depending on government, media or any other state institution or private organisation; we try to bring a positive change by acknowledging the work of people who are serving us in our homes and the people who are working under our command at our work place. We cannot change the destiny of any person in a day but can help them in making their dreams come true.