On a typical Sunday afternoon when denizens of Karachi take to the seaside to cool off their heels and seek respite from the unrelenting summer heat, 12 year old Sajid Khan pounces at the opportunity to score a big payday. Clad in a blue kurta shalwar, camera slung around his shoulders, he goes about hounding potential customers, in hopes that they would oblige him to take a snap of theirs and pay him twenty rupees for it. Just like every other child his age, Sajid has aspirations, expectations and envisions a life for himself which is far better than the one he is living. Disclosing the fact that he used to work on a weekly basis every Sunday, the plump boy disclosed how much he earned.
“For every photograph that I take, I charge people Rs.20 for it,” Sajid explained. “On weekdays, I make around 100 bucks but on Sundays, I can earn up to Rs.400, as people in huge numbers gather here.”
Sajid aspires to learn and become an educated man one day so that taking photographs won’t be his forte. Yet financial constraints have forced his hand to abandon any educational ambitions he might harbor.
Another tender aged boy (12 precisely), sat on a dilapidated structure made of stone blocks and cardboard cuttings. Whilst others were busy in the usual fun and frolic, Abid’s unwavering attention was towards his stock of corn. Perched atop a cardboard box, the lad was immersed in cooking a corn for his customer. After pocketing a mere rupees 30 for his corn, Abid sat patiently idle, waiting for his next customer.
The fact that adolescents like Abid and Sajid are left to fend off for themselves (and their families) is deplorable, insensitive and appalling to say the least.
With minimal assistance and maximum neglect, the government has failed to provide financial relief to countless children across the country. As a result, these unfortunate souls have to barter education for labor from an early age and earn scraps for arduous tasks. According to research facts obtained by the Federal Bureau of Statistics, there are 40 million children in Pakistan. Out of these, 8-10 million are engaged in child labor. According to SPARC, more than 1.1 million child laborers are found in KPK alone. Almost 50% of these children drop out of primary schools in order to find work. Also, 50% of children who work in KPK live with parents who are illiterate, which ultimately leads to child labor.
Child labor is not the only dismal sight when one takes a trip to Karachi’s seaside. Absence of hygiene, lack of supervision and an abundance of littering dominate the landscape.
Instead of providing a proper place of shelter or sanitary facilities where people can cleanse themselves, the public resorts to washing their feet in the open.
Arguably the metropolitan city’s crown jewel, the seaside has much to offer Karachiites. It has everyone flocking to it in huge numbers whenever the heat turns up a notch. The vast expanse of sea and sand enthralls citizens a great deal, who have grown weary and tired of hazards such as crime and terrorism.
Due to inadequate facilities combined with the element of inept management, people have been forced to set up their own small business ventures. One such activity is conducted by two brothers Shabbir and Bilawal.
Shabbir detailed a sorrowful story of how his father became paralyzed and as a result, bedridden. The responsibility of earning bread and butter fell on his frail shoulders. As he talked, his younger brother Bilawal ran to and fro to provide fresh water to customers, who wanted to wash their feet. For this endeavor, he charged a nominal fee of 10 rupees. Whilst people enjoy a dip in the ocean, Shabbir, 12, watches over their footwear. Placed inside wooden crates, shoes and slippers are given back to their rightful owners once the price has been paid for their safekeeping; 20 rupees.
Shabbir and Bilawal expressed their longing to seek education and become medical doctors one day. When asked about their favorite cricketer, both brothers revealed they were avid fans of Pakistani swashbuckling all-rounder Shahid Afridi.
The government of the day should enact concrete measures to uplift the living standards of these poor souls. Providing these child laborers with an adequate amount of education and their parents with employment opportunities will ensure a more skilled labor. Via TVCs, print ads and awareness campaigns, NGOs and the government should join hands in promoting hygiene at seaside. If these vendors are provided with properly structured shops to sell their wares and merchandise, their lives would become more convenient.
The whole world places importance and emphasis on its labor. For now there remains little to no hope for Sajid, Abid, Shabbir and Bilawal who must toil daily or weekly for hours on end and extract measly pays. Despite all the financial burdens and constraints, these children still manage to smile and look to the future for hope.
Karachi seaside by arynews