The menace of child labour at brick kilns will be eradicated at all costs. The required resources will be provided for resolving problems of children working at brick kilns, Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said on Tuesday.
He was addressing a meeting of the steering committee set up to curb child labour at brick kilns.
“Children working at brick kilns will be given a monthly stipend of Rs1,000 each on admission in schools. Free education, text books, stationery and uniform will also be provided for these children. Rs2,000 per family will be paid to parents of such children going to schools,” he said. Provincial ministers were also present.
The government will spend Rs283 million annually to provide the monthly stipends to children. Rs47 million will be spent on providing Rs2,000 each to parents of such children. A special package for the education of children working at brick kilns was approved by the chief minister. Free treatment facilities will also be provided to the children and their parents. The government will also bear transport expenses of the children where schools are far from their homes.
Under a draft law, kiln owners involved in child labour could be awarded up to six months’ imprisonment. There will be a summary trial and the kiln owners could be fined up to Rs0.5 million.
The data compiled by the Labor Department sates there are total of 6,090 brick kilns in the Punjab. Some 23,642 children below the ages of 14 work at these kilns. According to the data, Kasur district has the largest number of brick kilns. A total of 4,359 children under the ages of 14 work at 352 brick kilns there.
According to the data, 3,190 children below the ages of 14 are employed at 156 brick kilns in Lahore who have never gone to school. They work along with their parents at the kilns.
In Faisalabad, 1,726 children work at 428 brick kilns. In Sialkot, 1,168 children are employed at 262 brick kilns. In Gujrat, 1,164 children work at 273 brick kilns. According to the data, some children who work along with their parents are as young as five.
There are six districts in the Punjab where no children under the age of 14 are employed at brick kilns. They are: Attock, Mianwali, Lohdran, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur and Muzaffargarh.
Child rights activist Iftikhar Mubarik said the initiative was welcome. “However, a transparent monitoring system should be evolved,” he said.
So far, 40 brick kilns have been sealed and 42 people have been taken into custody,” he said.
He said that Labour and Human Resource Department had set up a helpline (0800-55444) to receive complaints about child labour at brick kilns. “So far, we have received 80 complaints. Immediate action was taken on all,” he said. The minister said that 21,847 children working at kilns had been enrolled in schools close to their homes.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 20th, 2016.