ISLAMABAD: A total of seven projects in the public sector have been functioning in the four provinces to fight against child labour, four of which are in Punjab alone for which over Rs911 million have already been released, but the designed outcome of these projects is yet to see the light of day.
Some projects for the protection of child rights in Punjab are doing a bit good job, but countless children are still out of the radar of the provincial government. Cases like that of Tayyaba and a lot more continue to surface on the media to get the attention of the authorities concerned to eliminate child labour from the country.
In response to oral question of a member of the National Assembly, the minister of overseas Pakistanis and human resource development stated that: “Four public sector projects against child labour are underway in Punjab alone for which over Rs870 million have already been released against the approved cost of Rs5,675 million for these projects.”
The elimination of child and bonded labour project, integrated project for the promotion of decent work for vulnerable works in Punjab has been allocated Rs5,159 million against which Rs530 million have been released by the provincial authorities.
Under this project the Punjab government had disengaged some 88,000 children from brick kilns, and has claimed and rescued around 41,000 from the worst form of child labour in other sectors.
The Punjab government had launched the project in 2014 to disengage children from the brick kiln sector and give primary level education and skills training to them.
Another such project is ‘combating worst forms of child labour in four districts of Punjab’. The government has released Rs139 million against the approved allocation of Rs180 million for the project while for the ‘elimination of bonded labour in four districts of Punjab’ it has released Rs111 million against the approved cost of Rs196 million.
“The provincial child labour survey in Punjab has been released Rs90 million against the allocation of Rs140 million.”
As per the response, the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has released Rs7.048 million for establishing a child and bonded labour unit in the labour department. A total of Rs16.099 million is the approved allocation for this project.
For the ‘child labour survey in Sindh’, a total of Rs54 million has been approved as the cost of the project, but funds in this regard have yet to be released. Ironically and sadly, there is no mention of any such projects on behalf of the government of Balochistan.
Initiative Human Development Foundation president Rana Asif Habib told The Express Tribune that: “Most of the times funds released for the protection of children’s rights are wasted on organising seminars while concrete measures are not taken to eliminate the factor of child labour.”
He said no data was available on how many children were involved in child labour.
“Three million to 3.5 million children are doing child labour in Karachi alone in the informal sector and the Sindh government can do nothing to abolish this practice.”
He said some six years ago when Qaim Ali Shah was the chief minister an effort was made to make Sukkur child labour free, but this effort badly failed.
According to Habib, legislation on the Employment of Children Act-2017 by the Sindh Assembly is a good measure under which Rs50,000 fine would be imposed on the employer who hires children below the age of 14 years.
“Things are slightly better in Punjab regarding child labour as the Child Protection Bureaus are effectively working in 15 districts of the province. However, the situation in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan is the worst and no data of any sort is available in this connection.”
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2017.