Banawar earns Rs150 in a day selling bangles at a roadside in Peshawar.
When asked how she manages her family expenditure, her eyes turned wet with tears, “It is very difficult to meet our family’s requirements in such a meagre amount. We often make no sale and go to bed on an empty stomach.”
Gul Khan, a labourer, said they hardly earn enough to make both ends meet as it is very difficult to feed a family of six in today’s age of sky rocketing prices.
Another labourer, who earns Rs4000 per month and often has to rely on a loan, said, “It is very hard to feed our children and pay the rent.”
He added, “The government is not sincere. They do not care whether we live or die.”
Both labourers said they wanted to send their children to schools, but could not afford to.
According to the 2010 labour policy, the minimum wage has been set at Rs7000; however in the provincial metropolis the rule is not strictly adhered to. Another benefit promised by the government in the form of Employment Old Age Benefit Institution scheme, is not feasible for most.
Under the scheme, self-employed labourers are required to deposit a monthly sum of Rs420 till the age of 60 in case of males, and the age of 55 in case of females at the National Bank of Pakistan. However for those who are hovering on starvation levels daily, sparing Rs420 a month are nearly impossible.
Minister for Labour Sher Azam Wazeer had announced previously the governments’ plan to construct 10,000 accommodation units for labourers.
He said that 1,000 labour quarters would be constructed at the labour colony in Lucky Cement Factory.
Director Labour, Irfanullah Khan, said that the government would spend Rs4.30billion on labour welfare schemes.
Confirming this, Wazeer added that more than Rs900 million would be spent on the education of their children. In case a labourer dies, the heirs of the deceased would be entitled to receive Rs0.5 million.
Meanwhile, Banawar will be back on the road tomorrow, selling bangles, unsure of how much money she will take back home.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2011.