By Shafique Shar
Instead of monitoring other sectors and eliminating the evil of child labor, the municipal committee in Sindh’s Khairpur district has hired children, from 10 to 15 years, for the purpose of cleaning sewers. But besides everything, the work is extremely dangerous as it requires the children to go deep into manholes, besides mopping up the streets of the city just for meager wages – Rs200 a day.
It is not difficult to lure such children with the lockdown snatching away what little work their families earned from. They are part of the downtrodden segment of society and are forced to do such work to earn a livelihood now. But the government instead of placing books and pens in their hands, and sending them to school, has employed them to clean the filth of the city, violating basic child rights, as well as the child rights laws – both national and international.
Aftab, a child laborer told Voicepk.net that he had been doing this kind of work from a very early age. He said that the committee had not even given him an employee card. Aftab said that he was working due to the poor financial conditions of his house.
In 2017, Sindh made child labor illegal – an offense punishable with a prison term and fine. According to the Sindh Prohibition of Employment of Children Act, 2017, a child employer can be sentenced up to six-month imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 50,000 or both.
According to the law, if a child is hired to do hazardous work then the employer may be sentenced up to three years imprisonment with Rs. 100,000 fine.
SDO Public Health Rafique Khalhoro was taken to the spot where the children were cleaning the sewer. When Voicepk.net asked him about the law being violated Kalhoro said he was not aware of the situation and dumped all the blame on the supervisor.
But the supervisor maintained that he did not give employment to any of the children and that they are all working on daily wages. He further said that he was paying Rs 1,400 to a group of seven children per day including overtime.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Sindh government has set a minimum wage of Rs 17,500 per month.
The members of the civil society have expressed great concern on the matter and urged the government to take away the brooms from their hands and have them enrolled in a school instead.
Khairpur’s social worker Hanif Abbasi said that the municipal committee was destroying the future of these young souls by forcing them to clean filth.
“Does the Deputy Commissioner (DC) not know that the children are cleaning the sewage system of the city? Is this the right thing to do? Will the district administration ever allow their children to do such type of work?” asked Abbasi.