Rally to restore Labour inspection in Punjab Industries and Kilns

Rally to restore Labour inspection in Punjab Industries and Kilns

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2 Responses to “Labour”

  1. bllf Says:

    Bonded labour

    Part of Global Economic Slavery

    Historical background

    Without the knowledge of the real historical background it is difficult to understand the Pakistani bonded labour slavery system. Historically bonded labour system is deeply rooted on the subcontinent. It was strengthened and patronised by the rulers through the history. About 200 years ago during the British colonial period it was more strengthened and accepted by the colonial rulers because of their special political motives, those were to keep a strong hold over the subcontinent’s wealth and natural resources and skilled people. For this purpose they divided the subcontinent administratively into two parts, the Co-operative part and the Resisting part. To keep their control over the people, they supported Rajas, Maharajas and feudal lords and gave them some imperial identity as revenue collectors and also poor farmer’s land was given to them, which was called bakhshish, all according to the principle divide and rule. Rajas, Maharajas and feudal lords were also given the highest titles of the British Empire, for example, Sir and Khan Bahader. In the Resisting areas of the continent, feudal lords also got a strong influence on the administration. Because of their political value feudal lords were free to take forced labour and to keep bonded labour from low casts and low class people on their farms. Low casts were named untouchable people (delat). Those people were even denied human status and every kind of religious identity and their births and deaths were not recorded in government records. The rulers practically supported the bonded system; they didn’t make any law to protect those people’s rights. About 100 years ago, some untouchable people, because of this high degree of discrimination, adopted Islam and Christianity but they have never succeeded to get social respect or human status up to now. The Muslim feudal lords gave them humiliating names for example Musalee. Hindu feudal lords called them Banghee, which means latrine sweeper. The churches have never baptised Banghee’s children until Pakistan Supreme Court decision 18th September 1988 when the Supreme Court of Pakistan identified bonded labour system in brick making factories and declared it to be against the country’s constitution. Mostly bonded workers belong to low cast groups and still a large number of those people are facing social and economic discrimination on the subcontinent.

    During the British colonial government, the resisting part of the subcontinent was terribly neglected and the government spent very small amount for the education of common people. They provided opportunities to the co-operative feudal lords’ families and children. Inside the country they built special English medium schools and institutions and after that the children were sent to European Universities for higher education, due to that a special educated elite class emerged in Pakistan, which took political and administrative power. Today Pakistan is one of those countries where education rate is very low, in reality not more than 27%. The feudal politicians are ruling Pakistan since 53 years, directly or indirectly. Since independence, the government, the ruling parties and the politicians have badly neglected human development and education in Pakistan. Last year they didn’t spend more than 2,3% GNP on education, due to lack of political will and the wish to keep the bonded labour system strong. They kept Pakistani people uneducated because the ruling classes didn’t want them to get political power and they didn’t want democracy in the country.

    Today Pakistan has millions of child labourers and bonded labourers, who have no human rights and no political rights. They are forced to work for local landlords, factory owners and multinational companies. They are producing carpets, leather jackets, they are growing cotton and other agricultural products. A majority of these slaves have borrowed money from their landlords, either to purchase medicines or to arrange food and clothing for their children. Since most of the farmers are illiterate, they usually do not know how much money they have borrowed. With the passage of time, this borrowed amount has increased manifold. Even if the landlord claims that he lent double the amount, the illiterate and uneducated agricultural workers cannot deny his claim. Under these circumstances the agricultural workers find themselves caught in the vicious cycle of poverty and slavery.

    The landlords keep entire families in private prisons and families are usually sold by one landlord to another. This you can study in Habeas Corpus cases, which have been filed in Punjab, Sind and NWFP (North West Frontier Province) by BLLF.

    Bonded families and children are also subjected to frequent physical abuse and torture by the police, for example, when bonded labourers file complaints against their landlords, or when they try to unite other workers to leave their work or when they in other ways are disliked by the owner. They can be arrested or molested, sexually or physiologically abused. Torture is used to prevent labourers from registering cases against their masters. Sometimes they are beaten with sticks and hung upside down.

    According to U.S Department of States Human Rights Report for 1999 for Pakistan

    “Illegal bonded labour is widespread. It is common in the brick, glass and fishing industries and is found among agricultural and construction workers in rural areas. A recent study by local unions suggests that over 200 000 families are working in debt slavery in the brick kiln industry. There is no evidence that bonded labour is used in the production of export items such as sporting goods…”

    Bonded Labour (Abolition) System Act 1992

    The Bonded Labour (Abolition) System Act adopted in 1992 outlawed bonded labour, cancelled all existing bonded debts, and forbade lawsuits for the recovery of existing debts. The act makes also child bonded labour punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to $ 1000 (Pak Rs 50 000) in fines. However, the provincial governments, which are responsible for enforcing the law, have failed to establish enforcement mechanisms. Hence, the law is largely ineffective. The landlords have had great impact on local administration, police and politicians in Pakistan.

    The feudalism is the mother of the problem

    Feudal lords are very strong, since 53 years after the independence of Pakistan most parliamentarians and ministers used to be selected and elected from this class. They are holding thousands of hectares of lands without paying for it. The feudal lords and politicians borrowed billions of rupees (loans) from banks and never paid back and they are also free from taxes. Some of the prominent members of this class save their black money on bank accounts in Switzerland and other countries. Due to that Pakistan is under 38,8 billion of dollars in foreign debts.

    Struggle of the BLLF

    In 1967 the Bonded Labour Liberation Front of Pakistan (BLLF) began its campaign to free the bonded brick kiln labourers and totally abolish the peshgi debts. Religious leaders of different creeds opposed us. The BLLF fights against slavery, private jails, forced labour and child labour in all sectors, including brick making, carpet weaving, leather trades, medical instruments, agriculture, stone quarrying, domestic servitude, etc. BLLF freedom movement faces challenges and opposition from strong employers in these and other sectors. During Benazir Bhutto’s government, employers with help of some friends of Benazir Bhutto from elite class tried to crash BLLF through state power. For the protection of feudal system and the exploitation of bonded workers her government denied the very existence of child and bonded labour in Pakistan. The struggle for children’s rights and the elimination of child slavery was against the established feudal order, but BLLF persisted although, even if it was difficult to go on.

    2000 bonded workers were freed through High Courts

    From January 2008 up to January 2009 BLLF has freed a huge numbers of bonded labourers, men, women and children from four provinces of Pakistan. They belong to different sectors like agriculture, brick kiln, stone quarrying and carpet industries. 45% of them were children, 25% of them were women and 30% were men. These bonded workers were freed through Habeas Corpus applications, which were filed in High Courts. BLLF is facing lack of resources and due to that it was not possible to have rehabilitation program for them and a large number of freed children are waiting for education.

    Vindication of reputation

    The Observer
    After the murder of the freed slave child activist Iqbal Masih, Benazir Bhutto’s government and slave masters started an aggressive desinformation campaign against BLLF and myself. They also misguided some foreign press and writers, for example The Observer in London, which published a defamatory article 21st March 1996. But after the liable case The Observer apologised in London High Court, published an apology twice in The Observer 12th October and 31st October 1999 and had to pay the legal costs.
    It is also important to mention that BLLF leadership was represented in the action by Peter Carter-Ruck and Partners, which is one of the UK’s leading firms of libel lawyers, on no-win, no-fee basis. If a conditional fee agreement had not been available to me, I could not in practice have cleared my name of the false allegations published by The Observer in the article. In this way I got vindication of my reputation.

    “Disposable People”
    In May 1999, University of California Press published a book, Disposable People, written by Dr Kevin Bales. The writer also relied upon the desinformation against BLLF and myself from the elite sources, who themselves were involved in exploitation of child labour in their own factories. After legal action the writer, Dr Bales and the director James Clark of California University Press apologised and had to pay the legal costs. They agreed to destroy all the copies in front of the US authority’s office in USA and also to destroy the books in London.

    Today Pakistan is the only country, which has a football checking system

    BLLF movement in Pakistan, International consumer’s pressure and ILO efforts forced the big multinational football industries to make agreements with Sialkot chambers of commerce and many of the big football industries in Sialkot 1997 to produce footballs free from child labour and to create better working conditions. Today Pakistan is the only country in the whole world that has a good checking system of the football production. Because of Pakistan’s successful anti-child labour efforts and ILO project in Sialkot, hundreds of children left their work in football industry and got admission in school.
    Recently at the World conference in Washington in May, Pakistan’s anti-child labour efforts were spotlighted. The conference was hosted by US Secretary of Labour Alexis M Herman.

    Positive steps

    Gen. Musharraf 15th December 1999 in his policy speech declared the elimination of bonded labour among one of his first priorities. This is the first time in Pakistan that any leader gave high importance to end the bonded labour system. His government officials also took some positive steps – to expose bondage and to help the freed bonded labourers, (Haris), in Sind. The government also announced a plan of action against child labour.

    For the elimination of child labour, government suggested to raise education budget up to 5% of the GDP up to 2003 and make the education compulsory up to secondary school level in all provinces of Pakistan.

    The education minister Zubbaia Jalal also expressed her great concern about elimination of child labour in UN-meeting in New York, but she also pointed out that due to foreign debts, the government has problem to develop the issue.

    Although the present government is promising to do something but still there is only a little hope, because this government is facing the largest economic crises in the history of Pakistan. Because of the previous government and feudal lords who brought the country close to bankruptcy and they misused all foreign debts and other resources and this make the nation bonded of foreign debts.

    What is needed?

    BLLF believes that: No schools – More slavery
    More schools – No slavery

    At the present situation and with the historical background it is needed that for the elimination of bonded labour and slave child labour, a special program should be started in Pakistan, which should be funded by UN and developing countries. Because without education and rehabilitation of freed bonded workers and children, the elimination of bonded labour is not possible. As long as bonded labour exists it is impossible to reach democracy and to get peace in the region.

    What to be done?

    1. The enforcement and improvement of bonded labour abolition act

    Slavery is not dead; some efforts have been made to expose the problem and to cope with it, but much remains to be done. The campaign against bonded labour and child slavery must be relentless and be placed high on a nation’s agenda. As a complex and a multi-dimensional problem, bonded labour and child slavery must be attacked at different levels and by various means.

    Review the adequacy of existing legislation. In particular, the following aspects should be covered:

    Definition (the various forms of bondage should be specified in the law.)

    Objective (total abolition)

    Specification of sanctions

    Compensations of victims

    Liquidation of debts and other obligations

    Enforcement machinery e.g. measures of speedy trial

    Enabling provisions for the establishment of special courts

    Adverse publicity for violators

    Establishment of rehabilitation schemes

    2. Feudal system should be abolished

    a/ To break the feudal system, the land reforms should be introduced and landlord should be taxed.

    b/ The absent landlords system should be abolished.

    c/ Agricultural workers should be given the trade union rights, and nomads and bonded workers should be registered in the voter’s list. According to the election rules, they are still not allowed to vote to this day.

    3. Foreign debts should be converted for education aid

    Pakistan is under debt of 38,8 billion US$, due to that each child has to pay 600 US$ to meet the liabilities, however the bonded workers and their children do not have milk, books, shoes, toys or shelter. Pakistan is spending about 56% for debt servicing. That is also one of the biggest causes of bonded labour and slavery. My suggestion is that the IMF/World Bank loans should be converted for the basic education and rehabilitation of the child servitude and slave children. International and local education professionals should control these funds and every dollar should be spent on deprived children’s education. This will be a great help to stop child labour through education.

    5. Implementation of the program of Action against child bondage 23-26 November 1992

    a/ The recommendations of Asian Regional Seminars of children in bondage, held in Islamabad, Pakistan, 23-26 November 1992, should be implemented by ILO.

    b/ For the follow-up of Asian Regional seminar on children in bondage in Islamabad 23-26 November 1992 another regional program should be arranged in some neutral country in South Asia.

    Bonded Labor Liberation Front Of Pakistan (BLLF-Pak)
    Bonded labor exists in Punjab in the fields of Brick kiln, carpet weaving, agriculture labor, stone quarries, coal mines, leather processing, shoe making, surgical instruments, sports goods, and in domestic work, etc. the percentage of bonded laborers is high in brick kilns industry as compare to other fields. And the situation of the laborers is getting worst day by day.
    In a pilot study conducted by the organization, 95% of the Brick Kiln laborers are under debt bondage and are breathing below the poverty line. Total earning of the whole family including their children is less then the expenditure of their livelihood. The study reveals that the average debt of each family is about Rs.50000 as claimed by brick kiln owners. Whereas average assets of a family are less then twelve thousands. The study shows the major factors of debt bondage are fake cases, diseases, incidents or accidents, causalities, old customs and traditions, dishonesty and exploitation by the middleman, low wages, seasonal work and insecurity / inconsistency of employment. All these factors are out come of the socio-economic and political environment in which they have to live and do labor. Study shows the infant mortality rate under the age of 5 years is 230/1000 whereas in Pakistan it is 106/1000, the ratio of pregnant women suffering in anemia is 51/100 whereas its 37/100 in Pakistan, TB and asthma is 56% and 26% respectively , hundred percent of the bonded laborers r living in unhygienic houses with out clean drinking water and toilets. Even in sickness or bad climates women and children have to go at open places to take easy that is a risk and begot many other problems. Sexual harassment and abuse of women in one community of bonded labor (as a kiln) is three cases per month. Further due to that inhuman practice, laborers are compelled to do underage marriages of their daughters. There is no reach of development and welfare services initiated by the government. Their access to justice is a very difficult process. Their problems and miseries remained unsolved due to lack of political will because majority of the laborers have no national identity cards and are not registered in voter’s lists.
    The nearest and earliest institution for relief as provided by the Bonded Labor System (abolition) act 1992 &1995 is District vigilance committees. But unfortunately correlation between economic and political powers has also seized this institution and its supporting to the owners. There is no existence of such committees on ground; even no single example is reported. In this regard bonded labor Liberation Front of Pakistan has written letters to District Nazism and governor Punjab and to chief minister of Punjab but to no avail.
    The only way, in practice, to get relief is suit under habious corpus that is difficult and expensive. It depends on correct information about labor ( where it is ) confidentiality and impartiality on the part of bailiff.
    Unfortunately general opinion about bonded laborers is not positive. They are blamed to be habitual. Due to this biased opinion process of relief through courts also becomes more difficult. In case of session court it becomes more typical and difficult. Therefore its not an ideal and sustainable means for freedom and release of bonded laborers. In this regard case Fazal Din is a nearest fresh example. Fazal din and his family was arrested in false case of theft just after one hour of their freedom from session court Bhawal Pur. The case history of Manawar Masih is also one of the worst examples.

    when Syeda Ghulam Fatima opend her eyes she found herself surouned with the agony and pian, all forms of expliotation and atrosities with brick kiln laborers.

    She experienced all the problems with her family and got a deep knowledge about bonded labour which is still today widespread not only in Pakistan but also in many other countries in South Asia. Through her family she also got her own experience about the problems from owner, police and administration which makes the struggle for freedom so dangerous and difficult.

    When Syeda Ghulam Fatima was a young student, 16 years old in 1978 she volunteered herself for the cause of Bhatta Mazdoor Mahaz (Brick Kiln Labor Front).In the year 1980 she started adult literacy centre at Brick kiln Bagerian Green Town Lahore. Where Brick kiln owners perceived her a threat for their wide spread exploitations and stopped her from education of labourers. She did not care for their threats and continued her adult literacy centre. At last brick kiln owner Wali Muhammas and alleys attacked on her and gave her sever injuries. She reported to concerned police station and did a press conference, eventually police has to lounge FIR.

    The same year Bhatta Mazdor Mahaz (BMM, brickkiln workers front) was formed among the brickkiln workers. BMM was working with actions and demonstrations of different kinds but also with legal aid to give basic human rights to the bonded workers on the brickkilns. Already at an early stage the organisation was facing threats, workers were beaten and even killed. The organisation had no support either from political groups or from media, religious circles or any other group outside the bonded workers themselves. On the 18th September 1988 Supreme Court in Pakistan took an important decision which recognised that bonded labour exists among the brickkiln workers in Pakistan and that this practise is against the Pakistani constitution. After this decision representatives from many other groups like agriculture workers, carpet workers, mine workers etc came to BLLF and told that the same system exists among them. The same year BLLF (Bonded Labour Liberation Front) was formed. It is an umbrella organisation for different groups of bonded workers.

    Today BLLF is active in all four provinces of Pakistan, activities among the grassroots are important and the local groups are growing more and more strong.

  2. Muhammad Jalil Butt Says:

    u people are doing a lot for deprived labour in Pakistan.I slute to Syeda Ghalam fatima for her long efforts.
    M.Jalil Butt
    Danish Foundation

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