Workers’ woes -The Express Tribune

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Wahid Bux rises early morning and travels to Kandhkot city looking for a manual labour where he could make 500 or so bucks to afford basic necessities of life for his five hunger-stricken and pale-faced children. All his daylong hectic works hardly earns him a few hundreds to feed, not satisfactorily though, his already malnourished children, let alone educating them or getting them treated when ill. Since saving is an alien percept to him owing to his meagre earnings, each day is his working day regardless of whether it rains or shines. He eagerly looks for work like the affluent look for off-days. A rainy day may bring enjoyment for the rich, but mourning for the poor who loses work due to harsh climatic. Even on the Labour Day, they work to feed their children. It’s one of the greatest ironies that everybody, except labourers and workers, enjoys a holiday on the Labour Day which has been ceremonially ritual, celebrated by the rich in the name of labourers at luxury hotels.

Wouldn’t it be better if these so-called champions of labour rights spend their days with workers, live and eat with them and spend the exorbitant partying amount in educating their children or getting their ailing children treated?

Despite the sitting government raising the minimum labour wage to 25,000 per month, the life of a labourer in Pakistan continues to be a tragedy. It is rather worsening over time due to a continued absence of any practical steps at the official level. Numerous policies aimed at empowering the working class have been announced by the successive governments, but the same have hardly been implemented.

The ossified culture of corruption is one of the factors that bar the benefits, pledged in the policies, to reach the targeted audience. The stakeholders include feudal, rich and elite, for whom the screams of hunger and the agony of possessing nothing are alien and immaterial. Since they have never suffered the anguish of pennilessness, they can never share compassion with and feel the pain of those whose life passes in the struggle of affording two square meals a day for their children, let alone expecting any education and healthcare facilities.

‘Development’ has been a buzzword for the successive governments in Pakistan. The country may have developed on paper, but this jugglery of figures does nothing at all to save the working class from the horrifying facets of the life they are forced to lead. Even if the statistics improve, they get nothing. No relief – even in doles – ever reach their dwellings due to the gluttonous mafias, profiteers, hoarders and black-marketers. Holistic human development is but a dream, perhaps unattainable in the prevailing political setup.

On top of that, the ever-rising inflation continues to squeeze the space for a man from the working class to survive. With the prices of daily-use items rocketing into the sky, the charges of utilities soaring with each passing day, and job prospecting dimming, one can imagine the plight of the working class which mostly comprise daily-wage earners. Moreover, the attitude of the general public towards labourers and workers is heart-breaking too. Cases of the employers mistreating and abusing their employees are reported almost daily. There are instances where the employees – especially domestic workers – are treated like slaves.

Our country is certainly not deficient in resources and can afford a respectable standard of living for its people. But it’s the dearth of empathy, compassion and humanistic tendencies among the empowered class that continues to throw the life of nearly half the country’s population into destitution and haplessness. There is an urgent need for the ruling class to prioritise the lot of the working class and give them a chance to at least survive with dignity, if not thrive.