Long Road To Eradicating Child And Bonded Labour In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa

Long Road To Eradicating Child And Bonded Labour In Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa
In the scenic province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), Pakistan, a dark and distressing reality thrives beneath the surface - the prevalence of child and bonded labour. Despite various laws and international commitments, these exploitative practices continue to persist in brick kilns, local hotels, mechanic shops, agriculture, and the informal sector, casting a shadow over the dreams and aspirations of innocent children. To truly combat this abhorrent practice, the labour, police, and prosecution departments must play their respective roles and address the shortcomings they currently face.

The alarming prevalence of child and bonded labour in KP has been well-documented and acknowledged by credible sources. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), one in every four households in Pakistan employs a child in domestic work, predominantly girls aged 10 to 14 years. Likewise, according to UNICEF, approximately 3.3 million children in Pakistan are involved in some form of child labour, and this includes numerous cases in the province of KP. Shockingly, a significant number of these children are subjected to hazardous work conditions, exploitation, and a denial of their basic rights, hindering their physical, mental, and emotional development.
The police department's role in combating child and bonded labour is critical, but it suffers from a lack of sensitisation to the gravity of the issue

One of the major challenges in ending child and bonded labour is the lack of proper implementation and enforcement of existing laws. The labour department, which should be at the forefront of addressing this issue, faces several challenges that hinder its efficacy. One key problem is the absence of vehicles for field inspections. Without adequate transportation, labour officials struggle to monitor workplaces effectively, making it easier for unscrupulous employers to exploit child labourers discreetly. The KP government must invest in providing the labour department with the necessary resources, including vehicles, to ensure thorough and regular inspections.

Additionally, field officers often encounter fear for their privacy when registering First Information Reports (FIRs) through the police against those employing child labourers. This fear stems from potential retaliation or harassment from powerful individuals involved in exploitative practices. The KP government should institute protective measures for these officers and establish a mechanism for anonymous reporting, fostering a safer environment for reporting such violations.

The police department's role in combating child and bonded labour is critical, but it suffers from a lack of sensitisation to the gravity of the issue. Officers may not fully comprehend the profound consequences of child labour on society and may not prioritise it in their daily duties. Training programs aimed at sensitizing police officers to the issue of child labour and its long-term impacts should be implemented. Moreover, the establishment of specialised units or child protection desks within police stations can enhance the police force's responsiveness to cases of child exploitation.

The prosecution department's indifference to child and bonded labour cases is another obstacle in the fight against this injustice. Many child labour cases never make it to court, as they are not pursued diligently by the prosecution. The KP government must promote accountability within the prosecution department and foster a sense of responsibility towards eradicating child labour. This can be achieved through performance assessments, rewards for successful convictions, and penalties for negligence in handling such cases.

To address the shortcomings of these departments effectively, the KP government must also foster collaboration among them. Inter-departmental task forces can be established to ensure coordination and information-sharing between the labour, police, and prosecution departments. This can help identify and prioritise cases of child and bonded labour, making the fight against exploitation more targeted and efficient.

Furthermore, the government should encourage the active involvement of civil society organisations and NGOs working in the field of child rights and labour. These organisations can provide valuable support and insights to the authorities, as well as serve as a bridge between the departments and affected communities.

In conclusion, the issue of child and bonded labour in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa demands urgent attention and collective action. While it is crucial to acknowledge the prevailing challenges faced by the labour, police, and prosecution departments, these shortcomings can be addressed through strategic planning, resource allocation, and sensitisation programs. By fostering collaboration, strengthening enforcement mechanisms, and investing in the welfare of children, the KP government can take decisive steps toward eradicating child and bonded labour, paving the way for a brighter and more equitable future for the coming generations.