Month: May 2012

Gilgit-Baltistan:Exploitation of Labours

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Gilgit (ET): Saad Khan, a scrap collector, does not know if his rights as a labourer are protected under the law, nor was he ever told about it. He continues to be exploited at the hands of his employer. On the contrary, Hafizur Rehman, a grade-1 employee in a government-funded project, knows that the fixed minimum wage in the preceding years is around Rs7,500 per month, yet he is not paid that amount on one pretext or the other.

Exploitation continues to haunt employees at every level.

Khan, 19, is among the thousands of uneducated labourers who depend solely on physical work for their livelihoods. He wanders the streets throughout the day looking for discarded items that he can sell to his employer based on the quantity of iron, paper or plastic in the scrap at very low rates. At other times, he sells toys at a roadside stall.

With a daily earning of around Rs90 to 150, Khan makes around Rs2,700 to 3,500 a month. “The items people sell to me are useless for them but they still demand higher rates,” said Khan, unhappy with the menial amount he takes home. He said he does not know of any organisation working for the rights of labourers.

Rehman, the grade-1 employee in a government-funded project “Programme for Mountain Conservation”, said he knows that his minimum wage is Rs7,500 and his maximum duty hours are eight, but he is forced to work extra hours, sometimes overnight. Some of the employees of the project have not been paid salaries for the past 10 months, he said.

“The government only makes announcements, the ground realities are different,” he said.

Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) Socialist Party President Advocate Ahsan Ali said, “Fixing minimum wages is more of a political slogan as it lacks implementation.” Ali, who previously served as president of the G-B Labour Party, added it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that every person is provided a job and that he/she earns the minimum wage fixed by the state itself.

“The rulers themselves create crisis just to keep the people busy and forget about their rights,” he said. Ali was of the view that sectarianism was not an issue in G-B but is a result of the capitalist system in place in the region.

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