The News – The root of child labour

Adnan Adil

Op/Ed, 31 January 2017. The brutal torture of Tayyaba, a 10-year-old housemaid, in Islamabad has triggered the advocacy of child rights in the media and higher judiciary. Although it is a noble aim, the overwhelming support for child rights on its own does not provide an adequate explanation of the issue. We must take into account the overall context of child labour.

More than being influenced by lack of awareness or the inadequate legal framework to regulate these rights, child labour in Pakistan is an outcome of excruciating poverty, mainly concentrated in the rural areas.

The Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) tells us that child labour in the country has quadrupled during the last two decades. The government is so indifferent to the issue that it has not conducted a survey on child labour since 1996. Credible estimates put the number of child workers in Pakistan at 15 million.

The bitter reality is that the under-priveleged make their children work in the homes of rich and middle-class people because they cannot afford to feed them. Child labour is a matter of survival, not an option for the poor. Official surveys and statistics are a testament to this fact.

According to the statistics of the Ministry for Planning, Development and Reform, 29.5 percent of the country’s population, or around 55 million people, live below the official poverty line of Rs3,030 per month.

Ironically, a small middle-class family would spend this amount on one meal. However, a poor worker is most likely to make do with this meagre amount to address his family’s monthly needs.

Hunger, an inevitable consequence of extreme poverty, is quite visible in our rural areas. International surveys reflect this situation. According to the 2016 Global Hunger Index, 22 percent of Pakistan’s population is undernourished. Pakistan ranked 107 out of 118 developing countries. It was worse off than India, which ranked 97th on the index.

The actual magnitude of misery is much higher than the official figures suggest. A person earning even twice the official figure of Rs 3,030 cannot afford two meals a day for himself for a month, let alone other essentials.

A more realistic approach would involve categorising all those who live below the poverty line and earn less than Rs 6,000 per month (or $2 per day). By this standard, more than half of our population or at least 100 million people live below the poverty line.

Another 30 percent of the population teeters at the poverty fence. This means around 160 million people in this country survive on a bare minimum of funds.

It would be naive to expect poor people to either keep their children at home or send them to school. Most children from poor families are forced to find jobs and fulfil the needs of their families. It comes as no surprise that 25 million primary school-age children are out of schools. Many of them are toiling away at some job or the other.

A large segment of the poor survive under subhuman conditions. The children and women of these families work as domestic help. They eat the leftovers of the rich or the middle class.

They wear second-hand clothes and live in areas covered with litter and sewage. When they fall ill, they turn to quacks for medical assistance. At every step, they are humiliated and insulted.

The existence of the dispossessed is considered a norm for state and society. We may not like to admit it but the rich do not consider the poor to be human and are unlikely to grant them their rights. Poverty is deemed a matter of fate. It is believed that the poor are destined to be poor. They are not entitled to a decent life and should therefore serve the rich.

The concentration of wealth and income within a small segment of society is the root of poverty. While the elite may differ on religious interpretation in a host of matters, there is a consensus on the sanctity of owning property and wealth. In 1990, the Federal Shariat Court declared land reforms un-Islamic.

Today, not a single mainstream political party stands for the fair distribution of wealth and income and the welfare of the downtrodden.

The state practically perpetuates dispossession and misery of the public. Many acres of state land that lies uncultivated is allotted to win the loyalties of the civil and military bureaucracies but cannot be distributed among the landless farmers.

In the last 30 years, no development funds were made available for more than 4,000 katchi abadis in Punjab while billions of rupees were spent on luxury projects.

The state’s complicity in marginalising the poor is visible in all spheres. More than 80 percent of labourers receive less than the government-fixed minimum wage and are deprived of social security benefits.

But no state institution springs into action to protect their needs. When the application of law affects the interests of the elite, the state gets cold feet. The focus is on rhetoric and showing off rather than on the substance.

Child rights cannot be protected and child labour cannot be abolished by addressing the symptoms. The poverty faced by 80 percent of the population also needs to be cured.

Adnan Adil


The Tribune – Keeping pace with Kejriwal, as race reaches final stretch

Delhi Chief Minister knows his presence is important as Punjab heads to polls, and AAP supremo is not skipping a moment

Kuljit Bains, Tribune News Service

Panjab, 31 January 2017. Getting an interview slot with a star campaigner is never easy, and intercepting him becomes particularly challenging if he addresses more than five rallies a day, as does AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal.

Finally the call comes, and a Tribune team makes a five-hour dash to Bathinda from Chandigarh. It is already dark, and the AAP media team sends us GPS coordinates of the house where Kejriwal is scheduled to take a break before the last rally of the day.

As we follow the little pointer on the phone, the road keeps getting narrower. Is this really where he is going to be? Finally, we spot a small crowd outside a house, neighbourhood kids, cops among them. Soon enough, the guest is welcomed with flowers.

Since there is a rush of people trying to get in with him, the police cut in. As our turn comes, we see a bunch of road-beaten aides, but the subject of our attention is even worse off from his day out on the battlefield.

But “CM Sa’ab” will see us, we are told. Oops! Amidst a bull outside in the street, kids vying for selfies, we had all but forgotten this man is a Chief Minister. That’s when it strikes you, he’s indeed an ‘aam aadmi mukhya mantri’. Around Kejriwal, the aura of power is entirely absent.

The interview is off for the day, but we are promised a ride-cum-talk with him in his car (Innova Crysta) from Moga to Majitha the next morning. It actually turns out good, as we get a chance to hang about the house he stayed in Moga, the one that allegedly is owned by a Khalistan “terrorist”.

On the spot, however, the only excitement we notice is of young enthusiastic fans, who have arrived with small gifts. A young man who modifies old jeeps in Moga for a living has brought along a pen, with which he wants the “future prime minister to script a blissful future for the country”.

As Kejriwal tells us later, he is banking on the “hope that people have seen in AAP”. He is confident their government will be able to create the 25 lakh promised jobs, as they already have a detailed blueprint ready for industry, farming and dairy.

As we drive out, people in the street literally try and pour in through the window, and he knows it matters. The driver is asked to slow down for the last selfies. Out on the highway, the road is flanked by an unending expanse of deep-green wheat fields.

Asked if agriculture will continue to be sustained on subsidies, he cuts to question the very term, if benefits to industry are called ‘incentives’, then why not the same for farming? It has to be viable, he says; either pay more for the produce, or help with inputs, else the country will starve.

Would the Centre cooperate in procurement? The Delhi Chief Minister says there are rules that govern a “full state” such as Punjab. Moreover, if there is any issue, “then we know how to fight for our rights better than Akalis or Congress. Sada haq, ethe rakh”.

Mention of the allegation of “separatists” being among his NRI supporters touches a sudden agitation in the otherwise soft-spoken man with a nagging cough. Perhaps the controversy over the Moga house is bothering him. “How can you call every NRI a terrorist?” he asks.

“This is very dangerous for the country. If there is any particular case, please give us names,” he says. “NRIs are coming to Punjab out of love for the state. And are ready to invest or even do charity for the people back home.”

The cavalcade is headed to Majitha, an area where AAP does not have an upper hand, unlike the Malwa that he is leaving behind. But Majitha is important, for the prime target of the AAP campaign, SAD’s Bikram Majithia, is contesting from there.

It’s SAD and BJP flags all around, but that does not daunt Kejriwal from raising a full-throated “Bole so nihal, Sat Sri Akal” at the end of every village rally.

The crowd that comes to AAP rallies in Majha is largely Dalit and poor, even as in Malwa every other car had AAP posters. Kejriwal is conscious of his aam aadmi base. When the lack of his party’s governance experience is pointed out, he says there are bureaucrats and experts for that.

“What a leader needs is good intention, and a feel for the pain and the pulse of the people. He should not be able to sleep if his people are suffering.”

A noticeable change in the rallies is the lack of topis. There are yellow turbans instead. Is this the effect of Sukhbir Badal and Captain Amarinder Singh calling AAP topiwallas? Not at all, says Kejriwal, “this is just them targeting what little they can, including my sandals and red sweater”.

So why do his political opponents see red in everything AAP? “Because we have offered a disillusioned people a politics of hope.”

Sikhi Camp – Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara

Sikhi Camp – Gent Gurdwara
December 2016


Little feet


Eating is important !


Panjabi class ?


Teachers and students


Talking to the little ones


Young Singh, Pyar Kaur and baby

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

NDTV – Punjab has a ‘Cancer Train’, few political parties talk of the disease

Amitoj Singh

Bhatinda, 31 January 2017. A Sikh man and his wife are sitting on one of the corner benches of platform number 1 at Bhatinda’s Railway station. Sukhpal and Magar are waiting to board the train to Bikaner, Rajasthan, something they do at least once every month. She has throat cancer.

It is a train trip hundreds of cancer patients take for subsidised treatment. The train, which originates from Abohar and goes all the way to Jodhpur, dropping off patients at Bikaner, has come to be known as the “Cancer Train”.

This is a train for the poor. It has no air-conditioned coaches. The seats are on the ‘first come, first served’ basis. But Sukhpal and Magar are familiar with the train. They know which coach fills up last, so they secure a sleeper seat to share.

“In a year, we travel at least 15-16 times. Almost every 20 days we travel for treatment. She has had chemotherapy and is slightly better now, but can’t speak too much. Every day at least 50-75 cancer patients travel to Bikaner,” says Magar.

The couple did not use water filters. “We drank straight from the hand pump. Then we realised fertilisers have made the water poisonous. Then we got a filter. But by then my wife already had cancer,” Magar said.

In another coach, Randhir Singh is travelling to buy chemotherapy medicine for his wife and a friend. “I have been doing this for 6 years. My wife has stomach cancer,” he said.

Bhatinda is in Punjab’s Malwa region, where a lot of chemicals are indiscriminately used for pest control, said agricultural expert Dr S S Chahal. “Unlike in other countries, the farmers don’t spray it only on the crop. It is all over the area, which results in the soil getting affected,” he said.

Of the 15 pesticides used, at least 7 are considered cancer causing by the US environment protection agency because it affects the drinking water.

Have the people in this cancer belt of Malwa been ignored by political parties?

In its manifesto, the Aam Aadmi Party announced a provision of life imprisonment for those who manufacture and sell spurious pesticides. It has also promised to provide healthcare upto Rs. 5 lakh for all farmers.

The Congress says it will provide free soil testing regularly and educate the farmers.

Only the Akalis are directly talking of cancer, promising an Advanced Cancer Institute in Bhatinda and a cancer hospital in Chandigarh besides free treatment to all farmers.

But these days, the ‘Cancer Train’ is being associated with drugs too.

In another bogey, Sukhdev Singh is travelling with his family. His mother has a heart problem and is going to Bikaner for more affordable treatment. Sukhdev, though, is a drug addict. His family admits he is under rehabilitation.

“I did afeem (Opium), chitta (synthetic intoxicant) and smack (heroin),” Sukhdev said. “The hospital in Bikaner has helped me recover. Every day, at least a 100 people affected by drugs come to the hospital,” Sukhdev says.

Dawn – Government issues order to place JuD chief Hafiz Saeed under house arrest

Imran Gabol

Lahore, 30 November 2017. The provincial authorities on Monday issued orders to place Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) chief Hafiz Saeed under house arrest, DawnNews reported and JuD spokesperson later confirmed.

The government launched a crackdown against JuD and a heavy contingent of police was deployed around the JuD headquarter and offices in Muridke and Lahore.

“A large police team arrived (at JuD headquarters) and told us that Hafiz would be placed under house arrest,” said the secretary of information for JuD, Nadeem Awan.

Awan said the police told them they had an arrest warrant for Saeed and five others at JuD headquarters.

Hafiz Saeed was reportedly present at the Qudsia Mosque located in Chauburji area of Lahore. Contingents of police and other law-enforcing agencies reached the area and surrounded the premises, sources said.

Police sources further informed that Saeed will be shifted to his residence in the Johar Town area of the provincial capital, which will then be declared as a sub-jail.

Saeed has been detained under Section 11-EEE(1) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1977, a notification issued by the interior ministry said.

Meanwhile, the district intelligence committee has suggested it to the government to put the JuD chief’s name in fourth schedule.

Moreover, national flags have been hoisted at the JuD offices in Lahore, instead of party flags, on the directives of provincial home department, it added.

The provincial authorities have also started to remove the banners of JuD from the roads of Lahore.

The move comes after years of pressure on Pakistan to put Saeed on trial and could ease recently escalating tensions with neighbour and arch-foe India.

Saeed had been accused by the United States and India of masterminding the 2008 attacks on the Indian financial capital Mumbai that killed 166 people.

He, however, has repeatedly denied involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Awan said the Pakistani government had been under pressure from the United States to take action against Saeed or face sanctions. “This government has buckled under the pressure.”

In 2012, the United States announced a bounty of $10 million on Hafiz Saeed for his alleged role in the attack in which six American citizens were also killed.

The Asian Age – Punjab polls: 101 candidates face criminal cases, 41 are illiterate

Of them, 78 candidates are facing serious criminal charges including that of murder, attempt to murder and crime against women.

Chandigarh, 29 January 2017. As many as 101 candidates in Punjab are facing various criminal cases, including that of murder and attempt to murder, according to poll watchdog Association of Democratic Reforms (ADR).

Furthermore, out of total 1,145 candidates in the fray, 428 are having assets of more than Rs 1 crore, with average assets per candidate being worked out at Rs 3.49 crore.

According to the analysis of candidates’ affidavits by ADR, 101 out of 1,145 candidates have declared criminal cases against them.

Of them, 78 candidates are facing serious criminal charges including that of murder, attempt to murder and crime against women, said Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member of ADR.

Prominent among those who are facing criminal charges are Navjot Singh Sidhu, Captain Amarinder Singh, Simarjeet Singh Bains, he said.

53-year-old Sidhu, Congress candidate from Amritsar East, declared in his affidavit that on December 27, 1988 a case under section 302, 323, 34 of IPC was registered against him.

He was acquitted in the case by the Session Court Patiala on September 22, 1999.

But the Punjab and Haryana High Court convicted him on December 6, 2006 sentencing him to three years’ rigorous imprisonment and fine of Rs 1 lakh. However, the Supreme Court suspended the sentence on January 23, 2007.

Congress’ chief ministerial candidate Amarinder Singh, who is contesting from Lambi and Patiala, is facing four cases, as per the report prepared by ADR.

Lok Insaf Party candidate Simarjeet Bains is facing case under relevant sections of IPC including 307 (attempt to murder), 332 (charges related to voluntary causing hurt to deter servant from his duty).

As per report prepared by ADR, 14 candidates of Congress, 12 of AAP, 10 of SAD and 2 of BJP and 20 out of 304 Independents were facing criminal charges, said Chhokar.

The report also said that a whopping 688 out of total 1,145 contestants, have declared their educational qualification between 5th standard and 12th standard while 41 candidates are illiterate.

Despite political parties stressing upon giving more nominations to women in polls, 81 (7 per cent) women out of 1,145 candidates are contesting Punjab Assembly polls, as per the report. – Harmander Sahib Ardasia Who Refused To Honour Badal Gets Siropao from AAP

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh, Panjab, 29 January 2017. Ardasia Bhai Balbir Singh, who had denied Siropao to Chief Minister Parkash Badal during his visit to Sri Darbar Sahib last year, joined the rookie Aam Aadmi Party on January 27.

AAP’s state In-charge Sanjay Singh and State convener Gurpreet Singh Waraich formally inducted him into the party. Bhai Balbir Singh was honored with a siropao by AAP, instead of its customary scarf with Arvind Kejriwal’s pictures.

Ardasi Bhai Balbir Singh was transferred to Machhiwara by SGPC authorities after he had denied ‘Siropao’ to Badal. But he had refused to abide by the transfer orders and had announced to quit service in SGPC.

Speaking with Sikh24, Ardasia Bhai Balbir Singh said that he needed an appropriate platform to raise voice against the failure of the Badal led Punjab government in unearthing serial desecration incidents in Punjab.

Accusing the current Punjab government for state-wide sacrilege incidents, he said that such incidents are not possible without connivance of ruling party.

“My sole motive was to dethrone Badal. I had earlier thought of contesting the Lambi seat against Badal as an independent candidate but after getting feedback from the Sikh sangat that it could indirectly pass on advantage to Badal, I rolled back my decision.

After much thought, I decided to join AAP, which has a clean image. Taking steps to curb sacrilege incidents and punishing the guilty is part of the AAP agenda,” he said.

Sikhi Camp – Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara

Sikhi Camp – Gent Gurdwara
December 2016


The youngest students


Trying to tie a turban


Pyar Kaur !


This teacher is going back to India soon !


We hope that Amol Kaur will keep coming to Gent Gurdwara


Faithful sevadars doing path

Mata Sahib Kaur Gurdwara
Kortrijksepoortstraat 49
B-9000 Gent – Oost-Vlaanderen

To see all my pictures:

More Belgian pictures to be published
Harjinder Singh
Man in Blue

The New Indian Express – Will Navjot Singh Sidhu hit his disciple for a six?

Harpreet Bajwa, Express News Service

Chandigarh, 30 January 2017. It is Guru versus Chela in a keenly watched election; as cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu, who is contesting the assembly elections for the first time from Amritsar (East) constituency is pitched against Rajesh Kumar Honey of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

The 53-year old Sidhu had brought Rajesh Kumar Honey into politics a few years ago when he was in the BJP but is now contesting against him.

As Sidhu is a star campaigner of the Congress he is touring and campaigning for the other candidates, while his wife Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu who is sitting MLA from this constituency after she vacated her seat for her husband is holding fort and campaigning for him in his absence.

The former three-time Amritsar MP says that he is not bothered about gains or losses in this battle as the lone target is to rid Punjab of the Badals, ‘Badal-Mukt Punjab’. Sidhu claims that he is on a mission to save Punjab from the Badals who have “looted” the state.

A bitter critic of the ruling Badal clan, the Sidhu couple have opposed them since they were in the BJP, before they switched their loyalties and joined the Congress. Sidhu is enthralling people with his one-liners, like “Bhaag, Badal Bhaag, kursi khali kar (run Badal, run. Leave the chair)” .

This could be a cake walk for Sidhu from here, with the work done by his wife in the area which has 1.52 lakh voters with 153 polling stations. When Sidhu was the MP from Amritsar, his stronghold was this constituency.

Honey is a greenhorn as he is president of district unit of BJP and a councillor of the party. Honey first won municipal corporation election in 2007 and again in 2012. Honey takes his ‘Guru’ head on as he says that Sidhu has no time for Amritsar and once the polls end on February 5, he will return to Mumbai.

The Hindu – Pakistan could be included in immigration ban list: White House

Washington, 30 January 2017. There is a possibility in the future of including Pakistan in the list of countries from where immigration has been banned, a top White House official indicated on Sunday.

“The reason we chose those seven countries was, those were the seven countries that both the Congress and the Obama administration identified as being the seven countries that were most identifiable with dangerous terrorism taking place in their country,” White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, told CBS News.

Mr Trump has issued a controversial executive order banning immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Syria and Somalia.

“Now, you can point to other countries that have similar problems, like Pakistan and others. Perhaps we need to take it further. But for now, immediate steps, pulling the Band-Aid off, is to do further vetting for people traveling in and out of those countries,” Mr Priebus said.

This is for the first time that the Trump Administration has publicly acknowledged about considering putting Pakistan into that list.

Currently as per the executive order, visitors from countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan are subject to extreme vetting.

Mr Priebus said the executive orders were signed after a lot of planning.

“We’re not going to advertise to the world that we’re going to put a stop or at least a further vetting on travel in and out of our country from these seven places,” he said.

“Some people have suggested, that, well, maybe we should have given everyone a three-day warning. But that would just mean that a terrorist would just move up their travel plans by three days. Identifying too many people in these countries and giving them a heads-up in these countries would only potentially flag the executive order for bad order,” Priebus said.

“The President has a call with leadership in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and other countries around world. And I’m sure this topic may come up,” he said.

Mr Priebus asserted that Americans have to be protected first.

“These are countries that harbour and train terrorists. These are countries that we want to know who is coming and going in and out of to prevent calamities from happening in this country,” he said.

“We’re not willing to be wrong on this subject. President Trump is not willing to take chances on this subject. He was elected president in many respects because people knew that he was going to be tough on immigration from countries that harbour terrorists,” Mr. Priebus said.

“I can’t imagine too many people out there watching this right now think it’s unreasonable to ask a few more questions from someone traveling in and out of Libya and Yemen before being let loose in the United States. And that’s all this is,” he said.