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Labor Day: Yeh bacha kis ka bacha hai

Posted on May 1, 2009
Filed Under >Adil Najam, >Roshan Malik, Economy & Development, Poetry, Society, Urdu
26 Comments
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Roshan Malik and Adil Najam

(Note: I post this today from Paris, France; a place that celebrates this date – May 1, Labour Day – quite seriously. This post was first carried at ATP in September 2006, but it is still relevant, especially in the context of child labor, and deserves more attention this Labor Day. AN).

Yeh Bacha Kis Ka Bacha hai (‘whose child is this?’) is the title and the refrain line from a famous poem by Ibn-i-Insha. Most people know Insha for things like ‘Insha ji utho, aab kooch karo’ or ‘kal chodhweiN ki raat thi’ or ‘yeh baataiN jhooti baataiN haiN’. In fact, most people would not think of ‘yeh bacha kis ka bacha hai’, with its characteristically Insha simplicity, the greatest work of the poet, columnist and humorist. It is, however, a moving piece that Insha ji had written upon seeing the photo of a starving Ethiopian child during the devastating famine of the seventies.



However, a new video rendition this poem just released by the advocacy group Actionaid Pakistan, and directed by Matteela, has not only done amazing justice to the poem but has uncovered layers upon layers of emotive meaning that may have been missed by too many readers.

Even if you read and see nothing else on this site, we urge you to view this short video rendition, and to think deep and hard about both the words and the images. Click on arrow at center, or view it directly here:

There is some wonderful information about the song at Matteela’s website, including this:

Astafila is the name of the inimitable girl who opens the video and it is also her voice in the background… Younis a.k.a Kaka, is our angry balloon selling protagonist but the voice in the background is that of Waqas, a student at a madrasah in Lahore’s Samanabad area. Kaka’s casting was done much before any work had begun on the song or the video. He was spotted at the mini golf course in Lahore’s St. Mary’s Park where he works in the evenings… The plaintive taan of Malkauns in the background is that of Uruj Saami… The tinkly piano in the background is the handiwork of Riaz Hans who also plays the tabla. The beat which structures the song is from a Morcheeba song.

We hope you will remember the poem but this post is really about the subject of the poem and of this video. The subject of the state of children in Pakistan.

The disparity between haves and have nots is widening rapidly in urban areas of Pakistan. These vulnerable street children sometimes involve into the criminal activities and are destined to face the juvenile trial. In Pakistan, more than 4000 children under the age of 18 are facing juvenile trial in the courts.

The miseries of poor children in Pakistan are quite similar with other South Asian countries. UNICEF reports that more than 3.6 million children under the age of 14 are working under hazardous and exploitative conditions in Pakistan. It also says that child abuse cases reported in Pakistan during 2000-04 were more than 17000.

Pakistan is signatory of UN Convention on Rights of the Child (CRC) and other ILO Conventions and its national policies condemn child labor and forced labor, but the situation on ground is different. We have domestic child labor, child labor in informal settings like children working in workshops, washing cars in the streets, working on restaurants, begging, child trafficking and rural sector child labor etc.

The worst form of Child Labor identified by ILO Pakistan are Gawadar Deep Sea Fishing, Hyderabad Glass Bangle Industry, Surgical Industry Sialkot, and Tannery Industry in Kasur:The ILO Rapid Assessment on Rag Pickers/Scavengers conducted by the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) reveals that there are roughly 89,500-106,500 children engaged in scavenging in five major cities of the country i.e. Karachi, Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar and Islamabad.
Roshan Malik is a development practitioner with wide experience in Pakistan. The concept, information and original post is by him.

26 Comments on “Labor Day: Yeh bacha kis ka bacha hai

  1. ayesha says:
    September 2nd, 2006 3:06 pm

    You have got me there. Hard hitting video and post.

    Still pondering over it…

  2. maria says:
    September 2nd, 2006 3:20 pm

    The child labor issues are just part of the bigger problem. Anyone can go ahead and sign CRC but unless some steps are taken to improve the living conditions and poverty in the country, enforcing a child labor ban could translate into depriving these families of their means of sustenance. There is just so much that needs to be done here.

  3. Umera says:
    September 2nd, 2006 3:33 pm

    Maria, is right that under child labour there are so many more issues. However, I have found that the underlining issues are used as an excuse for not dealing with the problem of child labour.

    This video is so simple, yet very hard hitting.

  4. Daktar says:
    September 2nd, 2006 3:43 pm

    Guys, this is why I like this website. In one hardhitting post you have reminded me or a great writer and poet AND of a pressing social issue. And given information on both. Thanks.

    BTW, like the new design but miss the simplicity of the old. Am sure will feel more comfortable once I get used to this.

  5. September 2nd, 2006 4:26 pm

    Guys: I am speechless. I had read this poem in school but I had not seen this before – even though my sister says it used to come on TV quite often.

    You have reminded of something that I should remember each and every day of my life. While I enjoy a good meal at my wedding (which happens to be this weekend), I will be remembering the kids who will be going hungry on the streets of Pakistan. Tell me how I can help.

  6. Moved says:
    September 2nd, 2006 11:48 pm

    Maybe we should show this video to the people planning to enjoy the 7-star, or was it 9-star, or maybe 21-gun, hotel!

  7. Rabia Bashir says:
    September 3rd, 2006 12:38 am

    Great post Roshan Malik and Adil Najam. Everytime I see this video, my heart aches to Younis a.k.a Kaka’s line “Tum jo chaho so haazir hai”. His eyes leave a powerful impact with many searching questions. Questions that remain unanswered!

    A lot of projects might have been designed to tackle child labor, but we need to start condemning it right from our own homes. Child trafficking is yet another menace that needs to be addressed strictly.

    On a different note: Congratulations on your wedding Bilal Zuberi. Wish you all the best. It would be awesome if we can help such children somehow.

  8. Pakpics says:
    September 3rd, 2006 10:43 am

    Great post & video is very much touchy & hard hitting. Govt should stop fighting with opposition & try to solve issues like this

  9. September 3rd, 2006 12:54 pm

    While watching the video and listening to Insha ji’s nazm, one could not but help feel that when one looks at the real hard issues- of child labour, environment, peasantry, the working people, women- that differences over religion and boundaries take a back seat, and almost become a caricature.

    The ballon seller boy’s eys and resounding voice leaves a lasting impression and brings out the sub- text of the nazm that one has read many times but understood only now.

  10. Farrukh says:
    September 4th, 2006 2:23 am

    This video is very moving. I am in shock because we see these kids around us every day and get used to it. We can actually make a difference on this. Maybe we should collect ideas on whatis best ways to make a difference.

  11. Hashim Mandokhel says:
    September 7th, 2006 10:40 pm

    This is very moving. I say it again and agin and this video really makes you think. I am glad you are highlighting these issues.

  12. Zakir says:
    September 8th, 2006 2:05 pm

    The poem and its video is certainly moving. But the numbers you quote are even more despressing. And we only have to look around us everyday to know that they are correct.

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