Labor Day: Yeh bacha kis ka bacha hai

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

  13. Roshan says:
    March 16th, 2007 11:20 pm

    Poor parents give child to clear hospital bill

    HYDERABAD, March 15: A poor couple has given away their new-born baby to a childless couple because they could not pay the hospital bill for the birth, the mother said on Thursday.

    Mohammad Hanif and his wife Hakimzadi gave away their five-day-old son to the childless couple who paid Rs4,500 ($75) bill to the hospital.


  14. Tav says:
    May 1st, 2009 5:13 am

    Thank you for publishing this. I would add that the figure cited for the number of children in child labour (3.6 million) is over 10 years old. Since then the population has increased considerably. The recent economic, food and power crises (not to mention conflict!) increase the number of children who have to work to help support their families. In addition, let’s not forget the number of children, mostly girls, who are kept out of school so they can work at home. Domestic labour by children is one of the great injustices in our society, is totally accepted, and is unmonitored.

  15. Qaisera says:
    May 1st, 2009 7:34 am

    Very moving video. Speically because the child whose voice is used is himself like the child being talked about in the poem. Thank you for putting up this moving tribute to the subject.

  16. Ishaq Asif says:
    May 1st, 2009 9:24 am

    “Special Request”
    Respected Adil Najam sb kindly remove advertisement of “DEN e ELAHI” from ATP post, as it appears just below the title of the post with every e-mail along with


    I am sending this request as per policy of ATP

    “Keep comments on topic; no personal attacks; don’t submit indecent, inflammatory, slanderous, uncivil or irrelevant comments; flamers and trolls are not welcome; inappropriate comments will be removed or edited. ”

    so kindly delete this advertisement also

    M. Ishaq Asif
    Nanjing, China

  17. Rauf Ali says:
    May 1st, 2009 11:32 am

    Very powerful video.

    We do not respect any labour, including child labour.

    Just think if thsi was your child.

  18. Faizan says:
    May 1st, 2009 12:19 pm

    yahan jan ka amaan nahee hai, kaam ka kia ho ga!

  19. --- Naseer says:
    May 1st, 2009 3:00 pm

    – ” Youm e Mai – May Day is observed in the plush hotels and drawing rooms.
    Whatever little trade unions were there are now no more effective.
    What stared as 1st May blood bath in Chicago more than a 100 years back is now resoundingly reverberated in the labor camps of USA, where ‘” illegal” mexican and cubans are smuggled in for extremely cheap labor. They live in extremely harsh conditions just like our ” container” smuggled people.

    - This video is simply heart wrenching, specially made on an Insha Ji epic poem.
    Insha Ji had a very keen sense of observation.
    He was basically a prose satirist writing weekly alongside Jamiluddin Aali (two great friends).
    On a personal note, I have the unique honor of staying with him in his flat in Rawalpindi, so my father could pick me up and bring me back to Karachi.
    That day, Insha Chacha had a very bad tooth ache. I was helping him putting hot bundled up gauze inside the mouth.

    - If you remember another poem you must have read in Class 1v, which is ” billo ka basta “, my favourite.

    A big thank you to Adil Najam and his team at ATP.

  20. May 1st, 2009 10:38 pm

    Dear All,

    So many disappointing news scattered around everywhere in my beloved Pakistan. Though my comments may be out of sync with the topic being discussed, but I would like to invite everyone visiting this forum to please have look at one of my article that I published few months ago, but I think its essence is still valid and may be valid forever.

    The political leadership should spread hope around. Please read the following and let me know what you think about it.

  21. Shiraz says:
    May 1st, 2009 11:44 pm

    These issues are well known and every Labor day we do talk about them and then forget. Time should be spent more on finding solutions to existing issues.

    One suggestion is to focus on micro financing using sites like Anyone from us can give small micro loans to families of these kids.

    Other area is to put pressure on Corporates who purchase products made by these children.

    Refer to steps taken by FIFA in Soccer Balls industry in Sialkot.

  22. Riaz Haq says:
    May 2nd, 2009 12:29 am

    While it is sad to see the plight of these children, the situation must be seen in Pakistan’s social context. If these children did not work, they would most likely go hungry in the absence of any social safety net or other programs. The most important thing is to develop public-private partnership programs to ensure that such children are treated humanely at work to earn a living wage AND be allowed to attend school as well for a better future.

  23. ahsan says:
    May 2nd, 2009 4:58 am

    I doubt if the children ofthe rich do not suffer from apthy. That no so cute girl in the car with her toy spoiled the video. Just reject the hypocrisy of all the rich and the escape artists who live abroad and who post such articles from abroad. I am sure that everyone who has struck it rich or big must have led a selfish life to get good marks in F.Sc and engineering and all the GREs and GMATs. And the same people have the hypocrisy to post such articles. Well done Adil.

  24. Arifa says:
    May 7th, 2009 12:53 am

    Very moving poem and video. Very appropriate and touching.

  25. Dr Habib Jagwal says:
    May 1st, 2010 1:00 am

    IbNE Marium Howa Kray Koi.!
    Meray Dukh ki Dua Kray Koi.!
    I suggest micro financing for the poor at route level.
    Ek Mazdoor k Betay K Rida.!

  26. Watan Aziz says:
    May 1st, 2010 8:11 am

    I am Mazdoor

    I am Mazdoor
    And I have audacity of hope
    Until I make my brother understand
    That the land of Jinnah is abode
    of equity and justice and more.
    Equity (equity)
    Justice (justice)

    Thank you Helen Reddy for inspiration.

    There are two responses of Pakistani origin to the injustice to the mazdoor. First is the famous “anthem of the gharib” of the Great Allama, “uTho meri dunYa kay ghariBoon ko jaGa do”. This, while stirring, has an extreme prescription. I personally think the Great Allama is not prescribing but brings attention to proscribe. An outcome to avoid at all costs.

    The other is that of Faiz, “hum daKhay gay”. This accepts the present and postpones the response for another Day.

    But can work today to make this a better world?


    And for that we turn to Jinnah as expressed in words of Jagan Nath Azad.

    Daulat hai apne mulk key bay’hudd-o-bay’hisaab
    Hon’gay hum aapp mulk key daulat say faiz’yaab

    The country’s wealth unlimited and boundless
    We will all be blessed by the wealth

    I have the audacity of hope, with fierece urgency of now!

Have Your Say (Bol, magar piyar say)