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.

Yah Bacha

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 responses to “Labor Day: Yeh bacha kis ka bacha hai

  1. Dr Habib Jagwal says:

    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.!

  2. Arifa says:

    Very moving poem and video. Very appropriate and touching.

  3. ahsan says:

    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.

  4. Riaz Haq says:

    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.

  5. Shiraz says:

    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. ws/newsid=102476.html

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