ISLAMABAD - In a narrow street in Rawalpindi, Noor Jamal, poor vendor, dragged himself as usual, intermittently chanting out calls to sell his services, while the world around him observed Thursday as Labour Day.
The 38-year-old Noor, holding a hammer, a spanner, a screwdriver and a small sack, roams the city streets everyday so that he could earn livelihood by undertaking maintenance/repair work.
But on Thursday when rallies were being held across the country to mark May Day, the poor labourer from militancy-hit Mohmand Agency was rather desperate to find work as he badly needed money for food. He has been running without work for the last many days.
Being the sole bread-earner for a family of seven, Noor remains under intense pressure. Several times when he fails to get a job, he resorts to begging as a last option to return home at least with some money to buy food.
The perfect day for Noor Jamal is the one when he is offered to demolish a house, a skill he knows the best using his heavy hammer. Such work earns him Rs500 to Rs 600 per day. Some employers would offer him lunch and some others may not.
“Today is a bad day for me. I have been looking for job since early in the morning and so far nobody has sought my services,” Noor Jamal told this reporter as sweat poured off his brow on a hot day in the congested locality of Raja Bazaar, a constituency currently represented by MNA Sheikh Rashid.
At Chandni Chowk, a busy traffic intersection, labourers from militancy-hit tribal areas were observed on Thursday waiting for customers to approach them and take them to the site where they could use their skills and earn some money.
Unlike other labour unions in government offices, the labourers seen in groups on the roads of Rawalpindi-Islamabad have no representation and are unaware of their rights, and are often given very low wages.
Although it was a public holiday in the country and labour unions were holding rallies for their rights, a number of poor labourers were seen by the roadsides, searching for work as they couldn’t afford to survive without a daily wage.
“I don’t know about this day. What I knew in the morning is that today is a holiday. Some holidays turn out to be a blessing for us as people remain at homes and need our services,” Siddique Jan, a labourer at Peshawar Morr in the capital, remarked when he was asked about Labour Day.
On many occasions when the labourers fail to get work, people exploit their anxiety and desperation, offering them a meager wage. In such cases, the labourers who would otherwise demand Rs500 per day, accept Rs300 for the same work.
“People think we are desperate for job so they offer us a little amount and we agree later thinking that something is better than nothing. On many occasions our colleagues faint due to working in the sizzling heat,” Ittefq Khan, another labourer, said.