PESHAWAR: With dust in his hair and a shovel in his hands, 14-year-old Shahab digs a tunnel for the Peshawar Bus Rapid Transit Project on Saddar Road.
Hailing from Barang area of Bajaur Agency, Shahab has been working on the project alongside his father, Dunya Gul, for a month, regardless of the fact that his employment is a direct violation of the loan the government received for the project.
The loan agreement between Government of Pakistan and Asian Development Bank for the Peshawar Sustainable Bus Rapid Transit Corridor Project prohibits the borrowers from employing child labour for the project.
The agreement, the copy of which is available online, reads: “The Borrower shall cause the Project Executing Agency and Implementing Agencies to ensure that the core labor standards and the applicable laws and regulations of the Borrower and KP are complied with during Project implementation.”
The conditions prohibit the borrower from following: failing to comply with applicable workplace occupational safety norms; use of child labour; discrimination of workers in respect of employment and occupation; use of forced labour; not allowing freedom of association.
The last condition states that the borrower must disseminate information regarding risks of sexually transmitted diseases to employees of contractors.
Shahab shared that he wanted to go to school but couldn’t due to financial constraints. “I've never been to any school. I want to go but due to financial constraints of my family currently it seems impossible,” he says.
Shahab’s father complained that the educational institutes and facilities in his areas are in deplorable condition, adding that affording private school is impossible.
“Our financial position is appalling. The severe lack of job opportunities in our hometown forced us to head for Peshawar,” he said.
Shahab, who works for more than 10 hours a day, didn’t even know how much money he makes per day. “I don’t know how much they pay me as my father deals with all these matters” says Shahab
His father shared that they are paid a meagre Rs160 per metre of tunnelling, adding that the two of them earn about Rs800 each.
Imran Takkar, a Peshawar based child rights activist, told Geo.tv, “it is the responsibility of the government to provide free education to children from age five to 16. It's terrible that at such an age they are engaged in hazardous labour”.
Takkar remarked that there is a complete ban on child labour from age 12 and below. However, for the rest of them, there are also strict criteria, he added.
There are 40 hazardous working places where children above the age of 12 are not allowed to work which includes places where heavy machinery are deployed such as the BRT.
To Takkar, the BRT is flagship project of the provincial government.
“It is their responsibility to take notice of it and make sure that such cases should not reoccur," he asserted.