Thursday, April 28, 2016

Daily wage earners get no respite

Published in Daily Times in 2010

KARACHI: The city relapsed into ethnic rioting for the second time within a month, making many daily wage earners to stay at home and lose their meagre savings.
Ishaq, 28, a pushcart vendor selling vegetables in PECHS, who hails from Punjab, while explaining his troubles said, “I have to send money back home to my parents, therefore even when the city situation is tense, I am on the road. I hope it remains peaceful or I would have to take a loan to survive this month.”
Muhammad Zahir who hails from District Shangla, Swat and is a taxi driver living in Manghopir said, “I have not worked for the last two days, and all the savings I had, which were only Rs 2,000, were spent. So, I decided to bring my taxi on the road even on a Sunday.”
Zahir usually stays at home on a Sunday to spend time with his family, but whenever the city situation is tense and he misses a day or two of work, he drives his taxi on Sundays to cover up for the losses.
“I want to get home as soon as possible as it is still not too safe yet,” he added.
While he spoke with this scribe his father called him twice on his mobile phone to make sure of his safety, just like Zahir, who was concerned about the safety of his children amid the ethnic violence in the city.
But both Zahir and Ishaq are not just worried about making their ends meet in Karachi, they are also concerned about their relatives back home in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, who are facing the countries worst flood in history.
Zahir said, “I have been trying to call my cousins in Swat for at least four days, but I cannot reach them. Our village is near the Tarbela Dam and most of the elderly in my family members live in the village.”
Similarly, Ruby, 22, daughter of an illegal Bengladeshi, is one of the many unregistered house-helps who remain unheard and unseen despite their significant contribution to the workforce.
She said, “I only earn Rs 3,500 a month for working in three houses and for the days I am unable to work for whatever reason, I don’t get paid by one of my employees. For me every penny counts because I contribute to the household income with my mother, who earns Rs 6,000. After paying for the rent and our needs we are not left with much to spare.”
The deteriorating city situation is perhaps bothersome for the office workers, but for the daily wagers it is far worse.
For Gul Zaman, a Pakhtun fruit vendor in Nazimabad, who hails from Quetta, every time an ethnic riot breaks out, the best bet, is to leave the city.
“I am scared for my life when hooligans start prowling the streets to target whoever they please, especially us Pathans, so I leave for my native place when the situation goes bad, and don’t return until some semblance of normalcy is resumed,” said Zaman.

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