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Excerpts from An Article on Child Labor

Below are excerpts from the article "Child Labor in Pakistan" by Jonathan Silvers, published in the Atlantic Monthly in 1996:

"Corruption is pervasive in the justice system: for a small consideration the police will look the other way when employers misuse their workers. In several districts the police are notorious for colluding with employers--supplying factories with children who have been abducted from itinerant poor families, orphanages, schools. Not long ago a boy of nine escaped from an abusive landowner and sought help from a police sergeant at this very station. The boy claimed that he had been held captive and tortured; he begged the police to return him to his parents. Instead the sergeant ordered the "fugitive" returned in shackles to the landowner. The sergeant later made the landowner a gift of the shackles, suggesting that they be used on other disruptive children." (47)

This excerpt describes the "justice system" in Pakistan. The government is actually worse than that of the Gilded Age in America, because it blatantly helps abusive employers take advantage of children for labor and forced labor.

"Observing a child carpet weaver at work generates in an American alternating currents of admiration and anger. At one moment the boy seems a prodigy, his carpet a lesson in geometry and colors. His patience is remarkable; his artistry seems effortless and of the highest order--comparable to, say, that of a great medieval tapestry master. The next moment he fumbles with his scissors, and one notices a welt on his forearm. Suddenly the monotony of tying thousands of threads each hour seems like torture of the worst sort--like a death sentence, which in a way it is.
After ten minutes Tariq [amember of the Bonded Labor Lieration Front in Pakistan] knelt by Akbar's [a child laborer in a carpet-making "factory"] side and said softly, "You're very good at this. The master must be quite pleased with you." The boy shook his head and grimaced. "The master says I am slow and clumsy."
Tariq placed a sympathetic hand on the boy's shoulder. "Have you been punished for poor work?"he asked. The boy shrugged and tied a red knot. Tariq repeated the question. This time the boy tied a dozen knots before answering him, in a conspiratorial whisper. "The master screams at us all the time, and sometimes he beats us," he said. "He is less severe with the younger boys. We're slapped often. Once or twice he lashed us with a cane. I was beaten ten days ago, after I made many errors of color in a carpet. He struck me with his fist quite hard on the face." By way of corroborating this, Akbar lifted a forelock, revealing a multicolored bruise on his right temple. Evidently the master did not consider the blow sufficient punishment: "I was fined one thousand rupees and made to correct the errors by working two days straight." The fine was added to Akbar's debt, and would extend his "apprenticeship" by several months." (48)

This excerpt vividly describes the ugly conditions of child labor in Pakistan, a country from which America imports carpets. These conditions are not unlike those described in The Jungle.

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