Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2016
“…Every acquisition that is disproportionate to the labour spent on it is dishonest.”
— Leo Tolstoy
BRONZED-FACED, wearing faded red shirts with a number stitched in white, soaked in sweat, coolies old and young sit astride a pavement under the scorching sun, waiting for passengers to arrive at the Karachi Cantonment Railway Station. A few balance loads of luggage on their red turbans as they walk briskly towards the platform. A precarious livelihood, you might say. Indeed it is, and worse: coolies have to pay a 30pc commission to their contractor from their meagre daily earnings, plus a monthly fee of Rs750 — sans any workplace facilities.
Yet the contractor is not satisfied: he wants his cut raised to 40pc. Sounds outrageous?