Sindh cabinet okays agri workers’ bill to provide social security to women

August 25, 2019

KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet taking a historic decision which it termed the first-ever in Asia has approved the ‘Sindh Women Agricultural Workers Draft Bill-219’ under which women workers...

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KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet taking a historic decision which it termed the first-ever in Asia has approved the ‘Sindh Women Agricultural Workers Draft Bill-219’ under which women workers engaged in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and other agro-based work would be entitled to enjoy all the rights and benefits being given to labourers/workers of industrial and other sectors.

The approval was accorded at the meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at the New Sindh Secretariat on Saturday. The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, all provincial ministers, advisers, including newly inducted Nisar Khuhro, Aijaz Shah Shirazi, and relevant officers.

The CM said that over three quarters of women workers were in the agriculture sector in the country. “Over half of these women are reported as being unpaid family helpers,” he said and added that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto had emphasized the need for supporting women agricultural workers. The bill was presented by Sindh Labour Department in the cabinet and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani shared its main features with the cabinet. The CM termed its approval a historic decision and realisation of Shaheed Banezir Bhutto’s dream of women empowerment.

The draft bills says that the woman agricultural worker shall receive pay in cash or in kind for any agricultural work undertaken individually, or as part of a family unit, on land and livestock belonging to her own family, or to someone else which shall be equal to pay received by male workers for the same work.

“The pay to a woman agricultural worker shall not be less than the minimum wages fixed by the government from time to time and working day shall not exceed eight working days and shall not commence until one hour after day break. The worker shall also be entitled to 90 days of maternity leave.” The law gives a woman worker the right to access government agricultural, livestock, fisheries and other services, credit, social security, subsidies and asset transfers in her own individual right or in association with other women agricultural workers. “A woman worker shall receive a written contract of employment if she so demands. The new law also gives the right of woman worker of collective bargaining, social welfare, including child health, community development, economic profit and for accessing publicly supplied goods and services.”

The government through the labour department will register women agricultural workers at every union council level. The registered women would be given the Benazir Card and card holders will be able to make their group or association. The Sindh government will set up Benazir Women’s Support Organisation (BWSO) under the labour department with an Endowment Fund to provide technical and financial assistance to women workers. The organisation would register women, issue them cards, and make their database for their support. Inthe draft law, agriculture has been defined as “all activities related to cultivation of crops, animal husbandry, poultry, livestock rearing, apiculture, gardening, fishing, aquaculture, sericulture, vermiculture, horticulture, floriculture, agro-forestry, or any other farming activity carried out through self-employment, tenurial cultivation, share cropping, or other types of cultivation, collection, use and sale of minor or non-timber forest produce by virtue of ownership rights”.

The cabinet approved the bill and referred it to the provincial assembly. The Sindh Health Department presented a case of 83 employees, including faculty of the Khairpur Medical College, for regularisation. Special Assistant to CM Nawab Wassan said that the matter was very serious as the staff of the college, including teachers, had been working on a contract basis since 2013, and the future of the students was also at stake.

Minister for Health Dr Azra Pechuho said that out of 183 employee, 55 were professors, associate professors and lecturers; therefore, she recommended their regularisation. The cabinet members supported the proposal and approved the regularisation of all the employees.

The cabinet approved another important draft bill called ‘Sindh Teaching Hospitals (Establishment of Management Board) Act-2019.

The law will apply to all teaching hospitals which would operate through a management board. The vice chancellor or the principal of the medical college will be chairperson of the board.

The powers and functions of the board include approving and monitoring the overall plan, policies, and programmes of the hospitals with a view to upgrading hospital services and facilities in conformity with the government policy.

The board will have the power to approve development and recurring budgets, prepare detailed regulations and procedure for financial management. It will also evaluate, examine and approve the annual and periodic reports of teaching hospitals. It will have the authority to assess and review the charge in the form of fees for admissions, clinical and procedural services and other facilities. A fund would be established under the title of ‘Teaching Hospital Management Board Fund’, which would be utilised by the board. The food department presented ‘The Sindh Food Fortification Bill 2019” in the cabinet with the observation that Pakistan was notably suffering from malnutrition and it was rated as having one of the worst rates of malnutrition.

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