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November 10, 2018

The tragedy of Thar


November 10, 2018

The impoverished, drought hit region or Tharparkar in Sindh has been neglected year after year and decade after decade – leading to an ever-worsening situation. The public representatives elected from the region have a lot to answer for. So too does the PPP government which has ruled Sindh since 2008. The situation in Thar resembles that of nations in Sub Saharan Africa where long years of drought have led to disaster. However even in these nations, more has been done to save lives, safeguard children and call for international help where necessary. In Tharparkar it seems that beyond words and vague promises very little has changed on the ground. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court set up a commission headed by the district and sessions judge of Tharparkar to ensure provision of food and water to the people of Thar while a two-member SC bench has resumed hearing of a suo-motu case regarding the death of children in Thar.

Similar efforts have been made in the past too but have floundered mainly due to a lack of governmental concern. We have been told once again that at least 70 posts are lying vacant in hospitals in Thar and Mitti for the past four years. A commission set up with participation by the provincial government in 2016 had stated that not only would food water and medicines be provided in Thar but the package offered to doctors posted there would also be raised to between Rs 150,000 and Rs 250,000 in order to persuade them to take up jobs in an area many shy away from. However, it appears little has happened on this count. The court this time round has also directed the State Bank of Pakistan to provide agriculture loans to the residents of Thar, and sought a report from the Sindh law officer on the posting of paramedical staff in the area within a week.

Experts have pointed out that the problems of Thar are rooted also in the failure to develop infrastructure to offer piped water, upgrade hospitals and look into issues concerning malnutrition of mothers, a factor which frequently contributes to the death of infants. It is obvious a comprehensive plan needs to be developed. Certainly there has been no demonstration of any capability or commitment during the many years through which children have continued to die in understaffed and under-equipped hospital wards.

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