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November 27, 2019

SHC tells DCs to submit details of social welfare schemes in oil exploration areas

Karachi

November 27, 2019

The Sindh High Court has directed the deputy commissioners to submit a progress report with regard to social welfare schemes launched with funds which were provided by petroleum and exploration companies for the well-being of people in 21 districts of the province.

The direction was issued on during a hearing of a petition with regard to a lack of welfare funds for people in oil and gas exploration areas. The court has directed the auditor general of Sindh to audit the funds and explain how much money each district received each year, its utilisation and if any funds had been improperly used or could not be accounted for.

The deputy commissioner of Malir submitted that 25 per cent of the marine relief fund was used for marine purposes and 75 per cent would be used for the coastal areas’ uplift.

A division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha observed that 75 per cent of the funds were not being utilised for the development of the coastal areas in violation of the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court.

The court directed the deputy commissioner of Malir to submit a report mentioning the amount of money spent on these coastal areas’ development and what it had actually been used. The DC of District West has submitted his report, which shows that Dr Nuzhat Khan, director general of the National Institute of Oceanography, and Prof Dr Ghazal Siddiqui, director of the Centre of Excellence in Marine Biology, Karachi University, have submitted proposals to carry out the environmental monitoring in the vicinity of coastal areas. He said such suggestions had been accepted and they would start their work on the suggestions.

The court observed that the reports submitted by the deputy commissioners indicated that slow but steady progress was being made in carrying out the social welfare projects in each district. It also observed that more progress would be made by the DCs before the next date of the hearing and directed each DC to submit another progress report.

It took exception to the report filed by Oil and Gas Development Company Limited and directed the counsel to submit a detailed report on how many people had been employed by the OGDCL in various districts of Sindh. It directed the managing director of the OGDCL to appear in person and explain the position and file a simple report stating the percentage of employment of local and non-local people in each exploration and petroleum company with a percentage of skilled and non-skilled workers in each case.

The court observed that the PPL report shows that the percentage of staff employed from among local people is inadequate and out of them most of the staff are not given managerial positions.

It further stated that it seems that there is inadequate representation of senior managerial staff and prima facie it appears that only menial types of jobs are given to locals.

The court directed the MG PPL to ensure that better percentage of jobs for local people is given on the managerial side so that they can be trained and be in position to secure managerial jobs in other organisations when the exploration and petroleum companies cease to operate.

It directed the director general of petroleum companies to submit details of oil and exploration companies which were working in the province, confirming if these companies were carrying out their assignments in accordance with the law particularly in terms of the percentage of local employment and non-local employment.

The court observed that if there was any violation then he shall mention in his report with suggestions what steps he has taken to rectify the same.

It directed the federal government to submit comments with regard to the responsibility of the federal and provincial government to ensure that gas has been provided to all villages falling within a five-kilometer radius of a gas field in the province by December 9.

The court appointed senior counsel Makhdoom Ali Khan as amicus curiae to assist it in the matter which involves important constitutional question regarding the binding nature and enforceability of decisions made by the Council of Common Interest.

The director general of petroleum companies filed comments with regard to details of funds issued to the Sindh government for social welfare schemes by the petroleum and exploration companies. The court was informed that the ministry of petroleum had provided $16.3 million for the social welfare fund, $17.9 million in production bonus and $1.8 million in marine research from the exploration and production companies under their contracts since 2013 to date.

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