Speakers at a moot held on Friday reiterated their demand that the Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) provincial government withdraw its appeal in the Supreme Court against the Sindh High Court’s verdict for the implementation of the Sindh Tenancy Act 1950.
They said that the ruling party in Sindh claims to be a supporter of workers’ rights but is in fact acting against peasants and supporting landlords by opposing a law that has been enacted to protect the rights of sharecroppers.
The Hari Welfare Association (HWA) had organised the event to launch its annual report titled ‘The State of Peasants’ Rights in Sindh in 2021’ at the Karachi Press Club. Pakistan Institute of Labour Education & Research Executive Director Karamat Ali said that in the assemblies feudal lords are being elected, who form governments. “You can’t find a single representative of peasants or workers in parliament. Land reforms are the main solution.”
Discussing the findings of the reports, HWA President Akram Ali Khaskheli said that despite the provincial assembly passing the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act (SWAWA) 2019 in 2021, the government has not taken any decision.
He said that no women workers’ unions were formed under the Sindh Industrial Relations Act (SIRA) 2013. The provincial government did not notify the SIRA or SWAWA Rules, which is another instance of the laws not being implemented.
National Commission for Human Rights Member Anis Haroon said peasants are an integral part of the economy. She regretted that even though the PPP’s provincial government had launched a programme to distribute agricultural land among female peasants, it was left incomplete, and its second phase had not been launched.
Sindh Human Rights Commission (SHRC) Chairperson Justice (retd) Majida Razvi said that the commission would take up the issue of making the laws’ rules of business. She said the SHRC is seriously dealing with the bonded labour issue in the province.
The International Labour Organisation’s representative Aijaz Ahmed, the Food & Agriculture Organisation’s Afsana, the Sindh Commission on the Status of Women’s Nuzhut Shirin and the Knowledge Forum’s Naghma Sheikh were also prominent among the participants.
A message from Roberto, development adviser on agriculture and climate change for the Delegation of European Union to Pakistan in Islamabad, was read out on the occasion.
The report said that during last year 1,465 bonded labourers were released through court orders in Badin, Dadu, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Matiari, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Sukkur, Benazirabad, Shikarpur, Tando Allahyar, Tharparkar and Umerkot.
Moreover, no cases were lodged against the landlords under the Sindh Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 2015. Last year the Sindh government did not take any step to rehabilitate thousands of families living in many Hari camps in the province, the report pointed out.
It also underlined that out of the 29 districts of Sindh, by 2021, only 14 district vigilance committees (DVCs) were formed after letters by the secretary of the labour department and the HWA’s repeated requests for forming and activating DVCs under Section 15 of the bonded labour system (abolition) act.
The World Bank’s Sindh Agriculture Growth Project aimed to increase crop yields and increase the export of crops. The provincial government used less than half of the total assistance of $75 million, and even against this amount, it was unable to show progress or promising results, so the WB did not provide more funds.
The report stated that when the Sindh government had been receiving more funds from the federal government under the new divisible pool of resources, why it had been taking a loan from international institutions to further jeopardise the agriculture sector, especially the rights of workers and peasants.
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