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Government is not serious to address peasants’ rights issues, report says

Karachi, June 26, 2022: The speakers at launching ceremony of an annual report “The State of Peasants’ Rights in Sindh in 2021” demanded the Government of Sindh to withdraw its appeal in the Supreme Court of Pakistan against the Sindh High Court’s verdict for implementation of Sindh Tenancy Act 1950.

Speaking on the occasion, the speakers deplored that the Pakistan People’s Party government of Sindh, which claims to be supporter of workers rights is acting against peasants because Sindh Tenancy Act was enacted to protect rights of share croppers.

Justice (Retd) Majida Razi, Chairperson, Sindh Human Rights Commission; Ms. Anis Haroon, Member, National Commission for Human Rights\; Mr. Karamat Ali, Executive Director, Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER); Aijaz Ahmed a representative of International Labour Organisation; Ms. Afsana, a representative of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO); Ms. Naghma Shaikh of The Knowledge Forum and Ms. Nuzhat Shireen, Chairperson, Sindh Commission on Status of Women attended the report launching ceremony organized by Hari Welfare Association at Karachi Press Club.

On occasion, Akram Ali Khaskheli, President of HWA spelled out the contents of the report and said despite the fact the Sindh Assembly has passed the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act (SWAWA) of 2019 in 2021, the provincial government has not taken any decision. No women workers’ unions were formed under the Sindh Industrial Act (SIRA) 2013. The provincial government did not notify the SIRA or SWAWA Rules, which is another instance of the laws not being implemented.

Ms. Anis Haroon, Member of NCHR pointed out that peasants are integral part of the economy. She regretted that the PPP government of Sindh had launched a programme to distribute agricultural land among women peasants. But that programme was left incomplete and its second phase has not been launched. The women workers’ role in distribution of irrigation water is important, she added.

Karamat Ali, ED of PILER underlined the need to stop taking loans from International Monetary Fund (IMF). He said in the assemblies, feudal lords are being elected who form the governments. You cannot find a single representative of Haris or workers in the Parliament, he said. Land reforms is the main solution because reforms.

Justice (Retd.) Majida Razvi, Chairperson of SHRC assured that the Commission would take up the issue of making rules of business of the laws. She congratulated the Hari Welfare Association on launching of the report. She said the Commission is seriously dealing with the bonded labour issue in Sindh.

A message from Mr. Roberto, Development Advisor – Agriculture and Climate Change Delegation of European Union to Pakistan in Islamabad was read out on the occasion.

The report has appointed out that during 2021, 1,465 bonded labourers in Sindh’s 12 districts were released through courts’ orders. Badin, Dadu, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Matiari, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Sukkur, Benazirabad, Shikarpur, Tando Allahyar, Thaparkar, and Umerkot were among these districts.

Furthermore, no cases were lodged against the landlords under the Sindh Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act (SBLSAA) of 2015. In 2021, the GoS did not take any step to rehabilitate thousands of families living in many hari camps in Sindh.

The report also underlined that out of 29 districts of Sindh, by 2021, only 14 District Vigilance Committees were made up after letters by the Secretary Labour Department (Sindh) and the repeatedly request letters by the HWA for the constitution and activation of the DVC under section 15 of the Sindh Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act 2015.

The World Bank Sindh Agriculture Growth Project (SAGP) aimed to increase crop yields and increase the export of crops. The GoS had utilized less than half of the total assistance of $75 million, and even against this halved amount, the GoS was unable to show progress or promising results. This was why the World Bank did not provide more funds.

The report stated that when the GoS 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 jeopardize the agriculture sector, especially the right of workers and peasants.

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