Hundreds of visually-impaired people and teachers of the Social Action Programme (SAP) held a joint protest outside the Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (G-BLA) on Wednesday, while the assembly was in session. Some even resorted to beating drums to impress upon the authorities their demands.
The protest was part of a series of demonstrations planned by SAP teachers, who have been demanding payment of over 6 months of pending salaries, regularisation of their jobs and minimum wage. Having somewhat similar demands from the government, the primary one of ensuring the promised 2% job quota in government departments, visually-impaired people of Gilgit, under the umberalla of Visually Impaired Persons Rehabilitation Association (VIPRA), had joined in the demonstrations.
“The government is forcing us to come to the streets. We want justice. We want our rights,” said a speaker.
The strike continued even after the assembly session had ended and ministers were escorted out amid tight security. Despite the pronounced demonstration, which attracted bystanders and passersby, no public representative came out to listen to their grievances.
Nearly 300 teachers had gathered outside GBLA to mark their protest, which included women teachers, of whom, a majority were carrying children.
The SAP teachers had staged a similar sit-in outside GBLA a few days ago. According to official sources, as many as 50,000 students are currently enrolled in SAP schools in G-B.
Apart from the 2% job quota, VIPRA is also demanding the government to set up a hostel for the disabled people of G-B. It proposes that if the government is unable to provide jobs to the disabled, it should provide them monthly home allowance.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2012.
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