Thar and its many commissions

Formation of commission to probe the cause of deaths & assign responsibility is not working for benefit of the people

Editorial February 21, 2016

One would think that after the failure of the numerous commissions that were formed in the past to look into the causes of deaths of malnourished children in Thar, the Sindh government would have realised that it needed to go beyond the forming of commissions. The findings of such commissions have rarely resulted in concrete solutions and have done little to alleviate the misery of the people of Thar. The latest commission to investigate the causes of deaths in drought-hit parts of Thar, formed under Justice (retd) Ghulam Sarwar Korai, is expected to submit its report in court by March 17.

In December 2014, this newspaper published a report on the failure of the fifth commission formed by the Sindh chief minister to probe the mounting death toll in Thar. The commission formed under Justice Korai is the seventh such body. It seems that distracting the courts and NGOs — which have gone to court against alleged governmental negligence — by creating bureaucratic hurdles has become the norm for the authorities. It is clear that the mere formation of a commission to probe the cause of deaths and assign responsibility is not working for the benefit of the people. One of the earlier commissions formed under Justice (retd) Zahid Kurban Alavi had categorically held the Sindh health department and the elected representatives from Thar responsible for the deaths of children. Justice Alavi called the provincial disaster management authority a “white elephant” for failing to deliver. Before that, a commission headed by the then Hyderabad DIG had also held the provincial government responsible. The authorities’ response to these findings had been to disband these commissions and refuse to accept their recommendations. It remains to be seen if the Sindh government will accept the findings of the latest commission that has been formed, but if history is any reflection, its findings, too, will be filed away until another bout of disease takes down more people from Thar. What we need is a solid response from the Sindh government as well as the relevant departments that have been previously identified as being responsible for Thar’s dismal state.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd,  2016.

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