The Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA), a farmers' lobbying group, has asked the provincial government to take action against corrupt officials and staff of the provincial irrigation department. The farmers' leaders complained that corrupt officials and the irrigation staff's ongoing tool-down strike have created a water shortage.
The meeting on Sunday, chaired by SCA president Dr Syed Nadeem Qamar, was attended by farmers from Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Sanghar and Ghotki districts via video link.
The SCA asked the Sindh government to take its cue from the federal government's handling of the Pakistan International Airlines' (PIA) employees’ protest. "The centre not only prevented PIA's protesting staff from foisting their demands on the government but also succeeded in making the PIA a private company," said Qamar.
The All Sindh Irrigation Trade Union Federation began the strike last week. The union has been calling for a job quota for the children of deceased workers, pay increases and removing encroachments from irrigation lands.
The SCA also drew the government's attention towards the allegedly substandard construction work being carried out at the Ghotki Feeder Canal of Guddu Barrage. The Rs2.9-billion project, funded through a World Bank loan, is being executed by Descon Engineering Company. The SCA claimed that the Descon has outsourced important work to local companies, which have failed to maintain quality. The chamber demanded an inquiry into the project.
Although the canal is designed to irrigate around 800,000 acres of land in Ghotki, Sukkur and Khairpur districts, its peak flows have been reduced by 30 to 40 per cent due to shrunken capacity. The National Accountability Bureau has also initiated an investigation into several multi-billion rupee irrigation projects and two irrigation officials have been arrested so far.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 25th, 2016.
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