According to independent economists, there are six million daily wage workers in Pakistan, a dominant majority of whom have been out of work for about a month and half due to the coronavirus lockdown across the country. The federal government did ease the restrictions about two weeks back, allowing the construction sector, and dozens of related businesses, to resume work so that the out-of-job workers could eke out a living. However, the construction activity has yet to pick up the way the government was expecting, leaving the labour class, in particular, high and dry. Besides, a lot of deserving people are reported to have missed out on the cash handouts under the Prime Minister’s Ehsaas programme, despite being in the qualifying category, for one reason or the other.
The government, however, continues to contemplate on how to cater to the lockdown-affected labour class. And it has come up with a unique initiative. In what can solve two problems with a single action, the federal government has provided jobs to the idled labour community as ‘jungle workers’ to plant saplings as part of the Prime Minister’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme. While the move will serve to bring tens of thousands of unemployed labourers back to work, it will also help the government deal with the threat of climate change. The gigantic five-year tree-planting programme — launched in 2018 as a way to counter rising temperatures and fight the climate change — has the capacity to absorb a large number of workers all across the country.
The plantation programme is a good source of employment. Those having already taken up the job of planting saplings say they have been earning Rs500 per day; and while the amount is half of what they had been making on a good day, it is decent enough an earning in these times of the country-wide lockdown resulting from a deadly pandemic.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2020.
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