Peasants’ rights

Agricultural workers are fully prone to exploitation by landlords and their sordid tricks

July 22, 2020

There are a plethora of laws in Sindh to protect the rights of agricultural workers. But practically agricultural workers are fully prone to exploitation by landlords and their sordid tricks to keep them in bondage. Among the many tricks of landlords is to keep landless peasants in ignorance of their rights by barring them from education.

The State of Peasants Right in Sindh, 2019, launched by the Hari Welfare Association, makes startling revelations about the state of affairs showing the reality is diametrically opposite to what is being presented on paper. Not a single Hari has been registered with the Sindh government since the creation of Pakistan. Instead of protecting agricultural workers’ rights the provincial governments has curtailed them. The Sindh Tenancy Act, 1950 gave rights to peasants. In 2013, the provincial government amended the act curtailing the rights of farm workers. A few years ago, the Sindh High Court ordered the provincial government to provide the rights to Haris granted under the 1950 act and give them more rights. Under the original legislation, farmers are supposed to work only in the fields and not at landlords’ homes. The Sindh government has challenged the SHC decision in the Supreme Court.

As many as 2,309 bonded labourers — including 819 children and 743 women — had been released in the province’s agriculture and brick kiln sectors in 2019 alone. Another law, the Sindh Bonded Labour System (Abolition), Act was enacted in 2015 to prevent the practice of imprisoning peasants by landlords for failure to pay debt. Not much headway has been made in this regard. In the past seven years, around 5,639 such bonded labourers have been released from private jails of landlords in the province. Around 31% of them are women and children.

Last year, the Sindh government had passed a law to protect the rights of female farm workers. This law and many such other laws exist on paper only, the report says.

­Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2020.

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