Draft rules for the Sindh Corporal Punishment Act 2016 were presented during the provincial cabinet meeting on Tuesday, while National Accountability Bureau's (NAB) letter seeking domicile-wise details of all government employees drew the ire of ministers.
In an eventful meeting, the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Rules 2021 were approved, as were amendments to the Forest Act to punish encroachers. In addition, draft bye-laws were presented on the population control and mass vaccination of stray dogs, while Rs500 million were approved to clean 41 storm drains ahead of the monsoon season.
Even though the Sindh Corporal Punishment Act 2016 was passed in 2017, it was only effective on paper due to the absence of rules. Presenting the same before Tuesday's cabinet meeting was an important step in making the legislation more effective.
Under the rules, no child or student of any educational institution, including madrassas, will be harmed physically, mentally or emotionally. They also state that no pupil may be harassed or abused sexually by any person employed at the institution.
The rules defined that the institution would protect the child and ensure that he/she is not subjected to corporal or physical punishment. They further stated that educational institutions would have to form child protection committees, comprising the headmaster of the institution or administrator in case of madrassas. A parent or guardian would also be part of the committee.
The members would be tasked with receiving, recording and investigating all complaints or allegations. Also, the committee was responsible for informing the police in case of severe child abuse, violence, exploitation or neglect. It would also report the matter to the district coordination committee, Child Helpline 1121 or relevant child protection officer.
"Any person who abets, attempts, incites, assists or directs any person to commit the acts prohibited under the law shall be liable to the severe punishment defined in the law," the rules stated.
Senior citizen rules
In addition, the Social Welfare department presented the Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Rules 2021 to the cabinet. Under them, senior citizens would be issued Azadi cards to provide essential services and benefits.
There would also be lodging for senior citizens and homes for their physical, mental, emotional, social and economic wellbeing. Also, senior citizens would be entitled to 25 per cent concession at all private hospitals. Apart from that, a 50 per cent concession would be offered in road transport fares. The cabinet approved the rules.
The Sindh Senior Citizens Welfare Act 2014, was enacted into law in 2016.
The Sindh government slammed the National Accountability Bureau's letter which sought domicile-wise details of all government employees from grades 1 to 22. The cabinet termed the move as illegal and said the step was taken to merely appease some quarters in the federal government.
Earlier, the accountability watchdog, through a letter, sought details of how many government employees, holding rural Sindh domiciles, were posted to urban areas, especially Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur.
"It aims to divide Sindh on an ethnic basis at the behest of Shehzad Akbar, the special assistant to the PM and a PTI coalition partner" sources quoting Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said.
During the meeting, all cabinet members rejecting the letter and called it a politically-motivated development. They rhetorically questioned whether something similar had been carried out in Punjab, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or Balochistan.
"Can NAB dare to seek information about rural Punjab employees working in Lahore?" the CM asked while addressing members of the cabinet.
"The cabinet said the information sought by NAB was beyond its mandate and demanded that the bureau's chairman conduct an inquiry into the matter," the CM House spokesperson said.
The provincial cabinet approved the allotment of four acres land in Deh Kohistan, Taluka Kambar, District Shahdadkot to The Zayed Charitable & Humanitarian Foundation Abu Dhabi. The organisation would establish a state-of-the-art 20-bed health facility and a high school building with a playground.
The Kambar-Shahdadkot deputy commissioner fixed the price of land at Rs350,000 per acre, but the cabinet approved its allotment free of cost. The chief minister directed the BoR to issue an allotment order within 24 hours.
Amending forest law
Forest department officials drew cabinet members' attention towards the cultivation of agricultural crops on forest lands. The officials pointed out that this was misuse of the lands under The Forest Act 1927.
The Forest Policy 2004 had already been cancelled by the government in 2019. Forest Minister Nasir Shah said former lease holders and encroachers were not vacating the forest lands. The department suggested amendments to sections 26 and 63 of the Forest Act. Under the amendment to Section 26, the offence of encroachment on forest land would be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to 14 years, but would not be less than seven years. In Section 63, the fine would be increased to Rs500,000.
The cabinet, in principle, approved the amendments and formed a committee to review them before being presented in the assembly again.
Controlling dog populations
The local government department presented draft bye-laws on the population control and Mass vaccination of stray dogs. Under the rules, stray and pet dog categories have been covered. The owners of pet dogs shall be responsible for controlled breeding, immunisation, sterilisation and licencing in accordance with byelaws. Stray dogs shall be sterilised and immunised with the participation of councils and private individuals.
Local councils would form monitoring committees for birth control and euthanasia programmes.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 12th, 2021.