Rights activists fear spike in bonded labour

Poor peasants further devastated by floods become easy prey for greedy landlords

Our Correspondent October 13, 2022


The provincial and the federal governments should take steps to protect and rehabilitate landless peasants and farmworkers who lost their crops, wages, cattle and houses during rains and floods.

Already living under the poverty line, the peasants and farmworkers devastated by floods have become easy prey of greedy landlords and bonded labour contractors, said Hari Welfare Association (HWA) President Akram Khaskheli.

"After the devastation of flood and rainwater, the government has failed to remove water from the main towns of Sehwan, Dadu, Larkana, Thatta and Badin districts," pointed out Khaskheli at a press conference held at the Karachi Press Club.

Peasant leader Rai Chand, Sindh Human Rights Department Vigilance Committee Member of Paryal Mari Advocate and Naghma Sheikh of The Knowledge Forum (TKF) were present.

Khaskheli demanded the government to activate the District Vigilance Committee in all districts of Sindh, especially in flood-hit areas of provinces.

He said Sindh government has failed to protect peasants and workers during and after the rains and floods, which has caused peasants and workers to become easy prey to greedy and exploitative landlords.

They said that the HWA feared that in the absence of government support most peasants and farm workers have started working under informal terms and conditions determined by landlords, in which poor families are getting loans to survive through their tough times.

It said that such sharecropping informal arrangements result in debt bondage, which was already on the rise without being monitored and checked by the district vigilance committees.

In 2021, District Vigilance Committees were formed in only 14 districts of Sindh under the Sindh Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 2015, but none of these are functional; thus, there is no monitoring of the implementation of the Act. However, during and after floods, there is a dire role of the DVCs.

Khaskheli said that there are thousands of peasants and rural workers' families in 17 districts of Sindh without adequate shelter, work, work opportunities, minimum wages, and safe drinking water, health and education services. It added that governments rather than helping to restore their lives by providing them with shelters and livelihood opportunities have turned a mass of flood-affected peasants and rural workers into beggars.

He also claimed that millions of children and their adult family members require food, safe drinking water and social security support; if not provided with these, around 500,000 million children under 5 years old may die by the end of 2022 due to malnutrition, hunger, water-borne diseases (especially diarrhoea), malaria and cold. The peasants' leaders urged federal and provincial governments to provide relief and support to peasants and rural workers rather than rich landlords. Also take extra-ordinary measures to remove water from centres of the many rural districts of Sindh, and provide houses and state lands for cultivating crops.

They also demanded that governments should immediately compensate peasants, and farm workers for the loss of their livelihoods, houses, cattle and lives.


Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2022.


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