HYDERABAD/MITHI: Thardeep, a non-governmental organisation (NGO), has accepted responsibility for the deaths of three labourers who were buried alive while digging a well in a Tharparkar village.
The bodies of the labourers, buried 50 feet under the desert sand, were pulled out after eight days of hard work.
"Whether we accept it or not, the incident's responsibility is on us," said Thardeep chairperson Naseer Nizamani at a press conference in Mithi on Monday. "The digging of the well in Unaro Bheel village, in the Nangarparkar tehsil, was funded by our organisation."
The public admission comes four days after the bodies of 35-year-old Raichand Bheel, 16-year-old Mansingh Bheel and 15-year-old Altaf Bheel were recovered from the well.
The incident took place on July 16. Residents alleged that the NGO and the district administration did not help dig out the bodies and they had to do all the work on their own, which was risky and arduous considering their lack of modern equipment.
Deputy commissioner Asif Ikram formed an inquiry committee to investigate into the incident and to find out who is responsible for the accident and Nizamani said that his NGO will accept the findings of the inquiry. "We trust the committee," he said.
"We will accept if it orders us to compensate for the deaths or even if it asks us to shut down our NGO." He added that Thardeep is also conducting its own inquiry into the matter.
Two of the three labourers were underage and lacked the professional expertise required to dig a well in the desert.
However, Nizamani maintained that there was confusion about their correct ages otherwise they would not have been hired as the NGO does not support child labour. He was willing, however, to take the blame of employing underage labourers if the charge is established by the inquiry committee. The committee has yet to submit its report and no criminal proceedings have been initiated so far against Thardeep.
Some representatives of the Bheel community of Nangarparkar claim that the aggrieved families are willing to settle the matter for compensation despite protesting against and publicly accusing the NGO for the deaths.
Thardeep works in the rural areas of the Tharparkar, Umerkot, Jamshoro and Dadu districts for human rights, capacity building for income generation, health, education and relief.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2014.
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