Speakers demand land for residence and tilling for rural population

KARACHI: Members of the Sindh provincial assembly and civil society and labour rights activists have underlined the need for mobilization of the masses in rural areas to get their rights including ownership right of the land for residential purposes and agriculture land for tilling to earn livelihood.

All the government land should be distributed among landless peasants on ownership basis, the unanimous demand came at a consultation of the civil society organization with the members of the Sindh Assembly at a local hotel on Tuesday, organized by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER).

The members of the Sindh Assembly including Ms. Mahtab Akbar Rashidi (PML-F), Haji Shafi Jamote (PML-N), Ms. Rana Ansar (MQM), Syed Hafeezuddin (PTI), Ms. Sorath Thebo (PML-N) and Ms. Nusrat Abbasi (PML-F) attended the meeting. Prominent among the representatives of the civil society included Karamat Ali, Executive Director of PILER, Dr. Sono Khangharani of Hisar Foundation, Muneer Memon of Society for Secular Pakistan, Ramzan Memon of Bhandar Sangat, Saeed Baloch from Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Mumtaz Ali from Research and Development Foundation (RDF), author Zulfiqar Halepoto, Zeenia Shaukat and others.

The meeting participants agreed to hold similar consultations frequently for more interaction and understanding of the issues.

The participants asked the provincial government of Sindh to restart the land distribution among landless peasant women as during the previous tenure, it had distributed among 60,000 acres of land. More government land is available in Sindh, so without wasting any time that land should be distributed.

They agreed to join hands for providing land rights to rural people for residential as well as tilling purposes.

They deplored that people in rural Sindh do not have ownership documents of the piece of land where their homes are built for decades and they are uprooted anytime from their ancestor houses whenever some new housing schemes or other development schemes are launched.

The meeting participants also underlined the need for making new labour and tenancy laws in Sindh as well as implementation of the existing laws in the province. The peasants, who are sharecroppers are not getting their due share because of political and social influence of landlords.

In his welcome remarks, Karamat Ali of PILER said due to absence of land reforms in Pakistan, the agriculture land is concentrated in few hands. The condition of peasants has further deteriorated after the independence. He quoted the note of dissent by Masood Khaddarposh in Hari Committee Report in 1948 and said the peasants in Sindh were working in the worst conditions at that time and after the partition their social and economic conditions have further deteriorated. Unfortunately, he mentioned, majority of the rulers and legislators come from landlord or feudal families, who are not interested in land reforms and welfare of peasants.

He urged the legislators to amend the Sindh Tenancy Act, which has become obsolete and not implemented. Keeping in view the recommendations by the civil society submitted to the Deputy Speaker of Sindh Assembly in 2009, when hundreds of peasants had organized a long march from Hyderabad to Karachi.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Mahtab Akbar Rashidi, MPA said the present Sindh Assembly has made a number of important laws including the law for home based workers, but the main problem in the province is implementation of these laws. She deplored the bad governance in the province by the ruling parties for many years, which has increased the problems for common people.

She recalled that in the past movements for Tenancy Act and land reforms were launched by peasants’ leaders like Haider Bukhsh Jatoi through mass mobilization. The Land Reforms in 1970s were also half-hearted. There is need for such a spirit of mass mobilization to launch a public movement for the land rights.

Speaking on the occasion, Ms. Rana Ansar, MPA said that his party (MQM) is in support of land reforms in the country and it had introduced a bill for land reforms in the National Assembly but it was not taken up. She asked the civil society to provide assistance for any new legislations in this regard.

Veteran labour leader Ramzan Memon pointed out that after 18th Amendment in the Constitution, now the provincial assemblies can pass their own laws regarding land reforms. Dr. Sono Khangharani said that majority of the peasants belong to the scheduled caste Hindu communities, who had migrated from various parts of Rajasthan and Gujrat to Sindh for cultivation of agriculture lands after introduction of irrigation system by the British in 1936. He said most of them are still living in Thar desert and they are mostly engaged in cultivation of agriculture lands.

He said after 1965 and 1971 wars, a large number of Hindu landlords had migrated from Thar to India and their agriculture land was declared as “enemy properties.” This land should be distributed landless peasants of the area so they can

Ms. Sorath Thebo, MPA pointed out that rural workers do not get their due remuneration for their work. The minimum wages are seldom implemented and the government is not interested to improve working conditions, she added.

Syed Hafeezuddin said he has been elected SITE’s industrial area. Besides rural workers, the labour in industries are also facing numerous problems. The labour areas are less developed and funds are not provided for development schemes of these areas, he added.

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