Sindh pursued the anti-peasant policy in 2021
Sindh pursued the anti-peasant policy in 2021
Hyderabad – 16 April 2022: 2021 did not bring any significant legal or policy improvements directly affecting peasants, said that statement issued by the Hari Welfare Association (HWA) on the occasion of international day of peasants’ struggle. Akram Khaskheli President HWA said that instead, the Government of Sindh (GoS) filed a plea in the Supreme Court of Pakistan (SCP) challenging a landmark ruling by the Sindh High Court (SHC) that threw down regressive revisions to the the Sindh Tenancy Act and addressed bonded labour practises in Sindh. Despite the fact that the case was filed in January 2020, then the Sindh Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu vowed and confirmed that his administration would not pursue an appeal in the SCP against this historic, pro-peasant judgement. The GoS, on the other hand, continued to pursue the case in the SCP in 2021. The HWA received a copy of the plea filed by the GoS that categorically reveals the GoS has no concerns for the human rights of peasants and rural workers in Sindh; rather, it is pursuing the anti-peasant rights policies and the repressive feudal system and structure.
The statement said that the Sindh Tenancy Act (STA) of 1950 is the most important law for peasants and rural workers. In 2021, the HWA did not see the GoS implementing the law or further improving it as per directions of the Sindh High Court verdict in 2019. Due to the non-implementation of the STA, there are serious issues and problems for peasants. In April 2021, in Sanghar, peasants of Jaffar Penjaro village protested that their houses were burnt down by the landlord and they were being forced to leave their houses. The landlord wanted to evict them from the land. They demanded that government take action against the landlord and protect their rights. In another case, in Tando Adam, Sanghar, peasant Ghulam Qadir protested in front of the Tando Adam Press Club. He stated that the landlord tortured him and threatened to evict him. In these and many other cases (some given in this report), the landlords across the province have not signed the contract with the peasants under the STA.
On the legislative front, the HWA did not learn of any changes in the Sindh Bonded Labour System Abolition Act in 2021. However, the relevant quarters urged the GoS to set up the DVCs as per law and activate these for the effective implementation of the SBLSAA. Sindh’s agriculture policy (2018-2030) is not peasants- and growers-friendly. It should be amended as per the SHC’s judgment in 2019. Khaskheli said that lLow-quality seeds continued to be a problem for farmers. The proliferation of seed corporations brings little benefit to farmers, owing to a lack of a strong regulatory framework. The federal government’s decision to launch Plant Breeders’ Rights Registry from February 15 was illegal and unethical.
The statement said that there is no policies or practical measures to bring land reforms, which is a critical problem in Sindh for the province’s general development, its economy, and its people. Land reform is extremely difficult to achieve within the given political structure and without sustained efforts in view of the STA.
In 2021, 1465 bonded labourers were released in Sindh’s 12 districts on the courts’ orders. Badin, Dadu, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Matiari, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar, Sukkur, Benazirabad, Shikarpur, Tando Allahyar, Thaparkar, and Umerkot are among these districts. 445 children and 521 women were released from the captivity of landlords and farm owners, out of a total of 1465 people. In the districts of Umerkot, Mirpurkhas and Sanghar, the largest numbers of cases were 455, 338, and 217, respectively. In comparison to 2019 and 2020, there were fewer cases reported in 2021: 1722 cases in 2019, 3086 cases in 2020, and 1493 cases in 2021.
In 2020, 3086 bonded peasants, including 915 children and 1154 women, were released by the police on courts’ orders. While police action depends on many factors, generally “escape” is the only option for bonded workers to make their way out of illegal detention. As has been the practice, one person of the family escapes the landlord’s private jail at midnight and approaches human rights organizations or a lawyer’s office to file a habeas corpus case under Section 491 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. In 2019, 2020 and 2021, even though no case of escape from the landlord’s custody was reported in the media, it is clearly understood that the people who had approached the court through a lawyer must have escaped their landlords’ captivity.
Statement further said that Sindh government has failed to implement Sindh Bonded Labour system Abolition Act 2015, no any funds are allocated by provincial and district governments for District Vigilance Committees (DVCs). HWA said that the DVCs were established in the Matiari and Shikarpur districts in 2021, he said that the number of DVCs had now risen to 14, but they played no role in assisting bonded labourers’ families who were released from the custody of landlords and farm owners in 2021. In nine years (2013 to 2021), 10,190 bonded labourers were released through the help of local courts. However, the DVCs were not reported to be involved in the release and rehabilitation of the bonded labourers released through court orders.
HWA urged Sindh Government to withdraw the appeal filed in Supreme Court against Sindh High Court’s landmark verdict in favour of peasants, and amend Sindh Tenancy Act in the light of the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, HWA demanded that Sindh Government should take concrete measures to implement Sindh Bonded Labour System Abolition Act 2015 and establish DVCs in all district, allocate funds for DVCs in upcoming budget 2022-23, as DVCs may work efficiently and effectively to eliminate bonded labour in Sindh.