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Bonded labour is increasing, District Vigilance Committees dysfunctional in Sindh

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Hari Welfare Association (HWA) has demanded to activate the District Vigilance Committee in all districts of Sindh, especially in flood-hit areas of provinces. 

This was stated by President of HWA Akram Khaskheli along with Peasant leader Rai Chand, Member of Vigilance Committee of Sindh Human Rights Department Paryal Mari Advocate and Naghma Sheikh of The Knowledge Forum (TKF) at a press conference at Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.

Khaskheli said that Sindh and the federal governments have turned a deaf ear to peasants and workers who lost their crops, wages, cattle and houses during rains and floods started in August 2022. HWA also said that 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.

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.

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/peshgi/advance 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, 14 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.

HWA 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.

HWA 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.

HWA 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/shelters and state lands for cultivating crops. HWA also demanded that governments should immediately compensate peasants, and farm workers for the loss of their livelihoods, houses, cattle and lives.

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