KARACHI - Tribal chiefs and feudal lords in Sindh are the main hurdle in the rural development and they are opposing the rights to agriculture workers, said Kaiser Bengali while giving his presentation on the second day of the two-day conference on “Labour in the Age of Globalisation,”, jointly organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) and the Pakistan Study Centre, University of Karachi.

Representatives from the leading trade unions from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Dhaka and Pakistan’s all provinces attended the conference and spoke on workers of industries, agriculture and informal sectors. The conference is a part of a series of events/interactive sessions being organised all through the year to mark thirty years of PILER, a research, education and advocacy institute focusing on labour rights.

“During the floods the sitting members of the parliament opposed construction of bigger towns for the flood affected people because they wanted to keep the population as their captive workers,” Dr.  Bengali said speaking at the session on “Climate Change: Impact on Livelihood & Labour.”

He said there are forecasts that Pakistan will experience more floods and rains during the next 20 years. The poor workforce will be the main victims of these natural happenings, he said adding that rain disasters will definitely affect the agriculture products which may cause food shortage.

Dr Bengali deplored that due to influence of feudal lords at the district administration levels, the problems of the people are not addressed. “I can give you examples that district management officials are appointed directly on the recommendation of tribal chiefs instead of their merit and legal procedures. In this situation, how we can expect from such officials to address the problems, faced by the poor working class people,” he asked.

Bengali said the flood-2010 had affected seven million people in Sindh province but a small number of people had died during the floods or due to hunger or diseases at the relief camps. But during the floods in 2011 human and livestock loss was more because people were caught unmoved due to heavy rains in Sindh. Mohammed Ali Shah, Chairperson Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) in his presentation ‘Climate Change Preparedness and Community Dialogue’ said following the predictions of more disasters in the future local community people should be involved in preparedness process to reduce its impacts.

Shah suggested that when floods come, the government should have utilized the water by sowing seeds, planting tree saplings for forestation, as forests department was doing in the past. Karamat Ali, Executive Director of PILER pointed out that discrimination with the poor is meted at all levels including on the basis of ethnicity, class, caste and creed. He demanded to stop this discrimination.

“Let the people live with dignity and enjoy the free life without any fear,” he said. Mr. Ali said after the insertion of 25-A article after the 18th Amendment there is a law that all the children of the age of 5 to 16 years will be brought in schools to ensure 100 percent enrollment. But on the ground it is not being implemented. As a result two million children of the poor are out of schools because there is no school building available in their respective areas.

Ms. Nikhat Sattar said there is no law to monitor land utilization in the country. Forest land is being converted into cultivated land.  Similarly, due to population growth trend of urbanization has increased alarmingl.

Mariam Bibi of Khwanda Kor, struggling for women of Khyber Pukhtoonkhuwa said whenever disasters come women face more difficulties as compared to males. Sharing recent experiences, she said while getting relief goods at amps women preferred to stay away and mostly they could not get their share.

Bisharat Ali, a researcher on bonded labour said, during the flood disaster 2011 landlords got subsidized items but the share cropper were deprived of their benefits. The flood wiped out entire villages but the government could not respond to these people for their rehabilitation.

At the session of South Asian labour, the spreakers from Dhaka, Nepal and Sri Lanka spoke on the labour movement situation in their respective countries. Those who spoke on the occasion included Mr. Arumugam Muthulingam and Mr, GVD Tilakasiri from Sri Lanka,  Mr. Abul Hossain from Bangladesh and Mr. Ramesh Badal from Nepal.