After watching hours-long talk shows on the political decisions, listening to the boastful speeches made of our leaders and having detailed discussions on issues of the major cities, it is high time the grave crisis in Tharparkar is discussed.

Tharparkar is a culturally rich district of Pakistan’s southern province Sindh which covers an area of 20,000 sq kilometres. The people of this region live below poverty line. People living here face water and food shortage. They have health care challenges, environmental crises, epidemics like diarrhoea and measles, and many other social issues. Water and food shortage are the most sensitive issues which need immediate attention as people are dying of it. Even after this area has been declared a drought-hit region by the Sindh government, no significant or effective steps have been taken to provide immediate facilities. Since 2011, more than 2000 children under the age of 5 have died of malnutrition and certain waterborne diseases. Each year as the death toll increases, reports are sought, commissions create emergency plans but none of these plans have been able to stop the recurring problems. Moreover, unavailability of medical specialists and other healthcare facilities is making people die of despair more than it does of diseases. Certain issues faced by women of Tharparkar like early marriages, teenage pregnancies and complexities related to pregnancy have drawn no attention by authorities.

Literacy rate here is below 20% as most of the children spend their days herding animals and fetching water from wells with their mothers. There are no proper schools or education system either.

Major source of livelihood here is livestock of 4.6 million animals which is greatly affected by the drought situation.

The point to wonder is that, never have we seen Thar in the headlines of any news channels and never have our anchors bothered to discuss it in their talk shows. The journalists while talking to politicians never ask them about this neglected issue. A child dying of malnutrition there or a women dying of miscarriage as there was no medical staff to attend to her, have not made it to the headlines of any newspaper.

Moreover, the more an area is underprivileged, the more is the exploitation of minority rights which needs to be worked on. As we see in this underprivileged area, the major concern of people is that they should get enough food to eat and clean water to drink. They demand for the facilities by which they would at least be able to survive. No one bothers about how in their strive of living they are exploiting the rights of women and other minorities living there. Women there would not demand that they should be treated equally as men. Rather they would want their husbands and sons to get enough resources no matter what does it take. Just like other issues are neglected, the women of such backward areas are never the part of women rights campaigns. Why do we forget that a women living in Tharparkar faces more problems than a woman living in any metropolitan city? The more the people are illiterate, the lesser they know about gender equality or minority rights.

An interesting thing about Tharparkar is its history and the special art of its people. As it is known for its livestock, people are adept in camel hair cut and carving. But the sad point here is that they cannot make it their source of income as animals are dying day by day due to drought. For around 4.6 million animals, there are just 12 veterinary doctors in the whole Tharparkar. Local people make marvelous handicrafts and garments. But Gulkari is now known as the dying art, as it is not that much attractive as it used to be in the past. Our media never highlights their art in this world of capitalism where, the more you invest, the more you get advertised and famous. In this region, where people do not even get enough to eat, how would they be able to invest to publicize their art.

Tharparkar is rich in having centuries old temples and uniquely built houses. It has Karoonjhar mountain range, made of granite rocks, which stretches along Nagaparkar on Pakistan’s border with India. There are many historical temples like Ramdev Peer temple, Jain temple and a Bhodesar Mosque of Hindu and Jain architecture style. These places are visited by people when the environmental conditions are favorable, which very rarely happens. But pity that 80 percent of Tharparkar is inaccessible by cars. These places can be made tourists’ attraction by making these areas easily accessible and providing it with basic facilities like clean water and electricity etc.

Government has a heavy responsibility on its shoulders to preserve this culture and work for its betterment. This culture and these arts should be highlighted through media and books, so that each and every person knows what our heritage is and where our roots lie. We need to salvage what is left of our heritage and showcase it to the world to know and understand the diversity in country. We must not let the Tharparkar culture and art die.