Speakers stress proper training for police personnel about ‘bonded labour’

KARACHI: Additional IG Training Sindh Police, Ghulam Qadir Thebo said lack awareness among police personnel about the issue of bonded labour and laws concerned. Often police is directed by court to investigate the case of bonded labour, because, he mentioned that due to lack of sensitizations and information on laws, police takes bonded labour as a civil dispute between landowner and tenant, while he pointed out that case of bonded comes into the domain of criminal and police is supposed to take action against those who are involved in violation of laws.

He expressed these views while addressing the Three-day ToT Training of Trainers on ‘Strengthening Actions and Responses against Bonded Labour’ started from April 22 to April 24, 2013 at local hotel.

The 35 Police training instructors from police training schools and colleges participated.

The purpose of the training was to train police officers to prevent and prosecute bonded labour incidences, effectively. Keeping in view the importance of the course, instructors of police were selected for the training from Sanghar, Umerkot, Mirpurkhas, Hyderabad, Larkana, Khairpur and Karachi.

The topics covered ranged from orientation on Bonded labour issues and situation in Sindh, legal framework on tackling bonded labour, Role of Police in combating bonded labour and developing standing operating procedures of police for anti-bonded labour cell.

Introducing participants with the core objective of the training, Abdul Khalique Sheikh, focal person Sindh on bonded labour issued and DIG Sindh Police, shared his observation on role of police and the need of proper training for police personnel. He revealed his past experience when he was serving as SSP in different parts of the Province.

He emphasized that major focus of the curriculum of police training is made on teaching different procedures dealing with general criminals laws and very little attention is given to special subjects like bonded labour, Human trafficking and Human Rights.

Ex-CCPO Karachi Ghulam Shabir Shaikh elaborated that section of 374 of Pakistan Penal Code PPC criminalizes forced labour and wrongful restraint is described in Criminal Procedure Code section 339 to 347. He also mentioned that police officers would also have to deal the case of bondage in accordance with Bonded Labour Abolition Act 1992. In the law on bonded labour, forced labour is prohibited, therefore, in case of violation law, offender is supposed to be punished accordingly.

He mentioned that it is duty of police personnel to investigate the case if any complaint or information regarding to wrongful restraint or wrongful confinement is in practice.

Iqbal Detho, human rights trainer, shared that prevalence of bonded labour is widespread in Sindh particularly in the lower belt of Sindh. It has been observed over the period that majority of the bonded labourers belong to scheduled caste Hindus particularly; Bheel, Kolhi, Menghwar and Bagri communities are the main victims.

He pointed out that the fundamental cause of bondage is debt which is an outcome of advance amount taqavi/ peshgi lended to tenants by land owner or brick kiln workers by brick kiln owners. After lending money in advance the landowner/employer justifies his right to extract work from tenant/labourer in compensation. In some cases loans are passed from generation to generation and never repaid.

The National Project Coordinator, ILO office for Pakistan, Mr. Benyameen told that ILO is supporting government, employers’ and workers’ organizations along with other stakeholders in promoting social justice and decent work agenda through technical cooperation projects.

One of the ILO’s key interventions is to promote the elimination of bonded labour in Pakistan. With the ownership and commitment of the Government, ILO has successfully implemented several initiatives that supported to achieve targets set in the National Policy and Plan of Action against Bonded Labour. However, Pakistan still faces gaps in its efforts to prevent and combat bonded labour, and to protect and empower bonded labourers and their families. There is a will, but a significant lack of resources and capacity.

Furthermore, the 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s Constitution transferred greater responsibility and authority to the provinces for the implementation of labour related issues.

At present, ILO office for Pakistan is implementing the project titled “Strengthening Law Enforcement Responses and Action against Internal Trafficking and Bonded Labour in Sindh & Punjab Provinces, Pakistan” funded under J/TIP of U.S. Department of State.

One of the strategic objectives of the project is to build capacity of state functionaries and key stakeholders to address legal needs of bonded labourers. In collaboration with Sindh Police, the project has planned to establish anti-bonded cells and trained police officers to address the menace of bonded labour.