Tenancy in agriculture main cause of exploitation

September 26, 2014 Off By Web Desk

KARACHI: Senior economist and Technical Adviser on Economic Affairs to Chief Minister Balochistan Dr. Kaiser Bengali has suggested to end the tenancy in the agriculture sector because it is the main source of social, political and economic exploitation of the peasants and agriculture workers.

He said the feudal and big landlords in Sindh do not want development in the province.

He was speaking during the session on Agriculture Workers at the second day of three-day Sindh Labour Conference being organized by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at Gulshan-e-Maymar here on Saturday.

“Tenancy or sharecropping is creating dependency. A peasant is socially and politically dependant on landlords,” he remarked.

“We saw after 2010 floods a large number of peasants from different affected districts had come to relief camps in Karachi and Hyderabad, but the Sardars and feudal lords of upper Sindh who were sitting in Sindh Cabinet forced the affectees to return to their homes because the formers did not want to lose their hold of these peasants,” he said adding that actually the flood affectees did not want to go back to their homes because there were no assets and only loans were waiting for them.

The influential ministers of Sindh cabinet had opposed the development schemes in rural areas because they were fearing losing their political clout.

He said our political demand for land reforms should be different for each province because the landholding patterns and situations are different in each province. Even the situation is different in upper Sindh and lower Sindh. In Thatta district new landlords are emerging as the people with illegal and corruption money are buying agriculture lands and becoming new absentee landlords.

In Southern Punjab the trend of agriculture land tenancy has decreased and corporate farming has been introduced. Although this has improved the working condition of agriculture workers, it is a fact that a larger number of peasants were removed from the agriculture lands of Southern Punjab. Majority of these once agriculture workers have moved to cities and are doing daily wage jobs or begging. Almost half of such agriculture workers have reached in Karachi and can be found on roadsides begging or their women are working as domestic workers.

He said in Sindh and Balochistan’s Naseerabad division, the big landlords are exploiting their peasants due to presence of tenancy system and the peasants are working like slaves.

Dr. Bengali said land distribution is quite unequal in Pakistan. According to the official Agriculture Census, he said about 50 percent growers are the owners of total 25 percent of the agriculture land. The remaining 50 percent growers are owners of 75 percent land. Average ownership for small growers is 5-7 acres. Availability of irrigation water in an area makes the owner wealthy or poor. An owner of 200 acres of land in Balochisan, but without water is poor than the owner of 12-13 acres of agriculture land but with availability of irrigation water, who is wealthy.

Dr. Bengali gave a presentation “Changing Land Tenure System and its Impact on Workers” based on data came out from a survey regarding land holding pattern in Pakistan. He said under the survey three districts of Sindh (Thatta, Dadu and Shikarpur), two districts of Punjab (Rahim Yar Khan and Multan), Jafarabad district of Punjab and Charsaddah of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces were covered.

Dr. Bengali said the richest landlords are in Punjab, their monthly income is Rs. 1.5 million per month, whereas the same type of landlords in Nasirabad, Balochistan have monthly income of Rs. 800,000.

Speaking on the occasion, the senior trade union leader Habibuddin Junaidi said that the labour welfare organizations are not serving the labour.

Ramzan Memon who of National Party and Bhandar Sangat said the peasants are deprived of the lands and other facilities. He said that land reforms are a must in Pakistan, otherwise the situation of rural areas would not improve. In the National Party, he said, he has demanded that Balochistan government should introduce land reforms in the province.

Speaking about bonded labour in Pakistan, Zulfiqar Shah of PILER said that the main cause of bonded is cash advance. Bonded labour exists in agriculture and brick kilns across the country. The federal government had enacted Bonded Labour Abolition Act in 1992, but there is lack of a political will to implement this act.

After the 18th Amendment in Constitution, only Punjab government has adopted that law, but in Sindh it is yet to be adopted. He said Sindh Assembly made amendments in the Tenancy Act in 2013 which now allows the forced labour (Begar).

Senior labour leader Habibuddin Junaidi said that the workers in every field are facing problems. He appreciated organizing the Labour Conference and said labour leaders from other provinces are also attending it.

Lateef Ansari of Labout Quomi Movement (LQM) Faisalabad gave an account of his organisaion’s struggle for the rights of power-loom and brick kiln workers. He said that he was serious injured because his organization had mobilized and struggled for the rights of brick kiln workers.

Saeed Baloch of Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) said his organization has succeeded in getting fishing rights for the fishermen after enactment of the anti-contract law. “We got our fishing rights from the control of Rangers in Badin district,” he added. However, he said still there are many water bodies in Sindh, which are under control of influential landlords and powerful political leaders.

The other speakers of second day of the conference were Faisal Siddiqi, advocate, Naeem Sadiq, Aziz Memon of Labour department of Sindh Government, Javed Gill, Labour Department of Punjab, Ayoub Baloch, former Secretary of Labour, Balochistan, Muntakhib Alam of Workers Welfare Fund, Zafar Abbas of SESSI Trade Union, Tahir Samad Khan, Qamoos Gul Khattak and Dr. Riaz Shaikh.

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