Call to pay wages to farmers converted to labourers under Labour ActMay 1, 2013
KARACHI: Sindh Agriculture and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organization SAFWCO on Wednesday demanded of the government to ensure payment of wages to farmers converted to labourers under Labour Act.
“After 201011 floods in Sindh, farmers have been converted into hired labourers by landlords so as to take more work from them at low wages, which is violation of existing Labour Act. This new trend of hired labour has no limit as farmers converted to hired labour have been compelled to do crop field work upto 18 hours instead of eight hours as set by the international labour law. This new atrocity in the shape of farm labour has made the life of farmers community miserable,” said SAFWCO leader Waheed Jamali while talking to PPI.
He revealed that 30,000 bonded labour families released during past some years are passing life in extreme poverty across Sindh province, but previous government did not take any solid step for their rehabilitation, which is a great injustice in the society.
“Many of such bonded labourers released from farm houses of feudal lords in Mirpurkhas, Tando Allahyar and other parts of Sindh have been kept at Sikandarabad Hari Camp Kotri, but no proper source of livelihood earning has been provided to them,” Jamali said. Their children of these families have been compelled to engage in child labour, while there is no arrangement for their education due to utter negligence of the last PPP government and present authorities.
He said Chicago like anti-labour policies must be ended, adding Sufi Shah Inayat fought for farmers’ rights and even sacrificed his life for their cause, while land reforms brought by former Pakistan President Ayub Khan and ex-Prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto for farmers were useless, because former dictator Ziaulhaq get them declared against Shariat. hence, there is need to bring new land reforms for good of farmers and labourers.
Jamali said agriculture is the mainstay of the Pakistan economy, accounting for 25% of GDP, 60% of export earnings and 48% of employment. Climate change is also affecting agriculture sector and farmers. He said that farmers and labourers have been badly affected by landlords. “Pakistan inherited feudal system from British Raja. Land distribution in Pakistan is highly unequal as 5% of large landholders possess 64% of total farm land and 65% small farmers hold 15% of land,” he informed.
He said even after three waves of land reforms in Pakistan, 3,529 zamindars land lords have 513,114 holdings of more than 100 acres in the irrigated areas, and 332,273 holdings exceeding 100 acres in unirrigated areas.
Jamali said some 794,774 khatedars tenants of the state have 5,464,771 land holdings of less than 12 acres in irrigated areas. In unirrigated areas, 144,098 are reported to have 1,628,826 holdings of less than 24 acres, he added.
He said Corporate Farming Ordinance CFO, under the military regime of General Pervaiz Musharraf was passed in 2001. “Under the corporate agriculture farming ordinance of 2000, foreign controlled companies that are incorporated in Pakistan can own land in Pakistan,” he added.
Jamali said under the Ordinance, stock listed corporations can lease land for a period of 99 years, broken into two periods of 50 and 49 years. He said the government has allowed transnational corporations TNCs to take lease of unlimited land with a minimum ceiling of 1,500 acres.
“In addition, the TNCs have been promised 100% equity, numerous tax incentives as well as full repatriation of profits. Government has identified state lands which it would lease under the CFO. Farmers are being deprived of their rights in the country. Corporate pressure is harming farmers’ community in Sindh because the governments are bent upon commercializing nature and lands of farmers,” Jamali concluded.