Brick kiln workers: Sindh government urged to bring wages on par with Punjab’
Civil society representatives and members of the Rural Workers Group (RWG) on Wednesday urged the Sindh government to bring the wages for brick kiln workers on par with Punjab’s. The wage rate for making 1000 bricks in Punjab is fixed at Rs 962 whereas in Sindh the rate for the same work is only Rs 560, which was also notified many years ago and not raised this year.
Addressing a joint press conference at Umerkot Press Club, the speakers demanded the provincial labour department to notify the wage rates for the brick kiln workers by revising them upwards. These wages should be officially notified every year alongside the announcement of minimum wages for unskilled workers. Currently, minimum wages for unskilled workers are fixed at Rs 13,000 per month in Sindh. Even the notified rate is not implemented in many places as workers receive as low rate as Rs 400 for 1000 bricks.
Speakers at the press conference included Shujauddin Qureshi from Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), Pahlaj Rai from Participatory Development Initiative (PDI), Ms Rukma Kolhi, Abdullah Khoso, Mohammad Bukhsh Kunbhar and other members of the RWG.
The speakers pinpointed the problems of the rural works particularly brick kiln and agriculture workers who are unable to live a decent life. Agriculture workers do not receive their due share in crops as ensured under the Sindh Tenancy Act. After deduction of all the input cost, a peasant should receive half of the share in the crop.
Removal of Haris from the lands is reported quite often, but peasants are not restored on their workplace. The revenue department seldom registers the bona fide peasants as it is mandatory under Sindh Tenancy Act, which deprives them from their due rights.
The civil society speakers demanded that Hari Courts should be set up at the district level for an effective relief to the agriculture workers. They reminded the provincial government about a recent announcement by the Chief Minister to establish Hari courts in Sindh. They appealed him to fulfil his commitment. They said Hari courts should be headed by a Judge with equal powers of a Sessions Judge as is being practised in case of Labour Courts as well.
Bonded labour is a chronic problem in agriculture sector and an effective law on abolition of bonded labour should be made in Sindh. After the 18th Amendment the Federal Pakistan Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1992 needs to be made at the provincial level.
Besides losing their tenancy rights in case of any expulsion from the lands, they added, the peasants also lose their homes as they often make their homes on the agriculture lands, which they cultivate. Special colonies for peasants on the same pattern of Labour colonies should be established. “We demand the government to regularise the bonded labour freed colony in Umerkot.”
They also asked the human and labour rights organisations to raise their voices against injustice being made to the agriculture workers. They demanded to end child labour in agriculture and brick kilns. The District Vigilance Committees on Child Labour should be activated and they should keep an on prevalence of child labour in all sectors.
The speakers pointed out that the small growers and peasants are also exploited by the traders and middle men as they do not provide them sufficient rates of their productions.
In Umerkot district besides traditional crops of wheat and cotton, there is a big market of red-chillies and vegetables like Guwar. “We do not receive the rates and sometimes our input cost is more than the production cost, which perpetuate our miseries,” said a worker.