Tharis highlight their plight at HRCP public hearing
MITHI: From healthcare needs to livestock protection, reverse osmosis plants and distribution of state land among landless peasants, a wide range of issues concerning Tharis were discussed at the first-ever public hearing of its kind on the plight of the drought-stricken people organised by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan on Friday.
This was the first time that the people from the drought-hit areas were invited to share their perspective regarding the current situation in Thar, which has been facing drought for the past three years, during the two-day hearing organised by the HRCP at the Mithi Press Club.
As it was unusual for the Tharis to be invited by the HRCP to speak for themselves at the hearing, many of them thought it was a usual political event and assumed that relief goods would be given to them.
I.A. Rehman of the HRCP chaired the public hearing, while Hussain Naqi and Najamuddin of the commission, journalist Ghazi Salahudin, Arif Hasan and Dr Shehla Gul were analysts.
Speaking to Dawn, Mr Rehman said Thar had the same issues of governance as the rest of Pakistan. He said such issues had not been on the priority of political parties, while the local administration had limited resources to address the issues of Thar.
People from nearby villages of Mithi were there at the press club to share their views on the challenges they faced, but no community representative from the desert area of Umerkot and Chhachhro was invited to the event.
Some participants told Dawn that they had pinned hopes on the rights organisation but the HRCP had failed to measure the intensity of the drought and develop economic, social, environmental, mitigation, management policies and procedures to handle the drought.
Barkat, a villager, complained that the areas where the state had failed to serve, the non-governmental organisations, too, did not succeed in changing the living standard of the Tharis. The NGOs working in Thar had developed their own assets and living standards of their representatives had changed without having any positive impact on the Thari people, he added.
A woman complained about basic amenities. She said not a single lady health worker had been appointed in her village, while there was no health facility within the radius of 10 kilometres. Schools had been established but teachers remained absent, she added.
Ranchhor from the Naukot area said that reverse osmosis plants had been given to influential persons on the basis of party affiliation, while the less privileged Tharis had been ignored.
Ali Akbar Rahimoo, a social activist, said the government had never distributed state land among landless peasants in Thar. Currently, he added, 7,30000 acres of evacuee and enemy property land was there in Thar but thousands of poor residents didn’t have an acre to cultivate. He demanded that land grant policy of 1930 be enforced.
Ghansham Malhi said that if the state really wanted to mitigate effects of drought, it should create alternative livelihood sources from mines and mineral resources of Thar such as China clay, granite, salt mines and coal.
Khemchand Misrani of Haryar village complained that this year drought claimed the life of three babies in his family. He said that when the children were brought at the Mithi civil hospital they were not provided proper medicines, while labs were not functional. They were compelled to have clinical and pathological examination from a private facility, he said, adding that they were unable to bear medical expenses at private health facilities.
Gotam Rathi said each union council of Thar had one basic health unit which was insufficient for a scattered population in the sandy area. The BHU was not well equipped to cater to the health needs of Tharis, he added.
On Saturday, which is the second day of the HRCP event, civil society representatives will speak on issues related to drought in Thar from their perspective.
Plan to combat drought
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations convened a meeting in Mithi to prepare a programme to combat drought in Thar.
Sher Ali Arbab, programme officer, and Banaras Khan from the FAO said the FAO had carried out a research in 2009 which indicated that the drought frequency would increase due to climate change but it had not been noticed by the authorities concerned then. While at present climate change could not be reversed or avoided, there was a need to plan a programme with a holistic approach to avoid the loss of livestock and life of the people in Thar, he said.