Breaking the Chains
The issue of bonded labour in Sindh has affected the labour community for years but the
government as well as the legislators simply ignore it.
Despite the presence of a plethora of laws to protect peasants’ rights in Sindh, the government fails to prevent the constant exploitation of poor Haris from injustices of local landlords. This is stated in the HWA (Hari Welfare Association) 2019 report titled ‘The State of Peasant Rights in Sindh.
In 2019, the Sindh government took two most promising steps for the betterment of agriculture workers. These are the landmark judgement of Sindh High Court in peasant Ghulam Ali Laghari’s case and the passing of Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act (SWAWA). But will they be implemented or remain dead letters like the earlier ones?
Previously, peasants in Sindh already had the Sindh Tenancy Act of 1950, the Sindh Industrial Relations Act of 2013 and the Bonded Labour System Abolition Act of 1992 at the local level to seek due protection from injustices of landlords. Internationally, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 1966 and many other laws and declarations also support the cause but still landlords in Sindh don’t have any sympathy for their agriculture workers.
The day by day worsening situation of peasants in Sindh can be measured by the fact that in 2019, 2,309 bonded labourers, including 819 children and 743 women, were released by the police and courts from private jails of landlords in the agriculture and brick kiln sectors. The figure for released peasants was 1,421 in 2018 and 553 in 2017, which means there has been a regular escalation in the number of bonded labourers.
HWA, a Sindh-based non-governmental organization striving for the rights of Sindh’s peasants, has recently released its annual report on the state of peasants rights in Sindh which is fifth in their series of reports since the first report was launched in 2015. This report covers peasants’ rights in terms of development and implementation of related legislation and policies and explores a framework of the overall wellbeing of peasants that includes their socio-economic conditions.