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Peasant leaders vow to fight poverty, price hike at Hari Conference.

HYDERABAD, March 26, 2012 (Balochistan Times): Peasant leaders vowed to fight poverty; unemployment and price hike together, saying the existing land holding system has empowered feudalism which can only be beaten through land reforms. Speaking at the National Hari Conference organised by Pakistan Fisher Folk Forum (PFF), they said an overwhelming majority of the rural people was associated with agriculture and, hence, was living in virtual serfdom of the landed elite. Hundreds of peasant women, men and youth, hailing from different districts of Sindh participated while PFF chairperson Mohammed Ali Shah, Piler Executive Director Karamat Ali, writer Zaheer Akhtar Badri, SAFWCO chief executive Suleman Abro, SPO Regional Manager Mustafa Baloch, advocate Sattar Sarki, Zulfiqar Halepoto and others addressed the gathering. Speaking on the occasion Muhammad Ali Shah said that PFF after uniting the fishermen community has initiated a campaign to unite the marginalised workforce of peasants. Their issues related to their labour status, right to own the land, housing, health, education and liberation from the shackles of age-old traditions of bondage so they can live with dignity are our objectives, he added. He said the rural Sindh characterises big land holdings, resulting in expansion of the power base of landlords and the deprivation and exploitation of peasants. SAFWCO Chief Executive Suleman Abro lamented that unlike India, Pakistan retained the big landholding system introduced by the British occupiers after its Independence. This system was designed by the British rulers to exploit the majority through the hands of the few which were loyal to them. Sadly our own people instead of putting an end to that system, retained it. He disputed with the mechanism of share cropping saying a lack of regulation on part of the government was working to the detriment of the peasants. He pointed out that the two successive catastrophes of floods and heavy monsoon rains in 2010 and 2011 exposed the vulnerabilities of the peasants. The disaster exposed that this marginalised segment of our society is extremely vulnerable and ill equipped in terms of finances and other means to rehabilitate themselves in the aftermath, he observed. Piler Executive Director Karamat Ali said it was the states responsibility to protect its citizens from exploitation, as enshrined in the Constitution. However, he added, the irony was that the governments initiated schemes to write off agricultural loans and provided free of cost seed, fertiliser and other facilities only to those who were in the ownership of the land but not to the peasants who equally share the profit and loss. He emphasised on the urgency of land reforms, specifically in Sindh not only to give the due right to the citizens but also to help prevent the losses suffered by them through natural calamities. To address poverty the poor need assets to sustain their livelihoods which in case of rural areas are titles to the land, he added. Advocate Sattar Sarki said the formal land entitlements should be extended to the shelter- less settlers, particularly to the women- folk of the local communities. Basic labour laws should protect the peasants and hence the rural economy. Employees Old Age Benefit Institution (EOBI) and Employees Social Security Institution (ESSI) initiatives should be extended to the peasants, he demanded He underscored the need to institute such reforms for agricultural development by providing cultivable land and resources to the poor to eradicate poverty. Since, in the chain of the things one thing is linked to another, such a measure besides improving the economic outlook of the peasants will address the law and orders situation, social reforms, education, health in addition to ensuring the food security, he noted. The speakers on the occasion also pointed out to the sale of spurious pesticides by some companies and demanded a ban on them to protect the crops and the rural economy. During the event, different theatre groups of young girls performed tableaux (tableaux) and renowned poet Zahid Shaikh recited his poetry.

(THROUGH ASIA PULSE)
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Publication:Balochistan Times (Baluchistan Province, Pakistan)
Article Type:Conference news
Date:Mar 26, 2012
Words:656
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