Peasant’s tenancy rights are human rights
Karachi– Sindh has the highest landlessness among people, men & women, working in the farm yards. The condition of haris (peasants or landless tenants) is hardly better than what it was at the time of country’s independence in 1948. They are human beings and deserve human rights but just like domesticated animals they enjoy no privileges of rationality, no right of human beings. This was stated by participants of the ‘Consultative Workshop to Review Sindh Tenancy Act’ held on December, 02, 2014 at a local hotel .
The workshop, sponsored by Oxfam, was organized by National Peasants Coalition of Pakistan (NPCP), Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) and Bhandar Sangat. The event was attended by parliamentarians, government officials, CSOs, INGOs, activists, lawyers and media persons
Syed Sardar Ahmad of MQM addressed the workshop after a presentation made by Tahir Hasnain of SCOPE. Mr. Ahmad said that Sindh Assembly is devoid of rural representation and unless rural members of parliament, through some quota of special seats, are not ensured, the biased decision making will continue. He promised that if the NPCP provide him specific recommendations to amend Sindh Tenancy Act, he on behalf of MQM will try his best to support a bill in this regards in the Parliament.
Mr. Tanveer Arif of SCOPE, in his welcome address, said that Sindh Province is characterized with high land concentration and dominance of feudal lords. Land is the source of livelihood for poor people. He said that NPCP is a national platform of peasant’s organizations which is formed to push the agenda of land reforms in the country. NPCP has organized campaigns in all provinces of Pakistan for land and agrarian reforms, and organized pre-election seminars on land reforms to convince political parties to adopt land reforms in their agenda.
Mr. Shahbaz Bukhari, Manager of Oxfam GROW Campaign, shared that land inequality is highly prevalent. Only 15 percent of large land holders possess 65 percent of the land. On the contrary 65 percent of small farmers hold only 15 percent of the land. According to him, such land inequalities are the major barriers in the economic growth in agriculture both at macro and micro level. The situation of women is further depressing. Women’s share in agriculture farming and labour is 70 percent and they own only 3 percent of land, he said.
Speakers highlighted the issues of peasants and concluded that in view of new ground realities and changing socio-economic trends coupled with new modes of agricultural production, the 64 year old Act must be rewritten. The Act has widened the gap between peasants and the landowners and it currently does not fulfil the rights and needs of the peasants. The discrepancy in the Act is evident from the fact that peasants of Sindh are living below poverty line even in this modern age and work as bonded labour of landlords. They urged that it is the responsibility of the provincial government to give due rights to peasants through a genuine consultative process with the peasants.