PAKISTAN: Growers, labourers block Thatta-Badin highway

Friday 7 February 2014

Date: 6 February 2014

Type: News

Source:Labour Watch Pakistan

Keywords: Agriculture, protest, prices

THATTA, Feb 6: Vehicular traffic on Thatta-Badin section of the highway remained suspended for over five hours on Feb 5 due to a sit-in staged by abadgars and daily wage earners in protest against abrupt suspension of cane crushing, procurement of sugarcane much below the official rate and, what they called, exploitation of cane growers and labourers by sugar mills.

Local activists of the Sindh Peoples Student Federation, including Rab Dino Jat, and Wali Mohammad Memon, and abadgars’ leaders Abdul Ghani, Asif Memon and Hashim Mallah led the protesters, who wore black armbands and raised slogans against millers.

The protesters first assembled outside the Dewan Sugar Mills, Bhudho Talpur, and then marched up to the Thatta-Badin highway to stage the sit-in. Speaking to the media, protesting growers’ representatives Aijaz Ali Khwaja, Syed Shafique Shah Bukhari, Hafiz Aziz and others said that millers were using different tactics to force growers sell their produce to them at as low as Rs172 per 40 kilograms.

They said growers owe millions of rupees to various mills on account of quality premium and other heads but the managements of the mills were not ready to clear their dues.

They said that millers unilaterally increased freight charges by 30-40 per cent in violation of the prescribed rules without taking government and growers — the major stakeholders — into confidence.

Daily wage earners told the media that 14 sugar mills had formed a cartel, called Omni Group, to exploit growers. This cartel, they added, was also exploiting labourers and usurping their rights. They said hundreds of workers had been serving with these mills for years at a low daily wage but the managements always preferred to hire workers from outside the province on a regular basis and a higher wage instead of regularising local workers.

Meanwhile, police failed to persuade the angry protesters to clear the highway until Sujawal Deputy Commissioner Shaukat Hussain Jokhio and SSP Fida Hussain Mastoi arrived and held negotiations with them.

The DC assured them that he would convene a meeting of all stakeholders to settle the issues amicably. On his assurance, the protesters dispersed peacefully.

Published by Daily Dawn on Feb 6, 2014

See online : Labour Watch Pakistan

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