Saturday, October 23

Govt has failed in ensuring labourer rights

Punjab Minister for Labour and Human Resources Ashraf Sohna has admitted that the government, in connivance with the exploiters, does not want to put an end to exploitation of the labourers because the democratic dispensation has failed miserably in implementing Pakistan Minimum Wages Board since the govt is incapacitated to do so despite having political will.
While responding to queries during the Question-Hour at the Punjab Assembly here on Friday, Sohna further said, “I have repeatedly taken up the issues relating to the labourers, but Punjab Chief Minister took no notice of his complaints. It seems that he (CM) is least bothered in resolving the issues.”
He was responding to a question of Treasury’s Nighat Nasir Shaikh about the minimum wages of labourer maintaining that law of the minimum wages of Rs 7000 was not being implemented in any part of the province, and exploitation was rampant everywhere. “There is no political will or vision of the Punjab govt. It is felt that the Punjab rulers are siding with the exploiters. I know that I am a minister, but cannot lie to the masses from this august house,” he maintained, while referring to his visit to a factory along with MPA Syed Hassan Murtaza, but surprisingly the factory owner did not allow entry till the police was called. “From over 800 children, some 200 were below ten years. I was approached by some key leaders of the main stream political party to stop the visit,” he mentioned to surprised members. “Despite being a minister, I could not take any action,” he added.
On a point of order, PML-N’s Mehr Ishtiaq Ahmed asked the Minister to resign if he could not deliver. To this, the Minister said, “I am frequently informing the CM, but no attention is being paid. Why should I resign? They must resign who not only lie, but also show day dreams,” he suggested.
The Minister further surprised the House by saying that his Department was not short of funds. He announced free education, uniform and books for children of all the registered labourers from nursery to masters.
He made yet another disclosure that from 25 million labourers, only 0.75m were registered with the Department. “The govt is aware of all this, but paying no attention to this issue,” he added.
At one stage when the Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal tried to stop the Minister, the latter said, “If I will be assured for not being thrown out of the House, then I must say that your attitude also reflects that you are also part of the same group that believes in the exploitation of labourers.”
Instead of adopting typical style of defending his Department, the Minister admitted that the Department was deficient in many areas, like ensuring proper measuring or weighing.
Perhaps for the first time, pin drop silence was observed in the House during this Hour. Neither Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan nor Treasury members, except Mehr Ishtiaq, attempted to interrupt the Minister, but the Opposition had a few chances for desk thumping.
Later, the Assembly perhaps set a new precedent for holding the general discussion in the absence of minister and parliamentary secretary concerned; hence there was no policy statement.
Instead Opposition Leader Ch Zaheeruddin to a thin presence of 23 members, started the speech on water shortage. He asked the govt to change its policy for providing water to the farmers, while getting its water share from other provinces besides constructing water reservoirs and rehabilitating the water courses.

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