Archive for November 29th, 2010

Tortured Dalit cotton picker dies

Post Source: Through Email

The Bheel (Dalit) cotton picker who was first tortured  and then set on fire at the instigation of a landlord died in the civil hospital Karachi on Tuesday after struggling with life for four days. The henchman of a landlord in Rabo village, Kot Ghulam Mohammad Town accused Roop Chand Bheel of stealing 25kg cotton. They detained him in the Otaq (place for male guest) of the landlord and tortured him severely days to make him confess the crime which he did not. The henchman then set Roop chand Bheel on fire.  

Relatives and people took Roop chand to Kot Ghulam Mohammad town hospital where he was administered first aid and then shifted to civil hospital Mir Pur Khas city but doctors referred him to Karachi because of his precarious condition. Scores of Bheel (Hindu Dalit) community people led by Chairman, Mirpurkhas Action Committee,Kanji Rano Bheel, carrying the body of Roop chand held a demonstration outside the press club while others staged a sit-in out side the District Police Officer (DPO) office demanding the arrest of landlord Mir Abdul Rehman Talpur well connected political heavy weight of the area.        

Kanji Rano Bheel local leader of Dalit told  that police have arrested three peoples but the main accused, Mir Abdul Rehman Talpur, was still at large. That kind of severe heinous crime against peasants are the common practice in cotton growing areas and  main accuse always escort free due to strong influence in power structures, police, district administration, in courts and also in social sphere.

It is season of cotton picking in Pakistan, one of the largest cotton producing countries. More than 60% of the workforce is engaged in this sector from cotton field to value added textile and garment products. Here in Pakistan agricultural workers including from cotton farms are not recognized as worker in Labour law so they don’t have right to form their union and negotiate with cotton field owners. And even they don’t have legal right to use “workers courts” at the time of dispute with the farm owners.

On one hand in cotton fields workers especially  women workers and children are badly treated, getting very low wages, long working hours in harsh weather with out any social security cover while on other hand workers in textile industry from yard manufacturing mills to garment producing units are deprived of all basic rights as envisage in Industrial Relation Act (IRA) 2010 and in other labour related laws. 90% workers in textile sector don’t have appointment letter (job contact paper) so she or he can’t form union, collectively bargain with management and as a resultant without prove of relationship with factory not cover under state provided social security nets

It is time of serious act to chalk out global strategy to force the cotton farm owners, local textile tycoons and multinational buyers and brands to fulfill the internationally recognized labour standards in this huge profit generating sector and economically and socially emancipated the millions of workers engaged with sector.

Nasir Mansoor

Deputy General Secretary

National Trade Union Federation, Pakistan

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