Archive for November, 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

Ban on movement of gur Framers threaten to launch protest

Post Source: Dawn.com

Bureau Report

PESHAWAR, Nov 25: Cane growers and their associates in the trade have warned the government that they would launch a protest campaign if it did not lift its ban on the movement of gur (raw sugar) to the turbulent Federally.

Administered Tribal Areas.

Kissan Board president Murad Ali Khan and Gur Commission Agents president Haji Mulla Mohammad Shah told a press conference here on Thursday that the ban amounted to economic strangulation of the farmers and the traders marketing their product.

They reminded the men behind the ban that majority of the people in tribal areas cannot afford refined sugar and consume gur for its cheap price. “But the owners of sugar mills want to capture this market at all costs,” they said.

They charged that such ill-thought decisions of the government were adding to the miseries of flood-hit farmers.

“No government has put ban on movement of kitchen items but those claiming to be champions of human rights are taking decisions against the basic human rights,” they said.

They added that government fixed price of sugarcane at Rs125 per 40 kilograms but the owners of sugar mills were forcing farmers to sell the same to them at Rs300. The step was aimed at brining an end to the gur production, they said.

“There are about 6,000 gur producing small units only in Charsadda district wherein thousands of families are earning livelihood. If the sugar millers don`t stop their practices against gur production these people will be left jobless,” they said.

The farmers also expressed concern over the soaring prices of fertilisers and said that both sugar and fertilisers were being smuggled to Afghanistan.

“Sugar and fertiliser are available at cheaper rates in Afghanistan but these commodities in our own country are sold at exorbitant rates,” they said. They alleged that influential people were becoming millionaires and billionaires through such illegal practices in connivance with the government.

They criticised both the provincial and federal governments for what they called giving free hand to the owners of sugar mills to fleece consumers by creating artificial shortage of the commodity.

“Pakistan is basically an agricultural country but the government is least bothered to promote agriculture rather it is creating problems for the poor farmers,” they said.

They said production of tobacco was also not satisfactory this year due to heavy rains and floods. The farmers were facing the worst kind of financial problems in different districts, they added.

They demanded of the government to give incentives to gur producers otherwise they would be forced to start protest movement from Nov 29.

They also opposed the proposed Reformed General Sales Tax.

Rabi sowing faces water shortage

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

GROWERS have started Rabi sowing on the right bank of the Indus amidst the flood ravaged irrigation infrastructure. They are hoping against hope to get the required water for the crop. Sindh irrigation officials claim that work on plugging of breaches in various canals on the right bank is being undertaken, and they will be able to provide water by December and January. However, the growers are sceptical about their claim. Wheat sowing has started in katcha area of the Indus down and upstream on right and left banks which would get the advantage of silt deposits brought by floods. The crop would be sown on soil`s moisture. The right bank, which is otherwise known for paddy production, also produces wheat. Other crops like oilseed, pulses and gram are also grown here. Growers say that this year Rabi crop cultivation in flood-hit areas would be a daunting task where water availability is the main problem.

The irrigation department had initially assessed an expenditure of Rs13-14 billion to bring the canal system to pre-flood position in the right bank area. The department had shared details of the expenditure with the World Bank on the work to be started immediately including expenses required for raising the heights of the bunds and their pitching at a cost of around Rs51-52 billion.

Abadgars of upper Sindh are poised to get water for cultivation of Rabi crop. Some of them approached over phone said that provision of irrigation water was an uphill task as far as damages to main canals, their distributaries and minors were concerned in areas fed by Sukkur and Guddu barrages. Thatta is the only district which is hit by floods on the left bank of Indus and is fed by Kotri`s barrage system.

Sindh`s irrigation secretary Rafiq Memon, who visited the area, said that the first water for Rabi cultivation would be made available in Guddu barrage`s areas by January as work on Begari-Sindh (BS) feeder, an off-taking canal of Guddu barrage, is going on. “Similarly work has also been started in Keer Thar and Saifullah Magsi canals system of Sukkur barrage,” he said.

He hoped that 30 to 40 per cent of water would be made available to growers in perennial areas during the current Rabi season. He said priority would be given to plug breaches in the main canal and their branches to make water supply possible. “By January and February the required cycle of water will hopefully be ensured,” Memon said.

Irrigation officials argue that for Rabi crop the required quantum of water is not that big and the positive aspect is that the soil has the right moisture needed for the cultivation of the crop. Growers, however, are not convinced by such official claims..

Imdad Sarki is one such grower of right bank. He irrigates his lands through Naseer branch that emanates from BS feeder in Thull taluka – worst hit in floods – of Jacobabad district which depended on Guddu barrage system. “We don`t see any prospect of getting water for our crop as no repair work has started in our area,” he said.

This year he is not cultivating wheat as he is sure of not getting water. Last year he had cultivated wheat on 1,200 acres. Now he has decided to grow oilseed and gram taking advantage of the existing moisture in the soil. “I don`t see any chances of water in our area before June and July`s Kharif,” he said confidently.

A paddy grower Arif Mahesar, who represents paddy producers as well as rice millers of Sindh, is also not sowing Rabi crop on the right bank of Indus fearing water shortage. “Water channels are completely destroyed and I see no repair work in the area,” he said.

Situation in Thatta district, fed by Kotri barrage, is the same where Pinyari and its branch Daro canal are lying dry. Sunflower is being sown in katcha area and is giving positive results. Haji Nadeem Shah, who owns land in the area, said that lateral and sub-lateral canals of the two canals – Pinyari and its branch Daro – needed water because growers sow pulses, wheat and rapeseed there. “We will be in a difficult position when we need water after sowing the crop. Irrigation officials must accelerate pace of work to ensure availability of water on time,” he said.

When irrigation secretary was asked whether any issue of logistics was being faced by the department, he said no and replied confidently that machinery has been mobilised. He said water level was receding fast. Irrigation officials would work hard to ensure availability of water so that growers were able to have a good Rabi crop.

However, Sukkur barrage right bank chief engineer Agha Ejaz has ruled out the possibility of Rabi sowing in Keer Thar and Saifullah Magsi canal systems before December 31 given the fact that countless breaches were to be plugged there. “People are, however, sowing the crops on the strength of soil`s moisture,” he said.

He described access as the main issue in plugging breaches, adding that floodwater is receding in 230 kilometres stretch gradually where work would be started soon.

Developing household farming

Post Source: Dawn Economic & Business Review

By Tahir Ali

ESCALATING prices of kitchen items have greatly impacted household budgets in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But the people can improve their livelihood by developing kitchen gardens and poultry farms on a small scale in the backyard of their houses.
Building a small poultry farm or animal-shed can do wonders to the household economies as it helps save money, raises income and has the potential to help meet the household poultry and meat needs. “In villages where houses are spacious, there is always room for sowing seasonal vegetables. In urban areas, where there is no such space available, this can be done in pots, empty boxes etc,” a Peshawar-based teacher Farhad Ali said.

“These kitchen gardens not only have health advantage as they require physical exertion and offer fresh nontoxic commodities, they also have great financial value as surplus produce can be sold in the market. It is also vital as almost half of the people in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa live below poverty line,” he added.

“I myself have such a farm in the backyard of my house where vegetables like cabbage, turnip and spinach have been sown. We not only use these vegetables but also gift them to our neighbours and sell the surplus in the market. It has brought down our kitchen budget by about 50 per cent. It is a good hobby and income-generating activity. I intend to expand it further,” he said.

Government and NGOs can help this culture by providing people with quality vegetable seeds, pesticides, fertiliser and guidance, he added.

One Azmat Ali Khan from Mardan said he had developed a small poultry farm of local fowls in his home. “I built a medium size cage and started with five fowls. Now there are 30 hens and on an average 20 eggs are obtained daily. I have thus saved Rs1,500 which I used to spend on buying eggs per month. Apart from that, I sell the surplus eggs and earn up to Rs3,000 per month. I also sell and buy hens and earn Rs7000-10,000 from this business. Besides, my children have natural poultry meat to eat,” he added.

He said this domestic farming could easily be done even in small houses of urban areas- on rooftops and in garages but with arrangement for light, air and safeguard against harsh weather.

“With agriculture suffering from official negligent and meagre budgetary allocations, it is time for making a case for home-based agriculture. The poor can help themselves by domestic farming and developing poultry farms. It is the main source of living for the people in the hilly terrain of the province, especially in Malakand division and the tribal agencies. It needs to be expanded to the rest of the province,” he said.

“Before Eidul Fitr, I had gone to Thar and bought some goats there. I am earning a lot by selling them as sacrificial animals. I can earn a lot more with this domestic business than waiting for a government job,” says Naufil Shahrukh.

“The main objective of agriculture sector, according to KP`s agriculture policy, is to ensure food security and alleviation of poverty, but it is hardly possible, he said.

“Negligence by successive governments, insufficient budgetary allocations for agriculture and industry/profit-centred private sector has resulted in backwardness of the sector and poverty of farmers. Agriculture accounts for 21 per cent of provincial gross domestic product and about 70 per cent of KP`s population is dependent on it. But the sector`s budget makes up 1.9 per cent of this year`s total core ADP of Rs58 billion,” said Haji Naimat Shah, a farmers` leader.

“It is this culture of domestic agriculture and business that has transformed China into an economic giant. One Nurul Islam from Mardan, who had been to China for over a year, said he was deeply impressed by the domestic agriculture there.

“I visited China last year. We travelled by road and train to several cities and countryside. I was surprised to see crops on all sides of the routes. In homes, offices and on roadsides there are mostly fruit trees and no non-fruit/toxic trees as mostly found in our country.

But what amazed me the most was the overwhelming domestic culture of agriculture there. Almost every household grows vegetables. In houses where there is no space for it, pots are used for the purpose. Old people with sickle and spades are seen working in their `fields` and homes,” he said. “Pakistan should learn from these people and follow their model for developing domestic agriculture,” he added.

“The people should plant fruit trees in their homes and the government should provide free saplings to them. This indeed would be a long-term project but then the next generation would be indebted to us for this act,” Nurul Islam said.

Agri projects under Pak-US Dialogue to start from November : Gondal

Post Source: Dawn.com

 

 

 

ISLAMABAD: Minister for Food and Agriculture, Nazar Muhammad Gondal said on Monday that implementation process of approved agricultural development projects under Pakistan-US Strategic Dialogue would start from next month (November). The Minister said focus of the dialogue was on increasing wheat and cotton production and controlling their diseases in Pakistan, water management and water shortage, provision of seed and fertilizer to help boost the agricultural sector.

Giving details about the dialogue particularly on agri sector in a talk with a news channel, he said allocations were also approved for various agricultural projects including nine million dollars for wheat production and rust disease prevention, nine million dollars for cotton production and disease prevention, nine million dollars for prevention of food and disease in livestock and some other programmes.

Nazar Gondal, who was also part of the delegation that attended the Dialogue in Washington, said the projects would also be financed under Kerry-Lugar Bill and USAid.

“We had informed the US our needs and they tried to meet our demands as per their resources. We have always talked about trade not aid. We are trying to further strengthen our trade with US,” he said, adding that during dialogue, mangoes export to the US had also been accorded approval.

Answering a question, he said grants for water management and water shortage projects had already been approved and even allocation for these projects had been earmarked. The implementation work on these projects would start soon, he added.

Nazar Gondal said Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) is supporting Pakistan in providing fertilizer and seed. The FAO would provide fertilizer for cultivation of canola in 30,000 acre while it will provide seed for wheat.

When asked about flood losses, he said during dialogue with the US, this issue was discussed in detail and Pakistani side provided them the entire estimates and details of agri losses in the affected areas.

He said flood has caused around Rs. 281 billion crop losses. Losses to irrigation system and water channels were also in billion of rupees.

He said a summary has been prepared to provide amount to the farmers in flood affected areas for land preparing, adding decision has already been taken by the ECC to provide them fertilizers and seed free of cost.

Answering a question, he said during strategic dialogue Pakistan provided the US information about losses of floods and managed to realize them our problems.

“We have informed them about our losses, we appreciate their support. Pakistan has suffered huge losses due to flood and it is also trying to facilitate the farmers within its own resources as well,” he said.

Regarding crop insurance, the Minister said during the present regime all the agricultural loans provided to farmers were insured as per policy. The farmers in affected areas who availed insurance protected loans would be facilitated by the companies, he added.

He said the meeting with US President Obama was planned in which all issues were discussed.

Replying to another question about meeting of PPP and PML (Q) representatives, he said the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) was pursuing its policy of reconciliation which was a legacy of Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto. “We are taking it forward,” he added.

He also acknowledged package announced by EU, saying this was a great success of the democratic government.

UN starts wheat aid to 500,000 Pakistani farmers

Post Source: DAWN.com

 

ROME: The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation said it had begun large-scale distribution of wheat seed in Pakistan to 500,000 farming families affected by catastrophic floods earlier this year. The aid means the current planting season that ends in December will still take place, the FAO said in a statement, adding that it would also provide vegetable seeds and fertilizer and assist livestock farmers.

“Wheat is the main staple of the Pakistani diet so it is of vital importance that farmers receive seeds in time,” said Luigi Damiani, a senior FAO official who is heading up the Rome-based organisation’s efforts in Pakistan.

FAO said the aid would benefit a total of five million people, adding: “The food security of tens of millions of Pakistanis is at stake with the current planting season. The next harvest for wheat will not be until spring 2011.”

FAO has so far received 67.44 million dollars (48.88 million euros) for its Pakistan aid plan out of a total funding requirement of 107 million dollars.

Some 2.4 million hectares (six million acres) of farmland were damaged by the floods, FAO said. – AFP

Pakistan eying 25m ton wheat production this year: Aulakh

Post Source: APP

 

"Wheat is being sown in the country with expectations that it will cover 22.34 million acre area this Rabi season." — File Photo

 

 

MULTAN: Punjab agriculture minister Malik Ahmad Ali Aulakh has said that wheat production target for the Rabi season 2010-11 has been set at 25 million ton, some 1.5 million ton above the assessed national food requirement at 23.5 million ton. While talking to newsmen at Fatehpur in district Layyah, Aulakh said that Punjab produces almost 76 per cent of the national wheat production and sowing has already begun in the province, according to a release issued by media liaison unit of Punjab agriculture department on Monday. Wheat is being sown in the country with expectations that it will cover 22.34 million acre area this Rabi season, Aulakh said.

He added that 16.88 million acre area will be brought under wheat sowing in Punjab this year just below last year’s cultivated area of above 17 million acre. Last year’s production was recorded at 17.9 million ton. Punjab’s production target has been set at 19.205 million ton this year.

He said that Punjab gets 90 per cent of its wheat production from irrigated areas and rest from rain-fed areas.

Aulakh said that Punjab government attaches top priority to the agriculture sector because it provides almost 45 per cent job opportunities to the people which goes up to 65 per cent in rural areas.

DG Agriculture (extension and adaptive research) Dr. Anjum Ali Buttar, DG research and pest warning Dr. Noor Ul Islam, chief executive Punjab agriculture research board Dr. Mubarak Ali, besides experts from Ayub Research Institute Faisalabad were also present.

DG agriculture extension said that thirteen wheat varieties have been recommended by the experts for sowing. Some varieties including Sahar 2006, Shafaq 2006, Fareed 2006, Meraj 2008, Ufq 2002 can give better production.

He said that 375 storage facilities were available in Punjab to store wheat while new modern storage facilities were being built to enhance storage capacity by 300,000 tons.

DG research Dr. Noorul Islam told newsmen that new wheat varieties have been developed and provided to growers which can give better yield amid hot weather and shortage of water.

These varieties included Lasani 2008, AARI 2010 and ‘Aas’.

Lasani 2008 has already been multiplied and was available for all growers. However, AARI 2010 and Aas have been given to registered growers only to multiply these varieties for their mass scale distribution among growers. An official meeting to finally pass these varieties will be held sometime this month.

Some more disease resistant varieties were also in the pipeline.

Dr Mubarak Ali said that Punjab government has recommended to the federal government to export 2 million ton wheat so that government should not run out of space for wheat storage and earn foreign exchange at a time when prices of wheat have gone up in the international market.