The Hari Welfare Association (HWA) has released its seventh report The State of Peasant Rights in Sindh 2021 with the technical support of the Norwegian Human Rights Fund (NHRF). It contributes to a better understanding of peasant rights in Sindh and to identify areas for interventions to realize the fundamental rights enshrined in the provincial laws, the Constitution of Pakistan, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.
This report documents and provides a clear context on the struggle for peasant rights in Sindh. It is also a way to record developments in the field of agriculture and labor that directly and indirectly affect peasants and rural workers. As in earlier reports, it, too, provides recommendations for the provincial government and the civil society to play their role in realizing the rights of the peasants and rural workers in the province.
It highlights the changes, initiatives, and activities undertaken by the stakeholders in the year 2021. Additionally, it highlights what was needed but was not done because because of the respective governments’ lack of commitment, political will, and seriousness. Unfortunately, neither the federal government nor the provincial government has prioritized peasants’ and rural laborers’ rights.
The Sindh High Court’s (SHC) pro-peasant verdict in October 2019 and the implementation of the Sindh Women Agriculture Workers Act (SWAWA) were two key advances in the peasant movement in 2019. Although both developments are important milestones, yet there was no progress beyond the legislative acts in 2021.
The decision of the SHC could have a significant impact on the feudal system, leading to the development of a fair mechanism to regulate the interaction between peasants and landowners. The landed elite has traditionally benefited from the current agricultural system. It was disheartening to see the provincial government go into appeal against the Sindh High Court judgement. Due to public pressure, the provincial government did say that they would withdraw the appeal from the Supreme Court of Pakistan, but that did not happen.
The SWAWA was passed in 2019, but has not been implemented so far. The GoS has yet to appoint or notify the board that would oversee the Act’s provisions. Furthermore, women agricultural workers have not been registered under this Act at the grassroots level, and no measures have been put in place to address this.
The Act is unquestionably a watershed moment for Sindh’s peasant and female agricultural workers. However, this legislation may not fill the vacuum, as the Sindh Tenancy Act 1950, the Sindh Tenancy Amendment Act 2013, the Sindh Bonded Labor (Abolition) System Act 2015, and the Sindh Industrial Relations Act 2013 have not served their intended purposes due to the GoS’s failure to enforce these laws.
Relevant laws have not been notified and there have been no budgetary allocations, assignment of human resources, or public awareness campaigns for the implementation of the laws. SWAWA may take the same course.
Given these circumstances, this report documents and provides a clear context on the struggle for peasant rights in Sindh. Perhaps, there is no peasant rights struggle except a few activities by the NGOs. This report is also a way to record developments in the field of agriculture and labour, which directly and indirectly affect peasants and rural workers. As in earlier reports, this report also carries recommendations for the provincial government and the civil society to play their role in realizing the rights of the peasants and rural workers in the province.