WORKERS march outside the press club on Saturday.—White Star
WORKERS march outside the press club on Saturday.—White Star

KARACHI: People from all walks of life, including labourers, home-based workers and rights activists, observed a ‘black day’ by holding a rally from Regal Chowk to the Karachi Press Club on Saturday against the terrible price hike.

Chanting slogans, they also voiced their agony about not getting water, electricity and gas despite paying the bills through their noses.

The rally, organised by the Home-Based Women Workers Federation and the National Trade Union Federation, criticised the recent federal budget, which they said was made in collaboration with the International Monetary Fund and that it was going to break the common man’s back. They said that basic necessities such as wheat flour, cooking oil, rice, lentils, milk, meat, fruit and even vegetables had become so expensive that they were now beyond the reach of the common people.

There were demands for the minimum wage of workers to be set at Rs30,000 at least. “Otherwise we are going to starve!” screamed one protester. “We don’t even have money to feed our children. How are we to send them to school?” she said.

Call for minimum wage to be set at Rs30,000

Further demands by the protesters included a 30 per cent increase in the salaries and pensions of government employees, making pensions equal to minimum wages, more hospitals and schools to be set up with a reasonable public transport system.

“The country is suffering because of the bad choices and poor policies of the government. Why should the common people have to bear the brunt of that?” said another protester.

“According to this new budget, there will be up to a 200 per cent increase in our utility bills. Now we have to make a choice between eating food to stay alive or paying utility bills,” said a woman who had copies of her electric bills with her. “We only have two fans and three or four lights in our small home with a small fridge, but look at the astronomical bills we receive,” she said showing the bills which were all more than Rs10,000.

Others there wanted to know: “Where are the people displaced due to the Karachi Circular Railway scheme to go?” “What are the poor shopkeepers displaced in the name of removing illegal encroachments to do?” And “Who is going to pay for the devaluation of the rupee?”

Published in Dawn, July 7th, 2019