KARACHI: The Sindh cabinet on Monday decided to lift a decades-old ban on students’ unions in educational institutions in the province.

In its five-hour-long deliberations, the cabinet also approved draft prison rules for release of elderly prisoners and creation of the Shaheed Allah Bukhsh Soomro University of Art, Design and Heritage at Jamshoro.

The meeting of the cabinet was chaired by Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and attended by Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah, ministers, advisers and officers concerned.

The draft law with regard to lifting the ban on students’ unions was prepared in the light of the suggestion of the chief minister to activate and regulate the unions in the province.

Law Adviser Murtaza Wahab presented the draft Sindh Students Union Bill 2019.

According to the draft law, a union shall consist of seven to 11 members elected by the students of the particular educational institution every year.

The functions of the unions shall include work for maintaining social and academic welfare of the students; ensure the rights and interest of all students; organise social, cultural, intellectual or other extracurricular events which help in forming a student’s personality and make them responsible citizens and assist the educational institution in maintaining discipline.

The draft law restricts students from participating in politics; sugar cane rate notified at Rs194 per 40kg

The draft law says the students shall not indulge in any prejudicial activity in any manner nor indulge in political activities.

At this, some members of the cabinet said that the average age of college students was 18 and they had the right to vote. They questioned as to how it could be possible to stop a student eligible for casting vote to not indulge in political activities.

The chief minister proposed the members to approve the draft law and refer it to the provincial assembly for introduction and then send it to the standing committee on law for further deliberations.

He also directed the law adviser to involve civil society, educationists and political scientists to seek their input and then make it an ideal law, which must undo the influence of martial law from educational institutions and allow students to breathe and flourish.

The cabinet approved the bill and sent it to the assembly.

Rs192 per 40kg price for sugar cane

On the request of the agriculture department, the cabinet fixed minimum sugar cane price for 2019-20 at Rs192 per 40 kg for the current crop season.

The cabinet also approved quality premium at the rate of 50 paisa for 40kg to be paid by sugar mills to cane growers at the end of the crushing season. The crushing season for 2019-20 was already started from Nov 30.

The agriculture department informed the cabinet that the Pakistan Sugar Mills Association (PSMA) had approached the federal government for allowing them to export surplus sugar stocks and demanded grant of cash freight support of Rs20 per kg due to low prices in the international market.

The federal government allowed the export of four million tonnes of sugar. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) granted cash freight support of Rs10.7 per kg on export of sugar to be equally shared by the federal and the provincial governments.

The cabinet had approved the proposal and now the Sindh government had to pay Rs3.39 billion as its share for payment to the SBP against the claim of cash freight support.

Draft prison rules

The home department presented draft rules for the Sindh Prisons & Corrections Services Act 2019.

The rules proposed confining of all prisoners in safe and secure custody whilst ensuring their fundamental rights as enshrined in the Constitution.

The rules call for assisting the welfare and rehabilitation of prisoners and their reintegration into society as law-abiding citizens through provisions of reformation programmes. All sentenced prisoners must participate in reformation process.

An environment would be created in which prisoners would be able to live with dignity and develop the ability to lead a socially responsible and crime-free life and such opportunities would be made available to all prisoners.

The rules call for early release of elderly prisoners — male 65 and female 60 — who completed half portion of their imprisonment, at par with international standards.

Recalling that the Centre of Excellence of Art, Design and Heritage Jamshoro was working under the control of Mehran University, the cabinet was told that it needed to be upgraded to a university.

The universities and boards department suggested that the centre had its own building and necessary staff and it may be created as the Shaheed Allah Bukhsh Soomro University of Art, Design and Heritage Jamshoro Act, 2019.

The cabinet approved the proposal and referred it to the assembly.

The meeting also formed a committee comprising Labour Minister Saeed Ghani, Energy Minister Imtiaz Sheikh and law adviser to consider in detail a proposal to exempt collection of workers welfare fund and workers profit participation fund from the Thar coal and power projects.

The cabinet also deferred a proposal to allow the Sui Southern Gas Company 15 acres of reserve forestland for carrying out drilling activity to explore oil and gas in Larkana area for 15 years.

Published in Dawn, December 10th, 2019