KARACHI: Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah said on Monday that the federal government was not showing any seriousness towards swarms of locusts, which was not a problem for growers and farmers only but was a matter of national food security.
He was giving a policy statement on an adjournment motion moved by Pakistan Peoples Party member Zulfiqar Ali Shah on the lot of people due to the worst locusts attack on the province. He deplored that the federal government did not appear concerned over the issue.
Taking exception to the “lethargic and non-serious attitude of the federal government”, he announced that the provincial government would not collect taxes for the centre. “I have asked the provincial excise and taxation minister to inform the federal government accordingly,” he added.
Mr Shah said that the locusts were a global issue and its second attack came from Iran.
He said the federal government had failed to fulfil its responsibility and now it was suggesting to the provincial government to use tractors for spraying pesticides in the affected areas of Thar desert. “How can tractors move on sand dunes in the desert?” he said and added that the plant protection department under the federal government was doing nothing.
Asks officials not to collect taxes for the federal government
He said the people had become fed up with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led government and they would not tolerate it any further.
The chief minister said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that the federal government would give six planes for spraying the affected parts of the desert. However, he said, only one plane was sent to the province and that too was not airworthy.
The chief minister said that the provincial government had addressed over 1,100 complaints of locusts attacks on different parts of the province. “We are monitoring the breeding ground of the locusts at taluka level,” he added. He urged the federal government to show seriousness over the locusts issue and fulfil its responsibility.
PPP MPA Zulfiqar Shah, who moved the adjournment motion, said that several districts of the province were badly affected by the locusts, but the federal government did not take any effective measures.
Agriculture Minister Ismail Rahu said the subject of locusts was still under the domain of the federal government even after the devolution of powers to the provinces under the 18th Amendment.
He said the federal government sprayed only 13,000 hectares, while the provincial government sprayed about 53,000 hectares.
Speaking on the issue, Leader of the Opposition Firdous Shamim Naqvi said the provincial government did not give replies to the question on provincial budgets.
He asked why the provincial government did not chalk out a plan to combat locusts at district level.
Mr Naqvi said the provincial government was holding the federal government responsible for its (Sindh government’s) inefficiency.
PPP member Rana Hamir Singh, Grand Democratic Alliance member Nusrat Sehar Abbasi and PTI members Sidra Imran and Adeel Ahmed were among those who spoke on the locusts’ issue.
Earlier, while replying to lawmakers’ verbal and written queries during the Question Hour, Labour and Human Resources Minister Saeed Ghani said that no bonded labour had been reported in the province.
He said Sindh was the only province which had enacted 16 laws on the labour department after the 18th Amendment.
He said that with regard to forced labour in the province, vigilance committees had been formed in 10 districts under the supervision of the deputy commissioners, while letters had been written to the relevant commissioners and deputy commissioners for the formation of committees in more districts.
Answering another question, he said preparations had been completed under the Workers Welfare Board Sindh to provide flats and houses to labourers and workers, but this was delayed due to the Covid-19 spread. “Under an agreement between the department of labour and Unicef, a survey will be launched to eliminate child labour in the province and it will then be implemented under the 2017 law.”
He said the government was committed to ending forced labour in Sindh and in that regard the Sindh Assembly had already passed the Sindh Forced Labour System (Elimination) Bill 2015 from the assembly.
In reply to a supplementary question, he said that under this law, there was a penalty of two to five years and a fine of Rs100,000 or more or both. He, however, said that “we cannot say that no forced labour is taking place in the province”, but no one had lodged any complaint with the department or the committees concerned in that regard.
When opposition member Aslam Abro demanded a report on flats, houses and plots from the Workers Welfare Board Sindh, the provincial minister told the house that 18,725 workers in the province had been provided those facilities.
Replying to another question, he said that during 2016-18, Rs15,700 million in the form of marriage grant, Rs29,300m in the form of death grant and Rs43,195m in the form of scholarship had been provided to the workers and labourers.
Published in Dawn, June 30th, 2020