KARACHI: “If you go to a village in Sindh, you’ll see no difference in the level of humans and animals there. They are all covered in the same dirt,” said noted writer Noorul Huda Shah.

She was speaking at a seminar on Sindh’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (PRS) organised by the Sindh Directorate of Urban and Regional Policy (SDURP) in collaboration with the European Union’s Technical Assistance Team at a local hotel here on Tuesday.

“Many of us have our roots in Sindh. But after reaching certain positions despite coming from humble backgrounds we forget our base. When we talk of poverty in our nice big air-conditioned rooms while enjoying cushy positions, ‘poverty’ is just a technical word. The biggest problem is that we are ourselves responsible for the miserable circumstances of the people of Sindh,” she added.

“Most of the people in Sindh’s villages are suffering from Hepatitis C. The issue of health there is painful. Women there die in pain while being carried to hospitals on donkey carts. Their blood is on our hands,” she said.

“During election time, there is celebration and a festival-type atmosphere in our villages. There is song and music. Men dance to the beat of the drums. And after the votes have been cast, the people go back to their dusty and dirty environs. Don’t they even deserve an ambulance? Their lives are limited. Their wishes limited. But giving them their due would mean progress for this country. Sweeping them under the rug is not progress,” she said.

While sharing his presentation on the PRS, the Strategic Adviser of the EU-funded Sindh Union Council Community and Economic Strengthening Support (Success) programme’s technical assistance team, Dr Kaiser Bengali looked at the pilot project’s implementation in Chuhar Jamali, a small town in Sujawal district.

The Sindh government has selected this town for a pilot project to implement the PRS. This includes the implementation of the town-to-market infrastructure, improvement in the quality of education, healthcare, water supply and drainage. This would be supplemented by the construction of quality roads to facilitate access to the Rural Growth Centres (RGC), which also includes the upgrade of 17 existing roads totalling 203kms in a 30km radius.

“The consolidation of infrastructure and services around the town of Chuhar Jamali would result in poverty alleviation and improvement of the living standards of the people there,” said Dr Bengali.

He also said that the project team had identified at least four RGC sites in district Thatta, which would be developed. “Gharo is identified for education, Ghorabari for health, Ver for the economic centre and Jhimpir (Keenjhar Lake) and Keti Bunder (coast area) as tourist sites.”

Coming back to Chuhar Jamali, he said that if implemented in full, all these things can turn it into a model for what the rural scene and life can be. He said that the process to date has had the full support of the higher echelons of the government. But implementation is now the domain of the district level administrations.

“This is where there is danger of a slowdown. Therefore active political support is urgently needed if all the work done so far is not to be confined to files because our work ends on Dec 31,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2021

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