SOHBATPUR is a small town in the east of Balochistan. The larger district has a population of over 200,000 people, and agriculture is the mainstay of the local economy as the district has fertile agricultural fields growing rice, wheat, chickpeas and mustard.
However, Sohbatpur is a class-ridden society. The upper classes own lands and dominate the politics and economy of the region.
They enjoy political benefits in the form of jobs, development funds and influence over local administration and police. A vast majority of the population in the district, however, belongs to the working class.
Nearly 80 per cent of the people in the district happen to be poor peasants. They face huge economic distress due to rising inflation and high levels of taxes. Some of them are even unable to feed themselves and their children.
Also, the agriculture in the district is underdeveloped. The floods last year further devastated the agriculture of Sohbatpur on which the poor peasants rely for their bread and butter. Further- more, the rising prices of agriculture inputs, such as seeds and fertilisers, are creating severe economic hardship for the peasants.
Many of the poor farmers are also under the debt of big landowners who exploit them fully and use them as bonded labourers for generations. Politically, the working class and the peasantry are utterly powerless.
Their political aspirations are often ignored. They are, for all intents and purposes, ‘politically orphaned’. The upper class is able to impose its will on the poor people in alliance with privileged land owners.
The need for large-scale social, economic and political reforms is a rather pressing one in Sohbatpur. Who, then, will bring these reforms is a million-dollar question.
Published in Dawn, February 6th, 2024