6 Oct 2018 Ferado

25 workers hospitalised after taking toxic water

KASUR, : Up to 25 labourers of a textile mills were hospitalised on Oct 4 after consuming toxic water on the mills premises at Basti Lal Shah, Kot Radha Kishan.

Of them, five were reported to be in a serious condition and were referred to Lahore’s Jinnah Hospital.

The incident sparked protest among the workers that took to road against the mills administration. They blocked Multan Road by burning tyres.

The incident occurred at AZGARD-9 factory in Kot Radha Kishan. The condition of dozens of workers started deteriorating when they drank water from the canteen of the mills. The canteen gets water from a tank on the mills premises.

Rescue 1122 and local residents shifted the workers to Manga Mandi Social Security Hospital and the Kot Radha Kishan Tehsil Headquarters Hospital. Those admitted to the Manga Mandi Social Security Hospital are Usman, Nadeem Tariq, Umair, Fiaz, Altaf Khan, Muhammad Nadeem, Muhammad Afzal, Altaf Ahmed, Iftikhar and Asif. Most of the workers are of ages 20 to 30.

Families of the workers rushed to the mills while a large number of people of the surroundings also gathered at the scene.

According to some workers, the mills administration fled after seeing workers in rage.

The tehsil administration issued a statement rejecting rumours that five workers had died while dozens were in a critical condition.

The police arrived at the scene and locked the gates of the mills.

Scores of mills workers staged a protest demonstration in front of the mills and chanted slogans against the mills administration. They also sought legal action against the mill owner.

Due to the intervention of police, the workers moved to Manga Road. Later, they turned to Multan Road and blocked it for traffic for a couple of hours.

6 Oct 2018 Ferado

Payment of outstanding dues to pensioners within a week ordered

Rawalpindi, Municipal Corporation Rawalpindi (MCR) Chief Officer Syed Shafqat Raza has ordered payment of outstanding pension dues to all retired employees within a week and also removed an official from the MCR Pension Branch for creating hurdles in the way of retired employees.

The decision to this effect was taken after the retired employees of Municipal Corporation Rawalpindi (MCR) Wednesday staged a protest against not payment of pension and other dues and removal of Azmat Rasool alleging he was creating difficulties for retired employees.

The sanitation workers stopped all garbage lifting vehicles in front of MCR office and warned to throw garbage on roads if their genuine demands were not accepted. They raised full throated slogans against MCR and demanded resolution of their problems forthwith otherwise they will stop lifting garbage from the city.

Municipal Corporation Rawalpindi (MCR) Chief Officer Syed Shafqat Raza immediately took up the issue and called leaders of protesters for talks. Sanitary Workers Union Chairman Changez Bhatti, President Haji Farooq and General Secretary Younas met the chief officer MCR on the occasion.

On the assurance of Chief Officer, the protesters called off their strike.

The Chief Officer (CO) Municipal Corporation Rawalpindi Syed Shafqat Raza told ‘The News’ that he has ordered all pension related issues of the retired employees should be resolved at the earliest and they should be paid pension and other dues within seven days. I have also replaced, Azmat Rasool, from the pension branch,” he added.

He said that it was his first priority to pay pension to retired employees. “I will never spare delaying tactics in pension cases,” he claimed.

The Sanitary Workers Union Chairman Changez Bhatti, President Haji Farooq and other leaders said that due to non-clearance of pensions to them, the retired employees are failing to meet both ends.

6 Oct 2018 Ferado

Community schools: Unpaid for seven months, teachers demand salaries

ISLAMABAD, On the eve of World Teachers’ Day — when the world was paying tribute to the teaching fraternity for the role they play in an educated society — hundreds of teachers running community schools in far-off areas were sitting under the open sky in the federal capital demanding their salaries and service structure.

Dozens of teachers, both men and women, hailing from different cities have been staging a sit-in in front of the National Press Club in Islamabad for several days to impress on the relevant authorities the urgency of their concerns.

The teachers, who operate non-formal community schools, said that they have not been paid for the past seven months and have been working for years without any service structure, hence there is no concept of promotion or upgrade.

Around 13,300 teachers work in the non-formal primary education programme called Basic Education Community Schools (BECS), imparting education to around 600,000 students.

The programme runs in all provinces and regions of the country, primarily in rural areas where formal schools do not exist within a two-kilometre area. Operating under the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, it prefers to enrol girls and employ women to impart education in its schools who have a ratio of 60 per cent and 70 per cent respectively.

Teachers at these schools have been demanding their rights for years but are still without any job security while working on the meagre salaries of Rs8,000 per month — around half the minimum wage.

“Teachers [working in these schools] are hand-to-mouth and now our relatives and neighbourhood shopkeepers have refused to lend us any money or grocery items on credit,” complained Naimatullah, the general secretary of BECS teachers’ representative body.

“Only God knows how we have been living without any money as our families depend on this meagre fee which has not been released for the past seven months,” he cried, adding that while they are burdened with ‘building the nation’ through basic education, they get paid less than a day-labourer.

Later at a news conference, the teachers said they have are all qualified with professional degrees but after working for the schools for 14 to 22 years, they have yet to get a service structure.

While various courts decided in favour of their regularisation, the government has been reluctant and has challenged those decisions in the Supreme Court.

Women BECS teachers complained that they were not allowed to set up tents outside the club and have been forced to stay under the open sky, adding that they did not have sufficient money to even take up rooms in any of the motels in the federal capital.

They added that a senior, elderly teacher fractured her foot during a stampede during their protest but they do not have any means to treat her.

Later on Thursday, State Minister for Interior Shehryar Khan Afridi met with the teachers and heard their issues.

Conceding that their predicament was a failure of the state that old and frail teachers were protesting on the roads demanding their unpaid salaries, he ensured them that their issues will be resolved.

The minister conceded that when they were on the roads during their four-month-long protest against the government, they used to think that matters could be resolved by simply pressing a button. However, after taking over as the minister, he had learnt that it takes time to effect changes since certain procedures need to be followed in every government matter.

He added that a meeting will be arranged between a representative of the teachers and with the education and finance ministers to resolve their issues

8 Sep 2018 Ferado

Revenue officials demand arrest of fellows’ attackers

KASUR,: Revenue officials of Kasur, Chunian, Kot Radha Kishan and Pattoki tehsils continued their strike on Sep 5 for the second consecutive day against police’s failure to arrest the suspects who allegedly attacked a revenue team, including a naib tehsildar, that went to a farmhouse to collect dues on Monday.

The suspects had fired in the air, injuring an official, and also attacked the official vehicle. Chunian police had registered a case against the suspects, but could not arrest them. This sparked a protest on Tuesday against police.

According to the first information report (FIR) lodged on the complaint of revenue official Tariq Mahmood Khan under sections 337, 379, 427, 186, 506-B, 342, 148 and 149 of PPC, a revenue team went to a farmhouse in village Dhig for recovery of Rs26,600 of fine and Rs6,800 of canal water charges from farmer Pervaiz Ahmed. The team arrested Ahmed and demanded the pending amount that he flatly refused.

When the revenue team was bundling Ahmed into their jeep, at least 15 of his employees attacked the team with guns, bricks and clubs. They also got Ahmed released from custody. The attackers held revenue officials Noor Ahmed, Muhammad Naeem, Imran Rasheed and Hassan at gun point.

Complainant Khan further stated that the Chunian assistant commissioner and tehsildar also reached the spot, held dialogue with the suspects and got the revenue officials released.

According to Chunian Station House Officer Zulfiqar Ali, police were investigating the incident.

The protesting revenue officials have threatened to go on an indefinite strike if the attackers were not arrested.

8 Sep 2018 Ferado

Unemployed youth and population time bomb

Sep 7: We are a country with one of the largest young populations – around 59 million youth – and a high birth rate of 1.43%. The resources are fast depleting with this fast-growing population and jobless youth. High population growth rate, the frustration amongst youth is phenomenal and directly related, causing scarcity of water and food, and malnutrition, while extensive unemployment of the youth leads to ‘have-nots’ syndrome, increased crime rate and ultimately terrorism.

Our birth rate is 21.9 per 1,000 women, while India’s is 19 and Bangladesh’s 18.8. We have one of the highest population growth rates, which is 1.43% as compared to our neighbours – India 1.17% and Bangladesh 1.04%. In literacy, we rank the lowest at 146. It seems our neigbouring countries, with same demographics and issues, have managed to curtail their birth rate and improve literacy, signifying the fact that there is something wrong being done by us.

The population time bomb is staring in our face as our resources will not and already do not match the requirements of the growing population. Malnutrition was highlighted by the prime minister in his maiden speech. But the core reason to be addressed is lack of food, water and health resources to meet the needs of a fast-growing population.

Immediate measures that can be taken by the PTI government include incentives like fiscal and tax benefits for smaller families and awareness through massive publicity campaign. Long-term measures are to improve the literacy rate and an inclusion of females in direct workforce, as that would allow them more control of decision pertaining to their fertility.

On the other hand, our unemployment rate is 6%. In that case, where will the ‘10 million’ jobs the government has promised come from when there is no direct investment in the country and entrepreneurs are not keen to invest given the time-consuming legal system, and inefficiency of doing business in Pakistan. Setting up a factory alone requires minimum 21 approvals from 21 various departments. Also the witch-hunting for getting corrupt persons has caused legitimate businesses to suffer. While we must go after uprooting corruption, all businesses are not corrupt and such actions are actually discouraging legitimate entrepreneurs. As a result, overseas or local investors are at present not keen to invest in Pakistan. International contracts have also been challenged and terminated, even the ones with sovereign guarantees, and investors do not consider this a legally safe environment for their investments.

Moreover, with respect to ease of Doing Business Index, Pakistan has a low ranking of 147 (out of 190 countries), which is a non-starter for any investor and if this carries on not even a million jobs can be created. CPEC too has failed to create many jobs as Chinese companies prefer to employ their own people.

However, if immediate reforms such as 1) boosting investor confidence in Pakistan by solid reforms like one-window facilities for managing companies, factories and industrial undertakings; 2) Honouring contracts done by Pakistan governments in the past; 3) Stopping harassment of entrepreneurs; and 4) Massive campaign to guide or mentor the youth into taking educational or vocational courses in sectors where jobs are available, could help achieve the target.

In many countries, studies are annually conducted and lists are compiled, based on industrial trends for availability of jobs, suggesting as to what set of skills and education is required for job seekers. Such priority lists should be published and a special employment cell should be set up in each province to advise job seekers. This will guide the youth to choose their degrees, courses and vocational qualification.

These are short-term immediate solutions which can in the next two years resolve some of the issues. However, a serious long-term policy pertaining to family planning and youth mentorship needs to be developed. The government should consider setting up separate ministries for family planning and youth affairs, which should formulate and implement both short- and long-term goals.