Pro-worker outfits to speak out for the have-nots

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LAHORE: Some pro-worker outfits have decided to observe the ‘World Week against Inequality’ by organizing demonstrations, rallies and street theatres for highlighting the increasing gap between the haves and have-nots in the country.

Leaders of Haqooq-i-Khalq Movement (HKM), Labour Education Foundation (LEF), Pakistan Kissan Rabita Committee (PKRC) and Progressive Labour Federation (PLF) told a press conference here on Sunday that the protest week would be observed parallel to the World Economic Forum being held in Davos from Jan 21-24 where they alleged, the rich plan how to further plunder the poor across the globe.

HKM leader Ammar Ali Jan said the free market and privatization era witnessed in the last couple of decades in the name of development gave the world only political instability, thanks to increases in the unequal distribution of resources.

In Pakistan too, he said, the situation had gone from bad to worse making the successive governments approach the IMF for managing resultant economic crises. The IMF formula always worked against the poor because allocations for social sectors like health and education facilities were reduced and indirect taxes imposed that hurt the poor more than the rich, he lamented.

Responding to a query, he said the masses were not coming out on roads against the anti-poor government policies, for individualism had been promoted through various means reducing the people to their own homes and life and those who dared to raise their voice have been made an example by trying them under the terrorism law.

Seeing a ray of hope in the recently held students’ march, he said efforts were on to organize farmers and trade unionists from various sectors for building a movement till budget days this year for forcing the government to announce subsidies and concessions for the poor in the next year allocations instead of the rich.

Saima Zia of the PKRC regretted that womenfolk are the worst victims of inequality whether they are at workplaces or at home. She said the women working in formal or informal sectors were paid less than their male counterparts while housewives suffer violence by their husbands frustrated by lower wages.

Farooq Tariq said protest demonstrations, rallies and street theatres had been planned for Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad, and Multan, while other towns would also be included to vent out public anger against economic inequalities and government’s anti-poor policies.

He alleged that the Davos World Economic Forum of the rich was in fact meant to plan how to plunder the poor more. He lamented that the PTI, which came into power on the slogans of eliminating corruption and providing the people jobs and shelters, had caused an increase in the bribe rates of officials. He said the houses of people living for more than a century in the Harbanspura area are being bulldozed by the administration only because they didn’t bother to have legal documents of their properties.

On the other hand, he said, the government had offered Rs12 billion bailout package to “gamblers” at the Pakistan Stock Exchange.

The anti-encroachment drive, he said, was actually aimed at enhancing bribery rate of patwaris and tehsildars.

LEF’s Khalid Mahmood said the existing wages are failing to meet even the basic needs of workers, therefore, the government should reframe its policies and enhance its spending for the social sector as well as reasonably increase wages of public and private sector employees to cut the increasing inequalities.

PLF’s Niaz Khan said a worker needs at least Rs38,000 a month to meet one’s family’s basic needs and fixing the minimum wages at Rs17,000 a month is a joke with them.

Hasan Rana of the PTCL workers union decried the discrimination being showed by the government in the payment of secretariat allowance. The allowance should be paid to all employees whether they work in the civil secretariat or at any other office.

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