Peasant (Haris), daily wage labours, brick kiln labour and religious minorities in Sindh today faces grave atrocities and exploitations. They depict the worst picture of slavery in the 21st century, while no political party has a clear and comprehensive program for their liberation and no provision can be seen in fiscal budgets for welfare of peasants of Sindh. There are many aspects of this injustice, in which landlords, contractors, traders and local and international capitalism are involved side by side. Presently, the feudal system is the number one enemy of the Haris and other labourers of Sindh and the State institutions are fully supporting these feudal lords.
There is no exact calculation of the number of bonded labourers. Research by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) in 2000 estimated that the total number of sharecroppers (haris) in debt bondage across the whole of Pakistan was over 1.8 million people. Furthermore, surveys showed that more than 6.7 million people are involved in the practice of begar, which refers to a traditional system of family labour which is unpaid, compulsory, and amounts to debt bondage. Hence the calculated number of people kept in bondage based on the PILER study amounts to more than 8.6 million. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in 1994 estimated that approximately 20 million are kept in forced labour.
Agriculture Sector: Agriculture remains a significant economic activity in Pakistan, employing nearly 45 percent of the total workforce. While it generates about a quarter of the national GDP, the agricultural sector is not very productive. Skewed landownership and exploitative production practices remain significant factors in perpetuating this lackluster agricultural performance.
According to the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER), currently among other provinces, Sindh has the highest absolute landlessness: 26% or two million households have no land. Also, 26% of 700,000 households possess the lowest share in land. A majority of rural people earn a living with farming. Agriculture employs 13.46 million people (7.74 million are rural and 5.72 are urban workers). But for the majority, working arrangements in agriculture, wage work, tenant farming, share cropping, are exploitative and yield little earnings. It is in this condition that peasants are pushed into the quagmire of marginalization where they do not receive fair wages (Rs30 per day in some areas), face sexual harassment, lack of access to shelter and a dearth of crop insurance. There is no record keeping, no right to unionization, and debt-bondage.
Brick Kilns: The brick kiln industry is rampant with cases of bonded labour especially in the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. Research carried out by PILER in Pakistan in 2000 indicates that up to 1 million brick kiln workers in Pakistan are bonded. Human Rights Watch interviews with brick kiln forced labourers reveal consistent cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment, including physical punishment, detainment and denial of the right to organize.
They are employed in various processes like brick making, kiln stacking and unloading and baking bricks. A majority of women and children work in the process of making unbaked bricks yet are not compensated for their labour; but acknowledged as labour when made to inherit debts. Wages are based on piece rates i.e. the amount of bricks made per day but the amount is so minimal that a labourer has barely enough to feed his family, let alone pay off a debt.
GRDO, under its thematic area “Social Development”, prioritize Livelihood as top priority of peasants and agricultural workers. GRDO aims to improve the livelihoods and economic security of peasants and agricultural workers through in-kind support to restore and/or protect the farm production capacities and off-farm income generating activities of vulnerable peasant families, to enhance the skills and knowledge base of men and women peasant farmers, landless people and unemployed youth through technical support in post-harvest management and vocational skills and empowering peasant organisations, youth and women groups, etc and their constituent Hari members to enhance their natural resource base (land, water, vegetation, etc) while strengthening their resilience to future shocks.