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August 25, 2019

Sindh cabinet okays agri workers’ bill to provide social security to women

Karachi

August 25, 2019

The Sindh cabinet taking a historic decision which it termed the first-ever in Asia has approved the ‘Sindh Women Agricultural Workers Draft Bill-219’ under which women workers engaged in agriculture, livestock, fisheries and other agro-based work would be entitled to enjoy all the rights and benefits being given to labourers/workers of industrial and other sectors.

The approval was accorded at the meeting held under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah at the New Sindh Secretariat on Saturday. The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Mumtaz Shah, all provincial ministers, advisers, including newly inducted Nisar Khuhro, Aijaz Shah Shirazi, and relevant officers.

The CM said that over three quarters of women workers were in the agriculture sector in the country. “Over half of these women are reported as being unpaid family helpers,” he said and added that PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto had emphasized the need for supporting women agricultural workers.

The bill was presented by Sindh Labour Department in the cabinet and Labour Minister Saeed Ghani shared its main features with the cabinet. The CM termed its approval a historic decision and realisation of Shaheed Banezir Bhutto’s dream of women empowerment.

The draft bills says that the woman agricultural worker shall receive pay in cash or in kind for any agricultural work undertaken individually, or as part of a family unit, on land and livestock belonging to her own family, or to someone else which shall be equal to pay received by male workers for the same work.

“The pay to a woman agricultural worker shall not be less than the minimum wages fixed by the government from time to time and working day shall not exceed eight working hours and shall not commence until one hour after daybreak. The worker shall also be entitled to 90 days of maternity leave.”

The law gives a woman worker the right to access government agricultural, livestock, fisheries and other services, credit, social security, subsidies and asset transfers in her own individual right or in association with other women agricultural workers. “A woman worker shall receive a written contract of employment if she so demands. The new law also gives the right of woman worker of collective bargaining, social welfare, including child health, community development, economic profit and for accessing publicly supplied goods and services.”

Registration

The government through the labour department will register women agricultural workers at every union council level. The registered women would be given the Benazir Card and card holders will be able to make their group or association.

BWSO

The Sindh government will set up Benazir Women’s Support Organisation (BWSO) under the labour department with an Endowment Fund to provide technical and financial assistance to women workers.

The organisation would register women, issue them cards, and make their database for their support.

Definition

In the draft law, agriculture has been defined as “all activities related to cultivation of crops, animal husbandry, poultry, livestock rearing, apiculture, gardening, fishing, aquaculture, sericulture, vermiculture, horticulture, floriculture, agro-forestry, or any other farming activity carried out through self-employment, tenurial cultivation, share cropping, or other types of cultivation, collection, use and sale of minor or non-timber forest produce by virtue of ownership rights”.

The cabinet approved the bill and referred it to the provincial assembly.

Regularisation of employees

The Sindh Health Department presented a case of 83 employees, including faculty of the Khairpur Medical College, for regularisation.

Special Assistant to CM Nawab Wassan said that the matter was very serious as the staff of the college, including teachers, had been working on a contract basis since 2013, and the future of the students was also at stake.

Minister for Health Dr Azra Pechuho said that out of 183 employee, 55 were professors, associate professors and lecturers; therefore, she recommended their regularisation. The cabinet members supported the proposal and approved the regularisation of all the employees.

Hospital Management Board

The cabinet approved another important draft bill called ‘Sindh Teaching Hospitals (Establishment of Management Board) Act-2019.

The law will apply to all teaching hospitals which would operate through a management board. The vice chancellor or the principal of the medical college will be chairperson of the board.

The powers and functions of the board include approving and monitoring the overall plan, policies, and programmes of the hospitals with a view to upgrading hospital services and facilities in conformity with the government policy.

The board will have the power to approve development and recurring budgets, prepare detailed regulations and procedure for financial management. It will also evaluate, examine and approve the annual and periodic reports of teaching hospitals. It will have the authority to assess and review the charge in the form of fees for admissions, clinical and procedural services and other facilities.

A fund would be established under the title of ‘Teaching Hospital Management Board Fund’, which would be utilised by the board.

Food fortification

The food department presented ‘The Sindh Food Fortification Bill 2019” in the cabinet with the observation that Pakistan was notably suffering from malnutrition and it was rated as having one of the worst rates of malnutrition.

The 2018 National Nutrition Survey says that micronutrition deficiency is the major contributing factors. Half of the women and children are far below the acceptable levels of nutrition. Iron, folic acid, Lodine, Zinc, vitamin A & B are major micronutrient deficiencies. Therefore, nutrition in childhood has profound effects on immunity, growth and cognitive development.

Sharing food fortification strategy, the food department said food fortification pertains to the addition of key vitamins and minerals for example iron, Acid Zink, Vitamin B-12, Iodine, Vitamin A & D staple foods to prevent nutritional deficiencies. The food fortification provides a nutritional benefit without requiring consumers to change eating habits or purchase patterns. Wheat flour fortification with iron, Folic Acid, Zink and Vitamin B-12 costs 25 paisa per kg or Rs5 per 20kg bag.

The cabinet approved mandatory legislation for a complete mechanism for micronutrients, registration of manufacturers and importers of these foods, warranties, quality assurance, packing, labelling, transportation, storage and display.

The Sindh Food Authority will have sufficient powers for enforcement and implementation of this law. The cabinet approved the proposed law and directed the food department to present a detailed draft bill in the next cabinet.

The cabinet also approved constitution of a 62-member Provincial Advisory Council for empowerment of persons with disabilities. The council will advise the government on policies, programmes, legislation and projects with respect to disabilities. It will develop and take up the causes of the persons with disabilities with the authorities concerned.

The cabinet also approved and appointed an eight-member Sindh Minimum Wage Board, a 14-member board of the governing body of the Sindh Employees Social security Institution (SESSI) under the chairmanship of the labour minister.

Trauma centre: The health department told the cabinet that the Dr Yasmin Kharal, the in-charge of the Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto Institute of Trauma Centre Karachi has retired. Therefore, she may be appointed as executive director.

The cabinet discussed her qualifications and re-employment issues and then authorised the health minister to appoint any grade BS-20 doctor as in-charge of the Trauma Centre and then through a proper procedure appoint a full-time executive director of the centre.

Katchi Abadis Authority

The cabinet approved a Rs477.327 million budget of the Sindh Katchi Abadis Authority for the year 2018-19 and also approved its budget of Rs464.237 million for the year 2017-18.

The CM directed the minister for SKAA to revamp his department and come up with an ambitious plan to upgrade residential facilities in Katchi Abadis and reconstruct those located in slump areas.

Forest policy

The cabinet constituted a committee under Minister for Forest Nasir Shah, Minister for Agriculture Ismail Rahu, the minister for mines & mineral, Adviser to CM Murtaza Wahab to frame a Sustainable Forest Management Policy-2019. The committee was authorised to induct retired forest experts for technical support. The committee would submit its recommendations within 15 days.

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