Dr Abdul Razak Shaikh
THARPARKAR, the largest desert terrain in Pakistan is home to a population of 1.5 million. Unlike other deserts across the world, the Tharparkar desert is not barren and dry, its flora and fauna flourish during the monsoon season, transforming its sand dunes to rolling green hills. The district is ranked the lowest amongst provincial socioeconomic indicators, and 32nd as per national comparison. Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah has announced that Tharis would start getting their due royalty on coal reserves from June this year. He made the announcement while addressing the ceremony held in Marvi Cricket Ground Mithi Tharparker a few days ago to inaugurate the day-long ‘Thar Cultural Festival 2020’ with the support of the Pakistan Rangers Sindh. The theme of the event was Salam Pakistan.
The Sindh government was fully committed to providing basic amenities to all those who were being displaced from the project area of Thar coalfields near Islamkot. Tharis will start getting their due royalty on the huge reserves of ‘black gold’ from June this year. Syed Murad Ali Shah pointed out that the SEC and SECMC were going to produce around 4,000 megawatts within the stipulated time. He expressed his satisfaction over the progress of the work saying that the work on both mining and installation of power plants was going on in a full-swing. Government of Sindh already announced that the people of the entire Islamkot taluka would be provided up to 200 units of electricity free of cost, as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had announced while inaugurating two power plants in March last year.
It was noted that the mining firms and power generation companies working here had already achieved their financial close by arranging the required funds for coal extraction and power production. CM Sindh has advised Tharis living in the Thar coalfields’ areas not to sell away their lands coming under-mining. Rather, they should ask the Sindh government to get model villages like Senhari Dars built on their lands. Thar is not only rich in minerals but is also matchless in its culture, natural beauty, hospitality and interfaith harmony. Muslims and Hindus living in this desert region maintain exemplary harmony for centuries. Government of Sindh also acceding to Tharis’ demand, had already set up an NED University campus here where not only local students but people from other remote areas of the province were getting technical education. Even students from Gilgit-Baltistan were seeking admission to this campus.
CM Sindh said that the Sindh government would begin to receive a royalty of the Thar coal project from June 2020, adding that the royalty would be spent on Tharparkar’s development through the NGO Thar Foundation. Pakistan Peoples Party has credit for providing communication facilities in the desert by constructing roads and an airport in Islamkot. Around 40% of the district’s population is Hindu which lived in harmony with the Thari Muslims. Thari will also be beneficial in employment, living standard, education, and health care and Royalty to be used for this poor area, which is also right of Thari people, and this act of royalty will shine the PPP government.
Malnutrition is definitely there, Government and different NGOs are working on the issue seriously. The main cause of death among children is two-fold. One, the early marriages of teenage girls who are barely able to conceive a child and then bear the birth pangs. Two, because of malnutrition among mothers the embryo does not receive the required nutrients during the first eight weeks of pregnancy. When the embryo becomes a fetus in the ninth week of gestation it is already a week and unable to develop as a healthy organism. The concept of anti-natal care is nothing in these poor areas; they prefer to deliver the baby by local Daees (midwives).
This has a lot to do with poverty and lack of livelihood opportunities. Previously the number of infants dying was much higher because of the distance and a lack of infrastructure. Now the roads in Tharparkar are much better than the roads in many other districts in Pakistan. Thanks to the efforts the government of Sindh has put in during the last ten years. Though malnutrition was visible on their faces and poverty reflected in the nearby villages where they come from. The team of Nutritional Programme Health Department may send that area permanently and part of royalty maybe use to supply nutritional oil, milk, pulses, sugar and wheat.
— The writer is retired officer of Sindh Govt.
Dr Abdul Razak Shaikh