Flood survivors demand land in cities, deplore ‘urban apathy’ | Pakistan Today

Flood survivors demand land in cities, deplore ‘urban apathy’

KARACHI – Speakers at a seminar on the rehabilitation of flood affected people – with the focus on ‘choices imposed and choices made’ – have demanded that the lands of Karachi, allotted to the people of other provinces, should be given to the flood survivors of Sindh.
“The flood-affected people living in relief camps are being forced to leave the city,” they added. The seminar was organised at the Jashn-e-Faiz event by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) on Sunday. Flood survivors from the relief camps in Gulshan-e-Maymar, Super Highway and Hyderabad Sabzi Mandi told the audience on the occasion that they feel their days of struggle would continue in the face of the apathy towards them.
“Whatever help was there when we were pushed to the cities after floods has all gone now. People are being made to feel that the displacement is not the state’s problem. This is unfair. Not only the poor disaster management of the government added to our miseries, the disaster itself was a result of government’s poor policy and governance structures,” they said in their testimonies.
“Now when the government and the urban citizens think of us as nobody’s problem, one wants to tell them that there are serious questions that need to be answered. Forcing us back to go home when the water has neither receded nor have there been any arrangements made to clear the debris is most unfair and amounts to treating us as outsiders,” they added. Only a few survivors in their testimonies declared the floods as a blessing in disguise.
“The floods forced us to move to the cities, and it was only upon reaching here that we realised how claustrophobic life has been living in the clutches of feudal landlords. People need to ask why flood survivors want to live in the cities and not go back if given an option. The fact is that we have been living a life of slavery for generations. Why should we be forced to live a life where our being is tied with the whims of the powerful feudal landlords?”
Identifying lack of clean drinking water and health and educational facilities; non-delivery of Watan Cards and absence of livelihood options as critical challenges, the survivors said that they do not expect much from the government. “We are ready to help ourselves, but the state must provide an opportunity to improve our lives. We are not ready to accept the life of misery that we have been living in the past.”
Speaking on the occasion, Nazim Haii, the trustee of Etimaad Trust said that the preparations for the next floods should start in the wake of predictions of another cycle of floods and the poor state response on the issue. He said that people will have to stand up and work on a self help basis. “There has been little support for the flood survivors. Enthusiastic and committed citizens, who had earlier helped generously, too have slowed down in their efforts. The worrying part is that if the country faces another round of floods in the coming three to four months, how would that be dealt with? No efforts are being made to repair the embankments of the Indus River,” he said.
He offered his organisation’s support for the rehabilitation of the flood-affected people. Karamat Ali, the executive director of PILER and labour rights activist said that the flood survivors need to reassert their presence. “Nobody can understand and speak for the flood survivors’ issues better than they themselves. They need to raise their voice consistently and loudly. It is important to work on self-help basis but that shouldn’t lead the state into abdicating from its responsibilities,” he said.
He urged the survivors to change their approach towards citizenship rights. “We are equal citizens of the country. We have the right to demand the state to treat us with dignity and deliver on social services and other responsibilities. Flood survivors have not come here from foreign countries. They are citizens of this country. Expecting them to beg for their entitlements is unjustified. Also the state has no right to force them to go back to their towns, even when they want to settle in the cities,” he said.
The survivors demanded that they be allotted land in cities. “When free land is allotted to the elite class on one pretext or the other, why can’t we be allotted land to live here and start a new life? Hundreds of acres on the outskirts of the city have been doled out to the powerful who would now be selling it out as commercial enterprises. We have the right to state’s land and other social provisions. These must be allotted to us with dignity,” they said.
Others who spoke on the occasion included Zahida Detho of the Sindh Rural Partners Organisation, Raees Jan Mohammad, Mohammad Khan, Shareefan, Naseeban Bhatti, Zulfiqar Chandio, Noor Ahmed Gadahi and Hameeda Golo.

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