Thursday, September 13, 2012
by Ali Arqam
Class was the only common feature of 235 labourers burnt alive in Karachi factory fireKarachi, the name synonymous with ‘Bad News’ is once again in the headlines, this time again for another tragedy, another sad story of human loss. Ali Garments, a factory situated on Hub River road, RCD Highway in Baldia Town caught fire last evening (11 Sep 2012), the fire couldn’t be extinguished in 10 hours eventually burning 235 people alive. Witnesses reported that the blaze spread at astounding speed, which left workers in the factory struggling to escape. The factory’s gates were closed, trapping workers inside. “I jumped from my seat as did others and rushed toward the windows, but iron bars on the windows barred us from escaping. Some of us quickly took tools and machines to break the iron bars,” Mohammad Ilyas, an injured factory worker told the AP. “That was how we managed to jump out of the windows down to the ground floor.”Who are the victims? Facing the brutal tug of war among political groups formed on ethnic lines, politicking on financial resources, land distributions, the only victim is the common man, the working class labourers. Living in the outskirts of the city, deprived of very basic necessities of life, water and electricity, health services and education, these labourers are facing unfavourable working conditions in the industrial sector. They have been killed in the streets of Karachi, due to their ethnic or racial features and residential addresses on their CNICs.
statesman.comThe United States will provide $12 million to fund construction of the Waran Canal System that will supply year-round irrigation to 28,000 acres in Tank Tehsil. The Waran Canal will expand other US-funded irrigation systems in the area to cover a total of 191,000 acres, enabling thousands of farmers to increase production of agricultural goods. "Water is one of the biggest constraints on agriculture and economic growth in Pakistan. By helping to construct this irrigation system, we hope to increase employment opportunities and incomes for local communities," said U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Country Director Jock Conly, at the project launch ceremony on Wednesday. The project will be funded through USAID and implemented in cooperation with Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority. Currently, the area only receives water only during floods in the summer season and even that is scarce. Due to the lack of irrigation, farmers are only able to grow one crop each year, Rabi wheat. The construction of the Waran Canal irrigation system will make irrigation water available for two crop seasons, allowing farmers to plant a second crop each year and increase their overall productivity. The new irrigation system will also increase fodder production and make more water available for livestock. The Waran Canal project includes construction of a 37 km-long main canal, 127 km of secondary canals, and related structures such as bridges and falls. A drainage system and other structures serving 33 villages situated alongside the canal are also part of the project plan. Irrigation system improvements and the Gomal Zam Dam project are a part of U.S. efforts to help Pakistan improve agricultural productivity through water management improvements. The dam will generate electricity for 39,000 households, store irrigation water, and provide flood protection for the Tank and Dera Ismail Khan districts. In addition, the United States plans to work with the KP Department of Agriculture to introduce high-value crops, such as off-season vegetables and fruits, as well as better animal breedstocks to build on the benefits of bringing water back to Tank and Dera Ismail Khan.
Associated PressA government official says gunmen have killed seven road construction workers in southwest Pakistan. Javed Ahmad says the incident took place on Thursday in Mastung district in Baluchistan province. Ahmad is a local official in Mastung, which is located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) east of the provincial capital, Quetta. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack on the workers, who were employed by the government. Baluchistan is home to both Islamist militants and separatists who have waged a violent insurgency against the government for decades over greater autonomy and a larger share of the province's natural resources.
The Express TribuneAlthough the firefighters did a good job, the capacity to fight fires even in the country’s biggest city is questionable at best, said the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) while expressing concern over the death of at least 289 people who died in factory fires in Karachi and Lahore on Tuesday. They demanded that immediate action should be taken to ensure that safety measures were taken to protect factory workers in the country. In a statement issued by the commission on Wednesday, they said that although the government had promised to look into the case, many factors which contributed to the fire were common knowledge, including the bad working conditions at such factories. “We already know that due to the lack of multiple exit and entry points, the workers could not escape in time,” said the HRCP. “The factory in Lahore only had one entry-exit point and in Karachi, many workers died because they had to jump out of a four-storey building. Highly inflammable substances were stored inside the building and no safety measures were taken. The situation got worse as there were no fire alarms or fire extinguishers.” The commission claimed that if the government was investigating why the fires broke out, they should also find out why factories were allowed to operate in such bad conditions. They said that factories should be fined for hazardous storage areas and not having an evacuation plan in case of an emergency. “In both cases it is obvious that the proprietors had their priorities wrong. They set profit above the well being of their employees. The government should have checked up on this,” it said in the statement. “The man leading the fire fighting operation in Karachi claimed that the factory was ‘dangerous’ with a weak structure and had no emergency exits – why was this fact not highlighted earlier?”
FRONTIER POSTWho is responsible for the loss of over three hundred industrial workers killed in separate incidents of fire in two factories: One on Bund Road in Lahore and the other on Hub River Road in Karachi. Perhaps no one, as these tragedies were caused by the apathy of the officialdom of the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. Reports say that some 26 labourers were burnt alive in the shoe factory in Lahore and almost three hundred lost their lives in Karachi fire. The two unfortunate incidents also left at least 51 sustaining injuries with some wounded said to be paralyzed for the rest of their lives and thus can be counted among half-dead, for they have been rendered useless and cannot support their families. In fact, they have become burdens on their financially restrained families keeping in view that the dead and seriously injured were factory workers. Chief ministers of Punjab and Sindh have announced Rs500,000 compensation for the families of each of the deceased and Rs75,000 for each wounded industrial worker, in addition to free medical treatment. This is all the two provincial governments could and have offered to the bereaved families. The governments does not seem to have serious intentions of holding inquiries to identify those responsible for the tragic incidents. Allowing an entrepreneur to establish a factory is the job of the industry department but, the government also has the responsibility to ensure if all the safety measures have been taken and the industrial units are equipped with sufficient safety equipment and other steps taken to make sure the workers are doing their jobs in safe and secure working environment. For example, the factory at Lahore which produced shoes had abundance of inflammable material like rubber, leather and glue. These were apparently hazardous and a fire risk on their own; yet the factory had no fire-fighting system which could at least have contained the fire till the city fire fighting units arrived. Even the fire fighting units, when they arrived, could not work properly as there was not enough pressure in the water pipelines to put off the flames. The industries department is also under legal obligation of periodic examination of all industrial units. But electronic media reports said no such inspection was undertaken by the department since the shoe factory was established about three years ago. As for the blaze in Karachi industrial unit, it was said that short-circuiting was the reason. Still, an inquiry should be held to find out whether authorities concerned had examined the wiring of the factory which was their responsibility. Similar inquiry should also be held in Lahore and those who had not carried out their official obligations, be punished under the law.