Sunday, April 13, 2014

Thar “Playing With the Lives in The Name of Traditions and Culture”


Women of Thar living miserable life portrayed as Cutlure of Thar
                The desert alongwith Indian border in the South East of Sindh consists of vast area. This desert is spread in Pakistan through Thar, Mirpur Khas, Umar Kot and Tharparkar to Chulistan in Bahawalpur. Across the border in India this desert is known as Rajasthan. The lives of the inhabitants of this desert and their cattle depend upon the rains especially rains of monsoon. If it rains desert becomes Oasis, natural shrubs on the one hand prove manna dew on the other hand leaves and wood of these shrubs is used for construction of roofs of their traditional houses. If heaven is not kind than desert is converted into burning hell; that is why there is a famous quotation WASAY TAY THAR NA TAY BAR “وسے تے تھر نہ تے بر” meaning if it rains it is Oasis otherwise it is nothing more than scorching sunlight and sand. Inhabitants of these areas are forced to live according to the climatic or weather changes. Rain water is sign of life for them and migrating towards those areas which have water and fodder for their cattle is not only the need of these people but also their cultural identity.  Although this tradition was started centuries ago when those inhabited on the banks of the river does not have dreamt of the facilities that are available even to most remote populations in this developed era. Alas! The feudal system and thinking has made traditions of inhabitants of Thar chains for them; we have downgraded these nomads a species lower to human beings whose welfare is not the duty of govt. or society but bound to live miserable lives according to traditions as this has been written into their fate.

Thar
               After partition Thar appeared as the largest District which was divided into three districts i.e. Mirpur Khas, Umar Kot and Tharparkar to improve administrative control. Out of these three districts Mirpur Khas due to its geographic location was immune to all those problems that are being faced by other two districts. Apathy of those living in modern societies can be imagined from this that the scene of poor women carrying three pitchers on their heads to bring water from remote areas was transferred to canvas as Art. Either in photography or paintings in both forms problems of the Thar were portrayed as culture of Thar and presented to mint money. But no one had mercy over these poor women who carried these pitchers on their head not as part of their culture but punishment for their being born into these areas. Hunger, thirst, poverty and diseases were ignored by politicians, rulers and NGOs working for protection of rights of women by claiming it as culture of Thar. We ourselves gave that decision that people of Thar do not need better facilities of treatment and modern way of life. Our ignorance forced inhabitants of Thar to live miserable life as imprisoned in their own centuries old traditions and culture.

Scorching sun in Thar

                Such like nomads or gypsy stuck to their own areas living a hard life exist in the whole world who are not ready to leave their area and settle in modern developed areas but govt. of these countries do not leave such people. Govt. should provide such people all the facilities in their own areas including education, health and food etc. We should take India as an example; despite of all the problems there is no shortage of water in Rajasthan. Paved canals were constructed in Indian Rajasthan in order to fulfill water demand of the area resulting into the increase in the agriculture production of the area bringing a revolution in the lives of Rajasthani people.
Relief goods by Pak Army for famine struck Thar people
                Pakistan public got aware of the critical situation being faced by the people of Thar when media informed public about the deaths of innocent children and concerns that many more may die. Pakistani public was shocked over such media reports because this human crises was not created at once but this was going on since December 2013. On 1st February 2014 when Prince of Sindh inaugurated Sindh Festival and in the name of culture of Sindh, ruins Mohenjodaro  witnessed Westernization at the same time in the nearby desert of Thar life was dying step by step. Painful aspect is that bureaucracy of Sindh in spite of being aware that hundreds of innocent children have died due to hunger, thirst and diseases remained busy for two weeks in enjoying the Sindh Festival along with the Prince of Sindh.  Maybe our media also would not have been able to cover this human crises if a team Chinese engineers have not gone into Thar to search for minerals present there.

PAF doctors treating Thar famine effected women
                When reports about critical situation of Thar were shown on the media whole country started protesting that why those who spent millions of rupees did not dare to provide food and water to dying people of Thar? Due to public protest and media reports Sindh govt. woke up from Sindh Festival but it was too late; the deaths of children have increased manifolds, shortage of water and food has effected cattle as well, hundreds cows and goats were dying every day. Sindhi feudal lords and politicians in spite of providing relief to dying people of Thar started threatening and criticizing those who were protesting against criminal ignorance of Sindh Govt. Media was criticized as well that it has given undue coverage to the tragedy while media was only showing world the actual situation at Thar. Taking criticism a threat to his political career on 09 March 2014, CM Sindh visited the affected area and in spite of actually visiting the area himself he got the briefing over the situation in air-conditioned Rest of house Mitthi where he was served with the traditional food of the Thar. In the other words in this visit too there was no value for the human beings who died of due to shortage of food and water in the eyes of feudal lords and politicians. However, Pakistan army has reached the area one week before visit of CM and started providing food, water and other necessities. Several field hospitals have been established to treat people affected with famine, this initiative was taken by Garrison Commander Hyderabad Major General Inaamul Haq on his own after watching the media reports. This is the identity of our soldiers that whenever nation is struck with any calamity they are first to provide relief to the nation.

PM  Nawaz Sharif  along with Lt General Sajjad Ghani and Maj General Inaamul Haq
                On 08 March 2014, GOC Hyderabad himself visited the affected area and after watching the magnitude of the calamity he informed Corps Commander Lt General Sajjad Ghani Commander 5 Corps. On 09 March Lt General Sajjad Ghani himself visited the area and distributed relief goods. After this Prime Minister of Pakistan himself visited the area and announced aid for the effected people. Over this Sindh govt. came into motion and announced to provide 0.2 million rupees to those families whose children have died and 50 kg wheat. Above mentioned amount was to be paid out of the already announced package of 100 millions. 1 month has passed since this announcement was made but the announced amount is nothing more than a dream for the affected however, few cheques were given to the affected people in photo sessions which are next to impossible to be cashed. It is clear if our politicians and elite had a little bit of the sense of mercy and sympathy than people would not have died due to hunger and thirst. These feudal lords of our country who are all in all, who wear three piece suits in scorching heat how can they feel the pain of hunger and thirst; they have 450 million for wasting our Sindh Festival but they failed to provide hundreds of tons of wheat present in govt. godowns to famine affected people because they do not have funds to pay to transporters who are not ready to borrow their transport as govt. has not paid them for last three years. Moreover, DG Accountability Bureau Sindh has already revealed that corruption is on its peak in Sindh food department. He has said this in the light of failure of Food Department in Thar otherwise there is not a single department which is safe form corruption.

Prince of Sindh at the inauguration of Sindh Festival
                Now when six weeks have passed since the tragedy of Thar has been highlighted, if we calculate the announcements made for the media coverage by different departments, Provincial and Federal govts. despite of being desert Thar can be converted into heaven through such money. People of Thar are unaware that in the way packages have been announced if they are spent honestly than they do not need to dream for heaven. Irony of fate is this that except few God fearing NGOs and army no one is there to help famine struck people. Media that earned the name by highlighting such a big human tragedy has now got busy in highlighting other problems and feudal lords have once again started beating the old triumphant that “HUNGER, THIRST, DISEASES, DEATHS OF CHILDREN, CATTLE AND MIGRATION” all are part of traditions of Thar and we should preserve these traditions and culture…



Written by Khalid Baig,
Published in Daily Nawa-i-Waqt,
Date: 11 April 2014