Labourers Suffering Miserably At Bhanbore Salt Factory

Labourers Suffering Miserably At Bhanbore Salt Factory
More than three thousand labourers are facing untold hardship and suffering in a salt factory located near Bhanbore, a historical town of district Thatta known originally for the love story of Sassui-Punho. The salt factory workers are being deprived of their rights, as the factory administration is showing no interest to work for improving their quality of lives.

Harjina, which is believed to be the biggest salt factory in Asia, was established in 1952 along the seashore in Bhanbore, and maintained a high standard of basic facilities for laborers until the death of its original owner. After that, it was taken over by a local contractor who failed to uphold the fundamental rights of labourers efficiently.

Pir Bux, a local laborer, shared his ordeal with this scribe, saying; " We are not treated as humans in the factory where I and my other colleagues have been working for the past 8 years''. Pir Bux added that labour unionists were busy pursuing their political agendas instead of supporting the cause of labourers.

Since the process of manufacturing salt is cumbersome, the labourers face multiple challenges including health risks. Wali Muhammad, a 55-year-old labourer, said that they often develop blisters on their hands while working in the salt factory, and sometimes the blisters turn into serious wounds due to improper care and treatment.

There are three shifts in the factory: in the first shift laborers are tasked with digging the salt, in the second shift laborers make salt dunes, and in the third shift, the bags of salt are loaded in the trucks.

A laborer merely gets around 800 to 1000 rupees as his daily wage, in return for exasperating labor which is woefully insufficient amid galloping inflation.

Another labourer, requesting anonymity, told this correspondent that the supervisors at the factory also engaged children between 12 to 16 years of age to extract salt, and did not give them adequate remuneration either. Labourers continuously work for around 10 to 12 hours without any break at the salt factory.

A residential colony was constructed for the labourers which is now in decrepit condition, and labourers residing there are also not getting basic facilities.

A small hospital in that colony operates only for an hour during the whole day and remains closed at night, besides which it is also not sufficiently equipped.

Meanwhile, the district labour officer and manager of the factory, Muneer Chaudhry, denied the allegations of the poor standard of labour rights, and added that they are facilitating their labourers to the best of their abilities without any disparity.

Advocate Syed Imran Ali Shah urged the Pakistan Commission of Human Rights to take notice of the inhuman behavior meted out to labourers, and demanded district commissioner Thatta to prevent the practice of child labour at the factory.

The author is a practicing lawyer and freelance journalist. His areas of interest are cultural diversity and socio-political issues of Sindh.