Pakistani Hindu Women Ride High On Thar Development Wave

As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl today, the Thar development boom is empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving, according to multiple media reports. These pioneering women will hopefully be a source of inspiration for young girls.

Thar Development:

Thar, one of the least developed regions of Pakistan, is seeing unprecedented development activity in energy and infrastructure projects.  New roads, airports and buildings are being built along with coal mines and power plants as part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). There are construction workers and machinery visible everywhere in the desert. Among the key beneficiaries of this boom are Thari Hindu women who are being employed by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) as part of the plan to employ locals. Highlighted in recent news reports are two Hindu women in particular: Kiran Sadhwani, an engineer and Gulaban, a truck driver.

Kiran Sadhwani, a Thari Hindu Woman Engineer. Source: Express Tribune

Thar Population:

The region has a population of 1.6 million. Most of the residents are cattle herders. Majority of them are Hindus.  The area is home to 7 million cows, goats, sheep and camel. It provides more than half of the milk, meat and leather requirement of the province. Many residents live in poverty. They are vulnerable to recurring droughts.  About a quarter of them live where the coal mines are being developed, according to a report in The Wire.

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters

Some of them are now being employed in development projects.  A recent report talked of an underground coal gasification pilot project near the town of Islamkot where "workers sourced from local communities rested their heads after long-hour shifts".

Hindu Woman Truck Driver in Thar, Pakistan. Source: Reuters 

In the first phase, Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) is relocating 5 villages that are located in block II.  SECMC is paying villagers for their homes and agricultural land.

SECMC’s chief executive officer, Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh, says his company "will construct model towns with all basic facilities including schools, healthcare, drinking water and filter plants and also allocate land for livestock grazing,” according to thethirdpole.net He says that the company is paying villagers above market prices for their land – Rs. 185,000 ($ 1,900) per acre.

Hindu Women Employment:

Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), the largest contractor working in Thar desert coal project, has committed itself to hiring locals wherever possible.

When SECMC launched its Female Dump Truck Driver Program near the town of Islamkot in Thar,  Kiran Sadhwani, a female engineer, visited several villages to motivate women to apply for the job and empower themselves, according to Express Tribune newspaper. “Not all women who are working as dumper drivers are poor or in dire need of money. It is just that they want to work and earn a living for themselves and improve the lives of their families,” she told the paper.

SEMC is hiring 30 women truck drivers for its Thar projects, according to Dawn newspaper.

Summary:

As the world celebrates the International Day of the Girl today, it's good to see the Thar development boom empowering Pakistani Hindu women with jobs in nontraditional occupations ranging from engineering to truck driving. These pioneering women will inspire and empower young girls to pursue their dreams in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Working Women Seeding a Silent Revolution in Pakistan

Thar Development Boom in Pakistan

Abundant, Cheap Coal Power for Pakistan

Fact-Checking Farahnaz Ispahani's Claims on Pakistani Minorities

Pakistani Hindu Population Fastest Growing in the World

Recurring Droughts in Pakistan

Thar Drought: Pre-cursor to Dust Bowl in Pakistan?

Campaign of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt About CPEC

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Coal Project Is Latest Sign of Growing Pakistan-China Relationship

https://www.voanews.com/a/coal-project-is-latest-sign-of-growing-pakistan-china-relationship/4125106.html

As the car speeds along gleaming blacktop highways in Pakistan's southern desert of Tharparkar, it is clear the new roads were not built to serve the poor herders and nomads who live in cone-shaped straw homes and subsist on herding sheep and cattle.

Indeed, a few decades ago, the Tharparkar desert in Sindh province bordering India was accessible only by crab-shaped vehicles that crawled over sand dunes by day and under star-studded skies at night, to reach the people of a forgotten century.

That changed as international feasibility studies sanctioned by Islamabad found that nearly half the desert covered coal. The turning point came as China offered to excavate and convert the fuel to help Pakistan cover its electricity shortfall of 25,000 megawatts.

So while the world turned away from coal to cleaner fuels, the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) began digging a layered, rectangular trough near the town of Islamkot.

Coal mine area

From above, the mining area looks like Pakistan's 5,000-year-old archaeological site, Moen Jo Daro (Mound of the Dead). But with Pakistani and Chinese flags fluttering side by side — and the hustle-bustle of dump trucks — the excavation clearly looks to the future.

Across the barren hills, the State Power International Mendong (SPIM) and China Machinery Engineering Corporation's power plants are poised to convert the coal to energy — reportedly 660 megawatts by the end of 2017.

Just outside the power plants sits a Chinese housing colony for the workers it has imported, a common practice for the country's foreign projects.

Partners in change

Meanwhile, Engro has a mandate from the Sindh government to ensure that the desert people, sitting atop the world's seventh-largest coal reserves, become willing partners in the transformation of their habitat.

Already, Engro has created "Khushal Thar" (Prosperous Thar), training 694 people on monthly stipends to be supplied to their Chinese partners.

Armed with a strategy for social change, Engro trains women as dump truck drivers. Recruiter Jehan Ara said the corporation, initially concerned about a backlash, first discussed the community's response to inducting women into an all-male profession, and only then made the positions official.


Interviewed in Islamkot, Marvi, 35, beamed at the prospect of driving dump trucks. Having six children was apparently no deterrent. Her husband, Ratan Lal, was on hand to cheer her, saying: "She is tough; she climbs trees to gather firewood and gets water from afar."

But the community has concerns that water from the mining process, discharged into Gorano village 28 kilometers away, could pollute drinking water sources. In Mithi town, people have repeatedly demonstrated to sound the alarm, with the fears echoed by Sindh's civil society.

For generations, the desert people have lived amid peacocks, sheep and camels. Engro plans to compensate and relocate them from their straw homes to model homes, fully equipped with schools and hospitals. Muslims and Hindus are to be resettled side by side, emblematic of the peaceful coexistence within the border community.

Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistan invests $4.5 billion in Thar desert development in #Sindh

https://www.brecorder.com/2017/12/30/389797/investment-of-4-5-billion-in-thar-is-very-significant-governor-sindh/

The Sindh Governor Muhammad Zubair has said that the investment to the tune of dollars 4.5 billion in Thar is something very significant.

He was expressing his views at an interactive session on energy held at the Governor House here on Friday.

The Governor referred to the Thar coal reserves containing 175 billion tons and said that these would help meet country energy needs for a long time to come.

The coal would not only be used for the generation of energy but would also be for provision of basic needs to the residents of the area.

Zubair said that for the betterment of infrastructure 250- bed hospital as well as schools are also being built.

The government is taking every step so that the people of Thar could benefit from the natural resources of the area.

The Governor assured that the federal government would extend every cooperation for the welfare and betterment of the people of Thar.

He informed that generation of power from Thar coal would commence from the year 2019 and this will contribute towards prosperity in the area.

Zubair said that new avenues of development would also open in Thar.

The Chief Executive Officer of Sindh Engro Coal Mine, Shamsuddin Shaikh, said on the occasion that 76 percent of jobs in Thar have been provided to the local people.

He said that the time period of the project span over 42 months but it would be completed in 36 months.

He said that first phase of the project would be executed in 2019.

The company, he added, would also adopt all the schools in Thar.

The company required 500 drivers and intermediate pass youngsters were provided training and appointed as driver with the company at the monthly salary of Rs. 30,000.
Riaz Haq said…
Economist Magazine: "Just 1% of the vast #Thar #coal reserve discovered in 1992 could supply a fifth of #Pakistan's current #electricity generation for half a century" #CPEC #energy #infrastructure

https://www.economist.com/news/business/21736185-just-1-vast-reserve-discovered-1992-could-supply-fifth-countrys-current

PAKISTAN’s enormous mineral wealth has long lain untapped. Since a 1992 geological survey spotted one of the world’s largest coal reserves in Thar, a scrubby desert in the southern province of Sindh, prospectors have hardly dug up a lump. Among those to flounder is a national hero. Samar Mubarakmand, feted for his role in Pakistan’s nuclear-weapons programme, has just shut the coal-gasification company he founded in 2010, when he vowed on live television to crack Thar.

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To such qualms, the government offers three rejoinders. First, severe power shortages have long blighted the nation, and renewable sources cannot offer the daylong, year-round power it needs. Second, coal accounts for less than 1% of current generation, compared with 70% in neighbouring India and China. And third, domestic coal would allow the country to forgo expensive imports of the fuel for newly built power stations, a drain on fast-dwindling foreign-exchange reserves.

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Eight years ago Engro bought the rights to one of Thar’s 13 blocks, containing 1% of the reserve (more than enough given the gargantuan size of the mine). To work on extraction, it formed the country’s biggest ever public-private partnership, the Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), in which Engro digs and the state provides infrastructure. Relying on the state can break strong firms. Engro itself almost went bankrupt in 2012 after the government refused to honour a sovereign guarantee to provide gas to one of its fertiliser plants. Yet without similar government support, no other Thar block-owners have secured financing, leaving Engro’s diggers, which began work last year, to move ahead.

The endeavour benefits from being in the group of infrastructure projects that make up the $62bn China Pakistan Economic Corridor, a hoped-for trade route. Western banks shook their heads when approached about a coal project, so Engro has relied on Chinese financing. Analysts note an irony in China’s promotion of coal abroad as it withdraws from the fuel at home. Handling the extraction at Thar is the China Machinery Engineering Corporation, a state-owned firm with expertise beyond Pakistan’s reach.

Around 126 metres below the sands of Thar, with just 20 more to go, Engro’s diggers can now almost touch their prize. When the coal is reached, as is expected in mid-2018, it will feed a pit-mouth power station constructed by Engro, and, in time, three others owned by partners in the SECMC. These stations will furnish around a fifth of the country’s electricity for the next 50 years. The financial rewards could be vast. “All my richest friends are jumping up and down [because they did not get there first]”, says the boss of one big multinational construction business.

Hurdles remain, not least complaints from nearby villagers about the disposal of the vast quantities of wastewater from the mine on their ancestral grazing lands in the form of a reservoir. In reply, Engro stresses its social work in the surrounding district of Tharparkar, the poorest in Sindh, which includes the construction of several free schools. More self-interestedly, it is training locals to drive so they can man the dump trucks that trundle day and night around the mine. According to Shamsuddin Shaikh, chief executive of Engro Powergen, the conglomerate’s energy division, Engro also has its sights on Reko Diq, a gargantuan and long-stalled copper mine in Balochistan, the least developed of Pakistan’s provinces. To tap one of the country’s two largest and most niggardly mines is hard enough. Imagine cracking them both.

Riaz Haq said…
Thar — The Future of Pakistan

https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/307505-thar-the-future-of-pakistan-by-senator-rehman-malik-sitara-e-shujaat-nishan-e-imtiaz

Population of Tharparkar district is around 1.65 million and Thar is spread over both sides of India and Pakistan where the life always remained hard because of the non-availability of sweet water.

The region derives its names from Thar and Parkar. The name Thar is from Thul, the general term for sand region or sand ridges and Parkar literary means “to cross over”. The region was earlier known as Thar and Parkar, later theses became one word, Thar and Parkar coined together and formed a beautiful name Tharparkar.

The people of Thar have been underfed because the area being desert has no reliable irrigation system. The lands, whatsoever, are irrigated on rainwater. Historically, Thar receives low pour but when it receives rains it makes the desert lush green where peacocks dance and sing making the scene most fascinating.

The water is drawn out from deep water wells but that water also contains highest volume of TDH.

The people of Thar used to face various health hazard problems such as waterborne diseases, inadequate health facilities, famine and lack of basic infrastructure. Apart from it, poverty, population growth, lack of clean drinking water, unemployment and high illiteracy had trapped Tharparkar in a state of catastrophe. Therefore, people used to migrate from Thar to revering area to save them and their cattle and those who fail to migrate used to lose their dear ones and cattle, the only source of their livelihood.

Crop failure due to low rainfall, coupled with loss of small animals has greatly reduced the impoverished communities’ purchasing power. Poverty is endemic in the sparsely populated district with acute malnutrition rates in children as high as 20 per cent, well above the emergency threshold of 15 per cent.

The biggest reason perhaps of disease and death in Tharparkar is malnourishment of its mother. It is no secret that Thar people do not have access to clean water, health facilities or food because of which mothers in Tharparkar give births while their hemoglobin level is as low as four.

Death is a regular visitor at the doors of Tharparkar’s mothers. More than 190 children have died and 22,000 have been hospitalized in Tharparkar district in 2016 because of drought-related waterborne and viral diseases. Tharparkar is facing severe drought for the fourth consecutive year, and access to health services is reported to be very difficult, with families travelling an average distance of 17 km to reach the nearest health facility.

Whereas sweet water condition in Tharparkar is worst and access to water is a key problem for the district of Tharparkar, which comprises an area of 22,000 sq km. More than 1.4 million people and about five million heads of livestock live in the area, where annual rainfall averages can be as low as 9mm, and drought is common.

Barely 5 percent of the population has access to a sweet water supply. Even the district capital, Mithi, [only] gets sweet water twice in a month. Laying down water supply lines at high cost is also open to question. Most of the population relies on dug wells. The worst conditions are basically the byproduct of non-availability of basic needs of life. There are deserts in the world, which are now productive and life is more than normal. Just take the example of UAE with total area is 83,600 km and part of UAE is producing oil and gas and rest of the UAE is desert but the good planning and attention has converted the area into a most developed area.

Thar coalfield is located in Thar Desert. The deposits—16th-largest coal reserves in the world, were discovered in 1991 by Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP) and the United States Agency for International Development.
Riaz Haq said…
#Pakistani #Hindu women in #Thar determined to change destiny through #CPEC. #China #Coal #Power https://nation.com.pk/26-Oct-2018/pakistani-women-determined-to-change-destiny-through-cpec

"It made me believe in miracles," said 24-year-old Lata Mai who drives a 60-ton dump truck in a coal-based power plant in Thar desert of Pakistan's south Sindh province, a project under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

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Belonging to an area where women are usually underprivileged and less educated, Mai dared to dream big.

The childhood dream of Mai, now the mother of two, was to drive a vehicle on the barren road of Thar. But she knew it was a fancy thinking that would probably never be realized, until one day her husband brought a pamphlet home which said that the Thar coal project was hiring women to drive trucks.

Mai, who had never shared her dream with anyone, hesitantly expressed her wish to apply for the post.

Her husband merely laughed at the idea, but after seeing her determination, he agreed to support her.

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Naseem Memon of Sindh Engro Mining company, a member of the committee that hired Mai and dozens of other young women in Thar, told Xinhua that the women drivers are undergoing a 10-month training and will get behind the wheel in December.

"Unlike other sectors, in a coal project, most of the mining jobs are related to truck driving. When we observed that women in Thar walk two to three miles a day in temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius, we believed that if we bring them to job sector, they can do wonders. We were right, they did not disappoint us, they are more hardworking than their male counterparts," said Memon.



"You can imagine how CPEC has changed the lives of these women in a far flung desert of Pakistan. Women, who were utterly dependent on men, are now freely driving heavy dump trucks."

Kiran Sidhwani, a young woman living in the Thar desert, also witnessed a surprising turn in her life after she got a job opportunity in the Thar coal power project.

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"She is a young university graduate who is working as an electrical engineer with us. Apart from Sidhwani, we have also hired a female civil engineer who will join work after completing her training," Memon told Xinhua.

Pakistan's Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari said earlier this week that when CPEC moves beyond road construction to enter into the building process of economic zones, the standard of workforce will be raised in the country.

"As special economic zones are coming to play, multinational enterprises will bring corporate social responsibility with them. With the bringing in of great corporate social responsibility, we will see the rise and improvement in the standard of workforce, including the women workforce," said the minister.

According to the latest study of CPEC Center of Excellence, CPEC has the potential to create around 1.2 million jobs through the currently agreed projects, and the number may go up with the inclusion of new projects under its long term plan.

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The CPEC projects, including energy projects, infrastructure projects, Gwadar Port and industrial cooperation proposed under special economic zones in different provinces of the country, will immensely help reduce the unemployment rate in the country.

Analysts believe that female employment rate in CPEC is low at this stage as the project mainly offers blue collar jobs, but with the development of economic zones, more white collar job opportunities will be offered and more women workforce will take part in it.

A primary school has been established in Gwadar where 498 students including 348 girls are provided quality education to enable them to reap the benefits of CPEC-related projects in the Gwadar port.

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