NationalVOLUME 15 ISSUE # 12

The desert of death

At a point when hardships speak volume about a hard-hit area in Pakistan, it isn’t difficult to comprehend the reasons for the top trend of self-executing there. The task of taking one’s life is considered to be the most difficult but repeated incidents in the Tharparkar area are the other way round. The residents of the area, lacking means of livelihood, medicine, money and above all, water, only count the death toll of their beloved ones, bury them and mourn. No dictatorship, democracy or NGOs could claim to change their centuries-old fate.

There is, maybe, a minimal link between a place producing gold and booming of its kin as is in the African expanse, an AIDS-hit and poverty-shaken locale. The same is true for the touristic gold-spot in Pakistan, Tharparkar, an unfathomably ignored area by the PPP-led government, where deaths are dancing as individuals drain themselves despondently. Reportedly, roughly 1300 individuals, within an age bracket of 21-40, ended their lives in Tharparkar during the last five years. Different milieus of the region including Umar Kot and Mirpur Khas followed suit. A significant reason for suicide is, as a research report concludes, the absence of good governance, other than social disparity, and foul play in rural Sindh.

A 2014 study found that there is a solid connection between the appalling administration and the worst living conditions. The research authored by a senior civil servant, Ahmad Khawar Shahzad, gives an overview of the crises of governance in Tharparkar and suggests that corruption and lack of health facilities, bureaucratic inefficiency and anarchy played a preponderant role in aggravating the mortality rate. This, besides self-execution, provoked the killing of children, lactating mothers, animals, and birds including dancing peacocks in Tharparkar.

According to the report, Tharparkar has 2,357 villages; a small part is situated in the commanded region of the irrigation system. For the most part, individuals are reliant on downpour for nourishment as the water table is deep and groundwater is brackish.

As indicated by the report, Tharparkar is the most backward area in Pakistan where 23% of individuals live below the poverty line. The misery that prompts vulnerability is endemic in the poorly populated place with an intense lack of healthy sustenance rate in children as high as 20%. This is well over the emergency limit of 15%. Because of never-ending hunger and bad governance, individuals who died in the Mithi hospital in Tharparkar rose to 439 in 2011, 588 in 2013 and 234 by April 2014, the report mentions.

Some observe that Tharparkar encounters a serious dry spell after every few years and one starvation every decade consistently. It is also argued that until March 2014, famine had affected 175,000 families and caused deaths of about 100 people. Malnutrition is the major cause of the sad story.

Even though the Sindh government claimed to “dole out” subsidized wheat to the inhabitants during the current decade, the ground circumstances uncover an altogether different narrative. As indicated by WHO’s Worldwide Measles and Rubella Vital Arrangement 2012-2020, the episode of measles pestilence began in Sindh in December 2012 which killed 321 out of 2013. The Thar administration formally declared that 319 deaths had happened from January 2014 to October 2014, including 188 infants under five years of age. The damage locusts caused, during recent months there, would add further fuel to fire.

The anti-corruption department received complaints of embezzlement in medicines’ purchase. Expired medicines were also found in hospitals. Fully equipped mobile medical dispensaries were misused by government functionaries; one was used by the Tharparkar DC as an air-conditioned car. Diplo AC Khurshid Alam also received numerous complaints about misappropriation.

At a point when fake accounts worth Rs100 billion tell a tale of the trail of the ruling elite and a single officer made billions in his house, said a local resident Sadiq, the fate of the poor would essentially be suicide. The Sindh government has not made any managerial move against the corrupt lot because political postings remained in vogue during the past decade. Those who minted money out of the ordeal, and failed to deliver to the desolate, have developed a behaviour of an impassive intruder of the desert.

The report centres on current conditions other than mapping out the future ramifications. Under the looming shadow of global warming, a little rise in temperature may exacerbate drought in the area. If left unaddressed, the situation may cause a serious shortage of food and fodder. Another research indicated that in 1995/96, 47.5 percent of the inhabitants in Bangladesh were living below the poverty line. Poverty, as the paper argues, in Bangladesh, originated less in the lack of resources, than in the failures of governance.

Millions of individuals end their lives or attempt suicide every year in the world. It points out extreme financial, social and political stresses. It has become the main source of death among 15 to 29-year-old adolescents. As indicated by a 2016 overview, suicides don’t simply happen in high-income nations, 79 percent of worldwide suicides happened in low-and-middle-income countries. The rate of crime in the Punjab and different parts of the country, including Sindh, is lower than Tharparkar. The need is to examine the phenomenon, its causes, and set up a far-reaching suicide avoidance scheme to tackle the leading cause of death.

Moreover, there is a need to introduce the sprinkle-irrigation system to promote agriculture. Similarly, the federal government may patronise the region as an international zoo-safari for breeding animals. The Sindh government should encourage dairy farming and horticulture to help the locals to wriggle out of the quagmire of poverty and ignorance. If done so, the desert of deaths could become a global tourist hub one day.