Karachi’s Demolition Man and the workforce crisis
The City Government of Karachi is on a drive to remove and demolish “illegal” structures all over the city. The most noticeable targets are billboards and hoardings, which were really outgrowing any aesthetic and environment-friendly limit. Thelas or portable vending tables (whatever are they called) were also removed from busy areas such as the Empress Market.
Then there are constructions marked as illegal – and that includes restaurants, shopping areas, and lately, kachi abbadis (shanty dwellings, mostly illegal or unpermitted or unauthorized constructions by immigrants from within Pakistan or foreign residents on unconstructed land property in Karachi). The city nazim (administrator) of Karachi Syed Mustufa Kamal, is the true Demolition Man: for the sake of controlling the insanity of encroachment and land-grabbing, he says he has to take a tough stance. Interestingly, a similar situation is taking place in Delhi, where demolition of fashion malls on court oder had left the high designers of the city shopless and rueful. The court has ordered to carry on despite protesting voices.
Many such dwellings got a notice to vacate space about a month ago. As the deadline approaches, a curious issue is emerging….
A workforce shortage crisis in the making
And that issue is of service-related workforce. Many of the housemaids and domestic helpers in home, and the service staff in restaurants and offices, factory laborers, to transport workers live in these places. A large part of Karachi’s workforce comes from all over the rest of Pakistan. In the ’80s, Karachi was the Dubai of the people of Pakistan, especially those from the impoversihed areas. For many, it is still the only chance of economic and sometimes social redemption.
Others in Karachi have come from rural areas which have a self-sufficient economy. But they seek a higher lifestyle or more independence or simply employment for everyone in the household. These workers often seek seasonal employment. When they aren’t busy with their crops, they migrate to large towns to get extra income.
The seasonal movements of these workers are already a pain to many of their employers, who spend the best of their time looking for and training the next gardener, cook, sewing machine operator, or office watchman. The impending removal of these people from the places they have occupied (and for which they often pay rent to the big fish illegal occupant), is going to lead to a peculiar situation.
Household owners are tense, and so are factory employers: what will we do when all the workers are homeless and looking to shift? Residents of Omer Town, an occupancy in a place marked for a hospital in North Nazimabad, are considering alternatives.
1. Look for new homes and factories which can accomodate them in quarters.
2. Go back to the village.
3. Look for rental community dwellings, such as co-owned flats.
It isn’t clear which way will this settle. Many of the people turned out from their dwellings might find it hard to get new accomodations on such short notice. The citizens of Karachi also fear the crime activity rate associated with many of the unemployed illegal residents in the city. One thing is for sure: at least for a while and until new solutions are found, there is going to be a crisis of workforce unavailability in the city. Time to look for how each of us affected will deal with the situation!
Disclaimer: KHI Metroblog and its authors were not standing and watching as this happened nor have we a hand in it. Nor do we oppose it. Guess what? We are just reporting a news! Any person disturbed by these demolitions and clearing is welcome to go and hug the sites and boards. Nope, we don’t sponsor that either.
This note was included in the interest of that minor section of the public which forgets that KHI Metroblog is the messenger.