Self-imposed poverty
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Must Dhany Bux die every 89 days?

His principal tormentors, the Wapda Chairman, Directors and Chief Engineers must be held accountable

Must Dhany Bux die every 89 days? (

This is a true story. Dhany Bux is a real-life character with flesh and bones just like you and me. He even has a CNIC, which declares him a human being with a unique number i.e. 55103-3452352-5. There is just one difference. Dhany Bux must die every 89 days – a death that is designed and forced upon him by a convoluted system practised by a prestigious organisation Wapda and supported by a dysfunctional organisation called EOBI. Here is his story.

Dhany Bux is a daily-wager employee who works at Wapda’s Katchi Canal project at Dera Ghazi Khan. He was employed as a cook on daily-wage basis on 2nd July 2007. The rules required his job to be regularised after 5 years. But Wapda, in a devious move, checkmated the illiterate villager. One month before he could complete 5 years, Dhany Bux was relieved of his assignment, terminated, and re-employed as a security guard on 1st June 2012. Thus, he was like a car odometer which had been deceptively reset to zero, although it had already travelled four years and eleven months.

With zero kilometers on his odometer, on 1st June 2012, the rebranded Dhany Bux restarted his career from scratch, at the same organisation, at the same location and doing almost the same job. The Office Order issued by Wapda’s Chief Engineer reads, “ You are hereby engaged as a security guard on daily wages, w.e.f. 1-6-2012, with a condition of one day break between two spells of 89 days and posted under Sup. Engr. Katchi Canal Project.”

Fast forward to 2024. Even today, every 89 days, Dhany Bux is fired from his job and then re-employed after a gap of one day. He has a shelf-life of 89 days. His plugs are pulled out, he is discarded, extinguished, made jobless, and undergoes a near-death experience every 89 days. This illegal arrangement ensures he gets zero medical facility, no gratuity, no allowances, and no pension. It also deprives him of the right to be registered with EOBI. Poverty and misery were thus not ordained by his stars but cruelly orchestrated by Wapda and negligently overlooked by EOBI.

Dhany Bux continues to remain trapped in a vicious 89-day cycle of death. His principal tormentors, the Wapda Chairman, Directors and Chief Engineers must be held accountable for illegally operating an unjust system. The Chairman EOBI, responsible to ensure that all employees are registered to EOBI failed to do so for 90% workers of Pakistan. The two Chairmen have no difficulty in promptly receiving their own bloated salaries on the first of every month. Their perks, medical, cars, fuel, club memberships and huge pensions are etched on stone. So is not the case for millions of Dhany Buxes of this country. This is a grievous violation of law and human rights. Such Chairpersons in any other country would be personally held accountable and compelled to compensate for the illegal employment, slavery, and exploitation of workers.

How will the Islamic Republic of Pakistan compensate Dhany Bux for keeping him in an 89-day death trap for the past 17 years? Will the state order the return of his stolen wages and backdated EOBI contribution since 2007? Will the state provide medical facilities to Dhany Bux and his family? Will the Supreme Court order that the EOBI payments of Dhany Bux be made after deducting from the personal salaries of the Chairman Wapda and Chairperson EOBI? It is not sane to imagine that Pakistan can progress by obscene pampering of its insatiable and incompetent elite. On the contrary, Pakistan’s progress is deeply linked to providing EOBI, minimum wages and dignified legal jobs to all its workers. Will the Chief Justice please declare that no Dhany Bux will ever be placed in an 89-day death trap in Pakistan again?

Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2024.