Thousands of cotton units in Mehran Town were forced to close by the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) when a fire broke out at a factory a few years ago, prompting businessmen to petition the Sindh government to unseal and regularise their operations.
Near a joint statement issued on Friday, President Shariq Vohra of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) and Chairman Zubair Motiwala of the Businessmen Group (BMG) noted that the industries had been closed because they were located in a residential neighborhood.
They maintained, however, that the cottage industry was defined by the statute as a manufacturing unit that was located in a residential neighborhood.
“Penalizing everyone because of the incompetence of a few people is not a solution, and it is an unjust treatment of millions of workers who are affiliated with these small-scale units,” the authors wrote in their statement.
The aforementioned industries are a significant source of employment, particularly for women, said Vohra. “The fundamental notion underlying the establishment of such units is the provision of jobs for females, as they enable women to work while also caring for their families.”
He believed that such units may also help to promote gender equality in the workplace, which he considered to be one of the government’s main concerns.
He urged the Sindh government to intervene and issue orders for the immediate unsealing of all cottage industries located in Mehran Town and the subsequent regularisation of those businesses in order to safeguard thousands of livelihoods in the area.
Motiwala expressed his disappointment that small enterprises, in particular, were experiencing difficult times as a result of the Covid-19 epidemic, and that the SBCA had exacerbated their difficulties by shutting the cottage industries at this time.
Zulfikar Thaver, President of the Union of Small and Medium Enterprises (UNISAME), said in an interview with The Express Tribune that the closure of small businesses was unfair and that the fire was caused by a malfunctioning power generator during a period of prolonged load-shedding.
He encouraged the provincial administration to order an emergency inspection of every company unit and to take action against any workplaces that failed to adhere to government regulations and policies. He was unsuccessful.