Why Class Matters

Dec 2012

English | اردو

Social power determines who gets hurt by floods and how much

More years ago than I care to admit, I was doing field work for my Ph.D. research on flood hazards in central Punjab. I was struck at the time by how all the ‘educated’ high level government officials considered floods an act of God or better still India, and how all the ordinary flood victims considered them a social disaster, visited upon them because they were poor and powerless. In a village a young boy asked me what I was researching and why. I explained that I was investigating if and how social power bears upon who gets hurt by floods and how much. The boy innocently commented in amazement at my explanation—“And they give you a Ph.D. for that? I mean even our village challah (idiot) knows that who gets hurt by floods is a function of one’s financial and social power.” The depressing part is that what even a Pakistani village idiot knows to be obvious is generally a matter of complete ignorance, for Pakistani ‘educated’ elites and decision makers to this day.

Almost a century and a half ago when the British started building the canal colonies, they did not just embark upon a physical engineering project but also a social engineering enterprise. The location and size of land awarded to settlers was based upon racialized colonial definitions and classifications of different ethnicities, castes and tribes’ industriousness and loyalty to the empire. Needless to say, they essentially reinforced preexisting classification of class and privilege through these allotments, while at the same time creating new ones—e.g., many of the religiously distinguished Syed families were allotted vast tracts of land thereby turning them from purely religious leaders to economic and political leaders as well. Many of the under privileged ended up getting smaller parcels of land, which were generally at the tail end of water courses and canal systems. Needless to say, in a gravity-based system much of that land also happens to be low-lying and flood prone.

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3 Responses to Why Class Matters

  1. Usman Qazi on Dec 2012 at 2:10 AM

    نفس مضمون اور ترجمے، دونوں کا معیار اعلی ہے. دانش مصطفی سے زیادہ داد کے مستحق سجاد چنگیزی ہیں جنہوں نے اصل مضمون کی روح کو ترجمے میں بھی برقرار رکھا.

    • Sajjad on Dec 2012 at 4:31 PM

      Thanks for such admiration. I liked the Mohtaram Danish sahb’s piece myself…

  2. Ali Raza on Dec 2012 at 12:37 PM

    بہت اعلی

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