The ones we remember only with mass casualties
On Oct. 31, 2014, a small bus carrying seasonal agriculture workers drove into a curve and fell into a ditch. The vehicle had twice as many passengers as its capacity; bodies and injured people were scattered around and 17 people died.
Even though opposition deputies have tabled a motion numerous times for a committee to be formed to inquire into the problems of seasonal agriculture workers, it was only after this terrible accident that a commission was formed.
Last month, the report of this commission was publicized. Which means that the report was issued after the terms of the deputies who were members of the commission expired.
Let us hope that the new parliament will at least take a glance at the “suggestions” section of the report. We hope that they will try to solve the issue in time and with an approach based on rights.
Otherwise, this issue will not be solved by hosting fast-breaking (iftar) dinners, with food aid packages and favors.
On the other hand, this report has problems also. Since there was no clear description of what exactly the commission was supposed to do and which segments of the society to research, even the report’s definition of “seasonal agriculture worker” was missing.
The report did not include workers in animal husbandry, fishing, beekeeping and forestry; it was limited to agriculture workers in the process of plant production. It did not make any differentiation among them either. In fact, local agriculture workers and seasonal mobile agriculture workers have different transportation, working and living conditions.
A report cannot be produced without studying which region, which months, which products and under which conditions as well as at which level of payment these workers work. If this is not done, the report will not be useful.
The agricultural workers who only come to light with traffic accidents live less than most of us, even if there were no accidents, due to their working and living conditions. Their babies and children die more. They fall sick more, they are more undernourished, they are less educated and they suffer from poverty more.
The parliament, obviously, did not want to understand the problems of agriculture workers, the ones for whom we have not set standards of occupational health and security, the ones whose numbers we do not even know, the ones we have not registered nor granted social security nor the ones whose risks we do not know.
This issue becomes a sentimental situation only when number of casualties is high.
A couple of days before Manisa, it was in Yozgat, Tokat and other provinces where agriculture workers died in smaller numbers in traffic accidents or by falling into irrigation channels or being stuck by lightning. Those did not interest anybody.
The issue is that the dire straits the agricultural sector is in can only be continued through labor exploitation.
The issue is that the agricultural production process is not able to be dealt with through a rights-based approach.
The issue is that of a political climate that does not allow any means of organizing for workers and claiming their rights.
The issue is that the concept of “social and lawful state” included in the constitution is never to be found in real life.
The issue is that there is no democracy in agriculture.
The workers that were remembered with the accident that happened at the beginning of the week will be remembered again only with another mass casualty.
These deaths will not come to an end unless the workers are given social security by law, unless standards are set, until there are public and private controls, unless workers are organized focused on their rights, unless public authorities use their power on the side of good, justice and equality and unless concrete solutions are adopted.
When our pain is gone, the seasonal agriculture workers will again be forgotten until the next mass casualty.