Wednesday, August 20, 2014

PAKISTAN Railways in a complete mess

Iftikhar Mirza

Wednesday, August 20, 2014 - The dilapidated condition of Pakistan Railways is an open secret for everybody. For so many years, Railways has been in a complete mess. The whole system has ruined owing to neglect and mismanagement by government as well as its employees. Railways, introduced in the Sub-continent by British in 1853, has almost outlived its life in Pakistan.

Ironically, India made radical changes in its system and transformed Railways into international level communication system. Indian Railways is world’s number eight largest employer with more than 1.4 million employees. Pakistan Railways, in contrast to India, presents a total dismal and gloomy picture. This department like PIA is being managed on interim basis; only makeshift arrangements are being made to keep its wheels moving, no matter at what cost. Ironically! Government finds solution only in privatizing these organisations without resorting to some methodical change or an effort to improve their operations. No one is ready for surgery of these ailing departments, which are one of the largest employers of country. On 9th August, I travelled by train from Karachi to Rawalpindi to observe the miseries of passengers. I find no words to express my feelings, how roughly and rudely the passengers are treated by lower staff of Railways. You are denied a ticket of Business class, no matter half of compartment’s seats lie un-occupied when the train departs. I had to cut a sorry figure when I moved to economy class where passengers were lying on floor like chattel. There was no space to move, access to washroom was blocked by luggage and passengers. I could not understand, why, with this huge turnover, railways is still a depleting asset and continuously going in loss for decades.

Chaos was everywhere. I was told by some insider that those lying on floor just grease the palm of conducting guard and do not buy any ticket. What a pity...! Corruption is running down our veins like blood. Is there any remedy for this malady? Further to this, damaged floor of bogies indicated that no repair and maintenance procedure was in place. There was no fan in the compartment, only three bulbs, that too at one place, in the whole compartment was making the scene horrendous. No light and water was in washrooms. One can feel the miseries of passengers who have to travel for 30 odd hours without basic amenities. To add insult to injury substandard food of dining car was there, which was not only expensive but also stale and unhygienic. Dirt was all around the railway track, and platforms. Sanitation was poor, inviting epidemics to break in. I suggest, instead of putting people behind the bars for crimes, they may be forced to travel through train for some specific time.

Alas! Minister of Railways, Khawaja Saad Rafiq is just a mouth organ of Nawaz Sharif; always busy in mud-slinging on politicians. People are not interested in his antics. In the prevailing circumstances, there is not an iota of hope that things would improve for Railways. Large bungalows of Railway officers, alongwith numerous perks, call for their performance based remuneration. A complete overhauling of this department is a dire need, lest it would eat itself up like termite. Its employees have already sapped the very foundation of their organization.

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