IF the extent of deterioration in the standard of public service since independence is to be witnessed, there would be no better examples than Pakistan Railways and Karachi’s bus service.
Viewed alongside the growing sectarian and ethnic strifes, one wonders whether freedom from the colonial rule was worth its while for the common man. The government policies while further enriching the privileged and plundering classes are only making the poor poorer.
The trains and city buses are turning into junk because only the poor are left to use both. The travel by rail is incredibly agonising, and scores of people perched on the roof of ancient buses is a familiar sight in Karachi.
To rehabilitate the railways and to improve the bus service (not in Karachi alone but in every big city), the solutions have to be drastic for the promises and plans have only hastened the rot. Here are just two suggestions.
PIA should be privatised and the proceeds of the sale and the subsidy saved should be diverted to the railways. If Airblue with a much smaller fleet is making money and expanding, the privatised PIA is surely going to be more profitable and efficient.
The city bus should be of special design and specifications and exempted from taxes and levies of all kind. Urban transport is subsidised all over the world. Since it would not be possible for us to manage a running subsidy, one-time concession in the price of city buses should induce the operators to enter this business. No other device has worked. The discontent of the people constantly simmers threatening public order every now and then.
Sectarian and ethnic difference would abate once the state takes care of the basic needs of the people and treats them with compassion and justice.
KUNWAR IDRIS Karachi