The last of the Mohicans'

The AFP story on the death of Dr Mulk Raj Anand, published by you on August 29, did throw some light on the achievements of the nonagenarian writer Dr Mulk Raj Anand but fell short of his other accomplishments.

A prolific writer, Dr Anand wrote not just Untouchable (1935) - about the life of a toilet cleaner) - and Coolie (1936) - the tragic tale of a child labour who dies of tuberculosis, but also Two leaves on a bud (1937), which is a story of a Punjabi peasant working on a tea plantation, who meets his sad end when a Brit kills him.

In addition to the trilogy, Dr Anand wrote a number of short stories and short novels. He was a contemporary of such great early sub continental writers who chose English as their medium of expression as Professor Ahmad Ali, Raja Rao and perhaps the most accomplished R.K. Narayan.

Dr Mulk Raj Anand was the founder editor of Marg, a cultural magazine of the highest order that was sponsored by the Tata Group. Its first issue appeared in 1946 and until Gallerie, edited by Bina Sarkar Ellias, appeared seven years ago, Marg was the only one of its kind.

Dr Anand wrote some invaluable art books and I can recall at least five of them - Persian Painting, Homage to Tagore, The Hindu View of Life, Ajanta and Amrita Sher-Gil.

He was the last of the Mohicans because all others who signed the first manifesto of the Progressive Writers Movement in London in 1935 - Sajjad Zaheer, Dr Jyoti Ghosh, Dr K.S. Bhat, Dr S. Sinha and Dr Mohammed Din Taseer passed away long ago.

He was until Sept 28, perhaps the only survivor among the writers who attended the first conference of the Progressive Writers Movement in April 1936. Munshi Premchand, who presided over the function, was seated on the stage and was flanked by Maulana Hasrat Mohani and Chaudhry Mohammed Ali, who read the address of welcome.

Apart from Urdu and Hindi writers, there were like-minded poets and writers from Bengali and Marathi also. A very interesting narration of the conference appears in Sajjad Zaheer's Roshnai (Maktaba-i-Danial).

Banney Bhai, as Sajjad Zaheer was called, was one of the driving forces behind the Progressive Movement. I have a tape recording of Ali Sardar Jafri's interview where he talked about the great Dr Mulk Raj Anand.

I hope the literary societies functioning in our countries will hold condolence gatherings in the memory of a distinguished writer, who was born in our part of the subcontinent - Peshawar.



Housing society victims

In 1988 I registered myself with a housing society for a 12-marla plot in Islamabad's E-11 sector. Within a few years I completed instalment payments. Then the society asked me to pay development charges, even though it had not allotted plots to anyone. Nevertheless, I paid all development charges but was not allotted any plot. Also, no development work was carried out.

A few years ago the society told me that it had much more members than the land available - it had accepted money for much more land than it actually possessed. I was told that my 12-marla plot was only seven-marla and that I had to pay more instalments if I still wanted a 12-marla plot. Since I no longer trusted the society, I refused to pay more to 'upgrade' my plot.

Then in 2003 at a general meeting of society members, it was decided that members like myself would be given a year to pay up according to their instalment schedules.

The society also promised to start allotting plots in two months' time. I started paying instalments again, but for a 10-marla plot instead. Not only did I have to accept a smaller sized plot; I also was forced to pay development charges once again. Soon after, however, I stopped paying the rest of the development charges because the society did not allot plots as it said it would.

Recently the society held another general meeting where it was decided that members who hadn't paid up would not be allotted plots. It was clear to whom the society had oversold the plots.

Real estate speculators who now own acres and acres of the society's land through the buying of files are now trying to edge out single original plot owners like myself.

I have no other interest than to gain possession of the 12-marla plot for which I paid nearly two decades ago to build my own house. If the buying and selling of files is illegal, how come the society has been engaging in this activity without any consequences?

It is a shame that all this has been happening right under the noses of the relevant authorities. If the government cannot provide public housing to people, it should at least ensure that the private sector is able to efficiently cater to the housing needs of common citizens like myself who have had to live throughout their lives in rented houses.



Sindh's performance

Mr Sultan Ahmed in his article on the iniquities faced by Sindh (Dawn, August 23) rightly pointed out that the standard of governance in Sindh was abysmally poor. However, I would like to say that it is not so much lack of money as the mismanagement of it by the government that is pushing the province towards an economic crisis.

Compare the performance of Sindh with Punjab's. The Punjab provincial government is working hard to create employment by developing industrial estates in Lahore, Multan and Faisalabad.

Two garment cities in Lahore and Faisalabad are being constructed by the federal government, while the provincial industries department is developing seven industrial clusters in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme.

Apart from this, there are many other projects being implemented to facilitate business and industry, ranging from support programmes for SMEs to the setting up of ginning research institutes and garment training centres.

In addition, two motorways - one from Islamabad to Lahore and the other from Lahore to Faisalabad - have probably done more to open up and develop the province than anything else. A third motorway from Sargodha to Multan is under construction, while the Peshawar-Islamabad motorway was recently inaugurated.

Why is it that all infrastructure development is taking place only in the north, and the Sindh government has not got even one motorway project to connect the interior to Karachi so far? It seems that either the Sindh bureaucracy is engaged in other matters or the elected government is not bothered about the dissatisfaction in the province. Rather than blaming others, it should do something tangible for the province.



Scarcity of jobs

The unemployment among our qualified, skilled and unskilled people is largely due to our mismanaged import and export policy whereby finished engineering goods are allowed to be imported and because we supply industrialized countries with raw, unfinished materials.

There are no anti-dumping laws in the country and this situation is well exploited by countries even apparently friendly to us. We don't even have a check on the quality standards of our imports of finished goods and, consequently, consumers buy substandard items manufactured in Far Eastern countries. The market is full of "number two" stuff without regard to the consumer protection.

Where did the deletion programme go? Where is import substitution and the much-talked-about self-reliance? What happened suddenly in the garb of liberalization of imports? Our recent policies have demolished the local industrial infrastructure and creative production of engineered goods, where most of the jobs were and more could have been created.

For instance, many ancillary benefits would have followed had we learnt to make electricity-generating stations ourselves. At least a non-turnkey mode would be a step forward in this direction. It is against our self-reliance to keep on purchasing power plants for generating electricity on a turnkey basis.

No wonder our qualified and able-bodied persons are emigrating en masse in search of livelihood and that is not only a social problem but a reflection of mismanaged policies and the hollowness of the claim of economic prosperity.



Recruitment of college lecturers

The Sindh education department advertized in July last year 752 posts of college lecturers, for which thousands of candidates applied. A written test was conducted by a Karachi-based private institute. Candidates who secured 40 per cent marks in the test were asked to appear for an interview.

Interview committees were constituted and each committee was chaired by a member of the Sindh Public Service Commission. The committees recommended the names of successful candidates to the education department which after a period of three weeks issued 'offer letters'.

The candidates have fulfilled all formalities, i.e., submission of a police report, a medical certificate and an acceptance letter to the education department.

The Sindh Secretariat, Karachi, had been waiting for posting orders, but the provincial education minister, Hamida Khuhro, rejected the committees' recommendations some time back on allegations of nepotism and corruption and announced that interviews would be reconducted. If she has documented proof of the allegations, why have persons responsible for selection and recruitment not been taken to task?

I appeal to the authorities concerned to immediately address this problem.



New power meters

Kesc employees in connivance with private contractors have launched a new drive for the replacement of power meters. The new meters run 30 per cent faster than the existing ones.

In order to compensate for the loss of revenue due to the kunda system, which is installed with the complicity of linemen, the KESC has shifted its burden to legal power consumers who regularly pay their electricity bills.

My meter was recently replaced at my request, but they came to my house in DHA and insisted on replacing the already replaced meter. This is gross encroachment on the rights of consumers.

If this extortion is not stopped by the Karachi Electricity Supply Corporation, then I will request the consumer protection council to challenge this unethical practice in a court of law.



Progressive writers

Apropos of the letter "Progressive writers" (Sept 23), I should like to submit the following:

The progressive writers in pre-partition India supported the Muslim demand for Pakistan on the basis of their right of self-determination. Some of them joined the All-India Muslim League and worked for it.

So, if the progressive writers had any plan to hold a literary conference in a city which now forms part of Pakistan, there's nothing wrong about it. To them, the division of the country did not mean the division of human values - the very essence of literature - which were shared by the people in Pakistan and India.

And now when the cause of peace and friendship is being promoted by the two countries in an entirely changed political scenario, are not writers, journalists and social activists meeting each other at common forums in Delhi, Islamabad and elsewhere to promote reconciliation and peace?

The massive killings and transfer of population that followed the creation of Pakistan form a dark chapter in South Asian history. However, it was not expected even by the top Muslim League leaders and so if the progressive writers had an idea about holding a literary conference in Delhi or Lahore, they should not be accused of ignoring the impending division of India and the emergence of Pakistan. During 1946-47, they were at the forefront in trying to dampen communal feelings.

In this context I would like to recall a musaddus of Josh Malihabadi who, symbolically, called the Indian Congress the elder sister and the Muslim League the younger sister, asking both to settle their differences in an amicable manner and not to whip up hatred and animosity among people.

Interestingly, Josh chose the Communist party as the youngest sister and assigned the party the task of bringing together the 'warring' elder sisters on a common platform.

Lastly, let me state that the Progressive Writers Movement in Urdu literature was the strongest movement after Sir Syed's education movement. The progressives contributed to Urdu literature some of the finest pieces of fiction and poetry. Undoubtedly, they were the trend-setters for the coming generation of writers, and their role cannot be denigrated or denied.



The cricket debacle

This is in response to the Inzamam-scolding society's letters by Omar Moonis, Jahanzeb Syed and Brig (retd) Salahuddin (Sept 24). The trio has criticized Inzamam's decision to bat first which proved disastrous.

They rant as if the captain knew that batting first was a mistake. As the name of the lamentation suggests, it was a gamble. As a matter of fact, cricket is always a gamble. It is aptly called a game of chance.

What if Pakistan had won the semi? Would the Inzamam-bashing trio still have castigated him? These gentlemen would have been all praise for him. It is not the batting or fielding first which decides a match. Better fielding and sustained batting, as the West Indians did, always give a win.

It is the spirit, commitment and cool-headed split-second decisions to either stay back or sprint for a run that comprise the winning combination. Inzamam, whom the Dawn cartoonist (Sept 25) scoffs for winning the toss but losing the match, has lost this time because he could not motivate his squad and arrange the batting order. Shahid Afridi should have been given the opening slot.



The uniform controversy

The national and provincial assemblies have been created after spending taxpayers' money on elections. The members of these houses are compensated heavily in the shape of perks and privileges from our ailing exchequer.

In recent assembly sessions, there has been a needless debate on the uniform issue. The cordial atmosphere of the assemblies has been tarnished by mud-slinging and frequent walkouts by the opposition.

The nation expects these members to undertake constructive legislative work on pressing matters which remain unattended. It is earnestly requested that the uniform issue be left for the president to decide by Dec 31.



Unsafe pipes

Many small-scale pipe manufacturers are openly advertising and selling pipes without any check. There are only a handful of local manufacturers in Pakistan who adhere to international standards of quality and safety.

Unfortunately, in the absence of inspection by the authorities concerned, most manufacturers of pipes, which come under the unorganized sector, are having a field day since they are free to use cheap raw material which may include scrap pipes, harmful chemicals, etc, to manufacture pipes.

This eventually becomes a grave health and environmental hazard as these pipes are used for various purposes such as water supply and sewer. As long as action is not taken against these small-scale manufacturers, people will continue to suffer.



Khokrapar railway

Mr S.M.H. Rizvi (Dawn, Sept 29) correctly indicated that the Khokrapar railway is alive and kicking - at least on a weekly basis. I had the privilege to be on that train in December of 2003.

I have several photos of the train and the steam engine. There is no need to replace it with a broad gauge on that particular sector. It is the only steam train left in Pakistan for ordinary people to ride.


Edmond, Oklahoma, USA

Public toilet facilities

Switching through various channels on television I came across a programme called "Streets" on a local private channel with the host interviewing people on the street regarding their habit of relieving themselves on roadsides and the need to build public toilets.

First, the host kept comparing Pakistan with America and seemed to be under the impression that such practices are not found in the West. I would like to clarify that this is certainly not the case, and should the need arise, westerners do exactly the same.

However, the practice is much less prevalent, and the same can happen here if we have a law whereby every major food store and restaurant is bound to provide toilet facilities so that people are always aware that there is a toilet nearby, should the need arise.

Furthermore, it can be noted that these practices are most evident in areas which are poorly built and maintained, and around junkyards which, incidentally, happen to cover almost half the city.

The need of the hour is, therefore, to revamp and clean the city rather than build public toilets in the thousands, which will only result in further expenditure of maintaining these facilities.




Your editorial "Nonsense on tourism" (Sept 29) is absolutely to the point. You need to tell the people even more bluntly that unless this country can provide the usual internationally recognized pleasures of life enjoyed by most normal human beings - as do the good Islamic Gulf states - we should stop wasting money and time on vain attempts to attract beach tourism.



DHA charges

The Karachi DHA is demanding Rs1,000 per square yard as development charges for Phase VIII, although they have already taken final development charges. Is there any rational for this or simply is this official loot?




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