SAHIWAL: How political loyalties have a negative impact at mohalla level and what uninvited sufferings they bring in implementation of a development project worth just Rs1 million, only the residents of Merath Colony, located in the middle of city, can tell.
The story of Merath Colony residents exposes how the whole approach of public departments running on public money towards development and service delivery is for ordinary helpless citizens. Around 200 domestic consumers of the colony demand that opening of a gas valve not be politicised and the Sui Northern Gas Pipelines Limited (SNGPL) make it functional as soon as possible.
Around 200 households in the colony had been facing low gas pressure for three years. They individually took up the matter with the regional office of SNGPL, but to no avail.
“Gas loadshedding further complicated domestic consumers’ problems,” Muhammad Shafiq, a former councilor, said. The residents decided to raise the issue collectively.
Ramzan Jani, a “khidmatgar” as the locals called him, along with Shafiq made efforts and gathered the community to chalk out a solution to their problem. They discussed, framed a strategy and through a number of applications, protests and negotiations convinced the local high-ups of SNGPL to address the issue on priority.
They had also approached PML-N MNA Pir Imran Shah but he refused to give them gas from his personal quota. But their efforts bore fruit and the department was compelled to conduct a technical survey that proved the claims of low gas pressure.
Ali Raza Khan, distribution engineer at SNGPL’s regional office, had said in October last year that the department had decided to provide gas from the main supply line laid at Government Girls College road through a bigger pipe.
“Merath Colony’s previous gas connection is coming from Fateh Sher causing low pressure as it falls at the tail end of the pipeline,” Khan confirmed.
Another hurdle was getting a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Tehsil Municipal Administration and submission of Rs70,000 demanded by the TMA as development charges. The college road also had to be dug to build a new connection.
The amount was paid by SNGPL and the NOC also granted. The authority developed a feasibility report and spent around Rs1 million on creating a two-inch pipeline connection from the college road side. Until March, not only was the money paid to the TMA but the SNGPL also had its internal budget approved. Construction work started and everything was completed according to plan during the first week of April. A new gas valve was developed at the college road for providing gas to the 200 suffering residents of Merath Colony.
However, MNA Shah insisted he inaugurate the valve in a ceremony hosted by the community. People resisted and asked the SNGPL to open up the valve as soon as possible. Sixty days had passed past but the gas supply valve had not been opened yet.
Mrs Salman, a resident of the colony, told Dawn the valve would resolve their three-year-old problem of low gas pressure.
Bashir, a worker at a grinding mill, told Dawn that without involving any kind of political elements the residents succeeded in having their problem resolved.
An insider informed Dawn that public departments dealing in service delivery mechanism traditionally had inaugurated through an elected representative a development scheme that could improve the government’s image in the public.
“This is not legally defined in SNGPL rules but the ongoing practices make it compulsory for us (department) to get the inauguration done from a ruling party legislator,” a senior SNGPL official told Dawn on condition of anonymity.
Residents protested that they had paid bills to the SNGPL and not any legislator. They questioned why the facility was not being opened for the last 30 days and the community being pressured into holding a gathering for legislators.
This correspondent talked to several junior and senior officials of the SNGPL’s regional office and they favoured the inauguration.
Muhammad Arshad, regional manager at SNGPL, said the situation would be handled amicably.
Nadeem Chauhan, the MNA’s ‘front man’ at the SNGPL, told Dawn the inauguration would be held soon.
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2015