LAHORE: The Orange Line Metro Train security staff was caught on camera on Friday morning torturing some labourers for lighting a fire near the elevators of the Awan Town train station that set off the safety alarms.

The incident attracted public attention after a video went viral on social media, inviting severe criticism over the torture of poor workers. The video showed five labourers first being made to sit in a rooster position as a punishment and then being thrashed by the security staff with batons. The staff also abused the workers while beating them continuously despite their apologies.

Reportedly, the labourers had lit a fire in the cold foggy weather early on Friday morning near the elevators of the Awan Town station. As soon as the smoke entered the elevated section of the station, the automatic safety alarms started ringing, alerting the security personnel deputed there.

When the staff found the five labourers sitting by a fire, they took them inside the station and thrashed them, as shown in the video.

“At 8:15am (Friday), the equipment dispatcher reported Life Safety Alarming at rest room of the Awan Town (station No 21). [Upon inquiry], the Station Equipment Controller told that someone lit up fire near emergency exit stairs of station that caused activation of the fire alarm at station. At 8:35am, the dispatcher reported that the station ventilation system is turned on. At 8:40am, the smoke started dispersing after the fire was extinguished, making the things normal,” reads an internal report shared with the senior officials concerned.

PMTA official says personnel being sacked, security company to be chargesheeted

The report quoted the administration as requesting the security company to restrain outsiders from lighting fires near station premises as smoke had caused similar incidents several times at other stations. The security staff handed over the labourers to police for legal proceedings.

About the torture on labourers, the report mentioned that the officials did so over perceived threats to the station. “They (security officials concerned) are being fired in violation of the contract. Moreover, police are also investigating the matter.”

A Punjab Mass Transit Authority (PMTA) senior official condemned the behaviour of the security officials. “This is totally unacceptable. We have asked the security company to send us service termination letters of those involved in the incident,” PMTA Senior General Manager (Operations) Syed Uzair Shah told Dawn.

Mr Shah said ringing of the safety alarms meant that the trains should neither stop at a station nor pick up any passenger on the way.

“The security system installed at the Orange Line is advanced and internationally recognised that immediately starts working after sensing fire or other means,” he explained.

He called the incident a result of insufficient training of the staff. “We have also decided to charge sheet the company we have outsourced the Orange Line internal security affairs to,” he maintained.

Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2021

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