THE minister for climate change has warned about acute water shortage in Pakistan, and she is not alone in issuing such warnings. The ousted prime minister, too, had given us warnings and long lectures on the subject when he was in power without delivering anything substantial. All ministers and government functionaries give us warnings from time to time and paint doomsday scenario about the impending water shortage. All this makes wonderful sense. What is not so wonderful is the absence of any concrete action.

Despite being in powerful and influential positions, they practically take no action or hardly make any serious effort to mitigate climate change impact. Even if they plant a few trees, many others continue to get chopped off across the country on a daily basis right under their very nose. Similarly, in the rare case of somebody taking an initiative and formulating a policy or a plan, nobody takes the trouble to execute them to lessen water shortage or to improve public services.

The reason is simple. As a nation, we have a penchant for issuing verbose statements and setting lofty targets that remain far from being achievable. The other major and more critical reason for the present state of affairs is that those at the helm of affairs hardly get affected by the variety of issues the common man faces in everyday life.

All ministers and those connected with the government reap bumper crops, have large hunting areas, and spacious bungalows with sprawling gardens. How can they realise the misery and hardship of those small farmers or peasants whose lands remain barren for decades and their crops are rarely cultivated owing to zero supply of water? When standing crops are destroyed owing to either heavy rains or due to non-availability of the last water cycle because water is illegally consumed by the mighty landlords, do you think the policymakers even get to know of such happenings? They don’t and they just don’t bother themselves with such nitty-gritty, failing to realise that what is nitty-gritty to them is actually the lifeline of thousands.

The ruling class hardly realises what a heatwave actually is. They just get to know of it either through media or by the word of mouth. They spend their time in fully air-conditioned residences and offices, and commute in air-conditioned luxury vehicles. And when they so like, they travel abroad to spend the summers somewhere cool and pleasant.

Things being what they are, why would the ruling elite care about the heatwaves beyond issuing statements, alerts and warnings?

It is the same attitude that stops them from focussing on all other aspects of life. They are not bothered by the closure and dysfunctional status of thousands of schools where cattle or stray animals are found making their abode. Their own children of course study in expensive private educational institutions at home and abroad.

Why should the government of the day and officialdom take the trouble to make public health facilities fully functional? There is no reason to do that because they are paid from the national exchequer to have quality treatment from health facilities at home and abroad.

Therefore, we should not be surprised when the government functionaries pay lip-service to the issues affecting the lives of millions of people. They promise heaven on Earth close to election time. Post-election is a different scenario altogether. The ruling elite just does not care. And, frankly speaking, why should they?

Gulsher Panhwer
Johi

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2022

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