THE student community in the not-so-distant past used to be a force to be reckoned with. Even when things did not go their way, they made their presence felt. On Feb 19, 1974, ten students began an indefinite hunger strike at Dow Medical College to press for their immediate transfer from Chandka Medical College in Larkana to the medical colleges in Karachi. The Transfer Action Committee of Chandka Medical College in a press release claimed 60 more students would join the strike if their demand was not accepted by noon, Feb 20. The affected pupils were residents of Karachi and could not afford the expenditure to stay in Larkana. Most of them did part time jobs in the Sindh capital to support their families. Apart from that, some of the girls’ families were too conservative to permit them to study in a far-off place. Sindh’s Health Minister Abdul Waheed Katpar urged the students and their parents not to ask for the transfer because it was ‘neither feasible nor practical’.

In a couple of days, the number of strikers increased. On Feb 21, 22 girls and boys appealed to Prime Minister of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to intervene immediately and order their transfer from Chandka Medical College. Out of the 22, 15 boys had completed 15 hours of fasting, and seven girls, 24 hours. Three students were taken to Civil Hospital on Feb 21 after their condition became critical. Talks between the provincial health minister and the Transfer Action Committee had remained inconclusive. The minister tried to persuade the latter to call off the strike and be ‘reasonable’. The students refused to give up.

As the city and its problems were expanding, the need for more hospitals could not be more emphasised. On Feb 22, it was reported that more than 50 big and small tanneries — industries converting hide into leather — would be shifted from Tannery Road in Rangiwara to Korangi, clearing about 15 acres of land required for the construction of a 250-bed KMC hospital for Lyari. Some members of a French company were to arrive in the city shortly to prepare the design for the proposed facility.

In a similar vein, on Feb 25, as this newspaper in a story said, immediate allocation of Rs50 crore by federal and provincial governments for ongoing projects and improvement in areas such as water supply, sanitation, health and transportation was recommended by an international panel of experts that had recently completed reading the draft for the Karachi Master Plan. It also recommended setting up of a suitably constituted steering committee invested with necessary authority, power and resources to enable it to assume full responsibility for coordination in planning and implementation.

Carrying on with the subject development, a few days earlier, the Chief Town Planner of the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) Z A Nizami said Iranian housing experts were interested in the planning patterns developed in Karachi both in public and private sectors. He was speaking to the media after his return from a study tour of Iran and Turkey under the RCD Exchange Programme. According to him, the Iranians expressed particular interest in the Master Plan prepared for the city.

Published in Dawn, February 19th, 2024

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