trend
Crazy about football

New teams of teenagers in the city are holding more matches than ever before just for the love of it
By Amel Ghani

Summers bring the joys of relaxation to most teenagers but to the football crazy boys of Lahore it's time to play. The steady rise in the popularity of football in the last three to four years has led to the formation of many different 'underground' football teams. These teams basically consist of a group of friends who love playing football and enjoy the sport. They get together whenever they get time and do what they love doing -- play football. Usually, they give their group a name and then they become a proper team. The name makes it sound more important and makes sure that people take them more seriously than just a bunch of guys playing football. The zeal and spirit of the player involved is exemplary.

Adam's ale
The rapidly decreasing water level is a concern of authorities and citizens alike

By Zaheer Ahmed

The water table in Lahore city is decreasing at an alarming speed -- a problem that requires special attention of the concerned department. If not tackled in time, it might lead to a drought like situation in the near future. 

Town Talk
Young Leader's Conference organised by School of Leadership at Pearl Continental Hotel today. For further information see website; http://ylc.sol.edu.pk

LEAF Discourses and short story by Bano Qudsia at Model Town Library Auditorium on Thursday at 6pm.

price
Fruitless summers

Fruit prices have seen an increase of 18 to 32 per cent this year, which has been an all time high. Will the government do something to check the prices?
By Mehwish Nizami
Scorching heat coupled with frequent power breakdowns mark the summers in Lahore. But there is a happy side to the summer as well -- it brings the maximum variety of fruits at one time. Fruits of Pakistan are known for their quality all around the world. There are about 30 different types of fruits that are abundantly grown in Sindh, Swat, Peshawar and Multan region. Citrus fruits, dates, mango, guavas, apple, banana, apricot, grapes, almonds, peach, plum and pomegranate are the main fruits of Pakistan. One fails to understand why they are being sold at such high prices. 

Parking problem
Vendors are frequently displaced by the authorities and face upheaval as a result in the absence of any solution in sight
By Shamila Maria Khan

Passing by the Durand Road in Lahore, I am shocked to see corporation trucks taking away everything being sold on rehris as vendors stood blank faced, watching their sole source of income being taken away. 

 


trend
Crazy about football
New teams of teenagers in the city are holding more matches than ever before just for the love of it

By Amel Ghani

Summers bring the joys of relaxation to most teenagers but to the football crazy boys of Lahore it's time to play. The steady rise in the popularity of football in the last three to four years has led to the formation of many different 'underground' football teams. These teams basically consist of a group of friends who love playing football and enjoy the sport. They get together whenever they get time and do what they love doing -- play football. Usually, they give their group a name and then they become a proper team. The name makes it sound more important and makes sure that people take them more seriously than just a bunch of guys playing football. The zeal and spirit of the player involved is exemplary.

When I ask some of these players how it all started, none of them have a clear answer. "We just started playing for fun against friends and gave our teams names," says Ghias who plays for a team called 'Defense United Football Club'.

Every summer at least three to four major football competitions are held. All you have to do to organise a football match or make a team is make a post on one of the football societies on Orkut and there will be tons of pleas from people willing to sign up. A very popular community is 'Lahore Football' which deals with all the major football events happening in Lahore. It has all the information that a young player willing to play football in Lahore might need from the football competitions taking place to the formation of a new football academy.

As it is too hot to play football during the afternoons most matches take place either in the early morning hours around 5am or at night in stadiums which have flood lights. If it's a football competition then all the teams have to give an entry fee. Out of this fee the organisers (which are usually another team) pay for the grounds and some times refreshments after the match or during the half time. Occasionally, the winners and the runners-up get prize money.

Some of the more dedicated teams hold regular practice session. One such team is 'F.C Killers'. They are a devoted team which consist of seven players who play regularly. To others it's just a once in a time thing. The captain of the team Sachel Ghani makes sure that there are regular practice sessions. "It's extremely important to have regular practices because it improves the co-ordination of the players and their stamina," says this 15 year old teenager who seems to know what he is talking about. They usually hold their practice early in the morning because "it is easier to get hold of grounds then" and "the fee is slightly less".

Although organising minor practice sessions and football tournaments may seem like a piece of cake to many adults out there, for a group of teenager boys just willing to have fun it's a very organised activity. It is not an easy task making sure that there will be eleven players showing up for the match at the required time. Lots of factors have to be taken into account; a time that suits all players is number one on everyone's list.

They might not be as dedicated to their studies but waking up at 5 in the morning for practice is definitely not a problem for any of these players. Most of the parents are extremely supportive of this too. "For starters it's a very healthy activity, a lot better than sitting around watching T.V all day or playing FIFA on the play station," the parents say. Moreover, they seem to think that the 'dedication' of their children is enough to gain their approval although none of them seem keen to make football the priority. To the parents it is simply a healthy hobby. Obviously, it is not their fault that they think this way. We owe this to the lack of opportunities of excelling in this field.

The one major setback for these football teams and players is the lack of professional help. The only people enthusiastic about football are the players who play the game with literally no support. Companies are extremely reluctant to sponsor the competitions let alone the teams. There are no football academies to polish the skills and raw talent of the young players. Without the availability of proper coaches they won't be able to get very far. Their only inspirations are famous football players like Ronaldinho, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, Cristaino Ronaldo, Dider Drogba, Ricardo Kaka and Lionel Messi.

Even with all the interest, enthusiasm and talent the future of football for Pakistan is not bright. The main reason for this seems to be the underdeveloped standards of football in this country. The sight of these young players and talent is very inspiring yet sad because they will soon be forced to give up due to the lack of resources and opportunities to pursue professional football.

The unanimous opinion of all these players is that at this stage football cannot be pursued as serious professional career in Pakistan because its standard is absolutely hopeless. They have the talent and the skills needed to play football at a professional level but no one to correct their mistakes and polish those skills. Their talents are going to waste and even though the rise in football at this level has started a movement they are not going to get very far without professional help. 

Adam's ale
The rapidly decreasing water level is a concern of authorities and citizens alike

By Zaheer Ahmed

The water table in Lahore city is decreasing at an alarming speed -- a problem that requires special attention of the concerned department. If not tackled in time, it might lead to a drought like situation in the near future.

The population of Lahore city is increasing rapidly and the consumption of water, being the lifeline, has also increased manifold. Though the problem concerns each and every citizen alike, the worst victims are the residents of slums.(katchi abadis) or those living on the top floors of multi-storey buildings.

"The water supply situation in the city's slums is grim because water available in these areas is not fit for human consumption. But people have to consume it anyhow," says President Pakistan Katchi Abadis Alliance, Zahid Anjum while talking to TNS.

According to a survey conducted in 1985, he says 54 localities out of the 122 in the metropolis were formally declared katchi abadis. These areas lack civic amenities like clean drinking water. Wasa is supplying water to 75 per cent katchi abadis but there is no smooth water supply. "Residents have no option but to install water pumps at their homes for more water. This puts financial burden on a poor man who has to pay for extra electricity used for the purpose. Those who cannot afford water pumps have to live with reduced water supply," he adds.

Due to this reason, he continues, water-borne diseases like hepatitis are spreading rampantly in slums. The city district government has installed filtration plants in posh areas where people can afford to install personal water filter systems themselves. On the other hand, they are no where to be seen where they are needed, says Zahid.

"There is no Wasa's water supply system in our locality and my husband, employee of Pakistan Rangers, has to fetch clean drinking water from water filtration plant from Rangers Colony," says Shamim Bibi, resident of Altaf Colony (a slum area) near Pakistan Rangers Headquarters in Lahore. She tells TNS that her children are too young to fetch water from this filtration plant. Shamim's husband is now posted in Fort Abbas but his family lives in this rented house. "When my husband visits home once in a month, he stocks clean drinking water in gallons which is enough for 15 to 20 days," she adds. "The water table in Altaf Colony, however, is not very low. The real problem is that the water is brackish and not fit for drinking," she says.

Those living in flats are also not satisfied with the performance of Wasa. "I live on the 4th floor of Wapda flats at China Chowk where water supply is not smooth," says Mohsin, a resident of the flats while talking to TNS. "A water pump of Wasa department has been out of order for the last one and a half months and the department concerned has not checked it. Due to this fault, water pressure is not sufficient enough to reach heights," he says. "Sometimes, I have to wait for hours to see water bucket fill slowly if I want to take shower," Mohsin says. Similar is the plight of people living in flats at Rasool Park near Ichhra,Talla flats in Model Town and flats in other areas.

"The level of water table in Lahore city is going down by five and a half feet per year. The basic reasons behind this shortage is the wastage of water, asserts a Wasa official while talking to TNS. "There are 400 water pumps in the city which are supplying fresh and clean water to the citizens round the clock while more pumps are being installed according to the requirements of different areas," he claims. He suggests that drinking water should not be used for washing or cleaning purposes.

The official adds that rampant development and consequent shrinking of green belts and open places are the major reasons behind this rapid decrease in water level. As most of the city is now concrete topped, the land does not get re-charged.which is a natural system for the improvement of water table. Due to this reason, the water table level in the areas with more open spaces is better than that of city, he adds.

 

Town Talk

Young Leader's Conference organised by School of Leadership at Pearl Continental Hotel today. For further information see website; http://ylc.sol.edu.pk

 

LEAF Discourses and short story by Bano Qudsia at Model Town Library Auditorium on Thursday at 6pm.

 

APMC monthly classical concert

at Alhamra Hall III at The Mall today at 6 pm.

 

MTV grand dance party on Saturday, July 7

at a farm in Lahore only for couples and girls. For passes

contact Kabir at 0300 9409270 and Zara at 0322 8403224

 

Sing Along Kaafi on July 3

at Alhamra, Gaddafi Stadium at 6pm. Kaafi Bulleh Shaah

is read, explained and discussed on the occasion.

 

Jazz Night at Peeru's Cafe

-- a fusion of Jazz and tabla on Sundays at 9pm for free.

 

Puppet Show for Children at Alhamra, The Mall at 11am. Ticket for Rs 5/10.

 

price
Fruitless summers
Fruit prices have seen an increase of 18 to 32 per cent this year, which has been an all time high. Will the government do something to check the prices?

By Mehwish Nizami

Scorching heat coupled with frequent power breakdowns mark the summers in Lahore. But there is a happy side to the summer as well -- it brings the maximum variety of fruits at one time. Fruits of Pakistan are known for their quality all around the world. There are about 30 different types of fruits that are abundantly grown in Sindh, Swat, Peshawar and Multan region. Citrus fruits, dates, mango, guavas, apple, banana, apricot, grapes, almonds, peach, plum and pomegranate are the main fruits of Pakistan. One fails to understand why they are being sold at such high prices.

This year the fruit prices have remained an all time high, preventing many people from having fruits. "I cannot buy fruits in fair quantity as I used to before. Now the prices have gone so high that even half a kilogram of fruit has become unaffordable," says an employee of a private company. Actually, people from all income levels are nagging about the prices. The current year has seen a raise of 18 to 32 per cent which is the highest ever recorded.

Citrus fruits were sold at double the price from last year. Normally, there is increase of two to three per cent in the fruit prices every year. There are many factors responsible for this increase in prices of fruits. Ibrahim Mughal, Chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan holds 'post harvest loss' predominantly responsible for inflated fruit prices. Post harvest processes include the integrated functions of harvesting, cleaning, grading, cooling, storing, packaging, transporting and marketing. Primarily, poor pre-harvesting measures and adoption of poor production techniques are responsible for post harvest loss. He says out of total production, we face a loss of 30 to 35 per cent (or higher) every year which amounts to a huge loss or wastage of fruits. According to him, illiterate farmers and lack of technology and equipment/instruments reaching them, are the key factors. "Low shelf-life, improper storage and grading of fruits are contributing to post harvest loss to a great extent," he says.

The government has formed Punjab Agri Marketing Company (PAMCO) which aims at attracting private sector investments in dairy, horticulture, poultry, livestock, fisheries and floriculture sectors. Keeping the present scenario in mind, the organisation has failed to fulfill its objectives. Ibrahim declares this "a futile and useless exercise" of the government that is pulverising the process that needs enormous attention. Mansoor Arifeen, Chief Executive PAMCO, on the other hand, claims the company is trying its best to overcome this problem and it will of course take some time.

The Chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan says, "Usually it is the middleman who is held guilty when the prices go up. He buys the supply from one place and sells it at another place. The blame cannot be put on one person. The real problem lies in the lack of facilities that can help increase the shelf-life of fruits and other perishable commodities. We are ready to invest if someone takes an initiative in establishing utilities such as cold storage, refrigerated transportation that will overcome the post harvest loss," he says.

While these measures are going to prove beneficial in the long run, there is an instant need to jot down short term plans which include a strict notice of middleman mafia. Abdul Raheem, an MBA student who is a fruit vendor at his father's shop, mentions reasons such as increased government taxes and transportation charges responsible for fruits being sold at high prices. Fruits are not readily available in the market (mandi) after they are picked. This is due to stocking. Middlemen buy fruits from the growers at very low prices and stock them until the demand goes up. This affects the quality of fruits and much of it goes waste. The prices also go up consequently. "We are not allowed to check fruits while buying them from mandi. They sell rotten fruits with the fresh ones which bring a great loss to the vendor as it cannot be sold to the customer," says Mohammad Iqbal who sells fruits beside College Road, Township.

Punjab Price Control Committee headed by Khwaja Tahir Zia has formed a price list of fruits, vegetables and meat. The list is being violated by the vendors which has caused the committee to take an immediate and fierce action against them. "The price list is denied by many fruit sellers," says Abdul Raheem. "The authorities give low prices on purpose and they are not familiar with the varieties of fruits that are available in the market," says Afzal who grows guavas in Sheikhupura and has no concern with the prices at which fruits are available to the consumers. "My job is to grow fruits and sell them before they rot," he says. Farmers are selling fruits at the same prices as last year. They are not equipped with new and modern technologies and they lack knowledge too. Ibrahim Mughal suggests that in order to preserve the production, farmers should be trained. He says the government should abolish organisations such as PAMCO and form a committee including farmers, consumers, middlemen, government officials and quality control members as its stakeholder. In this way, everyone included in the process from the grower to the consumer will benefit and there will be transparency in the system as well.

In spite of all the efforts made and initiatives taken by concerned authorities, the problem remains intact. Lack of technology prevailed earlier along with unaware farmers. The grower is not given his due share and the retailers have the same story to tell. The government brags about its achievements but such inflation was never witnessed before. The production of fruits for the year 2005-2006 was Rs 7.147 million tonnes while for the year 2004-2005 was Rs 6.633 million tonnes.

It's easier to play a blame game and much harder to pursue actions that will be beneficial for people at large. The government needs to take action to address this problem so that the prices are controlled and common people can also taste nature's blessings that are called fruits.


 
Parking problem
Vendors are frequently displaced by the authorities and face upheaval as a result in the absence of any solution in sight

By Shamila Maria Khan

Passing by the Durand Road in Lahore, I am shocked to see corporation trucks taking away everything being sold on rehris as vendors stood blank faced, watching their sole source of income being taken away.

Removal of encroachments is a regular exercise carried out by the Municipal Corporation in this city for years now. They banish vendors that obstruct movements on the roads, footpaths and on all road intersections whenever and wherever there is a VIP movement. All this operation is to smoothen the traffic flow, lessen chances of accidents and remove security hazards, and of course all this is a very sensitive issue.

Bashir Ahmed, a fruit vendor who has been in this profession for the past 18 years says, "I have no option other than to sell fruits. I am doing it to earn bread for my children. If the government picks up my stall I borrow money from someone, buy more fruit and put up a stall again. The government does not give us employment if we are unemployed. Its officials take away our wares on charges of encroachment but do not provide us alternatives so that we have a proper place to sell our fruits."

Another vendor Fareed says, "Encroachments are only increasing  as the cost of living goes up day by day. I have to fulfill the needs of my children. I find no other way to earn my living. If things remain the same people will deviate from norms." According to him, encroachments are not only small stalls or shops, there are public gatherings where government officials also speak and block the traffic. "Then why are we poor people blamed? I believe it is sufficient that we are earning an honest living, we are doing something for our bread and butter but it looks as if the government wants us to leave this and get down to begging."

Amjad Jaan, who has been selling fruits for 16 years, says: "I have a fractured leg. I cannot do anything else now. I am 62, how can I find another job for myself. This is my only source of income. I have to feed and take care of my family and have to survive. I have nowhere to go other than sell fruits."

Faraz Ahmed Chaudhry, Gulberg Town Nazim says the fruit vendors have to take a step along with us to make the roads clean. We are ready to provide them proper places where they can sell their fruits but this will not work if the other side is not ready to cooperate. These fruit vendors want to sell fruits in front of a plaza or big shopping complex as their sale is in those areas.

"We want their cooperation. We also want to make Pakistan a better place to live in. We do not want them to become unemployed. We are ready to do anything for them. We are really concerned about their families but it is their job to understand that rehris are a hazard in many ways," he adds.

SSP Waseem Ahmed Khan, Chief Traffic Officer Lahore says these vendors are a real cause of road blockage. There are around 15,000-20,000 rehris in Lahore. When people stop in the middle of the road it causes traffic jam which eventually results in accidents. This certainly is a major issue of the vendors.

The fruit vendors cannot be forcibly asked to leave their places. They cannot see their children dying of hunger. The government is trying to make Pakistan a clean country but we should not forget these poor people who earn their livelihood by selling their wares on rehris. The SSP says, "They will be provided with a proper area where they can sell their fruits without any fear of crackdown. Things will start getting better and these vendors will not be left unemployed if they cooperate. But in my opinion there should be a specific area that can be allotted to them for the business."

This may not work as these fruit vendors serve a great number of office-going people who prefer to take fruits for their lunch. These fruit vendors stand outside the offices in the scorching heat and even in extremely cold weather. So the solution to this problem can be that they do not permanently park their stall at one place but keep on moving so that there is no problem in traffic flow. This may mean losing many customers and for people a certain vendor who offers things at a certain point.

 

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