RESPONSES TO LAST WEEK'S
Playing with fire
The recent death of four children in fireworks explosion calls for the need to get this business out of residential areas and ensure safety of workers
By Aoun Sahi
On Monday June 23, Asif, 12, went with his three friends Sunil, 10, Nauman, 10 and Khalid, 12, to see the factory where they worked. His friends worked in a fireworks factory situated some 700 metres from his home. It was summer vacation and he had a lot of time to spend with friends.
"Usually he used to play with them after they returned from factory in the evening but he was also very curious to see how the crackers and different things were made in the factory," his mother tells TNS. "I always tried to stop him from going to the factory but on that unfortunate day, he went with them without informing me and never returned home."
The inflammable and explosive material in the factory accidentally caught fire. "There were around 15 workers in the factory at that time. All adults succeeded in escaping. Some of them also got injured but these four unfortunate children could not manage to get out of the factory. They were not burnt seriously but inhaled the toxic smoke of chemicals which I believe choked them to death," says 20-year-old Waqas Ahmad who works at the same factory. Waqas was also seriously injured in the accident.
All the three children were working in the factory for the last two years and were getting around Rs1500 per month as salary. Two of them, Nauman and Sunil, were brothers.
These children learnt to make crackers from their seniors in the factory. "There is no careful handling of material as majority of workers in such factories are not only poor they are also illiterate. The only direction given to workers is to avoid smoking while working and that is all," says Waqas.
The residents of the area put the blame on police for this accident. "The factory was being run with the connivance of the police for at least last five years," alleges a resident of the area. "Two brothers Saleem and Ramzan owned the factory and had good relations with police officials who would visit the factory regularly."
Once the police sealed the factory temporarily during a crackdown early this year but it reopened the very next day, the resident goes on to say on condition of anonimity.
Mochi Gate is the province's largest fireworks market and there are dozens of godowns of fireworks around. Many traders can be found selling crackers and all other fireworks items openly just a few yards from the Mochi Gate police station. According to city district government data, only eight dealers in Lahore are registered fireworks businesses while majority of the people in business are working illegally.
The police official deny they knew about the factory or the owners. "We have already caught all the people responsible including the owners and it is right that they were running the factory illegally. Police could not find it earlier because it was being run from a home-like building," duty officer Muhammad Ajmal Kahna police station tells TNS.
A deputy superintendent of police (DSP) tells TNS that it is impossible that police officials of an area do not know about such activities in their areas. "In fact such activities are the main source of bribe for them." According to him at the end of January this year former Inspector General (IG) Punjab, Ahmad Nasim ordered all field police officers in the province that storing and manufacturing of fireworks and other such material should not be allowed in inhabited areas of cities.
"The officers were directed to send compliance reports to the CCPO within a week. They were also told to obtain certificates from the station house officers (SHOs) and supervisory police officers (SPOs) that there were no godowns of or business of fireworks in their areas," he says.
He adds that no police official took the warnings seriously because it was a routine matter and there was no follow up by the high-ups on the issue.
This is not the first accident of its kind. In the recent past hundreds of people died due to fireworks. According to police record, nine people have already been killed during 2008 in such accidents. In one such incident, around two years back, 47 people including women and children were burnt alive when fireworks exploded in a bus at a marriage procession.
Summer is considered the most promising season for fireworks makers as they manufacture and store fireworks for the upcoming wedding season.
Akbari Mandi, Shah Alam Market and Dehli Gate market are the biggest chemical markets in the city and are easily available. There is no check on the chemical dealers and anybody can go buy a chemical of his choice from them.
Under the law it is not an easy business to get a licence for setting up a fireworks factory or a godown. According to rules anyone who wants to get license must be experienced in chemicals use, own property in a deserted place for setting up the factory where there is no population within 400 feet. He needs to submit all these things in written to the district coordination officer (DCO).
As per rules, the license is granted after inspection and approval from the concerned magistrate. The factory is also needed to have a huge water tank on its rooftop to put off fire in case of accident.
Majority of fireworks factories and dealers are working in the dense areas of Lahore with the help of police and other concerned officials.
After the present incident, the police officials as well as the district government have once again woken up to the issue. District coordination officer Lahore Sajjad Ahmad Bhutta has ordered all town municipal officers in Lahore to submit reports about licenced and unlicensed fireworks dealers in their respective areas. They have also been asked to submit reports of action taken against unlicensed fireworks dealers. The DCO has threatened town municipal officers with legal action if sale or manufacture of fireworks is found in their towns. One can only hope that real action will now be taken against the factories and dealers of death.
By Sidra Mahmood
"Switch off the stereo...turn off the computer...hey, switch the A.C. off...etc...etc..." these are the voices that we hear now since the only thing that is required to run these devices is so rare that our next generations are definitely going to find the sample of 'electricity' in the Lahore Museum along with the last remnants of Buddhist culture.
When we were children -- back in the mid-nineties -- our parents use to tell us that in Pakistan, 80 per cent of the population lived in the villages where there was neither electricity nor natural gas. Now, in the latter half of the first decade of the 21st century, we shall tell our children that though around the same number of Pakistan's people still live in villages, the entire country has a scarcity of electricity... and wait for winter; we shall have no natural gas either.
Why is that we are (apparently) progressing in every walk of life but the basic necessities? It is essentially ironic that we have a huge industry but not the power to run it. We have the world's richest resources of gas but why is it that my father denies me the privilege to turn on a second tube light even though it's my exam the next day?
"Save the electricity for the rainy day," makes a lot of sense now. Until we won't get a good downpour, our otherwise over brimming rivers shall not have enough waters to run the dams and therefore, thanks to Wapda, you shall find yourself an avid student of Neolithic history -- not through hypothetical study, but through an active participation on your part by living through the dark ages into the sweltering light (and heat) of the day.
There was a time that each household could easily boast of a single running electronic device of every kind... now is the time that five of such devices can boast to be only found, and being effectively non-functional in these houses. A couple of years back, people used to sit in McDonalds or KFC and have themselves photographed (hum be McDonalds gae they!!!). Leave it to them now; they'll stand next to a Bijli ka khamba or jalta hua bulb for this purpose, and tell their later generations that humarey haan be bijli hoti thi! Your jewellery shall be worthless as a heirloom; mothers shall give samples of bulbs that could be lit through batteries to their daughters (those who have been to physics lab in their early intermediate days would know of this mini-apparatus).
Some time back, one of the news channels was showing a man who had invented a fan run by CNG or was it LPG? Anyway, the more elusive the source, the more easy it will be to retain that fuel from turning both extinct and hyper-expensive. The point was that why is it that every season has to bring its soghaat unasked for? Winters bring 'gas-shedding' and summers bring 'load-shedding'... and I think that after having enumerated the various ways that lead people to 'shed' their frustration, load-shedding is not all that uncomfortable, trust me.
God has made Pakistani nation as the most prolific nation of the world when it comes to using and, therefore, availing their misfortunes so that they become a bliss in disguise. Ask a student as to why weren't he/she prepared for the exam, the well-rehearsed reply would be 'no light'; ask my M.Phil class why they have not done their assignments on time, their reason shall be the same as that of the nine-graders. The only difference is that where the nine-graders spent their time playing football or cricket, the older ladies had spent their time shopping and gossiping.
Shopping reminds me of the law that we all once heard that asked the shopkeepers to shut their shops by eight latest. Well, what happened to that law after the severe bout of load-shedding is that it was dumped! And why not? The shopkeepers have a good reason when they say that the government had promised less load-shedding if they did abide by the law but since the government went back on its words, the shopkeepers have every right to keep their work till late at night and earn the few extra bucks that 'no-light' robbed them of. Simple!
Similarly, load-shedding is a gift to the politicians of our country as well. If one government fails to deliver then it is the duty of the opposition to show how load-shedding is the sole reason of the failure, hence, claim a second chance to rule. If the economy of the country fails load-shedding is responsible! I fail, load-shedding is responsible! Husband and wife quarrel, traffic accident, dacoity, street crime, boyfriend ditched girlfriend or vice versa... blah blah blah... well, don't we all know who is responsible?
• Paintings Exhibition: Samina Zaheer's works on display at Research Art Forum's Gallery of University College of Art and Design of Punjab University
till July 8.
• Trials for Commonwealth Youth Games 2008 on Tuesday, July 8 at 9:00 am at Punjab University Sports Complex near Chauburji.
• A number of classes are going on at Children Complex. There are computer programmes, art classes and programmes for honing children's language skills.
• Talent Hunt Show (singing) every Saturday at Alhamra Arts Council, The Mall at 7:00 pm.
• Punjabi Sangat is weekly (every Friday and Sunday) gathering at Najam Hussain Sayed's house, where Punjabi classical poetry is read, interpreted and sung.The sangat has been going on for the last 30-40 years.
Any person who chooses to visit the Sangat can freely and actively participate in the above mentioned activities. Time: 7:00 pm.
• Each Thursday there is a music and dance performance at the Shrine of Baba Shah Jamal. The music usually starts around eleven o'clock upstairs with Gonga and Mitou Saeen and
around midnight downstairs with the
performance of Pappoo Saeen and Joora Saeen.
The dancing usually takes place around 1:30 am.
A disease uncured
Services Hospital doctors serve under constant threat of losing their vehicles
By Shahzada Irfan Ahmed
The Services Hospital Lahore has been in the news for quite some time. It was one of the places where the dreaded chief minister of Punjab Mian Shahbaz Sharif paid a surprise visit last month and found many lapses in day to day affairs. Following his visit, the provincial health department dissolved the board of management of the hospital and initiated an inquiry into the affairs that were allegedly being mismanaged. The axe also fell on the hospital high-ups including the medical superintendent (MS) who was removed immediately and replaced by a new MS.
The new administration of the hospital claims to have improved the situation to a great extent and taken strict action against those responsible for the mess created earlier. It also boasts of having come down heavily on the doctors and the paramedical staff and ensuring their round-the-clock presence in emergency wards. The duty staff has to mark its attendance electronically and submit fingerprints to the sophisticated system placed there for their surveillance.
The purpose behind all this exercise is to improve service delivery to the patients but many doctors working here disagree with this point and call for redressal of a genuine problem of theirs. They say it's unfair to expect maximum from doctors when they do not have peace of mind or their attention is diverted to other matters. It may appear strange but it's a fact that around 12 cars have been stolen from the premises of Services Hospital Lahore since September 2007 of which at least eight belonged to the doctors posted here. All these cars were stolen from different spots mainly due to the lax security arrangements and absence of surveillance cameras in the hospital.
A doctor employed at Services Hospital tells TNS on conditions of anonymity that this matter was brought to the notice of the medical superintendent (MS) many a time but he would take it easy and instead reprimand the complainants for not taking precautionary measures themselves. He says the paid parking in the hospital is meant only for patients and their visitors and the area spared for this purpose can hardly accommodate 50 to 70 cars. That's why the doctors have to park their vehicles close to the wards where they are posted, he adds.
Had the hospital administration spent a quarter of what it did on assuring staff's attendance on improving the overall security situation things would have been much better. "All the senior members of the administration have sheds allotted to them to park their vehicles. That's why they care less for our miseries," he adds.
The continued threat of having their cars stolen has made the doctors extraordinarily careful. Some of them park their cars in the parking stand managed by the Race Course Park administration whereas others use the parking lot of the Punjab Institute of Cardiology. There are even those who have abandoned travel by car and are commuting via public transport.
Dr Talal, who lost his car on May 19 this year, tells TNS that the largest number of car thefts in the hospital were reported that month. He says on March 20 a patient's car was stolen from the paid parking area of the hospital. The blunder committed by the poor patient was that he had left the token inside the car and could not produce when demanded by the police as well as the contractor.
He says that a medical student's car was also lifted from the hospital despite the fact that he had installed high quality security and crook locks in the car. Dr Talal says he has heard that the police reportedly traced the car with the help of a sim lying inside it and caught some people over suspicion but unfortunately the arrests did not lead to recovery of any of the vehicles, he adds.
Dr Talal wants to buy a new car but hasn't done this out of fear of losing it once again. "I come to the hospital on bus and concentrate single-mindedly only on the treatment of my patients. If I keep on thinking about my car I am bound to play havoc with patient's health," he adds.
Another victim Dr Wafa Aftab lost her car on February 17 this year, just a day before the general elections. She tells TNS that the theft was immediately reported to the police as she feared her car might be used for some subversive activity. She says her family kept pursuing the case but the police seems entangled in matters of more import.
When contacted by TNS for comments, MS Services Hospital as well as Shadman Police Station staff have somewhat similar things to say. MS Dr Muhammad Javed says he does not have any updates on the issue as he has taken charge recently. He says he will be in a position to say something in a couple of days. On the other hand Muhammad Iqbal, the record-keeper at Shadman Police Station tells TNS that though it is in his knowledge that many cars have been stolen from the hospital he does not have exact statistics with him. Each file will have to be seen separately to know the exact status of individual cases, he adds.
Regardless of the outcome of the probes of these officials one thing is for sure. The level of security at the hospital is highly unsatisfactory. If criminal elements can roam about freely and drive away with the vehicle of their choice they can also indulge in terrorist activities within the premises of the hospital. In this backdrop it becomes imperative for the new administration to beef up security in the hospital and provide peace of mind to the doctors as well as patients.
The Evacuee Trust Property Board has altered some structure in the Samadhi of Raja Ranjeet Singh to facilitate the pilgrims, something the Federal Archeology Department deems unlawful
By Ali Waqar
The Federal Archeology Department (FAD) has come into action after the Evacuee Trust Property Board (ETPB) changed the original structure of some part of an officially protected Maharaja Ranjit Singh's Samadhi in Gurdwara Dera Sahib Lahore -- a sacred venue for Sikhs across the world.
The demolished part of the archaeologically-preserved site was declared a protected monument in September 1913. According to the Federal Archeology Department's record, the original structure could not be changed.
The ETPB, federal government officials told The News on Sunday, changed this structure without approval of the FAD, a government body reserved to preserve and protect such monuments. They told that the FAD officials who visited the damaged place wrote to the ETPB authorities to conduct an inquiry into the matter and fix responsibility.
On the other hand, the ETPB authorities claim they did not touch the original Samadhi. They also say that FAD had nothing to do with this and it was upto the ETPB to make positive developments to facilitate tens of thousands of Sikh pilgrims who visit this religious site from all over the world.
According to details, ETPB demolished a 160-year-old room in the protective monument -- Samadhi of Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Gurdwara Dera Sahib to extend facilities for the pilgrims. The purpose, according to the officials, is to place a water tank and construct other necessary facilities like toilets for the pilgrims. The changes were initiated a month ago.
FAD director Saleemul Haq, who visited the site, told The News that sadly the original structure of protected monument was changed without care and prior approval of the FAD, the authority concerned. "The demolished room is part of that protected monument since 1913 with legal cover under Antiquities Act," he said, adding, "There would have been no harm if ETPB had made these facilities on empty space in the Gurdwara which is very much there and does not fall in the protected site."
The FAD has taken this up in writing with the ETPB and is waiting for reply. "No one can alter this original structure according to law and the solution is nothing but to re-preserve that room according to the same old structure. It was important to get a 'No Objection Certificate' from the FAD before making any changes to the original building which is an archaeological site," said FAD director Saleemul Haq.
According to the legal section of the FAD, Section 10 of the subclause 4 of Antiquities Act of 1975 FAD was responsible to protect such monuments. Moreover, Section 20 of Antiquities Act 1975 requires the custodian of any protective monument to get the permission of FAD if they want even minor changes. in the monument.
Monuments enjoy protection under section 10 of the sub clause 4 of Antiquities Act of 1975. Moreover, Section 20 of Antiquities Act 1975 compels the custodian of any protective monuments to get permission for the FAD if they want even minor change in the monuments.
Vice chairman ETPB Ashfaq Ahmed said that the board, which was the administrative authority to control Gurdwaras in Pakistan under federal law, did not touch the original part of Samadhi. "We are aware of its archeological importance and we have not touched it."
The official held that the board was fully responsible for running and developing these places. "We have to consider the increasing needs of pilgrims."
He said as far as they knew FAD could not interfere in such administrative affairs. "It is strange that FAD only eyes Gurdwaras instead of paying attention to more important archeological places like Lahore Fort and Shalamar Gardens. Anyone can go and visit Shalamar Gardens to witness its bad management.
"The protected religious sites are sensitive. The ETPB itself is quite aware of the issue. Sikhs are more sensitive about these sites so we are taking extra care." A lot of extension has been done in Gurdwara Nankana Sahib without touching the original structure.
Many Sikhs living in Lahore do not know of the issue. Though some Sikhs defended this development, many termed it violation of their rights. "No Sikh committee was even consulted," said a local Sikh, requesting anonymity.
The Samadhi is the mausoleum of the Sikh ruler Maharaja Ranjit Singh, situated near the Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque. Kharak Singh, Ranjit's son, had begun it on the spot where he was cremated. It was completed in 1848 and declared a protective monument in 1913. At the same time adjacent Hazoori Bagh and Roshnai Gate were also declared protective monuments.
According to the archeology reports, also available on the Internet search engines, the tomb exemplifies Sikh architecture with gilded fluted domes and cupolas and an ornate balustrade round the top. Ranjit Singh's ashes are contained in a marble urn in the shape of a lotus, sheltered under a marble pavilion inlaid with pietra dura, in the centre of the tomb. Other tiny urns contain the ashes of his four wives and seven concubines who threw themselves on his funeral pyre.
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