issue
Power game
The construction of a grid station in Gulberg raises questions of safety and environment. Residents lock horns with Lesco...
By Aoun Sahi
The hurriedly constructed brick wall along the road on an open stretch of half acre of green land beside the drain on Canal Park Road came as a shock to the residents of the area. The wall near near Zafar Ali Road in Gulberg -- quite a contrast with the erstwhile pleasant view of the green belt -- has been erected almost a few feet off the road. "It was around two months back we saw a wall being constructed right in front of our houses on the other side of the road," says Muhammad Saleem (name withheld), a 70-year-old resident of the area.

MOOD STREET
Promised disappointments
By Aatekah Ahmad Mir
It's sweltering hot. My car stops at the traffic signal. A child, barefoot, wearing rags, not clothes, comes close to sell the newspapers. Whether it's hot as hell or freezing cold, he's always here. Always barefoot, always dressed in rags.

Town Talk
Exhibition of Shafique Farooqi's paintings of 'Whirling Derweshes' at Hamail Art Gallery.
Nazir Ahmad Music Society stages a concert every Saturday at Government College University at 1:30pm.

addiction
Behind the landmark
The young drug addicts in the old city speak loud of parental neglect and louder still of the society's apathy
By Aisha Jehangir Khan
Our government claims to have erased child beggary almost completely, it claims to have started educational campaigns for academic learning for young children; to have made primary education free in Punjab and much more. The list goes on. But this doesn't seem to be the case when you go to enjoy breakfast by the landmark in the famous old city of Lahore -- Cocoo's Den near the Badshahi Mosque.

Pause and hone your axe
Companies adopt formal training programmes to keep employees sharp in the rapidly changing knowledge economy
By Jazib Zahir
For the past three months, Raza has started his day by walking into a packed classroom. He has furiously jotted down notes while an instructor fills the board with facts and figures from the worlds of finance, accounting and international trade. The lectures have been followed by written exercises and culminated in formal examinations. It has not been all work and no play; the evenings have been devoted to cultivating soft skills through the vehicles of dramatics and debates.

 


issue

Power game

The construction of a grid station in Gulberg raises questions of safety and environment. Residents lock horns with Lesco...

By Aoun Sahi

The hurriedly constructed brick wall along the road on an open stretch of half acre of green land beside the drain on Canal Park Road came as a shock to the residents of the area. The wall near near Zafar Ali Road in Gulberg -- quite a contrast with the erstwhile pleasant view of the green belt -- has been erected almost a few feet off the road. "It was around two months back we saw a wall being constructed right in front of our houses on the other side of the road," says Muhammad Saleem (name withheld), a 70-year-old resident of the area.

The wall disturbed the visual environment of the whole locality. "After two or three days we came to know that the wall is being constructed by Lahore Electric Supply Company (LESCO) for setting up a grid station," the old man says.

"We were surprised because no government authority consulted the residents of the area before initiating such a large scale project that can affect the environment of the area and health of residents adversely," says the resident.

According to residents, the project also includes covering the drain that will create problems for drainage of rain water in the locality. The elderly resident of the area who has been deprived of the green area he used to walk on in the evening, tells TNS that the grid station will comprise at least two huge electricity transformers containing tonnes of inflammable fluid that will be a huge threat to the locality.

Lesco officials confirm that the company has started work on setting up a grid station in Gulberg. According to them the decision to install the grid station is taken following an increase in complaints by Gulberg residents regarding power failure and fluctuations during the summer. The construction of grid station is being financed by World Bank under an agreement with Lesco, according to which the bank will provide $50 million to the company to build 15 new grid stations and to improve infrastructure of grid stations.

Lesco spokesman Zameer Hussain tells TNS that to overcome acute power shortage in Gulberg, residents are being supplied electricity from the Garden Town grid station. "This arrangement worked in the past. With growing burden on the Garden Town grid station, it is also short of electricity and cannot cater to the resident of Gulberg, the reason why Lesco decided to construct a 132 Kilo Volt (KV) grid station in Gulberg. The grid station will be completely covered and will pose no threat to the community," he says.

According to available information the City District Government Lahore (CDGL) approved the transfer of half acre of land in Gulberg to Lesco that actually belonged to Water and Sanitation Agency.

Though Lesco official claims that the project will have no adverse effect on the environment, residents of the area maintain that the company has not conducted Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) of the project while present environmental rules and regulations in Pakistan make EIA mandatory for construction of a grid station. Schedule II of the Pakistan Environmental Protection Agency (Review of IEE & EIA) regulations, 2000 notified vide SRO 339(I)/2001 makes a specific reference to grid stations as a project with respect to which prior EIA is compulsory.

The Constitution of Pakistan recognises environment as one of the fundamental rights under a ruling of Supreme Court of Pakistan in 1994, during famous Shehla Zia vs Wapda case. In the case concerning the installation of a grid station near a highly populated area, Justice Akhtar ruled that Wapda must issue public notices and hear objections before installing grid in any locality. His ruling also recognised environmental right as a fundamental right. And, as per Article 9 of the Constitution: "No person shall be deprived of life or liberty save in accordance with law," he ruled that 'life' includes all such amenities and facilities which a person born in a free country is entitled to enjoy constitutionally, legally and with dignity.

This innovative interpretation of the right to life and dignity has been the most salutary development to protect the environment and promote sustainable development in Pakistan.

Lesco spokesman Zameer Hussain tells TNS that the company has already fulfilled all the requirements needed to start the project. "The construction of grid station is in the interest of residents of the area and we already have submitted EIA report of the project to Environment Protection Department of Punjab." The EPD official confirm that four days ago Lesco authorities had submitted EIA report, but the residents say that no public hearing, a basic requirement of EIA, has been conducted by Lesco. The residents also say that power shortage in the area is due to the hundreds of plazas and shopping malls constructed in last couple of years so if they want to facilitate them, grid station should be built in some commercial area, they say.

Pakistan Environmental Protection Act, 1997 prescribes the regulatory framework in force for the protection of the environment of the country. Section 12(1) reads, "No proponent of a project shall commence construction or operation unless he has filed with the Federal Agency an initial environmental examination or, where the project is likely to cause an adverse environmental effect, an EIA, and has obtained from the Federal Agency approval in respect thereof."

The Federal Agency set up under the Act has delegated its powers to the Environmental Protection Department Punjab, as regards the application of the Act in the Province of Punjab.

Sub-Section 12(2)(b) of the act further reads: "The Federal Agency shall review the EIA and its approval subject to such conditions as it may deem fit to impose or require that the EIA be resubmitted after such modification as may be stipulated or reject the project as being contrary to environmental objects."

It is now up to the authorities to decide whether they allow construction of grid station in a residential area 'in the larger interest of the community' or hear voice of community and ensure the implementation of the present environment rules and regulations.

MOOD STREET

Promised

disappointments

By Aatekah Ahmad Mir

It's sweltering hot. My car stops at the traffic signal. A child, barefoot, wearing rags, not clothes, comes close to sell the newspapers. Whether it's hot as hell or freezing cold, he's always here. Always barefoot, always dressed in rags.

As I travel on this puddle of mud and rocks, what might once have been a road leading to my home, I see little children, like the one on the traffic signal, running around. As the car approaches, one of them says something to the others and they all start looking in my direction. The grown ups sitting on the charpai under a tree's shade also look up. I see the man who was dozing on his rehri open one of his eyes. Maybe to see what the commotion is all about.

I wonder what suddenly made them look so interested? Is it the blue jeep, or its windows all rolled up (meaning it has an air conditioner). Are they thinking it is people like me who are responsible for their being poor or remaining poor?

It is one of those moments when my condition becomes not quite dissimilar to expecting mothers. Just like they develop a sharper sense of hearing and smell, I develop a more sensitive conscience that's bothered by small things.

This happened three weeks ago and I am still in a similar thoughtful state. I've asked myself what they have done to deserve it. Does any truth lie in the statement, "His only sin was that he was born poor?" And that got me thinking about unkept promises.

Last weekend, after many weeks of searching, my husband was able to get his hands on CDs of ZAB's speeches. Needless to say, it was what we watched instead of the usual movie on the weekend. Though I was already convinced of the oratorial skills (courtesy the snippets of his speeches shown on television on his death anniversary), the speeches made it clear why he enjoyed and still enjoys such widespread popularity. The speech when he took over the premiership was especially captivating. I was convinced of his sincerity.

I was wondering why we do not have leaders like him anymore. Just then, it struck me that he had let the people down. Though his words seemed heartfelt and his promises genuine, nothing really came out of it. The poor that were promised relief remained poor. The promised land reforms never materialised.

But he is not the only one. Every day we see politicians promising us so many things, from democracy to justice and from better living conditions to affordable commodities. The dreams remain dreams. Only empty promises echo. Everyday.

But 'we' do get to fulfill some of our dreams. I remember many instances of disappointment yet I cannot even begin to imagine how disappointed the poor people feel when the promises made are not kept.

When I was young, my family had to get shots for typhoid and cholera every year. Not only did my siblings and I dislike needles, we hated the pain and the fever that followed. One year, we made our parents promise that the next year we would not be made to 'suffer'. They promised. The following year, we were delighted (to say the least) when instead of needles, we had to do a course of some tablets. We later learnt that the tablets were very expensive but our parents had bought them just because they wanted to keep the promise they had made. Imagine how special, happy and loved we felt? The next year, we didn't ask for the tablets.

 

Town Talk

Exhibition of Shafique Farooqi's paintings of 'Whirling Derweshes' at Hamail Art Gallery.

Nazir Ahmad Music Society stages a concert every Saturday at Government College University at 1:30pm.

Puppet Shows for everyone every Sunday at Peerus Cafe at 3pm. Free.

Puppet Show for children every Sunday at Alhamra,

The Mall at 11am.

Mian Muhammad Baksh Kalaam Concert

(Saef ul Mulook) on Tuesda, 26 June at Alhamra,

Gaddafi Stadium at 6pm organised by LEAF.

Concert of Akash Band, Annie and Ali Azmat on Saturday, June 30 at Alhamra, Gadaffi Stadium from 7pm to 11pm at

Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2007 To Sat, 30 Jun. Ticket: Rs 500.

Contact Sheraz at 0334-4297394.

Fim: Spiderman 3 at Sozo Cinema, Fortress Stadium till Saturday, June 30.

 

addiction

Behind the landmark
The young drug addicts in the old city speak loud of parental neglect and louder still of the society's apathy

By Aisha Jehangir Khan

Our government claims to have erased child beggary almost completely, it claims to have started educational campaigns for academic learning for young children; to have made primary education free in Punjab and much more. The list goes on. But this doesn't seem to be the case when you go to enjoy breakfast by the landmark in the famous old city of Lahore -- Cocoo's Den near the Badshahi Mosque.

The traditional food attract almost hundreds of customers early morning for halwa puris and at night for dinners. One thing that remains either unnoticed or is deliberately ignored is young children in the vicinity driven to drug addiction. Though very much visible, no one knows where they come from and what made addicts out of them.

Teenagers, or perhaps even younger, they should have been going to some school or working at a nearby shop or doing anything but taking drugs. They hide their faces if you try to take a picture. They run away if you try to initiate a conversation with them or even go near. And if you succeed in talking, the first thing you hear from them is demand for money. They charge you for making them speak and everyone knows that if they are given the money, you will not see them again, at least not till you are present there.

Most of them have come from broken homes, the rest have run away unable to bear the beatings of their parents or other family members. Some were forced to study and some were forced to work. They come from different cities mostly near Lahore. One of these boys who is 17, says, "I ran away from work because my employer beat me. Then my father started beating me, then my uncle, so I ran away from home." It has been seven years now that he has run away from home and is taking drugs. "In the beginning I used solutions and then turned to heroin and injections," he says.

Their unclean appearance, torn clothes, with rolled towels or plastic bottles in their hands filled with solvents to inhale, make them conspicuous. In some cases the child can barely move his body and lies on the ground almost unconscious due to over dosage. Their ages vary between six and 18. Shop owners in the area say that these children share a great sense of unity. "They don't fight with each other and if police tries to catch one of them, they all cut themselves with blades on the neck, head and hands, therefore no one goes near them, not even the police and if one of them dies, the police buries him or people from the Edhi Center come to pick their dead bodies."

Child drug addicts in this area only have been approximately calculated to be about 130-165, largest throughout Lahore. Shoe manufacturing units who bind the sole to the shoes are situated near the Badshahi Mosque and they use these solutions in bulk. These children buy the solution worth Rs 5 or 10 and use that for days. The money comes from begging, pick-pocketing or cleaning car windscreens which enables them to earn enough money to buy drugs for another few days. These homeless children take to glue sniffing to ward off hunger.

Rich people mostly visit this restaurant from where these children are quite visible, also frequented by foreigners. The tragedy is that these children remain unnoticed even by those who claim to work for children's rights.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, is a small house with 'Nai Zindagi' (New Life) painted on the walls. Nai Zindagi tries to give such children hope and initiative to start their lives again as normal healthy human beings. Nai Zindagi is a programme working for the prevention of HIV/AIDS among IDUs (injecting drug users). They initiated a project SMILE which is a street based programme for homeless young people and drug addicts in Lahore. They introduced Pakistan's 1st mobile drug harm reduction service which goes to selected places to treat such young addicts by providing them with basic necessities. In the centre of such a place where the conditions look so pessimistic, Nai Zindagi surely gives a ray of hope that someone there is working for these children.

These children have no one to stop them, they don't have a present and they are not bothered about the future but they cannot be blamed since they are the product of abuse of their adults. These children not only need social and moral support but also emotional support. They hate their adults who they blame as cruel and selfish. They hate being a part of the family which they consider to be the cause of their misery.

When we see these children on street, some of us get emotional and some curse them for being on drugs, for being immoral, filthy and run away from such a sight as if they are animals but what we fail to understand is that they are also human beings who have parents and siblings, who also have a heart of a child just like ours and have social rights in a developing democratic country like ours.

When we look at such children who have been forced to live the life of drug addicts due to financial and emotional catastrophes, we shudder at the thought of how apathetic our society is. We must save the children, all children, for us to survive.


 

Pause and hone your axe

Companies adopt formal training programmes to keep employees sharp in the rapidly changing knowledge economy

By Jazib Zahir

For the past three months, Raza has started his day by walking into a packed classroom. He has furiously jotted down notes while an instructor fills the board with facts and figures from the worlds of finance, accounting and international trade. The lectures have been followed by written exercises and culminated in formal examinations. It has not been all work and no play; the evenings have been devoted to cultivating soft skills through the vehicles of dramatics and debates.

But Raza is not in school. He has already slaved through four years of academic oppression to land the job of his choice in a prestigious bank. He is in the coveted position of 'management trainee' and must devote his initial months to rigorous classroom training. This is followed by rotations through several departments in the bank until he has found his niche for the next few years. For this entire period, he benefits from the salary and perks of a full employee.

Such training programmes are the hallmark of the most desirable banking positions such as those offered by Standard Chartered and Bank Alfalah. "The skills I acquired in my programme are like undertaking a mini-MBA and will serve me well for the rest of my life," explains Raza. How would he improve the existing training sessions? "Well most of the trainees are fresh out of school and not really in the mood for more classroom learning so maybe I would find ways to motivate them more," he reflects.

Most of those entering our work force are already armed with academic degrees that have instilled in them the skills of research, abstract problem-solving and effective communication. But companies adopt training procedures to mould these raw skills into the precise abilities required for the job. Given how Pakistan aspires to boast a knowledge based economy, it is imperative for our employees to be constantly engaged in learning. Passive learning such as that acquired by perusing internet resources like Wikipedia helps but doesn't force you to digest as much material as a programme that simulates an academic environment.

Such training has limited application to some employees. Gohar, a marketing executive, brainstorms on advertising opportunities, balances budgets and collects vital statistics to drive product plans. "I haven't been immersed in any training programme," he explains, "The skills I need for my job are best attained through work experience and the mentoring I get from those I report to."

But for employees in the information technology sector, regular training is critical. Techlogix, a well-reputed software house, boasts a professional training room in its basement. Every week, select employees march into the hallowed hall to be instructed in the newest programming techniques that are sought after by their foreign clients.

Kashif works at an engineering company and regularly attends training sessions conducted by the companies that manufacture the equipment he operates. The training involves detailed handouts and hands-on use of the equipment in a laboratory environment. "This format of training forces me to really learn the material and gives me the confidence to handle the machinery when I need to," he says.

And how do these programmes stack up against their counterparts abroad? Toqeer has worked for years in the Middle East with several prominent telecommunication operators before returning to Pakistan. He describes how Etisalaat has set up its own academy where each employee fulfils several training assignments a year. The academy draws students from many other countries and is thus an additional source of revenue for the company. Employees may also be sent for foreign trainings if applicable, but then they are bound to stay with Etisalaat for two more years or incur a financial penalty. "The best aspect of their trainings is that they confer a formal certificate upon completion that carries weight even outside the company," he says.

Lacking the resources to develop in-house certificates of substance, Pakistani companies do support qualified employees for external certifications of repute. Mudassir works in a project management division and recognises how a relevant certification could boost his career. "My company will sponsor me for a rigorous course to prepare to become a Project Management Professional as long as I commit to taking the exam," he explains. "The company would benefit by the more refined skill set I would bring to the table post-certification."

Even when companies do not provide financial support, professional certifications remain popular. On any given evening at the Corvit training center, you will find hordes of young men polishing their skills at configuring Cisco routers or composing software with Microsoft tools. "While I am applying for jobs, I am also undertaking this training to enhance my marketability," explains Ahmed who is studying to becoming a Cisco Certified Network Associate.

A Human Resource expert sums it up best, "Employees are like woodcutters in a forest. They cannot maintain their tempo of cutting trees without pausing periodically to sharpen their axe. We thus arrange training sessions to help our employees hone their axes."

 

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