Desi thirst quenchers
Conspicuous by absence
The district government has a separate public facilities department and yet there are hardly any toilets and provision of drinking water at public places
The local government system apparently introduced to empower public representatives and people at the local level has failed to deliver on various counts. The ambiguity that exists regarding the overlapping jurisdictions of district, town and union council administrations has often left citizen stranded. On many an occasion they are not clear whom to contact for redressal of their problems. The lack of facilities like drinking water, shades at bus stops, public toilets etc is also due to this confusion, believe many.
One can easily recall that once there used to be free public toilet facilities, water coolers, benches, shades etc managed by the defunct Lahore Metropolitan Corporation. Today, all these things have become a rarity. The local governments who are in fact responsible for providing these facilities, are spending all their energies and funds on building roads infrastructure.
A visitor to the general bus stand, Lahore railway station or any other crowded place, would find people answering the call of nature against walls. There would be others forced to buy cold water at a rate of Rs 1 or 2 per glass to quench their thirst. Besides, the plight of those standing on bus stops for extended times, without any shade over their heads in scorching heat, is known to all. In the absence of benches, this helpless lot would stand there endlessly waiting for the bus to arrive.
Here one shall not miss the lucky ones who have the privilege to sit on seats placed at franchised bus stops by private companies. These bus stops also have functional water coolers as well as shades. The Lahore District Government has given these bus stops to private companies on franchise and, in a way, absolved itself of the duty to provide these facilities to the masses itself. An interesting fact is that the district government has a separate public facilities department headed by a district officer but the general public is not very much aware of the functions that it performs.
Mujtaba Chishti, a former union council member, tells TNS it is a pity that there are around 40 public toilets for a city with a population of eight million. Even if there are any, they are not fit for public use. "Water have been disconnected in many of them whereas others lack wash basins, taps and soap. Besides, many poor visitors to these facilities cannot afford to pay Rs 5 per trip," he says.
A district government official tells TNS on conditions of anonymity that the participation of corporate sector in public sector projects has made the government lethargic. "Though the objective initially was to attract finances for public projects from this sector by providing it advertising spaces, the government authorities now want the corporate sector to perform such functions on permanent basis," he adds.
District Officer Public Facilities, Arshad Zahid, tells TNS that the government is very well aware of its duties towards the masses and is finalising several plans in this respect. He says though there was no allocation for public toilets this year, the district government had earmarked sufficient funds for this purpose in the coming year.
About the bus stops, he says it's also to the credit of the district government that it has roped in the corporate sector only and only for the benefit of the general public. "It's a win-win situation where the sponsoring company gets publicity on one hand and the general public gets facilitated," says Arshad.
He goes on to say that the mandate of public facilities department is quite vast and is focused on facilitating the citizens. "Even the provision of parking places at crowded places falls in our jurisdiction."
The internship hunt
Students seek out summer internships to get a leg up in a competitive job market but often find the current setup deficient
By Jazib Zahir
With summer just around the corner, college students with professional aspirations are looking to get their feet wet in the real world. Unfortunately, the resources available to identify relevant opportunities are often scarce. Prominent academic institutions house official Career Development Offices that cater to the needs of their students. They invite prospective employers to campus to bring them in contact with eager students. These employers run the gamut from financial institutions to technology companies to NGOs.
Universities with such an organised approach to arranging internships often also assist their students with financial support for the duration of the internship. However, students at many other institutions are often left to fend for themselves.
It's not just local students who are jockeying for these limited opportunities. Scores of Pakistanis studying abroad look to the summers as an opportunity to reconnect with the motherland. But to stay competitive with their peers abroad, they need to engage in some form of summer employment and can thus be found flocking to banks and think-tanks that welcome their broad exposure and superior English language skills.
Many students studying abroad particularly see summer internships here as an ideal opportunity to learn how they can contribute their skills to their country. Muhammad Jehanzeb, currently a student at the Jacobs University Bremen, is planning to spend the upcoming summer in the engineering department of a local telecommunications operator. He says: "Having lived now for two years in Germany and learned the tools of electrical engineering from some of the best professors, I have not forgotten my roots. I choose to apply my knowledge and international experience to revamp the communications sector in Pakistan. It may only be an internship, but it is the start of a process of giving back something to my country and my people."
The process of getting selected for internships varies from employer to employer. Generally speaking, large multinationals in the FMCG sector seem to have the most rigorous recruitment process. Proctor and Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser and Unilever have been cited as employers who take the summer recruitment process seriously and require interested candidates to go through several rounds of testing and interviews. As a result, these companies are able to select the most motivated and qualified students and many are later offered full time employment based on their internship performance. A study of the websites of such organisations reveals that the recruitment and execution of internships is thoroughly planned. This is corroborated by the glowing testimonies of interns raving about the experience.
But unfortunately such experiences seem to be the exception rather than the norm for our students. Banks and other institutions in the financial services sector are extremely popular destinations for interns given how many students are pursuing related fields of study. But often such organisations select their interns on the basis of a very cursory interview and students thus forego training on the rigorous process they will have to undertake later for full time employment. It is also quite straightforward to obtain such internships through contacts and deserving candidates without any such strings are often left in the cold. But the biggest frustrations are voiced by those who actually make it through the process of obtaining such an internship.
Raza, currently employed in market research, recalls interning for a bank in his college days. He candidly describes how no substantial assignment was allotted to him during the period. This experience was part of the reason he chose an alternative line upon graduation.
Similar frustrations are voiced by students who have interned in other sectors. Muhammad Qasim, an employee at a multinational engineering company, recalls his struggles to find a relevant internship during his student days. He insists that for an internship to be worthwhile "it needs to be focused and assignment-based". He also points out that most local internships are unpaid whereas paid opportunities would provide more incentive to interns and translate into a more rewarding experience.
Internships are an integral part of studies in the West. Many curriculums do not allow their students to graduate without furnishing evidence of at least one pithy work experience. This ensures that the training of the graduates is aligned with the needs of the industries in which they are expected to function.
A minority of companies in Pakistan have proven that putting some effort into the setup of the process is rewarding for both the employees and the employers. A more concerted effort on the part of others would be a step in the direction of a more transparent and rewarding work environment for everyone.
If only I could turn back time
By Aatekah Ahmad Mir
"I don't want to grow up." That was my reply when asked by Adeel Hashmi what I wanted to be when I 'grew up'. You need to know that the question was put forth during the last semester of my masters' degree. You also need to know that the remark was not as superficial as it seemed.
The more I thought about it afterwards, the more I realised that I really did not want to grow up.
It is not that I was always happy being a child. It's not that I haven't enjoyed growing up or that I shy away from responsibility, even though there are times when responsibilities are hard to cope with. I don't hope to be a child again when I wake up some morning, though as a child I prayed earnestly to be a grown up overnight. I do not want to go back to endless years of studying or counting the months to my thirteenth birthday so that I could be a teenager -- the first step towards being 'recognised' as a grown up.
In spite of the 'cons' of being a child, I enjoyed all the pros immensely. Being spoilt was one of them. Tooth fairy was another. The pillow fights that were more fun than fights. Sliding down Abbu's legs that seemed longer than any slides in the parks, pretending to be sick so that Ma could dote on us even more, falling in love with Joe of Hardy Boys, believing in Superman, wondering where all Spidey's webs go, investigating mysteries along Nancy Drew, Secret Seven and Famous Five and being allowed to watch movies like 'The Sound of Music' and 'Mary Poppins' over and over again. I almost want to be a child again!
But though talking about my childhood has made me almost want to turn back time, instead of being a child all over again, I would rather just not grow up. I understand that there are many, especially men who do not grow up all their lives. A recent example being illustrated in a cartoon in a newspaper which showed many men lining up in front of the lady traffic wardens in 'hope' of a challan! I certainly don't want to have a child's mind like the 'aspirants'. What I want is to retain that innocence, outlook on life and my idealism.
I'm reminded of the Carpenters' song that went: "I know I ask perfection of a quiet and perfect world. And fool enough to think that's what I'll find". I don't even ask for perfection, just the belief and hope of something better. You know why? Because if no one believes in an ideal (as opposed to a lot of 'idols' that many of us look up to), how will anyone work towards that? I need someone to tell me that it's good to be an idealist instead of countless people telling me how stupid I am to believe that those ideals can be attained, personal and otherwise.
I take a look around and all I see is commotion and confusion. Everybody's so busy in his or her life that no one often has the time to enjoy the small pleasures in life. Our life has become nothing short of 'New York-esque', something that I never wanted or hoped my life to be like. What could be sadder than moving at such a fast pace that everything and everyone in our life just rushes past us? I can't find the answer to: "what exactly is it that we are looking for?" And frankly, I don't like the cynical creatures that all people are 'turning into'. I look at my three year old nephew and realise he is a much better person than most of us.
I think we all need to remember the little things (though they might seem insignificant to many) that made us happy. We need to laugh at stupid Sikh jokes that we have heard many times. We require the same excitement and joy that we felt as children when it rained. We need to dance and bathe in the rain, singing songs. We need to dance to the old tunes in our cars. We need to play silly games. We need another trip to joy land so that we can scream with fear and laugh with thrill at the same time. We have to search for teddy bears and unicorns in the clouds. Every time we are feeling low, we need to remember our favourite things as 'prescribed' by Maria in 'The Sound of Music',
'When the dog bites,
When the bee stings
When I'm feeling sad,
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad.'
We all just need not to grow up in some respects.
• Solo exhibition of paintings by Samina Ali till May 9 at Nairang Gallery from 11am to 11pm daily.
• Calligraphy exhibition at Alliance Francaise de Lahore till May 12. Atif Iqbal is the calligrapher. The medium used in his work are pointers, pastel colours, charcoal, water colours, oil paints and mixed media.
• Ghazal Night every Friday at Peerus Cafe at 9pm. Singers will be Chand and Suraj, the two sons of Hussain Bakhsh Gullu.
• Sarah Zaman live in concert at Alhamra, Gadaffi Stadium on Tuesday,
May 8 at 6pm.
• Film Narnia at Plaza Cinema till May 15 at 3:30, 6:30 and 9:30pm.
Fee: Rs 30.
• Adabi Sangat tomorrow at 125F, Model Town at 5pm. Poetry Readings between Asr and Maghrib.
• LEAF discourses: 'Stories of the Broken Self' on May 10 at Model Town Library at 6pm. Dr. Farrukh Khan will talk about 'Stories of the Broken Self'.
• Photography exhibition by four
photographers from Karachi (Amean Jan, Topu Javeri, Arif Mahmod and Izdyar Setna) at NCA Gallery till May 8th.
New faces on city roads
Induction of educated constables in large numbers may change traffic management of the city for the better
By Aoun Sahi
There appears to be a visible change in Lahore's traffic management. The newly recruited graduate traffic wardens took charge of the city's traffic control system from May 1. They have been deputed on the roads with outgoing old traffic police officials.
After the trial period, they will officially take charge of Lahore's traffic management and control.
Punjab Traffic Police DIG Muhammad Altaf Qamar hopes that the induction of fresh people with better education and training on roads will help a great deal in handling the metropolis' overcrowded roads. "Their task is to ensure smooth flow of traffic, educate road-users on traffic rules and to strictly enforce traffic laws," he says.
On special instructions of Punjab Chief Minister, a scheme to revamp the traffic management system in five major cities; Lahore, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan and Gujranwala, was launched last year. The scheme envisions the creation of a new cadre of traffic wardens. Some 6,000 wardens have been trained at Police College, Sihala so far. Of these, in first phase 2,768 traffic wardens including 139 women have been deputed in Lahore, replacing the 1800 old traffic police officials. This special cadre, headed by a chief traffic officer (CTO), will follow the model of the Motorway and Highways Police. Each Traffic Warden will be placed in BS-14; equivalent to a police sub-inspector (SI). They will be paid a handsome package similar to the Pakistan Motorways and National Highways police. They will be equipped with high-speed vehicles and wireless.
CTO Waseem Ahmad Khan says that wardens have already been deputed all over the city to familiarise them with the nature of the city traffic. "Their deputation is part of a hands-on training process that will help educate them about traffic-related issues. They are likely to face problems from commuters who are not used to strict enforcement of traffic regulations."
According to Waseem, they are planning to revamp the fine system for violations of traffic rules. "A summary containing recommended fines for different traffic violations has been sent to the provincial government for its approval. Under the new policing system, the minimum fine for crossing a red light will be Rs 500 besides a 72-hour imprisonment for the driver. At present the fine is Rs 100," he says.
Under the new system Lahore has been divided into 10 traffic circles headed by a deputy superintendent of police. There are 32 traffic sectors headed by an inspector of police.
Fahad, a traffic warden deputed at Davis Road, says that a large number of motorists ignore lane restrictions and traffic signals and talk on their cell phones while driving. "We are trying to educate commuters about traffic rules but people seem to have little respect for our guidance," he says. He thinks citizens are not taking them seriously so far and they will have to suffer if they do not observe traffic rules strictly once the new wardens take complete charge of Lahore's roads in a week or two.
Lady traffic wardens are facing different kind of problems. They say that youngsters on motorcycles tease them. On the other hand citizens in Lahore have generally welcomed them. 35-year-old Amjad Hussain says that people in Lahore have been violating traffic rules for a long time. "It will not be possible to eliminate traffic violations in a matter of days, especially in a city of VIPs." He is of the view that the increased rate of fine will never help manage the traffic better. "I think it will result in more corruption," he says adding there is a difference between Lahore and motorway. "Here you have hundreds of arteries and it will not be hard to flee after violating traffic rules."
The fate of old 1800 traffic police officials working in Lahore for years will be decided in next couple of days. They will be sent to smaller cities. Many traffic police officials think this move to dislocate them was unjustified. A head-constable deputed on Jail Road says that they are more experienced and could have performed better if the department offered them the same incentives. "Their strength is also double than ours. Anyway we have welcomed the new inductees and are training them to the best of our abilities and experience," he says.
According to him the problem with traffic management is that traffic constables are not enough in number. "Some 1,400 traffic officers are responsible for a city of over seven million people and around 1.2 million automobiles that simply means that less than one traffic officer for every 800 vehicles," he says.
A sub-inspector of Lahore traffic police says that they are ready to be repatriated to the district police but "request to be posted near our hometowns."
CTO Wasim tells TNS that the first and foremost requirement for a traffic warden is education. "Old traffic officials who are graduates have already been posted in the new system." According to him traffic wardens have already been given instructions not to spare anyone violating traffic laws. "Now there will be no difference between common people and VIPs," he adds.
Action without solution
Residents of Sabzazar are unhappy with the delay in shifting of cattle market and slaughter house
By Muhammad Imran
People of Sabzazar and adjacent localities have faced acute problems including traffic jams, health issues and obnoxious smell ever since the launching of the scheme. Cattle market and slaughter house were shifted here in 1962 from Sanda Kalan to Kot Kamboh. The volume of traffic has tremendously increased in Sabzazar and Bakar Mandi.
There was hardly any population in that area then but Lahore has expanded at a great pace. The population of Sabzazar Scheme increased enormously after its foundation was laid in 1982. Pretty soon, the presence of slaughter house and cattle market in the area became an irritant for the residents. Animal waste and burning of bones was polluting the environment while residents kept contracting several skin and lung diseases.
The people of the area and other human rights organisations started an organised campaign to push out the cattle market and slaughter house from this area in 1998. Sabzazar Welfare Society played a pivotal role. In response to their protests and their petition in high court, the government decided to shift cattle market and slaughter house from its present place to Shahpur Kanjran. The city district government has now agreed on shifting the cattle market in its first phase. Tehsil Municipal Officer, Imtiaz Awan assured the court that Tehsil Municipal Administration will try to do so as soon as possible.
Concerned people have raised their voice against the city district government's plan to delay the shifting of slaughter house for three years. The shifting of cattle market will create further problem for the people and the administrative authorities. Now the animals will be brought from Shahpur Kanjran to Kot Kamboh which will add to their cost in terms of transportation expenses and traffic volume.
Resident Ijaz Asghar says the shifting of the cattle market is good for the people who have been struggling since 1980s as well as ease the load of traffic on Tuesday and Wednesday. The cattle market was held every Wednesday.
Amir Butt, executive member Punjab Urban Resource Centre agrees the shifting of cattle market from Kot Kamboh to Shahpur Kanjran will have a mixed impact. "On the positive side, there will be less traffic volume and no smell produced by animal waste. Land value in Sabzazar will also increase. But some problem will remain because of the slaughter house."
The shifting of cattle market has been welcomed by Lahore Bachao Tehreek. Imrana Tiwana, an active member of the Tehreek, says: "The situation of human rights is not good in our city. Here, projects are not started for the welfare of the people but to engage the government machinery in unplanned projects which only add to cost. The issue of cattle market and slaughter house is one among those which are worth mentioning. The Lahore High Court took almost ten years to decide this matter of public importance. Without the shifting of slaughter house most of the problem would remain there so slaughter house should be shift on emergency basis to give relief to the residents of Sabzazar.
"I am deeply concerned about the delay in the shifting of slaughter house. I ask who is responsible for the adverse effects upon the residents of this locality. City should be divided into different zones as per their requirements; residential area, school and college zone, commercial area and industrial zone. All these zones should be planned to benefit the people. Without shifting of slaughter house the shifting of cattle market is meaningless."
Saeed Aasi, a journalist and president of the Sabzazar Welfare Society says Tehsil Municipal Administration is only using delaying tactics like BOT (build, operate, transfer). "High court had ordered the district government to shift the cattle market till the end of April on the petition which I filed many years before and actively followed it till the decision of the court. It will be useless until slaughter house is also not shifted to the same place because both are dependent on each other. Otherwise, most of the problems like burning of animal parts will remain."
Allama Iqbal Town Nazim, Sardar Kamil Umer says: "The district government is doing its job. The delay in shifting of cattle market is because of ambiguous bureaucratic setup of the country which creates hurdles in the way of public projects. We have bought 750 kanal lands for cattle market and slaughter house. In the first phase, cattle market is shifted from my town which will be completed till the end of next month. Slaughter house will be shifted after three years in the second phase. Everybody criticises the district government over all the problems. I ask, what are the other concerned departments doing. The department of environment should look after the burning of bones, fat and siri in the slaughter house. Health department should chalk out a plan for the diseases in this area. Proper disposal of waste can make environment in this area conducive to living. I admit several people have done good job over this issue and they must extend it to other problems of our town and city."
Activists think the shifting of cattle market without slaughter house is meaningless because most of the environmental, health related and traffic problems will remain. City district government is comfortable with the progress and wants step by step development.
Desi thirst quenchers
8.Imli, aloobukhara ka Sharbat
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