By Mansoor Ahmad
With ‘fear factor’ over, civic performance in the City is returning to its normal lethargic ways as the PML-N led government has not shown the same thrust on the administration that was the hallmark of its earlier reign.
The News found that the civic authorities and the district administration spurred into action to improve services after the election results when it became clear that the Punjab government would be formed by Shahbaz Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz).
In Lahore, the uplift work on roads, improvement of sewerage, removal of encroachments, streamlining public transport and checking rates and quality of food was undertaken immediately by the same bureaucracy that worked under the previous regime.
The awesome reputation of Shahbaz Sharif as a ruthless administrator is behind the voluntary improvement carried out by the handpicked administration of the previous regime. Any news item carried by the media about filth, open manholes, decanting of LPG cylinders, use of underpasses by heavy traffic, encroachments, traffic congestions and police accesses were taken seriously by those managing these affairs and remedial measures were immediately undertaken.
The old administration was gradually replaced with the officials handpicked by the new government and the expectation of general public rose about further improvement in the performance of civic institutions. Initial enthusiasm shown by the new provincial chief secretary boosted the confidence of the common man.
The most glaring failure of the new government has been its inability to control the supplies and rates of daily use edible items. There is no doubt that the economy is under pressure. The commodity rates are moving up as a natural consequence of weakening economy.
However, the hike in rates of daily use items is much higher than the deteriorating economic performance. Every prudent administrator knows that the vested interests take undue advantage if the cost increases due to any factor.
The role of the provincial and the district administration is to ensure that the entire chain in the commodity business charge fair rates. All economists agree that the marketing mechanism in Pakistan including Punjab is flawed. Some segments in the marketing chain earn exorbitant profit while the actual growers and the retailers earn much less. The farmers for instance parts with potato crop at Rs5-8 per kg.
The middlemen that bought the commodity in bulk then release it gradually from the stocks and finally take the rates as high as Rs 50 per kg. This happens in all agricultural commodities. Similarly, importers sell their stocks not on fair profit but stockpile them over a period and gradually increase the rates by decreasing supplies.
The federal government does not have the mandate to interfere in these affairs. It is the duty of the provincial government to take prudent administrative steps to ensure that all players in the marketing chain operate fairly and the consumers get the items at reasonable rates. The Punjab administration has yet to formulate a strategy in this regard.
As far as other matters are concerned, a visit to most localities of the City shows that things are returning to the old mismanaged days.
The encroachments are back, traffic mess has returned, the LPG cylinder decanting is on, the cleanliness drive has slowed down and the police accesses are common, which is evident from custodial killings to dishonouring of women by cops. The heavy traffic stopped using the underpasses after appearance of news regarding this violation in the media but now the tractor trolleys and heavy trucks pass through these underpasses without fear of law.
The rulers do not need informers or media to know about these violations. Big hoardings on the footpaths meant for pedestrians are visible to all including the rulers unless they travel with closed eyes.
The previous ruling elite could be condoned for not being able to have firsthand knowledge of deteriorating civic services. They were secluded from the public due to security concerns. They used specific and safe well-maintained roads.
However, the new rulers do not have this excuse. They move among the people and should observe the difficulties that could be removed with better administration without need of any additional resources.