By M. Tahir Khan.
There has been a lot of gossip about orange line of metro train which is under construction in Pakistan’s second largest city of Lahore. It will be a 27.1km long track with 26 stations which is due to complete in October, 2017. The estimated cost of the project is $1.6 Billion (Rs. 160 billion) if it goes as per the plan. It would be country’s first mass transit train system that will carry 30,000 passengers in an hour.
The project is of great importance for Lahore & its citizens; it will benefit hundreds of thousands of people each month. Any underdeveloped country in the world would love to have the project like these, but many people are showing their concerns on its cost and could not understand why these projects were so important for the province.
This mass transit system is facing huge criticism. Political parties, civil society members and political analysts are raising Questions and there have been a few protests as well. One of those strong voices is Imran Khan, Chairman Pakistan Tehreek e Insaaf who openly spoke against all Punjab related issues. Imran Khan accused that government was spending billions on one single project in one city, whereas the rest of the province needed urgent investments in different sectors which have always been ignored. Secondly, civil society is also criticizing it but their criticism is not up to mark, they only highlight environment, safety of historical buildings, some refer that view of Lahore will destroyed etc, but their vision is short, not looking into the larger picture for the welfare of people. This project would be of great importance for the masses if all the basic necessities are available, but unfortunately are not.
Shahbaz Sharif, Chief Minister Punjab who calls himself Khadim e Aala, is a very good administrator and has reputation of completing mega projects in a timely manner. This project could be another white elephant, could better be called as orange elephant build on the fortunes of taxpayers and it will be subsidized like Metro Bus Rawalpindi and Lahore.
PML N government wants to establish a legacy before next general elections and they need several good projects to attract their voter. They had a few successful models in past for general and local government elections, where they attracted voters from their previous two projects of Metro buses. Government’s thinking is fair, but its benefit could only be achieved if government shifts its priorities & invest in other welfare projects like health and education as well.
It will give benefit government politically as well as it will be in the larger interests of the people of Punjab.
In the current decade three hospitals finalized in front of us
a.Rawalpindi Institute of Cardiology, having capacity of 272 beds finalized with Rs.2.75 billion in year 2012 and known to all as state of the art hospital.
b. Faisalabad Institute of Child Care, having capacity of 1000 beds finalized in August, 2015.
c. Shaukat Khannum, Peshawar finalized Rs. 4 billion.
If Punjab Gov diverts Rs. 160 billion to health care sector and sanction Rs. 5 billion for one hospital, It can build up to 32 new hospital in the province.
Conditions of government schools in Pakistan are highly in adequate.
If it allocates Rs. 80 billion for new hospitals, it can build 16 new hospitals in 16 districts of Punjab and half of the remaining budget can be utilized to upgrade already nonfunctional schools of Punjab which are also suffering badly.
Punjab Government’s preference to education in the budget 2015 – 2016 was also very nominal. The education budget was reduced to 21% from 26% as compared to last year.. The amount in the education budget was increased by Rs. 50 billion which is 19.5 percent increase from the last year budget. However percentage share of education in overall budget went down to 21 percent. With Rs. 80 billion whole education system can be reformed like school buildings, school atmosphere, provision of scholarships to needy students for higher education and better and honorable living standards for teachers.
Let’s imagine, with the provision of better health care facilities and quality education a superior society will grow and Pakistan will be a paradise. Furthermore, provision of health and education are the core responsibilities of every state, but unfortunately state is utilizing all its energies in building a Orange Elephant on taxpayers money.