THE people of southern Punjab have always felt at best neglected and ignored by the provincial government of the Punjab as well as by the Centre. Over the years, this neglect has been costly for the people living in this mainly Seraiki belt. Agriculture has tended to suffer every time there is a water issue since the share of southern Punjab gets donated to Sindh, due to political sensitivities. Even now the canals are empty and no water was available for either the wheat or sugar cane sowing since last summer. One could be forgiven for thinking the government was deliberately trying to destroy agriculture At an even more basic level, the people in these parts still await fresh drinking water. Now it has been discovered that there is high level arsenic contamination in the drinking water that is available and this is causing all manner of grave health problems. Generations in southern Punjab are now growing up with serious, often life-threatening ailments including cancer, still births, infant mortality. To add to this, the poverty which compels families to live in exceptionally cramped conditions creates heart ailments in young children, which are curable with better food and health provisions. Then there is the lack of education and the proliferation of Madrassahs with hardly any supervision. Doctors meant for the rural areas open their own clinics while the teachers posted to outlying areas never arrive there but collect their salaries. Despite the fact that the present Prime Minister is from the heart of southern Punjab, the area continues to suffer from neglect. In fact, the areas that have developed have done so primarily as a result of either private sector presence or, more effectively, as a result of the presence of the UAE Royals, especially the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. However, this has its own costs in terms of the destruction of the wild life and gradual disappearance of the camel. There is also the child jockey issue that has traditionally been linked to the Gulf states. If the current state of affairs continues, the rich potential of southern Punjab will die away. It will also be pushed towards political and social instability. The government in Lahore needs to claim southern Punjab on an equal footing with the rest of the province. And it needs to tackle the malaise afflicting that area, beginning with the provision of fresh, untainted drinking water and a free milk programme for primary school children, with the support of the private sector. The potential of the region cannot simply be allowed to whittle away because of the feudal mindset of the elected representatives who simply turn away from their people once the votes have been delivered. The Chief Minister has to move his vision beyond Lahore and its immediate environment.