LAHORE – The oxymoron ‘pretty ugly’ fits to portray Gulberg Town’s affairs that is an amalgam of posh as well as pitiable localities where people of one population know nothing about problems while the other side gives a different story altogether. The hues and cries of the needy are heard nowhere as the town authorities give a deaf ear to them, a survey conducted by TheNation has revealed.

Gulberg Town, the bliss of saloons or otherwise a ghettoized environment where the people are compelled to live in, has a vivid line of demarcation between agonies suffer and flavors to enjoy, it is learnt. Comprising of 15 union councils (UCs) i.e. UC 31-32, UC 75,76, UC 95-99, UC 126-131, the town includes Railway Station, Garhi Shahoo, Gulberg, Garden Town, Model Town, Faisal Town and Kotlakhpat.

To provide basic amenities to the masses is the basic duty of the town administration.  Hence, UCs may incur expenditure on installation of taps for provision of clean drinking water provided the same are installed within the jurisdiction of respective UCs which would provide expenses for the installation of water taps. It was decided to install water filtration plants on as many as 31 sites in the entire Gulberg Town precincts and the funds were to generate by the respective union councils. The estimated cost to work out the plan was Rs 15.43 million and the cost of one unit was estimated as Rs 498,000. The funds, as per the government decision, were to transfer to the MD WASA’s account to execute the plan.

An inner source told this correspondent that funds allocated for the parliamentarians in different towns of the city for the year 2010-11 were Rs.581.86 million including Rs 24.78 million for the MNAs and MPAs of Gulberg Town who were to recommend different developmental schemes like patchwork, carpeting of roads, installation of sewage pipes etc in their respective constituencies to accomplish such tasks through the town administrations. The data available with TheNation show that the TMA Gulberg Town generated revenue of Rs420 million in the fiscal year 2010-11 while the income expected in the current year is Rs.316, 000000.

Moreover, the funds available with the town in the current fiscal year are Rs. 11 million for New Annual Development Program, Rs. 30 million for rehabilitation and Rs 15 million for New Area Development, the source disclosed. To calculate the town administration’s performance it might be mentioned here that the town stood second among all the nine towns as for as the collection of funds in the year 2010-11 was concerned. For this all the credit goes to the present administration. Many problems can be seen in the streets of the town, the manholes are uncovered and no one bothers to cover them that may cause any mishap at any time.

A nullah passing through the premises of the town namely Kotlakhpat Nullah is a big threat to the residents of the locality, Mohammad Yaseen a factory manager said, the polluted and dangerous water of this drain is extremely harmful for health care and a big cause of environmental pollution, he said. Drain is choked with waste and millions of rupees are required to cleanse the drain from waste and mud, it is learnt. The residents of houses the CDG (City District Government) demolished complained of the administration for not constructing the road on both sides of the sewage nullah. The residents say, government wants to recover more space to construct road and it is difficult for them to build the demolished walls. The CDG on the other side has filled a part of the nullah on many sides near Pindi Stop to extend the road, it is seen. Niaz Ahmad said that the CDG decision to compact the nullah to construct road was not right. The act of district government, he said, would block easy flow of drain water particularly in the rainy season.

The government launched an anti encroachment campaign in the city that was widely welcomed. The Gulberg town administration confiscated valuables worth millions of rupees. The vendors and stall owners say “The anti encroachment operation was not more than a drama as the town officials receive Rs 200 to Rs 500 from every vendor and allow us to continue their business on the footpath and ignore violation of law.” Mohammad Sadiq, a resident of Nasirabad Gulberg III said “The residents of Naseerabad, Gopal Nagar and Henrike are forced to drink dirty water as no water installation plant is installed in the entire area”. “The elected representatives, he said, never bother to visit the backward area of the town, complaining they focus on posh areas and ignore slums. The business of drug peddlers in the area is on the rise as the area police have become silent spectator and the ruthless act of money making knows no fear. The purpose of such gangs is to spoil new generation who become their victim quite easily.

Hafeez Center, one of the famous Mobile and Computer markets of the province as well as the continent Asia under one roof with more than 1,500 shops, faces parking problems. The customers and visitors while talking to this scribe said that the city government failed to provide the said facility for cars and bikes. An official of the CDG said the government’s decision to initiate meter parking system was to resolve the gravity of parking issue. A TEPA official told TheNation that no funds were available for the construction of parking plazas as all the money had been spent on Kalma Chowk Flyover. There was least possibility of this work, he said, as the funds would be consumed on the ongoing Canal Flyover Ferozepur Road.

The district authorities and TMO Gulberg along with police carried out an operation on July 11 and dispossessed the traders from Kotlakhpat Vegitable and Fruit Market and bulldozed their shops. The government claims that the misplaced shopkeepers and commission agents had been accommodated in the newly established Vegetable market at Kahna. On the other hand, vegetable dealers Mohammad Khalid, Abbas Ali and others while talking to TheNation said “All tall claims made by the district government authorities are nothing but a white lie adding the new vegetable market provides neither safety nor proper sanitation”. Moreover, he said, since the market was situated on a far off area so it was least convenient for the people to visit and buy vegetable and fruits. He also criticized the Market Committee officers on their indifferent behavior for allotting the sheds to the office bearers of the Mandi Traders’ Union. They also demanded the DCO Ahad Cheema to initiate investigation into matter of allotment of sheds and punish those officials who play an illegal role in the allotments.

Mohammad Aslam, a principal of academy based in Kotlakhpat said, “There is no sanitation staff available for the purpose and the residents are forced to tackle this important issue on their own.” There are dozens of parks and playgrounds in Model Town, including, ‘Adda Park’, one of the largest public parks of Lahore spreading on 125 acres with a 2.5-km long circular jogging track, lush green lawns and serves as a social meeting spot. Linear Park having 72 acres area along side of Ferozepur Road is a place for jogging and walking for the residents of the locality. Total green area in the town is 278 acres, he said.

The residents of Kotlakhpat, a run-down area of the city characterized by substandard housing, said the double standard of the town administration is creating anarchy, adding that the behavior of the town officials for the posh localities and Katchi Abadis is discriminatory. The residents of this area have long been demanding basic amenities like proper sanitation, sewage system to be provided to them. The town administration, they said, ignored their demands. “As for as matters of maintenance and working of street lights are concerned everything is in fiasco,” an old citizen of Kotlakhpat, Master Nazir said. Where the funds allocated for street lights are spent, he asked. No town official is there to answer.

He stressed upon the need of rapid transportation from Kotlakhpat to Lahore Railway Station and General Bus Stand. Same was the demand of a constable, who travels daily from this remote area to the interior city. Women factory workers including Shamim Bibi and her colleague Misbah said, they faced the problems of high house rents, contaminated water, poor health facilities and back-flow of sewage water. These problems, they said, sap away their time, energies and earnings, and continue to keep them oppressed under the exploitative economic system of the factory owners. “We are forced to compromise both of our health and savings and end up as poorest of the poor” they sighed.

Bashir and Hamid Saeed of Model Town R-Block said the shifting of Vegetable Market from Kot Lakhpat to Kaccha Ferozepur Road falling in the TMA Nishtar Town was a foolish act of the CDG adding the alternative Market at Kahna was an act of madness. The cost of the vegetables and fruits had been increased, they said, and it had become difficult for the common people to purchase them. A town official said that the sewage problem was due to mismatch between the levels of households and street road beds. It is our responsibility to implement by-laws in letter and spirit so that such problems could be addressed in time, he added.

The residents of Kotlakhpat railway station said that railways track had become a trash place. There is no sanitation staff to clean the track that is a big reason of diseases in the area, he said. Donkey-cart stand is also set up near the Kotlakhpat Railway Station and no one bothers to clean waste from the place, they added. An official of the TEPA, conditioning anonymity, said that the plan to repair roads would cost around Rs1 billion, but funds are not available. The provincial government is to pay the funds for the repair work but, he said, the focus of the government is the posh areas instead of the poor areas. It is to be recalled that both of the Flyover mega projects worth 6.3 billion are on the same road (Ferozepur Road) and at a distance of some furlongs.

The residents of Garhi Shahoo including Iftikhar Sulehri, Hussain Ahmad and Mohammad Imran say that all the public funds are being spent on the posh areas. The Kalma Chowk Flyover, they said, had been completed in eighth months instead of the prescribed 18 months. This all is due to the government priorities. The government should focus on the backward areas instead of the posh ones so that they could also feel a sigh of relief. The TMO, Faisal Shahzad was not available on repeated calls made by TheNation to comment on the town affairs.

– JAVED IQBAL