Railways in a mess

The bedlam at Lahore Railway Station on Wednesday, when at a time six trains bound for various cities could not pull out of platform for several hours with passengers taking out their anger by storming the office of the stationmaster, provides a glaring example of the sorry state of affairs in the department.Railway authorities’ explanation that they had run out of diesel appears to be a lame excuse meant to cover up their dereliction of duty. This should be seen in conjunction with a report that 44 percent of rail locomotives are out of order owing to poor maintenance and have been taken off their routes. Apart from this, the condition of the rest of the locomotives is not at all satisfactory. Owing to non-availability of spare parts and shortage of mechanics, ageing trains are by no mean fit for running. That is also evidenced by the frequency of accidents. All that needs to be done is the government making sure that there are enough trains running on the tracks and the officials working with discipline.Railways offer a cheap source of transportation for the common man and there are plenty of examples where countries with comparatively weaker economies than ours have made impressive strides in the sector. It was very much disturbing to hear the Federal Minister for Railways Ghulam Ahmad Bilour complaining that there were not enough funds to pay salaries to employees. And as expected nothing was done by Prime Minister Gilani who being the Chief Executive ought to have not only provided enough funds for salaries and procuring new trains but checked rampant corruption plaguing the department. Given the number of passengers and the cargo sector, which generates a large revenue, the financial losses and constraints repeatedly cited by the government can be taken care of if corruption is brought to an end.The option of privatization has also been discussed which again shows the government’s laidback attitude. What is needed at the moment is a good dose of funds alongside an accountability mechanism to resurrect this department – Nation