Life v/s Lifestyle – The CM’s choice!

Lahore Bus Rapid Transit System is anticipated to facilitate 64,000 passengers a day at the completion of its initial phase. This project will rewrite the history of Pakistan’s Transportation Sector. Lahore Metro will soon be running on the 27-km long corridor from Gajjumatta in the eastern Lahore to Shahdara in the southern end, proving to be a landmark!

Further facilitating the citizens of Lahore, an underpass is been constructed at Kalma Chowk. Excited and eager about the revolutionary project, the CM also issued strict instructions to Planning and Development Board Chairman Javeed Aslam to ensure approval of all necessary packages in Provincial Development Working Party (PDWP) meetings and Finance Secretary Tariq Bajwa to ensure quick release of the funds. It is this zeal and dedication that we have Lahore BRTS in its final stages while Karachi is still busy in drawing sketches and mapping a similar idea.

There is no debate on the importance of an advanced transportation system. Developments in transportation sector have evidently changed the way of living and the way in which societies are organized. It certainly has a great influence in the development of civilizations. Lahore is fortunate to be one of the fastest developing cities of Pakistan.

An advanced transportation system would automatically imply that the travel time would be concise, especially in emergency situations.

But will it save lives?

Now that is a question I have been asking myself ever since I was taken into emergency ward of a government hospital last month. Sever stomach pains for prolonged hours urged me to wake my mother up so we could see a doctor. She insisted to visit a nearby private clinic alleging it is cleaner and the staff is more responsible. My father argued that a government hospital is opened round-the-clock so it is better to rush there instead of looking for a private clinic at 2am. I eventually landed in the emergency ward of the closest government hospital – the experience still haunts me at night.

The hospital smelled like death, the doctors were red devils and I cursed my stomach ache for making me experience hell on earth. The moment the nightmare was over, I kept asking myself who to blame? It was not just about my stomach ache. Healthcare is a serious sector. Humanity can survive on broken roads, but I doubt there is any chance of survival with a ruptured healthcare system.

I fail to understand how an advanced transportation system trumps the importance of a strong healthcare system. If I give you money and ask you to choose between buying medicine for your ill son or buy a new Range Rover, what would you pick? Isn’t it similar to deciding whether and how much to spend on transport sector and healthcare?

If the problem is scarce funds, I am sorry I do not buy that story. Both Finance Department (FD) and Planning and Development Board are unaware of the actual estimated cost of BRTS project. The feasibility study was not shared with both the departments. An official of the FD allegedly said the government had been hiding the actual cost of the BRTS. It has approved the project in break-ups so that no confirm project cost is known, while a major part of the project – Ravi River Bridge – is still undecided which will be approved as the 10th package of the BRTS.

As a matter of fact, it is never about availability of funds. It is mostly a personal choice. BRTS is important, but how do we know the money spent on this project is not heftily wasted. Why can’t the government find resources to improve a much crucial sector that might not improve one’s lifestyle but would definitely save lives?

I am not against the government or development, but I am definitely against the choices made by our CM. One sector should never boom at the cost of another. I request the elected provincial government to pay heed to saving lives over fancying the cities. Not everyone has the luxury to fly abroad for stomach ache. The newborns are been eaten off by hospital rats, doctors are turning into butchers and my honourable CM is busy taking a test drive of Lahore Metro. I humbly request the authorities to pop out of their bubbles and take action. The fate of our railway industry must not become the fate of our healthcare system. We cannot afford it!

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