Lahore, July 26: The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) has criticised the recent decision to discontinue a number of popular train services, the manner of taking such important decisions and the apparent disregard for the needs and interests of the people.In a statement issued on Monday, HRCP said: “The decision to discontinue train services on several routes is a matter of great concern to the people, especially those who still find travel by train convenient and affordable and the large number of railway employees who may be rendered jobless. This matter cannot be dismissed as a mere departmental problem. The importance of the issue not only merited deliberations by the entire cabinet at the highest level, but also consultation with the people likely to be affected. Issues including the time, cost and, at times, even availability of alternative means needed to be considered.
The reason cited for discontinuing the popular services—unavailability of locomotives—is nothing short of scandalous. The shortage of locomotives has not occurred overnight and ending train routes is certainly not the only way to address that. Neither is that a sustainable solution.
The decision is bound to affect the people but also has grave implications for the state. Its attitude of riding roughshod over matters of critical public importance is bound to undermine its authority.
That a service is not generating enough revenue may be the overriding or only concern for a business enterprise, but the state is not a village grocery store and it must honour its obligation to provide essential public services, even if it has to bear part of the cost.
HRCP calls for a review of the decision and for the urgent need for inclusive decision-making in consultation with the affected people.”
Dr Mehdi Hasan