We are having the third consecutive administration of the Pakistan People’s Party in Sindh since 2008. The party has been ruling the province without any significant opposition or any let and hindrance. The veteran politician Syed Qaim Ali Shah headed two administrations and was replaced by a comparatively young and foreign graduated Syed Murad Ali Shah. He was expected to perform better than his predecessor focusing on urban development, education and healthcare. He has already been at the helm of the provincial administration for over three years but there has not been any veritable improvement in the living conditions in the urban centers of the province. The decline in the education, healthcare and sanitation in the cities and towns of his land has continued unabated or unchallenged. It seems these social sectors, as usual, have the lowest priority with the Sindh administration.
I had the opportunity to pass a week in the lower Sindh staying or visiting the main towns of Larkana, Qambar Ali Khan, Shahdadkot, and Jacobabad. On my way to Larkana, I made a stopover in Dadu and Sehwan. All these towns present a pathetic picture of neglect as far as the conditions of roads and streets, sanitation, garbage collection and healthcare are concerned. Roads and streets are broken with potholes, over-encroached, over-soaked with the sewerage of the overflowing surface drains with human excrement, over-crowded with motorcyclists, donkey carts and pushcarts and with stray dogs roaming freely and scavenging heaps of garbage and baring their teeth to the pedestrians.
The underground or surface water in all the towns is polluted and, therefore, injurious to human health. The dangerous water borne diseases like typhoid and dysentery are on the rise. The deadly types of hepatitis have become a common disease and has devoured many members of certain families in Shahdadkot. The affluent families live on the water fetched from the water hand pumps outside the town and carried in plastic drums on donkey carts and supplied to them by men in the business. They are a sort of tanker mafias in Shahdadkot. This petty business has been carried over from the early 1970s. There was an interruption in the business for a couple of years when the first PPP government provided piped water to the town through a water supply scheme. The underground water of Shahdadkot, Qambar Ali Khan and Jacobabad, apart from being highly polluted, is brackish and cannot be utilized for cooking, drinking or shower. The level of the underground water in Larkana has sharply dropped as almost every house has a water hand pump along with a motor to suck out water. The water has been found injurious to human health and, therefore, unfit for human consumption. The educated and health conscious residents have started boiling the water before consumption. Over 90% of the bulging population of Larkana consumes water without boiling it and suffer from stomach ailments and typhoid.
The public hospitals are thronged by crowds of patients every day. It is a pathetic scene to see helpless patients and their attendants running helter and skelter beseeching doctors and paramedics. The population of all the towns including Larkana has almost quadrupled due to the high rate of population growth and rapid urbanization but there has not been any significant addition to the healthcare centers or hospitals. For instance, the civil hospital Larkana, the Shaikh Zayed Women Hospital, the Shaikh Zayed Children Hospital and the Chandka Medical Center were built by the first PPP regime under Z.A. Bhutto. No new hospital was ever built in the city during the past five decades paving the way for the fortune seekers to put up many private health centers. Some of these old health facilities are in a pathetic condition of neglect and mismanagement. Shahdadkot also has the single civil hospital built in the mid 1970s. Now these health facilities are not sufficient to meet the needs of the huge populations.
Basic health units in villages are almost unknown in Sindh. This has provided a flourishing business to the quacks. They do not follow the established practice of using disposable syringes. This has given rise to hazardous diseases like HIV and Hepatitis. Over 1000 cases of HIV were reported in Tehsil Ratodero of Larkana with entire families infected with this deadly virus. No worthwhile action seems to have been taken for the treatment of the HIV patients or any crackdown has been undertaken against the quacks. Their business is going on as usual. Our medical universities are producing doctors by hundreds every year. None of them is willing to serve outside the towns because of the lack of facilities in terms of clinics, residence, medicines, security of life etc.
Quite recently, the pathetic deaths of people including young children because of rabies in Larkana and in the surroundings areas were shocking. The people bitten by stray dogs were turned off by hospitals on the plea that the vaccines against rabies were out of stock while young children were gasping in the arms of their hapless mothers and inching towards a slow and excruciating death. The vaccines for dog and snake bites continue to be in short stock in the public hospitals, though Non-governmental organizations and philanthropist hospitals in big cities have been providing these vaccines free of cost. Isn’t it shameful for so called democrats and people’s representatives.
With the exception of a few neighborhoods – so called posh areas – the entire cities of Karachi and Hyderabad are littered with garbage. There are parts of these cities which are completely under the sway of stray dogs attacking passers-by in groups like wolves. The garbage collection, according to some people, has become a lucrative business to be contracted to favorite companies. Though the local body governments are in place, the mayors and chairmen of Municipal and Town Committees complain that their powers to manage the municipal affairs of their cities and towns are abridged. The local bodies are over staffed and the funds they receive every month are hardly sufficient to pay salaries and pensions of the employees. On top of all this, there are hundreds of ghost employees in every corporation, municipal and town committee. One elected Chairman confided to me that there were eight gardeners on the strength of his Municipal Committee though there is not a single park in the town. Many sons and nephews of local PPP leaders and workers have been appointed in place of sanitary workers who regularly draw their salaries without doing any sanitary work, obviously.
These were the same local bodies which managed to run schools, libraries, shopping centers, municipal hospitals and clinics, maternity homes, vaccination centers, build roads, streets and drains. These were manned by competent officers from the erstwhile CSP, PCS and Local Council Service as Administrators and Chief Officers. The Municipal funds were judiciously utilized and the officers felt accountable to their superiors in the Secretariat. We have witnessed a sharp decline in the performance and efficiency of the local body institutions over the period of these past four decades. Encroachment was anathema to the people. No one was allowed to occupy a thin line of the road and street or build anything on the common surface drain. In case of any encroachment, many applicants would approach the Municipal authorities to curb the budding nuisance. Today, entire bathrooms are built over the streets and no gentleman from the neighborhood raises any objection nor the Municipal officials bother to take a corrective measure as if this has become a norm of living in the town. The wide roads have shrunk into narrow lanes because of this menace.
The education has gone from bad to worse over all these years. Commercialization of the education with flourishing tuition centers and private schools, the public schools present a pathetic picture of neglect. There is a race among the supervising officers to amass wealth before their retirement. The Boards of Examination, offices of the District Education and Sub Divisional Officers have become dens of corruption, favoritism and cronyism. Cheating is galore in examination centers; the business of selling and buying grades leapfrogging without let and hindrance; funds for the maintenance or uplift of school buildings are swindled with impunity. It seems education has lost its importance for our ruling oligarchs whose children benefit from known schools and colleges in the country and fly abroad for higher education.
I have no hope that the PPP will ever realize its constitutional duty to provide for the basic needs of the people of Sindh that include education, healthcare, sanitation including clean drinking water, security of life and property. The Sindh Vision which has been gaining wider acceptance among the conscious sons and daughters of Sindh should come forward and hold dialogue on these issues while organizing its chapters in Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana and other towns of the province to work as vigilant groups and the harbinger of the message of ‘Conscious Sindh and conscious Sindhis’. There should be a holistic approach to popularize this slogan.
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