The slum-dwellers

The ruling party has finally decided to gift slums to the homeless people as the partial fulfilment of its promise to ensure food, clothing and housing for everybody.

By Najmul Hasan Rizvi (Issues)

Published: Mon 18 Feb 2013, 8:07 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 7:13 PM

“The president has asked the railway authorities not to remove shanties on government land,” Mr Right quoted an official.

“That’s great,” I said. “If railway authorities start giving property rights to the slum-dwellers, we will soon see new townships coming up on both sides of the railway tracks from Peshawar to Karachi.”

“It shows the keenness of the government to add new cities to the Pakistan’s map,” Mr Right observed. “After Zulfikarabad was planned in Sindh, more townships were needed for other provinces and the railways department can offer its land free of cost to land-grabbers in all the provinces. It’s no big deal.”

“It’s a good decision indeed,” I said. “The railways don’t need much of their land now. Many old train services have been halted and no new services are in the pipeline. The chronic shortage of locomotives already makes it difficult for the railways to operate even a small number of existing trains.”

“In many areas railway lines have been stolen by iron thieves to facilitate settlement of homeless people on these lands,” Mr Right said. “The demise of the Circular Railway was a boon for slum-dwellers in Karachi. Railway tracks came handy to be used as girders to support the roofs of wooden shacks.”

“But I am afraid the slums along the railway tracks will produce large low-cost townships without putting any pressure on government budget because nobody needs the luxuries of electricity, clean water supply and schools and clinics in these poor environs,” I predicted.

“That will be even better as some money will be saved for other projects of national importance such as huge security apparatus for the VIPs and new helicopters for our beloved leader to hop from street to street during his visit to favourite cities,” Mr Right smiled. “Don’t you think it’s a shame to encourage creation of slums instead of taking measures to remove them?” I asked.

“Slums are a reality today,” Mr Right explained. “More than half of Mumbai’s population and one-third of Calcutta’s people live in slums. In fact, we are trying to match the slum standards of the world’s largest democracy.”

“Now I know why political parties are not bothered about the fact that our big cities too are rapidly turning into slums.” I said. “Slums and democracy go hand in hand. Both are created by the people.” “The only worry is that cities are shrinking while the slums are spreading day by day,” Mr Right continued. “Earlier slums used to be outside cities but now cities are gasping for the fresh air within slums.”

“Apart from rising mountains of garbage and deteriorating state of cleanliness, the cities are stalked by squatters, destitute people and beggars, day is not far when we will have no cities left but only slums,” I stressed.

“The ruling party deserves praise for accelerating the process through its policies,” Mr. Right said. “Total poverty will remove social inequality and slums with same level of misery will enjoy the sweetest fruit of democracy.”

“The ruling party has given a green signal to landless people to acquire property anywhere without fear of action by legal authorities,” I said. “There are still many abandoned railway stations, workshops and open lands under the railway department’s control that can be taken over by the democracy-loving people.”

“We have many river beds, canal banks and hills too in and around cities that can be turned into slums overnight with a little effort,” Mr. Right said. “This benevolent strategy will turn thousands of land-grabbers into loyal supporters of democracy.”

“This is disgusting,” I resented. “It will turn the whole country into a mega slum and then the party will try to name it after some great martyrs of democracy.”

“I will still call it Pakistan, the holiest martyr of democracy,” Mr Right remarked.

Najmul Hasan Rizvi is a former Assistant Editor of Khaleej Times

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