Pakistan Railways took yet another threatening turn on Saturday after thousands of employees took to the streets

The financial mess afflicting Pakistan Railways took yet another threatening turn on Saturday after thousands of employees took to the streets and picketed near railway tracks to voice indignation over non-payment of salary. Many of the protesting employees not only sought payment of salary but also necessities like electricity and water. The reason: electricity supply to railway stations and employees’ colonies in major cities and towns has been cut off because of non-payment of bills.
Passengers wait for hours on end for trains that don’t arrive on time, and sometimes never at all because they are cancelled.
The organisation is in such dire straits that it has had to discontinue 150-odd train services, forcing people to turn to other means of transport.
According to APP, Railways Minister Ghulam Ahmed Bilour informed the National Assembly on Friday that 153 trains had been suspended because of shortage of diesel, adding that Railways had no money to disburse salaries and pensions.
He said a business plan of Rs11.1 billion for the revival of railways had been submitted to the cabinet in December last year. He said the problem would persist if the money was not released.
He said the railways was facing acute shortage of locomotives, resulting in delay of passenger trains on major routs and suspension of operation on small stations. Only 60 locomotives were imported over the past 20 years.
Mr Bilour said when he was railways minister in 1992 the organisation’s total deficit was Rs1.480 billion, but now the situation had complicated to a great extent.
Hundreds of passengers had to wait for hours at the Lahore station on Saturday when railway workers closed the gates of Loco Shed in protest against the non-payment of salary.
Lack of proper seating arrangements, non-functional water coolers, unusable toilets and substandard food items at exorbitant prices made the wait a nightmare for passengers of Tezgam, Jaffar, Karachi, Allama Iqbal and Karakorum expresses.
Gathered under the banner of Railway Mazdoor Ittehad, the workers did not allow for two hours or so any locomotive to roll on to the washing lines, further delaying the departure of several passenger trains. After holding a demonstration outside the Loco Shed, the workers marched to the Garhi Shahu Bridge where they staged a sit-in and blocked traffic for some time.
Raising slogans against the government and railways administration while beating their chests, the workers threatened to jam railway traffic throughout the country if the government did not pay them salary on time.
Ittehad leaders announced a country-wide campaign on Oct 18 and formation of a workers’ alliance for the purpose.
In Hyderabad, a large number of railway employees staged a sit-in on a railway track and burnt tyres in protest against the disconnection of power supply to their residential colony.
The Hyderabad Electric Supply Company has disconnected the supply to railway stations and colonies for non-payment of electricity dues.
Several trains coming from Karachi, including Karakoram Express, Allama Iqbal Express and Tezgam, were stopped for several hours at the Kotri railway station.
The protesters raised slogans against the deputy superintendent of railways, Karachi. They demanded immediate restoration of power supply to the residential colony.
Railway police reached the area, but did not try to stop the protest. In the evening, MNA Salahuddin of MQM addressed the protesting workers and assured them that electricity would be restored to the colony in the night. After that they ended the protest.
Agencies add: Hesco also suspended electricity supply to Mirpurkhas railway station, its colony, regional offices of the Left Bank Outfall Drainage and Metrological Department on Friday.
Hesco chief Farooq Afghan said Rs10 million was due on the LBOD, Rs7 million on the railway station and Rs0.1 million on the Met Office.

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