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This is apropos a Business Recorder editorial “Train disaster” carried by the newspaper recently. The editorial seems to be a damning indictment of successive governments’ policies in relation to railways.

The newspaper has argued, among other things, that “Considering the frequency with which such incidents have been taking place, calling them accidents is a euphemism for criminal negligence”. True, describing such incidents as accidents is surely a euphemism for criminal negligence or non-performance of duty.

It is a widely known fact that our railways has been plagued by a woefully ill health for over 40 years. One of the challenges it has been facing is frequent accidents caused by a variety of factors. A lack of investment in this public sector enterprise has also immensely added to its woes.

Unfortunately, unhygienic platforms and unpredictable railway tracks, among other things, characterize the overall functioning of our railways. One of the challenges that the government is required to deal with on a war footing is the abysmal freight volumes.

A concrete well thought out strategy aimed at improving the competitiveness of railways can help this public sector entity stage a comeback in due course.

Retrieving railways’ land from the possession of unscrupulous individuals, groups, entities and other others should be the first priority of any government keeping in view the fact that the value of all the encroached lands of the railways in the four provinces runs into hundreds of billions of rupees, if not less.

Needless to say, railways needs a massive injection of investment immediately. Given the country’s precarious financial position, the best solution could be the retrieval of railways’ land and its sell-off in order to generate funds that can be spent on one of state’s strategic assets, the railways.

If India can transform its railways from near bankruptcy to a one creating a surplus then why can’t we?

Ahmed Mujtaba Dhillon (Lahore)

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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