July 28, 2010

The Art of Governance

According to a news report, the government of Punjab has decided to enforce the Green Sticker Program. Under the program, all vehicles in Punjab will be required to display a sticker stating the emissions rate. Initially, this scheme is to be launched in Lahore, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi. What is bemusing though is the fact that government of Punjab is willing to spend millions of rupees on supplying stickers when the traffic on the roads is inscrutable. Instead of playing around with deadpan ideas, it would be better if the government’s energies were predisposed towards solving the uncanny traffic mess present on Punjab’s roads.

The news that traffic wardens’ pays have not been increased has been doing the rounds. A few weeks ago, a news report in Dawn mentioned how the traffic wardens in Pindi are unable to do their jobs, and how they first “see” whether a person is a VIP or not before signaling him to stop for a traffic violation. Such is the situation on the roads. The traffic wardens have been reduced to little more than spurious cogs of the bureaucratic system which is run on the ample debauchery that we see around us. The need then, is not for the government to spend valuable taxpayers’ money on retard programs such as this Green Sticker thing, but to sort out the traffic mess on the roads by empowering the traffic wardens to actually do their jobs. The “nawabi” clout ingrained into our motorists’ mentality needs to be checked strictly. Before the traffic mess can be solved, it would be sheer stupidity to implement any other secondary programs because after a lapse of a few months, the situation reverts to the status quo.

This scheme is also critical in identifying what areas interest our governments the most; secondary projects those aren’t going to impact the lives of the majority at all, and won’t make a difference in the lives of the minority which will have to get their cars checked and display the sticker. There are other ways to check pollution, and if the government of Punjab is actually serious about starting a pollution reduction campaign, I suggest that it overhaul WASA and LDA and its employees who have refused to do their duties by cleaning up the streets and roads of Lahore. The need also is for the government to pay serious attention to the plight of the wardens most of whom are learned with at least bachelor’s degrees. Their pays need to be brought in line with those of the Islamabad Traffic Police, and the Motorways and Highways Police if an exemplary force is to be expected. The wardens need to be given sweeping powers to deal with any miscreant and law breaker forcefully to strike fear into the hearts of the motorists against rule breaking. Once these objectives are met, the government is free to ban polluting cars and buses, and trust me there are very many of them.

The trouble with our rulers is that they try to find magic fixes to problems. The problem is that there is no such thing as a magic fix. One has to go through the entire journey to complete it. Hence unless the traffic problem can be resolved, the question of keeping polluting cars off the roads is a bit silly to say the least. Common sense needs to prevail in the places of decision and policy making to ensure that the real issues of the nation are discussed and resolved rather than evolving sparkly projects which help no one, achieve no results and end up burdening the poor helpless people.