Thursday September 28, 2023

Is resource crunch a reality?

September 17, 2023

LAHORE: Increase in petroleum rates is a reality that cannot be avoided, particularly if the government is obliged under the International Monetary Fund (IMF) deal to milk Rs60 per litre from petrol and Rs50 per litre from diesel.

But the empty pockets of the consumers are a reality too.

The state has an obligation towards its population. It implements IMF dictates in letter and spirit, but totally fails to implement its own orders regarding minimum wage.

Consumers’ pockets are empty because almost 80 percent or more workers are deprived of the minimum wage.

Though even the minimum wage is insufficient, it looks lavish when we see most of the workers getting a third or half of the official minimum wage. Two to three members of a family have to toil hard to cumulatively earn the prescribed minimum wage.

Employers are not afraid to violate laws regarding wages. You go to shops where a lad or two are employed to work from morning till night at a paltry salary of Rs8,000 to Rs12,000.

There is no overtime or any other concession. Some though provide one meal to these workers, which they have to take while attending the customers in between. Thus, an hour of lunch time is saved.

This culture prevails in 22 million shops in the country. It happens in workshops of all kinds, mechanic shops, tailor shops, etc. Here the government does not exert its writ because the workers have no voice or strength like the IMF has.

We are a poor country, but this fact is only evident when one looks at the lives of the common people in Pakistan. The so-called rulers and higher ups, who make up the state and the power elite enjoy lavish lifestyles.

Their lifestyles are in sharp contrast to the life of the majority of the citizens. They have no idea of the hardships that the common man faces because they live comfortably.

How can one expect them to act rationally when they do not know what misery actually is. They have never tasted hunger and never struggled to get their ailing loved ones to manage life without treatment.

Their children study in posh schools or institutes unlike the children of the poor who escape school after 7 to 8 years as illiterates.

The state does allocate sufficient resources for education and health. There is a minimum qualification criteria for government school teachers.

So the staff is qualified, but the government school mostly remains dysfunctional because no one is bothered to ensure that these qualified teachers impart prescribed knowledge. Those that matter are not bothered because their children do not go near these schools.

They would be concerned if the same thing happened with their children. Education is a glaring example of how pathetically our public sector works. They have all the resources, but not the will to impart knowledge.

In the health sector, the most qualified doctors work in government hospitals, but they do not work with the same devotion towards the poor patients that they show to the affluent who come to their private clinic and pay a fat fee.

In their eight hours duty, they attend to only a few patients compared with scores of patients they examine at their private clinic. These learned doctors are intelligent enough to take very good care of any VIP or influential if he/she visits a government hospital.

Public sector hospitals in fact have better equipment for treatment than the posh private hospitals, but these equipment are not meant for treating the general public. It is reserved for those who actually matter.

The absence of government writ is playing havoc with the lives of the poor in all spheres of life, be it minimum wage, education of their children or healthcare of their families. This has nothing to do with the absence of resources.