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November 22, 2020

The good, the bad, and the ugly lives

November 22, 2020

LAHORE: Life is good, bad, and ugly for different segments of Pakistani society depending on the category they fall in; however, one thing is certain citizens enjoying a good life are far less than the other two categories.

In developed economies all citizens have the right to food, health, education, and justice. In those countries the categorisation is on the basis of other amenities of life enjoyed by more affluent families. The super-rich live in mansions, have their own jets and are members of elite clubs.

They educate their children in expensive private educational institutions and afford the best health facilities.

However, the ordinary citizens at the bottom rung of the ladder live in modest homes and their children go to state-run schools. The standard of education in these schools is at par or higher than private schools (private schools provide more extracurricular facilities than state schools).

The poorest of the poor have access to the best health facilities (better than the best in Pakistan). The poor have the opportunity to move up the ladder through hard work and dedication because they attain the same knowledge from government institutions that a member of a rich family has. The appointments are on merit and one moves up in career on the basis of competence and performance. It is not possible in their justice system to exploit the poor or deny them their rights.

In developing economies particularly in economies like Pakistan where the average incomes are low, the citizens do not have equal opportunities. They do not have equal opportunities because the system is corrupt, and appointments are not on merit. Poor have no voice. Justice is unduly delayed where someone dares to seek justice.

The inequalities in the education system are much higher than the general inequalities in society. The private schools are very expensive.

Even the middle class families that educate their children in private schools do so at the expense of their other needs.

The lower middle class and the poor have no choice but to enroll their children in almost dysfunctional government schools -even here they have to either bribe or seek recommendations of some individual to get their sons/daughters enrolled.

It is an established fact that appointments in most cases are not on merit. However, to deny the poor going up the ladder the system has been engineered to ensure only those belonging to the richer segments of society are selected on merit. It is because a poor child educated in dysfunctional schools would hardly go to the college level.

Even if somehow a poor graduates through hard work from a low fee institution, he/she lacks the confidence to pass an interview against a polished graduate from an affluent family.

It seems that from now onward the lower segment of the society would largely be deprived of all jobs purely on the basis of merit because the system has been designed this way.

Health is another basic need. A healthy individual is more productive and alert than a semi starved person taking a diet that lacks essential nutrients. The health system in Pakistan is now dominated by the private sector.

Majority of citizens lack the resources to afford private treatment. Public sector health facilities are nominal and substandard.

The doctors employed by the state do private practice in the evening. The patients systematically are forced to visit their private clinics. They therefore show no interest in treating them properly in the public sector health facilities.

The poor suffer from chronic ailments. They are subjected to water-borne diseases (due to polluted water) and suffer breathing problems due to industrial and traffic pollution. That they mostly live in slums flooded with overflowing sewerage and littered with filth that adds on to their health miseries.

Constitutionally all citizens have civil rights. But the rights of the poor are openly abused. They are thrown in the lockup for days without being produced before the courts. Their properties are snatched by influential people in cahoots with land officials and law enforcers.

They cannot afford to seek justice from courts because the cases move at a snail’s pace. They cannot afford to pay lawyers at each hearing.

The most stubborn of them who still choose to continue to pursue their cases die during decades of court proceedings and sometimes their next generation picks up the thread futile litigation without ever finding justice.

This is the reason that life is excellent for the super rich in our country, good for the upper middle class, bad for lower middle class, and ugly for the poor.