In the line of duty

June 12, 2022

An empathetic look at those who man the city roads and streets for public safety, braving extreme weather conditions, without adequate facilities

Distressed and distraught. — Photo by Rahat Dar
Distressed and distraught. — Photo by Rahat Dar


his summer has been unusually hot for Lahore, as mercury continues to stay on the higher side, between 43 and 46 degrees Celsius. While the heat wave is expected to persist for some time, it is fair to look at how those tasked with manning the roads and streets for our safety, day after day, are faring — out there, under the blazing sun.

It is indeed no easy job for the traffic wardens who must brave the vagaries of the weather and stay put despite extreme temperatures. Sadly, nothing is being done to provide relief to these hardworking officials; no incentives are being offered as of now.

A visit to the Mini Market roundabout in Gulberg, on a hot June afternoon, prompted a random conversation with a traffic warden who seemed distressed standing in the midst of the road, without a shade for him. His bloodshot eyes were peeping out from behind a pair of cheap sunglasses, while a muslin cloth the size of a handkerchief covered half of his face and neck. Hussain Safdar (name changed upon request) muttered, “We give our blood and sweat, literally, to our [Traffic Police] department, but what do we get in return? Not even a cold water bottle!”

Where the department seems to care little for its poor staff, other organisations have come forward. Early last month, the University of Health Sciences (UHS) donated a hundred umbrellas for the City Traffic Police Lahore (CTPL). These were distributed among the wardens posted at different points in the city. The idea was to help the traffic police personnel protect themselves from heatstroke and dehydration. Reportedly, on the occasion of distribution of umbrellas, the Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Muntazir Mehdi spoke of issuing “directives to all our traffic police officers to give due importance to their health, drink an adequate amount of water and adopt precautionary measures in sizzling heat.”

Early last month, the University of Health Sciences (UHS) donated a hundred umbrellas for the City Traffic Police Lahore (CTPL). These were distributed among the wardens posted at different points in the city.

Next, this scribe roamed the Ferozpur Road, Mughalpura, Askari X, Harbanspura, and Shama Chowk, and spoke to several traffic wardens. None of them was satisfied with what the department was doing for them. Hafiz Salman, deployed at the traffic signal next to the Mall of Lahore, Cantonment, said, “I am standing here, all dressed up in my polyester-mixed uniform, in this hot weather, doing my duty. But who cares?”

Salman, who was posted here six months ago, added, “There’s only one mobile canteen for the entire Lahore. That too arrives at daytime, we get our 1.5-litre water bottles refilled, and it goes away.”

Fayyaz Hussain, deployed on the Bahar Shah Road signal, said that the wardens had “earned big revenues for the department in the form of recorded challans. But what do we get at the end of our hard day’s work — no breaks, not even for lunch.” Some relief was offered by the Stetson hat he’s sporting.

This scribe also approached a warden named Saleem Ahsan, who was manning the traffic close to the Ferozpur Road underpass and asked him what the purpose of Safe City cameras was if the department had to deploy personnel on the roads. He replied, “These are only meant to make headlines.”

He continued, “Once a VVIP movement is announced on a walkie-talkie, we must respond and control the traffic manually.”

However, both Fayaz Hussain and Hafiz Salman confirmed that a draft had been sent to the chief minister, Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, suggesting changes in their uniform to make it more breathable.

The writer is pursuing a degree in mass communication and media studies at the Forman Christian College and University. He is also a digital journalist, currently working with ProperGaanda

In the line of duty