Sep 22 - 28, 2003




MANZOOR AHMED RAZI, is a seasoned labor leader and has served the interests of the workers especially in Pakistan Railways for over 30 years. Razi worked in Pakistan Railways in different capacities and what he says he was forced to get pre-mature retirement. Currently, he is the Central President of Pakistan Railway Workers Federation and President Railway Workers Inqlab union. He has conducted various studies for improvement of the railway service in Pakistan as well as the lot of the workers associated with Pakistan Railways.

PAGE: Pakistan Railways claim about improvement in railway services, overall profitability of the organization and introduction of new trains from Karachi to up-country destinations. What are your comments?

RAZI: Certainly, the Pakistan Railways have declared a profit of Rs800 million during the last financial year while it has also inducted new trains between Karachi and Lahore. However, the matter of the fact is that at what cost all these achievements has been made by the Railway management?

They imposed a massive retrenchment in the organization and as a result of that about 40,000 people were rendered jobless worsening the unemployment situation in the country.

PAGE: If the Pakistan Railways retrenched about 40,000 workers, how it is managing its operations through the country?

RAZI: Actually, the retrenchment was made in phases: In the first phase, some 8,000 people were retired, in the second phase some 6,000 employees were removed and against some 20,000 people were removed under different charges. Now the Railways have started hiring fresh people especially from the up-country stations. Currently they are working with strength of 83,000 workers and a large number of positions are lying vacant. While hiring, the Railway administration should consider the re-appointment of the experienced and clean hand former workers of the Railways.



PAGE: Don't you agree that there are visible improvements in Railway services, schedule and quality of services during last 3-4 years?

RAZI: Yes, definitely there is improvement in quality of services being provided by Railways to the passengers, new trains have also been introduced on different routes while maintenance of the stations has also been improved. But see the increase in fares during last three years. Contrary to the earlier practice of 5 per cent raise in Railways fares after every three years, they increased Railways fares for times in three years making the rail journey an expensive affairs and gradually slipping out of the reach of the common man. As a result of exorbitant increase in fares, the traffic is being diverted from railway to road transport, which has been tremendously increased on all routes throughout the country.

Fleecing the people in the name of improvement of services especially by a public sector organization encourages the private sector to make money by extorting undue profits.

Due shortage of staff, various important sectors like Karachi-Hyderabad, Hyderabad-Rohri and Rohri-Multan which offer tremendous railway traffic have been completely neglected. There is no rail car service available on these routes. Consequently, the passengers of these routes have to barge into the regular trains from Karachi to Lahore to Peshawar creating undue congestion in the trains.

PAGE: Karachi is becoming a jungle of traffic due to growing population of vehicles every year. In this situation, the suspended Circular Railway could have played a key role in reducing the road congestion in Karachi. Have you any idea to re-activate the suspended Circular Railway in Karachi.

RAZI: Karachi Circular Railways (KCR) was a fantastic rail service for the commuters. Unfortunately, instead of improving the system, it was scrapped by the inefficient management providing opportunities to the so-called transport mafia to operate at their will in plying vehicles on different routes in Karachi. Although the World Bank has offered a loan of Rs20 billion for re-introduction of the KCR yet it can be re-started at a much cheaper cost. System to KCR is already existing, stations and tracks is also available. We as a trade union had a meeting with City Nazim and have offered free services of the retired railway employees for one year to run the KCR. Although he gave a warm response to our proposal yet nothing has been done in this respect so far. It is highly important for the big city like Karachi to have a mass transit scheme of its own and in this respect KCR can do a great job by reducing the traffic congestion, road occupancy and road accidents if the circular railway was put in operation systematically, for increased frequency of trains, timings and other facilities to attract the commuters from coast to coast of the city. In this respect, the transport authorities should not succumb to the pressure of the transport mafia that is strongly opposing the re-introduction of the KCR system in Karachi.