Get your land back, Senate Committee tells Railways


The Senate Standing Committee on Railways showed a strong reservation on Monday regarding the deterioration of the railways service and the ministry’s dismal performance to cope with the situation.
The committee met under the Chair of Senator Abdul Ghafoor Haideri in the Parliament House. Railways Secretary Arif Azim informed the Committee that their were 5662.67 acres of Railways land encroached upon in Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Mughalpura (Lahore), Multan, Sukkur, Karachi and Quetta, in which 2403.36 acres of land was recovered until July, 2012 .
He further informed the Committee that the land allocated to the Defense forces was regularized for the first time in the history of Pakistan. He said that safety measures were taken so that nobody could re-encroach on the Railways road in the future. He said during the photographic coverage of land survey, they had obtained a record of the departments land in different areas of the country. He added that the Railways department wanted to vacate lands but due to the deteriorating law and order situation the work had to be stopped. Despite the Supreme Court (SC) orders, people got stay orders from the courts, he said.
He also said that local pressure and the nature of the thickly populated areas where the railways land was encroached upon was also a main hurdle in vacating of land and it slowed down the process.
The chairman raised a question that during the encroachment process, railways officials were sleeping. The Committee showed concern regarding the late arrival of trains and also received information on the number of existing engines. The secretary said that 90 locomotives were contaminated and its parts which weres usable were used while the others were sold as scrap. He added that only 126 locomotives were in a workable condition. He said that the department faced a debt of Rs. 52 billion.
He also said that the government allowed the import of 75 locomotives and repairing of 27, while adding that presently they did not had any money to pay the salaries and pensions of railways staff.
The secretary said that they had coaches and wagons, but a shortage of locomotives was a great concern for the department.
The Committee was informed that in the 80s the government trends changed and focus was shifted to highways and this year Rs. 35 billion was allocated for developmental projects, while the rehabilitation process was continued. He added that almost 82 coaches were imported from China through international competitive bids. He said that they had the capability in carriage factories to make coaches and were also trying to built locomotives, the tender for which would be released soon. According to him, the department had banned the recruitment of staff.
On a query from Aijaz Dhamrah regarding the law and order situation, the secretary informed that they were demanding money from the finance division for hiring of police and training of staff for security purpose. “We have 1,100 kilometers tracks and 34 cameras were installed at all the big stations.
Railways Inspector General (IG) Ibne Hussain informed the committee that the security situation on the railways tracks and stations were over all satisfactory, adding that the Railways Police staff was getting fewer salaries than the provincial police.
He said that the department had 122 police stations. Senator Aijaz demanded the restoration of the Shalimar train stop in Shahid Benazirabad (Nawabshab), on which the secretary informed him that the Shalimar train was run by privately owned companies and they would talk to the management of that train in this regard.