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Mismanagement grips Pakistan Railways.

Economic Review: There were reports about the privatisation of Pakistan Railway. What is the factual position now?

Manzoor Razi: We do support the privatisation process in the country. But the heavy industries of public utility should not be handed over to private sector. The Railways system is under public sector everywhere in the world. It usually undergoes losses. Governments provide financial assistance to Railways all over the world. So far Pakistan Railways are concerned efforts should be made to check losses instead of going for privatisation.

The railways could be better controlled under employers management. It is generally alleged by the industrialists that workers do not discharge duties honestly as such they are unpatriotic. In fact the industrialists do not abide by the rules. They are involved in wage theft, tax evasion and many other financial evils of heinous nature. Government recently fixed Rs. 1500/- as the minimum wages for unskilled workers, but the decision of the government is not followed in most of the cases. So far the privatisation is concerned the net revenue of Lahore-Faisalabad section was Rs. 10 million per annum but it was thrown away to private sector at Rs. 9.50 million, thus incurring a net loss of Rs. 50 lakh per annum. Instead of privatising the areas which are undergoing losses the government started selling out profit earning divisions. Ticket reservation is the most profit generating service. 60 per cent of it has been given on commission to private agencies. Rest of the 40 per cent quota is with the railways, out of which a major share is utilized by persons travelling on concessional tickets. Private agencies do not provide concession.

ER: What are the reasons of losses?

MR: The reasons of losses are multifold. The most important is the local purchase system. Though there is a centralized General Store but various divisions/departments carry out their own local purchases which is the root cause of financial misappropriation. Moreover, high officials are involved in corruption in collaboration with the bureaucracy. Non-development and unproductive expenditure is touching unprecedented heights. Contract and Commission system are other factors. Most of leakages take place in General Engineering branch. Moreover, the government has imposed sales tax on sleepers which are used by Pakistan Railways. It is interesting to note that these sleepers are produced by 5 factories of Pakistan Railways for its own use. The government thus takes away Rs. 20 million as Sales Tax on sleepers every year. Moreover Excise Tax has been imposed on tickets.

ER: Efficiency of PR is said to be on the decline. What are the reasons?

MR: It is true that the efficiency is on the decline but it is not because of workers. They are performing duties honestly despite the fact that they are not properly paid, lack medical and residential facilities and other problems which are of serious dimension. The decline in efficiency is due to mismanagement and non-improvement in travelling facilities. The workers in the present condition find themselves helpless. Moreover, there is no liaison between the workers and management. In fact management undermines workers and the whole show is run by bureaucracy. The issue of late arrival of trains was thought to be a serious matter. But no body cares for it now. Goods Wagons have been abandoned on grounds of minor repairs. If these trains are brought into commission it could be of financial assistance to PR. Similarly a lot of revenue could be earned through a centralized reservation instead of privately run booking offices.

Manzoor Ahmed Razi, is the central President of Railway Workers Union. He joined Pakistan Railways as Booking Clerk and started trade union activities in 1965. He was sent to jail in 1967 and 1968 during country-wide strike in Pakistan Railways. Mr. Razi was then terminated from the job and re-employed in 1969. Again he was sent behind the bars in 1974 and 1977. Now he is serving as Senior Booking Clerk. The work strength of Pakistan Railways is about 1.2 million.
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Title Annotation:interview with Railway Workers Union President Manzoor Ahmed Razi
Publication:Economic Review
Article Type:Interview
Date:May 1, 1993
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