A more transparent DHA
The patron of the Defence Housing Authority, the commander 5-corps, recently told a meeting of the DHA’s top officials that they should try and solve the problems of residents on a priority basis.
That is welcome, but many who live in what is apparently Karachi’s “poshest” residential area would probably agree that things could be much better only if the DHA administration bothered to take into account the wishes of its residents and if it became more democratic and representative in its make-up.
The fact of the matter is that for a long time, the DHA has been subjected to much criticism from the very people who its hopes to serve. Like most other government departments, the authority is heavy on bureaucracy and red-tape and those who deal with it frequently — say, to carry out transactions relating to property transfers, construction on an open plot and so on — say that transparency and accessibility (from the public’s point of view, that is) are not exactly its strong points.
This is further exacerbated by the fact that it is administered by a serving officer of the armed forces, and manned usually by retired officers, and this means that we have a bureaucratic organization that is completely beyond the pale of public accountability. The public perception is that it’s an organization that is not only bureaucratic but also not accountable to anyone.
The fact that there is little or no civilian representation in the DHA’s administration means that decisions affecting its residents, most of whom happen to be civilian, have really no representative basis. An example here would help. Recently, the DHA did take a good step in clearing empty plots of rubbish. It then pasted a sign saying that it was illegal to dump garbage in these plots. However, the font used in the sign is so small that it’s next to impossible to read it.
Other than that, the authority has frequently been accused of not enforcing building bye-laws and regulations uniformly and complaints have been made that some of its low-level employees have at times acted in a high-handed manner with local residents. And when that has happened, there seems to be no kind of public complaint system in place where aggrieved residents can go and file a complaint. And even if a complaint is filed with a senior officer, one never gets to know whether it was followed up and an inquiry carried out, and if so what the end result was. So, until the government holds local body elections in cantonment areas, it would be good if those who administer these authorities made them more accessible and less bureaucratic, and the formulation of the rules and regulations more transparent.
Each and every day, one witnesses new things that reinforce the notion that the majority of the human race is oblivious of all forms of common sense and good taste. Given that’s a somewhat grim and rather melancholic way of viewing the world — a sweeping brushstroke that paints all with the same colour as it were. But if it wasn’t for the moronic acts of absolute stupidity the wayfarer witnesses day in and day out, such a sweeping statement wouldn’t have been made.
The newest death fad to grip the city by the sea is the appearance of video monitors on top of the dashboards of many of the metropolis’s cars. One has to say, this takes the cake for lack of total common sense. First, it was the matter of using your cell phones while behind the wheel. Drivers would often be seen having great conversations while managing to stay alive in the bedlam that is Karachi traffic. Some of the more adventurous (read suicidal) drivers actually went as far as sending SMS text messages with their mobiles while navigating their vehicle with the one free hand. Considering such facts, it’s actually quite a surprise that Pakistan hasn’t had more success at the Indianapolis 500 or the European Grand Prix.
But seriously, something even dumber than using the mobile at the wheel has popped up on the scene. The latest trend is to have a brand spanking new VCD\DVD player installed on top of the dashboard with top quality speakers so as you drive by, not only can you enjoy your favourite Saima\Shaan starrer, but you can also let half of Karachi groove along to the digital jhankar from the soundtrack of Kursi te Kanoon.
The fact that the driver’s attention will be diverted from the road to the screen as Kareena Kapoor let’s loose another saucy thumka has been conveniently overlooked. Have we traded in all sanity for mindless conformity? The hazardous driving conditions of the city need not be repeated ad nauseum.
So considering the prevailing situation, something must be done to nip this disease in the bud. If the jokers who risk their lives by indulging in such insanity are not concerned about their own welfare, the authorities should step in and impose hefty fines on whoever has one of these monstrosities installed in their vehicle to safeguard the lives of others on the road.
Fat chance of that happening.
There are some who think that going to charity balls is a complete waste of time. After all, why would anyone want to pay ten or fifteen thousand rupees just to go out and be able to meet several hundred people and dance a bit when they could easily do that for free at a private party.
The city’s has been in the grip of charity ball fever since the end of December and it all probably will not end at least until March. The biggest two of the season so far were the MALC’s New Year’s ball and the Old Grammarian Society’s annual bash at French beach. Around 1500 people attended the first one with all the money — organizers say over Rs 15 million was collected — going to the Marie Adelaide Leprosy Centre.
One of the members on the MALC’s managing committee, Ainee Shehzad, spoke to the Notebook on the issue of why some people thought charity balls served little purpose. She said the majority of the funds collected did go to the intended charity. “I don’t see what the fuss is all about. Tell me any other kind of fund-raising activity where you would be able to raise Rs 15 million through one event. And what’s the harm if, while doing that, people also manage to have some fun and entertainment. Most of the funds collected, save for the cost of holding the event — and in any case most of the staff volunteer their time — go to fund treatment for leprosy patients.”
The OGS ball also provided scholarships to financially unsound students for study in local schools and colleges though one is not sure how much money was made. There was also the Al-Umeed ball, followed this weekend by that of the Young Professionals’ Association.
A family of five has settled down on the pavement near Shaheen Complex in the city’s business district. It is a strange family in some respects yet perfectly normal in others. Surrounded by shopping bags, empty mineral water bottles and an assortment of rags, the head of the family is a bearded patriarch who has a poster of the Sehwan Sharif urs pasted on the wall above him. The mother is an extremely emaciated woman who is obviously a drug addict, yet has a distant smile on her face. There are three children too between the ages of seven and eleven, all extremely thin and caked with mud. One of the boys seems addicted to sniffing glue and remains in a trance most of the time.
The father, who seems the most robust of them all, is a malang of sorts and does the cooking on a makeshift stove made of bricks. The children, meanwhile, disappear for large periods to beg and scrounge for food. A healthy and affectionate bitch stands guard over their pavement dwelling with a puppy snapping at her heels.
At mealtimes, the woman is helped by her family to sit up and eat, as her glazed eyes stare into the distance. The dogs sit expectantly as the family eats, and get a share even though the food is barely enough for the family.
It is a strange and moving spectacle watching them go through their everyday lives on the pavement as if it was the most natural thing in the world. The day after a fierce storm hit Karachi on Thursday night, the family disappeared. The shopkeepers nearby had no clue about where they had gone, with opinion divided on whether they would return. Many pedestrians walking past that dreary stretch hope that they will come back home safe and sound.— By Karachian