Besides inconveniencing travellers, Pakistan Railways’ (PR) present financial turmoil has also put vendors and shopkeepers at the Rawalpindi Railway Station in a fix.
Ghulam Rasool, who has been running a general store outside the railway station for the last 12 years, told The Express Tribune his family is facing “their toughest days”. The reason is the staggering decline in the number of customers at his shop, following PR employee protests for their salaries and empty reassurances by the government-run company. He said days go by without any sale.
The present crisis may have adverse affects for the economy but it has also shattered hopes of many poor families whose bread and butter is attached with the rail service.
Javed and Farman, two brothers who own a teashop at the station, said that for last two months they have not been able to meet their daily expenditures. “For us it is unbelievable,” said Javed, “the place used to be filled with people and now it’s deserted.” The two have been running the refreshment centre at the main entrance of the station since 1992, but now they feel it’s time they close down.
Standing at the station’s platform, Mehbool Elahi looked visibly disgruntled. “I have always loved to travel by train,” said Elahi reminiscing the times when he used to come at the platform with his father who worked at the very same station. He said for him the present disorder in the rail service is “a real shocker” and has marred the charm of one of most busy railway stations of the country.
The cab stand outside the station is now an empty plot, said Yousaf Khan, a taxicab driver, who used to wait for passengers outside the railway station. He said he goes wherever he can find passengers and that is anywhere but the railway station.
Rawalpindi Railway Station was built in the 1880s by the government of British India to help facilitate trade. The service was also used for other economic and strategic purposes in the sub-continent.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 1st, 2011.