I have no idea how many readers of this newspaper have visited the Clifton branch of the Aga Khan hospital. To get to the place, you have to drive down a narrow lane, which has now become a two-way street ever since a Berlin wall was constructed on one side of the thoroughfare. You can’t take the old route because the police have set up Checkpoint Charlie to guard the entrance to the broad boulevard, which leads to the ruling party’s Brandenburg Gate. When you finally get to the street with a couple of Chinese lamps hanging outside a restaurant, you are already in a bad mood and become a little blasé about cruelty. In plain English, the lane is badly in need of repair.
After the first 50 yards, there is a patch of ground whose surface looks as if it has been scraped by a clutch of Swiss army knives. To keep the area well-lubricated, there is a permanent puddle, fed possibly by a leaking drain. A few years ago, there used to be a pond opposite the hospital, which was a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Mercifully, that was cleaned up and replaced with a makeshift parking lot. Mind you, one can always take the scenic route, which runs parallel to the broken road and turns right later on. It has tall apartment buildings and what is arguably Clifton’s largest and most ungainly garbage dump. This doesn’t quite fit in with the Cantonment Board Clifton’s (CBC) mission statement about “working for a greener, healthier environment”.
Now, what I can’t understand is, why don’t people complain or write about this eyesore in the newspapers? A lot of pregnant mothers and children visit this hospital, at times repeatedly, once they fall into the clutches of the consultants and the inevitable, never-ending tests. What kind of impression is being created by this negligence and apathy? And why is the CBC not doing anything about it? Could it be a question of priorities? Or, is it because levels of acceptability have drastically fallen? If the workaholic Mustafa Kamal, former mayor of Karachi, could have given the city’s northern sector a facelift, why can’t his example be emulated in the south?
I don’t want to take anything away from the CBC established in February 1982, to provide municipal coverage to eight DHA phases and 13 katchi abadis. The organisation is still better run than similar organisations in other parts of the city. But inexplicably, the road in question remains unattended. It can’t be that the Board is broke. The organisation doesn’t publish a statement of accounts in the newspapers and the public cannot, therefore, have any idea of its financial health and whether it has put by a sum to give the roads a facelift. A considerable portion of the revenue comes from the annual cantonment tax, which is divided into house tax, conservancy tax and water charges, which all house owners are required to pay. Charging for the supply of water is a little strange as numerous residents in Clifton and DHA complain that they don’t receive any line water and have to rely on private contractors for their supply. And then there is the ubiquitous Rs20 parking fee charged by uniformed attendants who descend on the motorist even before he has parked. Who knows how many of these tax collectors are genuine CBC agents?
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2012.