Thatta Kedona

Culture is a Basic Need

Oh Okara

The agricultural city derives its name from a tree known as 'Okaan'. During British period once Lahore - Multan railway line was being laid, there was a jungle of Okaan at this place, hence the name. Few van (salvadora) trees - at the verge of extinction are also found in this part of the country. At the time of partition, one out of two textile mills that came as the share of Pakistan is in Okara. The city was declared district headquarters in 1982.

In 1930, Okara was famous agricultural market in the area. Presently, the Sabzi Mandi (fruit and vegetable market) handles sale of largest quantity of potatoes than any other market in the country. Muhammad Sarwar who is an arhti in Sabzi Mandi says, "Even the sheds are not being constructed.” The committee has engaged only four ill-equipped sanitary workers for cleaning the market premises. We have employed our own sweepers and watchmen". Similarly, the Grain Market (with eight gates) is also situated in the city. It does not have any drainage system and water keeps on standing in the form of ponds.

But, the city now lacks grace. Keeping the sources of pollution in view, vehicles remain the second biggest pollutants in the world. The heavy traffic on the National Highway passing through thickly populated urban areas of Okara emits poisonous smoke and the air. In addition over 29000 rickshaws, wagons, buses, and trucks registered with traffic authorities are also plying in the city.

The city situated astride the busiest national highway faces a severe pollution problem. Karachi - Peshawar main railway line also passes through the city. Besides goods' trains 24 electric powered passenger trains pass over the main line daily.

Completion of Jinnah Park was very festive for the residents of Okara but now it gives a repulsive look rather than that of a recreational place. On entering the majestic gate one realizes that the park is not being maintained. Result: polythene bags and wrappers are scattered everywhere, the grass has never been mowed, there are no flowers, and benches are broken and dusty.

A rehriwalla who sells 'Dahi Bhallay' in front of the park says, "on the average, I used to do the business worth rupees 1500/- per day when the park was newly completed and all the lantern shaped lights were illuminating but now my sale has reduced to mere four to five hundred rupees a day. No body comes here after the last light".

Socially Okara is not very lively place. People (who can afford) go to Lahore to celebrate the 'seasons'. Yet it is the only district headquarters in Punjab to have its own Arts Council. As per the law the Arts Councils are supposed to be in divisional Headquarters and Okara falls under Lahore division, thanks to one of the ex Chief Ministers Punjab who belongs to the area.

"All the great issues of small city remain unresolved and limited public resources are being sanctioned for mere show, without any love for the land, "says a social activist Zulfiqar Bajwa. " There is no single authority to oversee the growth of the city having excellent rail and road links with the rest of the country and ideally suited for live stock production and agronomic industries, "he says.


posted by S A J Shirazi @ 8:24 AM,


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