Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, recently unveiled the first set of the Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT), that reached Lahore from China. The launch event provided PML-N with a much needed break from a series of upsets, including the ouster of Nawaz Sharif from the Prime Minister office. At the launch event, Shahbaz Sharif said that his opponents fear they will not be able to get any votes in Lahore and Punjab if the Orange Line project completes on time. This statement can also be seen as PML N’s ambition to pursue mega projects like the Orange Line to increase the size of their vote bank. The Orange Line Metro Train (OLMT) was initiated after scraping an earlier plan of an underground Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System (LRMTS), approved by the previous PML-Q government. Former Chief Minister, Pervaiz Elahi, has previously disclosed that the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had pledged funding for underground mass transit system, that would have also caused no damage to the environment, Lahore’s heritage or private property. Therefore, he stated, it was a political move to scrap the earlier planned underground system, and replace it with an over ground Orange Line. The Orange Line will cost more than $1.6 Billion, and will cover a distance of 27 km to provide transport to about 250,000 people daily. Lahore is a mega city with nearly 12 million people, so many debate the decision to spend such a huge amount on an infrastructure project that benefits just two percent of the city’s populace, that too at the cost of significant damage to city’s heritage, environment, property and businesses. Several individuals have committed suicide due to damages suffered by displacement of their property and business. There are also serious allegations of financial misappropriations. As of now three different cases — on environment, heritage, and transparency are pending with courts. The Orange Line Metro Train was initiated after scraping an earlier plan for an underground Lahore Rapid Mass Transit System, approved by the PML-Q government. Former Punjab CM Pervaiz Elahi, has previously disclosed that the Asian Development Bank had pledged funding for underground mass transit system that would have also caused no damage to the environment, Lahore’s heritage or private property Now, compare Orange Line to other mega cities, which have all opted for a much more elaborate and effective underground transit systems. Delhi, a city of 18 million people, has an Underground Metro that covers a distance of 218 km and provides daily commute to nearly 2.8 million people, that is 14 percent of the city’s population. In comparison, the Orange Line appears to be a half measure. It will not help ease traffic load, nor provide adequate transport to a significant population of Lahore. Thus there is a strong debate over priorities and public needs. Do people really need a mega project that serves just 2 percent of one city’s population, at a cost of nearly $2 billion? According to recent statistics, nearly 23 million Pakistani children are still out of school, 44 percent of children aged between five and 16 are not in school, 70 percent of children in Balochistan and 58 percent in FATA are out of school. These are sad realities, that nearly half of our future generation remains out of school and illiterate. Meanwhile we throw our money at the orange line. Nearly half of our future generation remains out of school and illiterate. Meanwhile we throw our money at the orange line Similarly, there are inadequate healthcare facilities for a growing population. Pakistan has less than 20 beds and eight doctors for every ten thousand citizens. Our hospitals are neglected and doctors mistreated. Only 3.5 percent of the total government expenditure gets incurred on healthcare. Other basic and important public needs, like safe drinking water, quality higher education, meaningful employment, police and judicial systems have serious deficiencies, and adding to these shortcomings is a high level of corruption. Pakistan ranks at 116 out of 176 countries on Transparency International’s corruption perception Index. I remember once spotting white circles on side roads in a British country town, they were meant to identify road repair needs, to efficiently spend tax payer’s money. Here, we often see recently carpeted roads dug up to fix sewerage, then paved again only to be dug up for another shortcoming. We have a lot of wealth and power accumulated in a few hands. We, certainly, do need modern infrastructure for our mega cities, but the decision on spending taxpayer’s money should rest with elected representatives, and not just a few individuals. Lastly, the people must decide with the power of their votes — do they need better schools, healthcare et al. or maverick spending on metros and trams. The writer is a university of Warwick graduate, faculty member at university of Lahore, entrepreneur and a concerned citizen. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or followed on facebook.com/sufian.bajar Published in Daily Times, October 15th 2017.