IF the picture hadn’t appeared on our pages with a caption delineating its archaeological status, the reader could be forgiven for thinking of the ruins of Mohenjodaro as a low-income settlement in a poor country where people, lacking technology and awareness, still went about their work in a rudimentary way. The picture shows a ragged labourer attempting to clear an area of rainwater with a bucket, protecting one structure even as he endangers another. Given the site’s archaeological significance, we would have thought that the government would have prioritised putting in place a more effective system to protect the ruins from degradation. In fact, the actual work accomplished is a case of too little, too late. The Sindh culture department had allocated Rs3m for pre-monsoon preparations, but the rains — which came late this year — started while work was still under way. Whether anything was actually completed can be gauged by the drainage methods being used after the deluge.
This lack of administrative preparedness is not confined to historical sites; the picture is no different in the rest of the country. Just prior to the start of the monsoons there was agreement in meteorological quarters that the rains were likely to be heavy. The need for provincial and district-level administrations to take pre-emptive measures such as shoring up embankments, de-silting canals and evacuating populations along embankments was underscored. From the state, there were assurances that such work was already under way, with that favourite catchphrase of the administration — ‘on red alert’ — being bandied about by all and sundry. And yet, here we are again: many people dead, vast tracts of agricultural land inundated and embankments washed away with the corresponding toll on the economy. During the most recent spell of rain, people have been swept away by flash floods or died as roofs and buildings collapsed. While some of the onus lies with the citizenry — every year there are cases of people refusing to evacuate a threatened area even when directed — there is too much evidence that the state machinery creaks into action only after the event. Can the Pakistani administrative edifice not learn?