Chingchis dominate Karachi roads, as public transport sector crumbles

Karachi: Chingchis and makeshift 12-seat rickshaws have dominated the streets of Karachi, due to failure of public transport sector in Karachi, but the government is yet to take a visible action to regularize this vital public service sector of a city with 20million plus population.

Chingchis and makeshift 12-seat rickshaws are running not only suburban streets but also on main arteries including M A Jinnah Road, Rashid Minhas Road, University Road and Shahrah-e-Pakistan. Majority of these vehicles do not have registration numbers, route permit or proper driving license. Under-age drivers mostly run these vehicles recklessly. As these vehicles have no side mirrors, backlights and indicators they often cause road accidents. As per a conservative estimate more than 50000 Chingchis and makeshift 12-seat rickshaws run on the city roads, giving the city a sorry look.

Commuters, however, welcome the introduction of Chingchis in Karachi public transport system. They say this is handy and cost-effective transportation, charging normally Rs10 per passenger which is half of the fare charged by overcrowded ‘coaches’. The government had introduced these coaches two decades back allowing them charging extra fare on the condition that they would run on seat-by-seat basis and no commuter would travel in them if vacant seat is not available. However, from the day one these coaches started overloading passengers even on rooftops and also continued to charge extra fare. Ironically even when the government fixed fare of these coaches is Rs18 they extort Rs20 per passenger. The provincial transport department is fully aware of this exploitation of commuters but they dare not irk powerful transporter mafia. The Supreme Court of Pakistan last year had instructed to remove the roof racks from Karachi minibuses and coaches but it could yet to implemented by the provincial government and police due to lack of political will and bad governance.

Every year when the media raises hue and cry about the failed public transport system in Karachi and ministers and senior officials issue rosy statements about the revival of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), Green CNG buses and mass transit system but practically during last 30 years no practical step is made to revamp public transport system in Karachi. Last two city governments and Karachi Metropolitan Corporation had spent billions of rupees on projects of CNG and Green buses, but no one knows where these buses have gone, as there is no audit and accountability of the city government institutions of Karachi.

Citizens have demanded of the federal, provincial and local government authorities to give a serious focus on the deteriorating public transport sector in Karachi. The city should get proper road and rail-based public transport systems on corruption-free and sustainable basis and medieval type transportation system of Chingchis should be replaced with some respectable urban public transport.

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