Karachi: Karachi, one of the largest cities of the world, has become a ‘Chingchi city’ due to lack of both rail and road-based public transport systems. It is the only mega city of the world where a medieval mode of public transport is still in vogue.
In Karachi hundreds of thousands of Chingchi rickshaws ply in all 18 towns. They normally charge Rs10 per passengers which most commuter consider reasonable. This is not only cheaper but all weather mode of transport, as Chingchis ply even during riots and strike days which this city witnesses frequently. However, this sector is highly unregulated and its rapid growth due to acute shortage of local transport buses is increasing sense of disregard to civic norms and rules of law in the city.
Karachi Taxi, Motor Rickshaw and Yellow Cab Owners Association president Hafizul Haq Hassanzai said the Chingchis are nor defined in the Motor Vehicles Act as public transport. He said it is neither a rickshaw nor a motorcycle but a strange hybrid vehicle, highly dangerous to be allowed plying on roads. He said not a single Chingchi rickshaw plying in Karachi has a proper registration number and majority of their drivers has no valid driving license. He said mostly underage boys driven these vehicles in reckless manner. He said these vehicles have no rear mirror or side indicators. He said it is highly unsafe for children and women and females travelling in them feel them uncomfortable as male and female passengers have to sit in a manner that is disrespectful for women. He said considering the laws and rulers Chingchi rickshaws are illegal and their presence depicts a wrong picture of the rule of law and civic sense in the largest and most education city of Pakistan.
To a question that why private transporters are reluctant to introduce new wide-bodied buses in Karachi, he said public transport business is profitable but also highly risky in Karachi and mobs often burn buses and minibuses during riots. He said no sane man could risk plying new and costly buses in Karachi in these circumstances. He claimed that the bus fares in Karachi are also higher if compared to bus fares of Lahore. When asked why the transporters fail to get their vehicles properly insured. He said mostly these people are illiterate and not ready to spend money on insurance of their vehicles.
Karachi is the only mega city of the world where junkyard class buses and minibuses are allowed to ply on roads and strangely the government and commuters are content with these shabby, smoke emitting vehicles. This encourages public transporters to bring road unfit vehicles from all parts of the country and ply these in Karachi to exploit highly profitable commuter market here.
National Forum of Environment and Health (NFEH) president Naeem Qureshi said it is a hard luck of Karachiites that their government has joined hands with transport mafia to deprive the Karachiiites of a respectable public transport. He said the citizens should blame their political leaders who safeguard the interests of the transport mafia instead of providing facilities to commuters. He said in the year 2009 the government has allocated Rs5billion for introducing CNG-Diesel hybrid wide-body buses in Karachi under Shaheed Benazir Bhutto CNG Bus Project, but the Sindh Transport Department and other government stakeholders in order to facilitate the transport mafia deliberately failed this pro-commuter project.
Previously, the then city Nazim of Karachi Niamatullah Khan Advocate had introduced the Green Buses in Karachi, but these buses also vanished after the tenure of Khan was over. Later, some CNG buses were introduced in the city but their fate remained same in the end. Presently, the KMC runs CNG buses in the city, but their actual presence on roads is a rare feast for the citizens
Naeem Qureshi said after 1985 the government has stopped issuing new route permits to minibuses in Karachi, while the population of the city is on a constant rise. He said about 380 new private vehicles are being registered in Karachi every day, as people have no option to buy their own transport due to absence of a proper public transport system. He regretted that the political owners of Karachi are least concerned about the vital public transport issue of the city, which directly affects their voters. He said local politicians have to learn a lesson from the experience of Lahore, where a modern bus rapid system is being developed on fast track basis. He said in a few months Lahore would become the most modern city of Pakistan in respect of public transport while Karachi has still to take many years to achieve this milestone. He regretted that the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) system is also kept in limbo just to ensure that the transport mafia of Karachi gets lucrative profits.
Human Rights Network (HRN) President Intikhab Alam said commuting right is one of the basic rights of citizens, but the citizens of Karachi are still deprived of it. He said it is the responsibility of federal, provincial and local governments to ensure proper public transport in Karachi which they claim to be a hub of economy, trade and industry. He said easy mobility of workforce is the basis of economic, trade and industrial growth. He said claiming Karachi as a revenue engine of the country and at the same time depriving its millions of workers facilities of efficient public transport shows lack of seriousness of our political leaders and policymakers.
He demanded to bring wide bodied buses in Karachi to phase out Chingchi, small capacity minibuses and old smoke-emitting buses. He said the economic growth of Karachi and resultantly whole country would grow by leaps and bounds if the public transport sector is revamped on priority basis, as modernizing this sector is considered as the most efficient catalyst in socioeconomic uplift of the urban centers throughout the world.