Exploitation of commuters continues as consumer courts in Sindh still a distant dream

Karachi:  There is no respite in the brutal exploitation of commuters in Sindh province, especially its capital city Karachi, as the Sindh transport department and road transport authorities are hand in glow with the private transporter mafia that is not ready to reduce bus fare proportionate to reduced oil prices, besides continuing to charge more bus fare on the basis of diesel consumption, fraudulently, as they run their vehicles on cheap CNG but charge higher fare from the commuters on the false claim that they use costly diesel in their vehicles. The government fully knows about this fraud but it prefers to look the other way as it cannot afford irking transporters mafia.

The rulers, their ministers, secretaries and officers do no travel in buses and hence logically they do not know about the sufferings of the commuters. Moreover the transport department is said to be amongst the most corrupt departments and the transport mafia too generous in giving bribes and due to this strong nexus no one care about the rights of commuters. The commuters have no forum to complain about their woes as the exploiters and regulatory department officials are on the same page. The consumer courts in Sindh province is a distant dream, as the local rulers are not even as generous as the Punjab regime to give their citizens the facility of consumer courts.

Urban public transport issue is directly a labor issue, says Nasir Mansoor, deputy general secretary of National Trade Union Federation (NTUF). He said this issue was created decades back when the then rulers closed down state-run Sindh Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) and Karachi Road Transport Corporation (KTC) and sold their huge fleets of buses worth billions of rupees for peanuts to their favorite people. To give the transporter mafia unchallenged monopoly, the multi-billion project of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) was also closed down. All these efforts were part of a well-planned conspiracy to hamper the rapid urban growth of Karachi on one hand and eliminating transport labor unions on the other. He said unless the State-run urban public transport sector is revived, the commuters of Sindh including Karachi would continue to suffer. He said there is no hope that the present ruling class in Sindh would improve the urban transport system of Karachi as they themselves had damaged it beyond repair.

He said in no country of the world, fleecing of people is tolerated by the government, but here the transporter mafia is allowed to run buses on CNG and charge fare on the use of diesel. He said this is against law, constitution and morality and also is contrary to the norms of democracy, as the commuters are also voters and the ruling political parties are duty bound to safeguard their rights.

Pasban e Pakistan Public Issues Committee director Abubakar Usman regretted that the Sindh transport department is still reluctant to get implemented the recent slash in public transport fares following the cut in oil prices. He asked that the notification about reduction in public transport fares should be implemented immediately. He said secretary transport and DIG Traffic Karachi should take stern action to get the new reduced bus fares implemented.

He said the transport department has fixed the fare of buses at Rs10 and Rs13, the fare of minibuses is Rs10, Rs13 and Rs15 and the fare of coaches is Rs14 and Rs17, while the government has announced to charge half fare from students in buses, minibuses and coaches. According to the Motor Vehicle Ordinances the fare of children up to 12 years of age is the half of the normal fare.

Ghazanfar Ali, secretary PTA and Mohammad Mansha secretary RTA were also present.

He suggested that for senior citizens and special persons only half bus fare should be charged. The drivers and conductors should be made bound to wear uniforms. Gas cylinders in public transport vehicles are ticking live bombs and substandard gas cylinders should be removed from vehicles.

Karachi is the city of 24million population and its public transport issue should be solved in permanent basis. A Public Transport Corporation should be formed to end the monopoly and blackmailing of transporter mafia in Karachi. The transporters should prominently display the government’s fare list in their vehicles. Heavy fines should be slapped on old and smoky buses and minibuses.

The CNG and diesel run vehicles should be separately marked with separate color codes and separate fare lists. The bus fares of the CNG-run vehicles are fixed by Ogra and it is now the responsibility of Orga to issue bus fare list for the CNG-run public transport.

Karachi Commuters Rights Campaign (KCRC) has requested the provincial government to issue notification about the color code of buses and minibuses and also implement it. All types of roof-racks should be removed from minibuses and coaches. The so-called ‘coaches’ should be declared as ordinary minibuses as they do no run on the agreed seat-by-seat basis and allow commuter to sit standing inside these vehicles and also perch on their rooftops. There should be two stage slab of fare for buses: Rs 5 and Rs 10, and two stage fare slab of minibuses included coaches: Rs 10 and Rs 15.

The KCRC asked the transport department to issue a list of new routes created during last two decades in Karachi along with the list of the approved routes on which the transporters are not plying their vehicles. It demanded to approve at least 200 new public transport routes, exclusively for wide-bodies buses, as the city of Karachi has expanded rapidly during last two decades and millions of commuters do not have bus service available in many areas and they have to travel on highly risky Chinghchies. The early revival of the KCR by the Pakistan Railways on the available main track and KCR loop is a vital for solving public transport issue of the city. The government should stop befooling citizens in the name of modernizing KCR with foreign loan and foreign technology. Pakistan Railways have been successfully running local trains in Lahore with its available technology and it could repair and run the KCR with three months provided Pakistan Railways Minister Khawaja Saad Rafique, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah and Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan give the nod. Karachi needs its old local trains like Bombay and Kolkata and the government could give these trains to Karachiies without wasting yet another two decades for the Chinese and Japanese loans and their modern rail technology.

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