Karachi: Millions of commuters in Karachi brave immense problems on daily basis, as the provincial government continue to neglect the vital public transport sector, a lifeline of any urban economy.
The city with population of over 20million people lacks a working public transport system. Junkyard class minibuses that do not get permission to ply on roads in other provinces are brought to Karachi and even the number of these old and shabby minibuses is not enough to cater the needs of huge commuter market of Karachi. The commuters even consider them lucky if they could perch on the rooftop of some dangerously overcrowded bus. Women commuters face the worst situation as male commuters travel in bus compartments of females, resulting in physical and psychological harassment of women.
The city government had spent more than Rs1billion to buy Green buses, but these buses developed faults within a year and were parked in bus terminals. No inquiry is made how these new buses developed faults when 80 to 90 years old private buses are still running successfully on Karachi streets. There is no concept of accountability and audit when it is the matter of spending of city government funds. This wastage of taxpayers’ money has been going on for decades.
Public transport is a lucrative sector and new investors are ready to reap its benefits, but the corrupt bureaucracy to ensure monopoly of a mafia of private public transporters is reluctant to issue new route permits. Even there are dozens of routes of buses and minibuses in Karachi on which the government had issued route permits but the transporters have stopped plying buses on these routes to create artificial shortage of public transport in Karachi to maximize their profits through overloading. The government should cancel these route permits and invite applications for them from new investors.
Acute shortage of public transport is also resulting in slow growth of economy. The movement of labour force is slow and costly in Karachi due to the lack of required numbers of buses and minibuses and the ultimate suffer is the economy of Karachi, says All Pakistan Organization of Small Traders and Cottage Industries (APOST&CI) Karachi chapter president Mahmood Hamid. He said when a labour travel for one or two hours painfully standing in a crowded bus and sitting on its rooftops, his productivity would be certainly affected.
He said saving time and fare costs of labours and giving them a hassle free mode of transportation would increase the level of productivity and help boosting the economy of Karachi. He said development of urban public transport sector is considered an integral part of boosting urban economies all over the world but the provincial government of Sindh still lacks this vision. He said even the Punjab government has realized the benefits of upgrading urban transport and after Lahore they are introducing rapid bus system in Rawalpindi. He said the Sindh government should borrow some public transport experts from Punjab to modernize the urban transport system of Karachi.
Pakistan Railway Worker Union President Manzoor Razi said the public transport system of Karachi could not be developed till the revival of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR). He said Pakistan Railway is fully equipped to revive the KCR from its own resources without any foreign aid but the vested interests are wasting precious time to seek costly foreign loans to revive the KCR loop. He said all it needs repair of existing tracks, signal system and railway stations and bring locomotives and bogies to run the KCR. He said if the Pakistan Railway bosses show sincerity the KCR could be revived within three months from our ingenious resources as the engineers and technicians of Pakistan Railway are fully capable to do this job.
He said in India their railway is successfully running the local train system in Mumbai and other cities and they are also running same old trains. He said this could also be easily done in Karachi and the basic infrastructure of the KCR is still intact and all it needs some repair and renovation. He said running local trains in Karachi would also provide good profits to the cash-strapped railway as the city has a huge commuter supply. He said the workers of the Pakistan Railway would work day and night to revive the KCR once the government takes a decision in this regard. He said the repair of track is needed only on KCR loop; however, local trains could be run any time on the main Landhi-City Station track, which could be a huge profitable route for the railway.
National Trade Union Federation (NTUF) Deputy General Secretary Nasir Mansoor said the government is focusing on building roads and flyovers to facilitate white collar workers who own personal cars, but it is ignoring blue collar workers who are dependent on public transport buses. He said it is a pity to see hordes of factory workers and office employees travelling in dangerously overcrowded buses like animals. He said the politicians beg votes from these workers but they do not provide them the facility of a respectable commuting. He said the women workers face immense problems to go to their workplaces and return home due to overcrowded buses in which male commuters occupy female compartments. He demanded of the provincial government to immediately bring Green buses of KMC on road and issue new route permits to transporters who are ready to run wide-bodied buses in the city.
A senior officer in the provincial government requesting anonymity said the government has already taken notice of non-functioning of the CNG Green buses of KMC. He said funds are being released for their repair and they would be back on city streets soon.