KARACHI: Residents of the metropolis face serious problems as the owners of buses, minibuses and coaches are charging illegal fares from commuters without any action being taken by the government and bureaucracy to uphold the writ of law.
Commuters decry that minibus owners have made their own fare lists without approval from the government and they are charging from Rs5 to Rs10 more fare per seat on different city routes. The Sindh Transport Department, Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and the district administration so far have taken no steps to safeguard the rights of commuters and save them from fleecing of the private transporters.
In fact, the whole public transport sector of the megacity is in shambles and is causing in huge losses for the economy of Karachi as lack time and a cost-efficient commuter system that results in an increase in commuting time and cost, affecting productivity levels in all sectors.
The megacity has had poor public transport system for decades, but successive provincial governments in Sindh did not show seriousness to revamp this commuting system due to political expediency.
The public transporters of the city had raised bus fares unilaterally after the recent hike in oil prices and they are continuing to charge increased fares despite the government has already withdrawn the hike in the price of petroleum products.
The transporters are not allowed to hike bus fares without prior permission of the transport department which fixes the fares and issues fare list. However, the transporters seem to be defying the law, appearing bold enough to issue their own fare lists and implement them also due to lack of governance.
Commuters of Karachi still depend on highly inefficient, costly and irregular minibus service that is run by private transporters. They run their minibuses on cheap CNG but charge the fare on the basis of costly diesel.
Further, they allow commuters to sit on rooftops of their minibuses so at to further maximize their profit. However, the provincial Transport Department, traffic police, Environment Department and Karachi police allegedly support these transporters.
These government departments that are mandated to uphold rule of law themselves allow the transporters of the megacity to violate any rule and law at their sweet will.
The federal government had funded Green Line metro bus system and its infrastructure was also almost completed but the Sindh government did not procure metro buses to run on it.
The federal and provincial governments also seem to be to heading on similar lines in not resuming the surface rail-based commuting system, Karachi Circular Railway (KCR).
The commuters of the megacity rightly feel that the rulers are deliberately harming the economy of the megacity by not improving its public transport system. In any economy of urban centers, specially the megacities, public transport systems play a pivotal role, but in the case of Karachi, it is the government that seems to be deliberately ignoring this very crucial sector.
The economy of the megacity would grow by leaps and bounds if the government gives seriousness to the public transport sector and introduce new bus routes for its industrial and commercial areas on a war footing.
The federal and provincial governments could easily restart defunct KCR if they resolve their petty political differences and clear the KCR track from illegal encroachments.
The Pakistan Railways is fully capable of repair and run the KCR within in a couple of months without any foreign loan and this rail-based commuting system could also be run profitably if it is handled through a professional management.