KARACHI: Necessity is the mother of all inventions. This well-known saying epitomises the reason Qingqi rickshaws became a popular mode of travel for many Karachi commuters. When the government and the authorities concerned didn’t perform their jobs, the Qingqi came to the rescue, providing efficient and adequate transportation to the public. The Qingqi rickshaws came into operation because they were economical and convenient. However, the ban on this efficient mode of transportation has incapacitated many people. According to a report, there are 329 official bus routes in the city, but currently, only 111 are being operated, while the others have been abandoned because they are not considered lucrative by transporters. Karachi, with an estimated 22 million people, has roughly 9,527 operational minibuses, compared with the 22,313 it had in 2011, according to the report. The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation says that an additional 8,676 large buses are required to fill the shortfall.
Karachi, being the most populous city of Pakistan, lacks a planned transport system. Initiatives were taken in the past years that had been successful, but most collapsed under financial strain. These failures include the KIT (1950-57), Karachi Transport Syndicate (1957-58), Karachi Road Transport Corporation (1959-67), Sindh Road Transport Corporation (1967-77) and the Karachi Transport Corporation (1977-96). In 2008, the city mayor ordered 50 CNG buses for use instead of the old minibuses. In 2014, the Sindh government launched an additional 36 CNG buses, but the number is still insufficient. At the ceremony, the Sindh chief minister had announced the Bus Rapid Transport programme, but there has been no sign of its implementation. The people of Karachi are often cramped and filled to the brim in buses and coaches, operated by reckless drivers who do not follow traffic rules, endangering many lives. The Qingqi rickshaw became popular in 2011 due to the decreasing number of buses and unavailability of alternative transportation. The disastrous transport system has impacted women the most. With more women opting to work and study than previously, there is a need to cater to their transport needs as well. Due to limited seating on buses, women face problems like having to stand while travelling during the rush hour and are sometimes harassed, insulted and maltreated.
The authorities concerned should consider the woes of the public and the implications of their decisions before giving orders on a matter. The current ban has also resulted in the loss of jobs of poor rickshaw drivers and owners. In order to establish a convenient transport facility, the government should provide a sufficient number of CNG buses in the city on longer routes and allow rickshaws on link roads. While the old buses are repugnant, CNG buses are more comfortable and a better alternative, not to mention they are well-ventilated, spacious and environmentally-friendly.
Manzoor Hussain Rajper
Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2015.