No plan to check mushroom growth of Chingchis

Karachi: Karachi is an urban city with medieval mode of public transport. Millions of commuters of this city lack public transport facilities and make-shift motorcycle rickshaws called Chingchis cater the needs of these commuters. Due to immense passenger supply on city roads the Chingchis owners are having a roaring business and now several hundred of thousands of these dangerously unsafe and unauthorized vehicles are on the city streets and the government has no immediate plan to check their mushroom growth.

The Chingchis that started their journey from suburban areas of the city have successfully made roads to the downtown. Now Chingchis routes run from the Empress Market to Nipa Chowrangi on main University Road, from Saddar to Liaquatabad and Nazimabad via main M A Jinnah Road and other busy roads of the city. These modified motorcycles, with a makeshift carriage attached to them, have capacity for six to seven passengers and they charge Rs10 per passenger for short routes and Rs20 per passengers for long routes. Citizens prefer them as they run fast and with a seat for every passenger at reasonable fare.

The public transport sector of Karachi has been in shambles for decades. The two major urban public transport systems of the city, Karachi Transport Corporation (KTC) and Karachi Circular Railway (KCR) were deliberately failed and finally closed by the corrupt bureaucracy to give the private road-based public transporters monopoly on the city roads. These public transporters run their vehicles on cheap CNG but charge fare on the basis of diesel use. The government has allowed these transporters to run ‘coaches’ with more fare than ordinary minibuses on the condition that they would run on seat capacity basis and allow no commuter to board if vacant seat is not available. However, these coaches are running with commuters not only standing in them but also travelling on their rooftops.

The last provincial government and its transport department during their full 5-year tenure did nothing to facilitate Karachi commuters and instead they supported the public transporters of Karachi, locally called transporter mafia, meeting their every demand, complain commuters. They say the government lacks a vision for urban public transport sector for this largest city of Pakistan. Comparatively, the provincial government of Punjab, headed by Mian Shahbaz Sharif fared well and gave Lahore a modern urban public transport system of Metro buses.

It is a positive sign that the sitting provincial government of Sindh has promised to revamp the public transport system of Karachi by initiating work on the lingering projects of KCR and Mass Transit project. However, it may take years to complete these projects. It is necessary that the Green Buses purchased by the city government of Karachi spending millions of rupees from the taxpayers money should be made operational on main routes of the city, and as a first step the Chingchis should be removed from the main arteries of the city, limiting their operation to the suburban areas temporarily till better public transport facilities arranged for these areas.