Almost five years down the lane of the Sindh High Court’s (SHC) ban on smoke-emitting vehicles, owners of the two-stroke rickshaws are still waiting on the government to convert the engines to four-strokes.
While the Sindh transport department claims that the vehicles have almost vanished, the rickshaw association says that around 60,000 two-stroke rickshaws are operating on the roads of Karachi.
Following the SHC’s ban in 2007, the Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad gave the rickshaw association a period of three years to convert all the two-stroke engine rickshaws into four-strokes. But they failed to meet the deadline which ended on June 30, 2010.
“The Sindh government had assured us that they would provide four-stroke engines for our rickshaws by the end of June 30, 2010 but they did nothing,” said Hafizul Haq Hassan Zai, president of the Karachi Taxi, Motor Rickshaw and Yellow Cabs Owners Association.
“The government then extended the deadline till June 30, 2011, on the condition that 50 per cent of the cost for changing engines will be paid by the rickshaw owner,” he added. “Around 500 two-stroke rickshaws were supposed to be converted in the first phase for which Rs15 million were approved but not a single rickshaw was converted. Instead, we were told that the money had been spent for flood rehabilitation.”
The government extended the relaxation period for yet another year which expires at the end of this month.
Losing value, losing customers
Zai said that the rickshaw owners are willing to wait for the government to convert the rickshaws, but are not prepared to put their business on hold. He warned that protests would start if the government forces them to shut down their two-stroke rickshaws.
“These rickshaws have lost their value in the past five years. A two-stroke rickshaw used to be worth Rs200,000 but now its value is somewhere between Rs20,000 to 25,000,” said Abdul Wahed, a 26-year-old rickshaw driver. “I am willing to exchange my rickshaw even with a mobile phone now!”
Wahed said that people avoid hiring two-stroke rickshaws in presence of four-stroke rickshaws. “The former operates on LPG along with engine oil which is expensive while the latter operates on CNG which is cheap,” says Wahed. “That is why we ask for more fare. Even if I work all the night, I would hardly earn Rs 200 a day. ”
Meanwhile, Transport Deputy Secretary Ali Nawaz Panhwer told The Express Tribune that the transport department has stopped issuing route permits to the two-stroke rickshaws. “You can hardly see them on the roads anymore since we have stopped giving them route permits,” claimed Panhwer.
While speaking on the project to convert the two-stroke rickshaws into four-stroke, he said that the transport department did not receive funds for the project due to which it could not be started. “We had asked for Rs35,000 per rickshaw from the government which we did not receive.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 22nd, 2012.