Exodus of migrant workers leaves capital deserted

Overloaded buses head out of town, roads wear a deserted look a day ahead of the festive occasion

An overloaded bus leaves a bus terminal in Islamabad, while Seventh Avenue is deserted a day ahead of Eidul Azha. PHOTO: EXPRESS

RAWALPINDI/ ISLAMABAD: The city of migrant workers has gone quiet before Eid.

People working in the federal departments have gone to their hometowns to celebrate Eidul Azha with their friends and families.

The hustle and bustle has gone down in the city with many bureaucrats, newly elected ministers and employees of public sectors and traders having left the city for their hometowns from Islamabad. Roads, chowks and crossroads of some areas of the city like D Chowk, Shahra-e-Dastoor, Margala Road, sectors F-6, F-7, F-10, Blue Area, Melody and I-7 are relatively quiet. In normal days these places are the scene of hectic activities. But as Eid approaches these activities begin to wane.

Employees of the capital aren’t too pleased with the government for not declaring the Friday after Eid a holiday.

Some have availed leave for the day while others will have to attend office on Friday. According to a cautious prediction, 60 to 70 per cent of the population of Islamabad return to their villages or hometowns.  Inhabitants live in the city for their work and when the work is finished, they return to their hometowns. According to the details, before the arrival of Eidul Azha officers and employees deployed in government offices who belong to different districts, have already gone on holidays.

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Overcharging and overloading

It was utter chaos at bus terminals of the twin cities on the last day before Eidul Azha with a bulk of passengers trying to get home for the holiday and hapless transporters waiting for their buses to come back from routes on time were practically unable to cope with the passenger load.

People leaving for far flung areas to enjoy Eid with their loved ones are facing a dire shortage of transport. Owing to the immense heat coupled by lack of transport at bus stops and overloading, disputes between passengers and transporters have become a common feature. To add fuel to the fire, excess transport fee is being charged which is further aggravating their woes.

Transporters in a bid to avoid action against overcharging are picking up passengers from the street corners just outside the bus stand.

Due to lack of transport on Tuesday, these passengers faced difficulties. Even the transporters kept forcing passengers to fill the seats in haste whereby four to five passengers were accommodated in seats meant for three passengers only.

On this occasion, teams of the regional transport authority were busy in providing relief to the passengers. The regional transport authority had constituted monitoring teams at transport stands by establishing a control room in order to avoid overcharging and loading. Another purpose was to provide facilities to passengers.

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A large number of passengers complained to the control room from transport stands that transport is almost non-existent and the one that exists is overloaded. Reports of passengers being made to sit on the roof of vehicles have also been received.

In this regard, Daily Express contacted the regional transport authority’s field unit officials who informed that complaints related to overcharging and overloading had been received upon which immediate action has been taken. The passengers were paid back the excess fare they were charged. They maintained that the reason behind the lack of transport at bus stands and overloading is that majority of the transporters who went with the passengers early in the morning to other areas opted to leave for their homes to celebrate Eid instead of returning. The transporters have contended that they are not overloading the vehicles but passengers themselves insist on seating four passengers in space meant for three only, due to availability of limited transport. This is also leading to heated arguments and brawls fighting.

On being contacted, the Regional Transport Authority Rawalpindi officials informed that more than 125 complaints of overcharging and overloading were received on the occasion of Eid. Taking action on these complaints, challans were issued to 110 public service vehicles while eight vehicles were taken into custody. More than 100 passengers were returned the additional fare that was collected from them. Similarly, fine of more than Rs15,000 was slapped in lieu of challan.

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From Rawalpindi to pind

On the last day, bus stands faced immense crowd of people returning to their villages and hometowns on Eidul Azha. Passengers had to wait for many hours on end for vehicles while on the other side Islamabad police and motorway police took steps of controlling overloading and high fares by setting up checkpoints everywhere and violators being fined.

Labourers hailing from DG Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, Muzaffargarh and South Punjab were seen returning to their native areas. There was a rush of passengers at Karachi Company, Faizabad, Pir Wadhai Mandi Mor and Pir Wadhai Adda. Regarding passengers’ complaints of high fares being charged, a spokesperson of motorway police has said that motorway police forms a strategy every Eid to control the fares, it is being implemented this year also. 

Published in The Express Tribune, August 22nd, 2018.


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