After chaos at bus stands on the eve of the planned suspension of public transport during prolonged Eid holidays, Punjab government has allowed the inter-district service to operate till Monday evening.
Bus stands in the provincial capital were crowded on Saturday as thousands of people heading to their hometowns gathered, resulting in violations of the coronavirus preventive standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Taking advantage of the situation, the transporters raised the fares. Taxi services also raised their fares four-fold for travelling out of the city.
A large number of people travel by public transport from Lahore to different other cities to celebrate Eid every year. The transport services in previous years operated till the Eid day to facilitate the people.
The planned suspension of transport services during the lockdown in Eidul Fitr holidays caused problems for the passengers. Amid the lockdown, intercity transport was allowed to run at half the passenger capacity on Saturday and Sunday. In accordance with a government notification the Eid holidays in the public and private organisations began on Saturday.
The government and private sector employees hailing from other parts of the province rushed to the bus stands to go to their homes at the earliest.
Labourers from other provinces had rushed to the Lorry Adda since Friday because suspension of inter-provincial transport was scheduled from Saturday. Transport to other cities of Punjab was allowed on the weekend with 50% passengers. Private vehicles and taxi services will be allowed to travel during the restrictions.
However, all the bus stands in the city were crowded due to the 50% passenger occupancy policy under the SOPs. The large number of passengers at the bus stands resulted in violation of the SOPs. Several passengers urged the government not to stop the transport services during the lockdown.
Talking to The Express Tribune, a passenger waiting at a bus stand, Mohammad Omar, said, “I have been here with my wife since the morning but I have not been able to get a bus ticket yet.”
Altaf Hussain, an employee of a private company, said he had taken leave earlier due to fear of unavailability of transport but it had been several hours since he had bought the tickets and was waiting for a bus with his children. Passengers also complained that the transporters had doubled the fare.
According to sources in the Punjab Transport Department, more than four million people travel from the provincial capital to different parts of the country on the occasion of Eid. Most of them use public transport. More than 1,200 buses, coasters and wagons leave Lahore daily for various cities, while the rest of the passengers travel to their hometowns by train, plane and private vehicles.
Transporters say there are more passengers and fewer buses during Eid holidays but they double their service so that maximum people may travel.
A transporter said the situation had become very difficult because there were fewer buses and they had to be run with half capacity during the remaining two days. He expressed fear that a large number of people would not be able to join their loved ones on the Eid due to the restrictions.
Meanwhile, the private taxi services started charging four times more fare from the passengers going out of the city.
Transport officials said in reply to a question that they could enforce fares at bus stands, but could not do anything against drivers of private vehicles regarding fares.
Under the revised decision of the government, public transport will be allowed to ply between districts till 6pm on Monday. The transport services will be banned after that till 6am on May 15.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 9th, 2021.