It is that time of the year when people get to be with their loved ones. Shopping areas remained crowded and bus terminals are enlivened with round-the-clock activity. It is the end of Ramazan, and after 30 days of fasting, it signifies beginning of festivities and celebrations across the country.
But as Eid draws nearer and packed buses run to different parts of the country, “opportune” transporters have come into the limelight again.
The transporters, who wait for this season all year long, are being accused of making hay at the expense of out-of-towners that are thronging to bus stations.
At some places, there is shortage of buses and vans, but the issue of “over-charging remains a chronic one across the different stations. Multiple excuses are presented by transporters, with the shortage of CNG and increasing prices of fuel being the most prominent.
Aleem Khan, who was going back home after two years, had his joy reduced to anguish when he found out that the rate to his native village has shot up “stupendously”. “They are charging aroundRs300 from every passenger for a ride to Mardan on the pretext of non-availability of gas. With so much rush they are sure rake as much money as they want,” he said.
We have to go to our hometowns and have no other choice, he added as he boarded his bus at Faizabad Bus Stop.
Such incidences of “malpractices” by the transporters were also being reported at other terminals. Some passengers complained they were charged equal rates for regular and folding seats, which are smaller and much more uncomfortable. On normal days, these seats are discounted.
“Paying the same fare for folding seats on long distance journeys is really unfair. We cannot sit on these uncomfortable seats and travel all the way to Multan, that too for full fare, but what can we do, there is no other choice,” said Ahmed, another passenger.
The transporters however, denied all claims of over-charging and other problems. Sky Bus Service Manager Raja Mazhar said that they have not increased any fares during Eid, as the rate is fixed and there is no chance of overcharging. On the folding seat issue, he said that this was due to the huge number of passengers. “We have to accommodate them somehow,” he said.
Raja Travels Manager Tasaweer Abbasi said that some unregistered van owners start bargaining with passengers and might charge exorbitant fares, but that is not the fault of registered transport companies. “If some passengers want to reach their destinations by willfully paying more, it is their own choice,” he said.
Even the police did not find any “wrongdoings” happening at these terminals. Islamabad Traffic Police Inspector Asif was at the Faizabad terminal and said that he had not received any complaints about overcharging. “I will definitely take action if a passenger complains to me about being overcharged,” he added. He was of the view that passengers face some difficulty due to the rush on Eid, as the capacity of public transport cannot meet demand in these days.
Meanwhile, Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmed has issued strict directives to the Islamabad Transport Authority (ITA) and Islamabad Traffic Police (ITP) to keep an eye on elements involved in overcharging their passengers. He said that both the ITP and ITA are actively monitoring and some owners of transport agencies have been fined due to overcharging.
The DC added that he had also issued directives to local transporters to ensure plying of their vans on the roads during Eid, which would help to discourage the overcharging issue.
The transporters have predicted Monday and Tuesday will be “really busy” as they are the last working days before the Eid holidays.
The main bus terminals in Islamabad are located at Faizabad, Pirwadhi, and Karachi Company.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 31st, 2011.