Overloading on the Khanpur, Hattar and Chappar routes has claimed many a lives, but the police do not seem to care. It also makes the journey uncomfortable for passengers, especially women and the elderly, who have no alternative but to travel in these buses owing to the monopoly of the bus transporters.
Official sources said that 34 buses were approved for the Khanpur Taxila Road in 1985 when the population of over 45 villages was barely over a hundred thousand. These villages are situated along the third busiest road in Haripur, within a stretch of 41 kilometres from the village Chechian to the village Jandial, the entry point into Punjab near Taxila.
But the population has increased to over 300,000 in the past 25 years, yet the number of buses has remained the same; there is still only one road — the Khanpur Road that connects Haripur with Taxila, which has broken down over the years.
“It’s quite irksome to travel a distance of even five kilometres on these archaic buses,” said Sajid Mehmood, a government official, who claimed he developed a backbone problem while travelling in these buses over a period of ten years.
Official sources said about eight to ten buses of this route remain off road almost daily due to some mechanical fault or because they have been booked; this leaves just 20-24 buses for the route.
A government servant, Arshad, stated that a wagon service was been planned on the route in 2006 but transporters used their political influences and had the plan aborted. He also accused the local police for not taking action against drivers who were committing the offense of overloading because they pay them “monthlies”.
Shaukat Ali, a resident of Khanpur, accused the Regional Transport Authority for overlooking the conditions of the old buses and issuing them fitness certificate every year despite their deteriorating conditions.
Due to overloading, women are often seen standing in the male compartment or the doorway, while school boys and other male passengers climb to the roof or sit on the backdoor entrance of the bus.
Harassment of female passengers is a common occurrence.
“Some men take full benefit of the situation and tease us,” said Saira a college student who travels to Taxila for attending her college in Wah Cantonment.
Saira said that though the girls are fed up with the attitude they are meted out daily, they are helpless as they would be on the losing end ultimately. Taking up the matter with their parents is also not a viable option for many, as they might be forced to quit studying, she said.
Superintendent Police Headquarter Najib Bhagvi said that the police was taking action against the violators of traffic rules and was also collecting fines from them. However, he continued, unless the people cooperate with the traffic police, there is little they can do to curb the practice of stuffing in more passengers than there is space.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 25th, 2011.