It is the time of the year when the migrant workers across the country will get a chance to be with their loved ones. Unsurprisingly, it is also the time when the transporters will rule the roost. In the twin cities, the situation this time is no different.
On Friday, bus terminals around the city witnessed a huge rush of passengers, who with a potential six-day Eid weekend in their sights, were heading to their hometowns early. “This has been quite a spoiler. We had come here quite excited but looking at the mismanagement and overcharging the whole experience has been really disappointing,” Rafaqat, who was leaving for Sargodha.
Packed buses left for different parts of the country from the three main bus terminals of the twin cities — Pirwadhai, Faizabad, and Karachi Company.
However, many passengers complained that fares had been inexplicably hiked.
“Every year, whether its Eidul Fitr or Eidul Azha, transporters never miss a chance to overcharge passengers,” said Arslan Tanoli, who was heading to Mansehra.
He complained that there are no checks and balances to question the justification behind the hike. “They have no fear of God, even in the holy month of Ramadan,” he added.
At Karachi Company, there were not enough buses heading to Abbottabad, Mansehra, and Haripur to accommodate the commuters, who were facing many problems. “For last two hours I have been trying to get seats for Haripur but there is no bus available,” said Shahzad Khan, with his family in tow.
Noman Ahmed, who was also with his family, told The Express Tribune that he had given up after three hours of trying to get a bus and will probably hire a taxi for Haripur.
The normal fare from Islamabad to Sargodha is Rs480, Rahim Yar Khan is Rs1,250, Mianwali is Rs380, Jhang is Rs550, Mansehra is Rs150, and Mardan is Rs300, however, transporters are overcharging by Rs30 to Rs50 on each route, according to the passengers.
“The normal fare for Lahore is Rs600 from Pirwadhai, but today they charged Rs630,” said another commuter at bus stop.
He said that transporters claimed the hike is due to the shortage of buses and unavailability of CNG.
Transporters however denied all claims of overcharging. Muhammad Ramzan Awan, the manager at Niazi Coach, claimed there has been no fare increase for the Eid weekend. “Of course there is a genuine shortage of vehicles on Eid days and it’s difficult to accommodate them, but we never overcharge,” he claimed.
“Our rates are fixed and we only increased them when the prices of diesel increased, otherwise there is no way we would put more burden on poor people,” said Raja Abrar, head of Sky Bus Service at Faizabad.
Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmed said that Islamabad Transport Authority is keeping a strict watch on overcharging. “We have not received any complaints yet, but if anyone is found guilty, strict action would be taken,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 18th, 2012.