KARACHI: For Rs10, a three-wheeled monstrosity can take you anywhere in Karachi. They are everywhere: from Keamari to Landhi and from Orangi Town to Safoora Goth. At least, said to be, much better - and cheaper - than the age-old Bradford and Mazda buses. For travelling over a short distance of six to 10 kilometres, they are the latest rage.
These open-hooded carts attached to motorcycles are popularly known as ‘Chinchi’ rickshaws, even if the Chinese company has now nothing to do with this oddball. The original Jinan Qingqi company is one of the largest motorcycle manufacturers of China and was indeed the one to give the idea of such vehicles.
In Pakistan, the original Qingqi rickshaws were first introduced in Lahore under the “President Rozgar Scheme” in 2001. From there, the three-wheelers were transferred to Peshawar, Karachi and other cities. They have been plying in Karachi since 2001 but have come to the fore only when their number has reached almost 20,000. But the “Qingqi” that has recently swarmed the roads of Karachi is actually some sort of a hybrid between a motorcycle and a rickshaw.
The motorcycle itself is not more than the standard 100cc but is modified to be joined with a two-wheeled, open-ended cart at the back that can seat up to six people! Usually assembled in Lahore and Hyderabad, a brand new Qingqi rickshaw can cost anywhere between Rs100,000 and Rs125,000.
To streamline their movement and bring them into the tax net, the Sindh Transport Department now wants to issue them route permits as they are providing public transport facilities.
Oddly, even the union of the Qingqi motorcycle rickshaw owners - the All Karachi Qingqi Rickshaw Welfare Association - wants to get their vehicles registered and their routes outlined. But this is because at every other signal, traffic police officers give these rickshaw drivers a hard time asking about their vehicle fitness certificates. The credentials are issued to every registered vehicle by the Motor Vehicle Inspection (MVI) wing of the SIndh Excise and Taxation Department. As the Qingqi rickshaws are not registered with the department, they also don’t have these certificates.
“We have been struggling for more than two years now to get route permits from the Sindh Transport Department. The department has allowed us to operate on link roads but traffic police bother us for fitness certificate and route permits,” says the association’s president, Syed Safdar Shah Qadri.
The MVI branch has recommended some modifications in the rickshaw design to allot fitness certificates. The association has modified a vehicle according to the directions but needs some more time.
Qadri says the government should grant temporary three-year fitness certificates to the vehicles already running and during the period, the rickshaws will be modified. “The new ones will be assembled without any shortcomings,” he said suggesting that the government should name the system “mini-public transport”. The Qingqi rickshaws need amendments as per the Motor Vehicles Rules, 1969, said Traffic DIG Khurram Gulzar. There are no rules to allow Qingqis to operate as commercial vehicles.
“A Qingqi rickshaw is not balanced. Their open chains are accident prone and can result in serious mishaps. The braking system is only functional on the front wheel. Their turning radius is only 7.7 feet which can result in overturning. The turning radius must be at least 12 to 14 feet,” said Gulzar while pointing out the flaws in the three-wheelers. “We have asked them redress these issues.”
“When these modifications have been made, we will meet the Qingqi rickshaw union representatives,” said the transport deputy secretary, Ali Nawaz Panhwar.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 27th, 2012.
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