Alla Rakhi stood at the bus stop at Pehlwan Goth, frantically scanning the area for a Qingqi to take her to Johar Mor. She works as a maid in several houses. Unfortunately, there was no public transport available to take her to her destination.
The so-called bus stops of Karachi, which had now turned into Qingqi stops, wore a deserted look on Thursday morning. The pathetic excuse of what goes for a transport system of the mega city came crashing down after the Sindh High Court (SHC) ordered to ban the three-wheelers. The bus stops that were once thronged by commuters, wore a deserted look as people desperately climbed onto the rooftops of the few buses to reach their destinations.
According to Rakhi, she spent Rs20 daily on Qingqis to get to work. “The buses take hours to come by and their fares are higher than the Qingis,” she said. When she was told that Qingqis had been banned in the province, she slapped herself on the head miserably and let out a low scream. “They have banned the only mode of transport accessible to the poor,” she cried angrily. “I have been standing for over half an hour and there isn’t any transport to take me to Johar Mor, which is not more than a 10-minute drive from here. I would either have to walk or take a rickshaw,” she complained.
A student of Karachi University, Iqra Saleem, told The Express Tribune that she travelled to the varsity on the Qingqi every day. “Today, there isn’t any vehicle to take me. The rickshaws are charging extremely high rates, armed with the knowledge that they are the only transport left in the city,” she said, urging the government to either introduce the tonga once again or increase the number of public buses.
For his part, the provincial transport secretary, Tuaha Farooqui, claimed that the Bus Rapid Transport (BRT) was the only permanent solution for city. He added that work on two of the BRT lines would be kicked off by the end of September.
When asked what the commuters would do until then, since the BRT would take at least three years to be made functional, he said that the transport department was also working to bring public buses on the roads on the public-private partnership model. “The process is in the initial phases and we are drafting the routes of such buses,” he said.
According to him, the Qingqis were extremely dangerous and prone to cause road accidents. Quoting figures from a report of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC), he said that most road accidents in the city involved Qingqis. “We have asked the Qingqi association to turn their nine-to-12 seat vehicles into four seats, so that they could be registered, but they don’t listen to us,” he said, adding that they could not let commuters travel on such unsafe rides.
Meanwhile, the Qingqi owners are worried that they have been deprived of their sole source of income. Ashiq Hussain, the owner of two Qingqis in Pehlwan Goth, has planned to shift his Qingqis to rural Sindh. “There isn’t any transport in rural Sindh and I will ply my three-wheelers there,” he said.
Muzamil, who too owns a three-wheeler, said that the government should consider the plight of the thousands of families who are dependent on these Qingqis. “I earn Rs600 daily for my family. What will I do if government stops my sole source of income,” he questioned, urging the government to at least allow them to run the vehicles on smaller roads.
The focal person of the transport department, Yar Muhammad Mirjat, was adamant, however, that as per the SHC’s directives, Qingqis would not be allowed to ply anywhere in the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2015.