LAHORE - Thousands of people have started leaving the city to celebrate Eid-ul-Fitr with dear and near ones at their hometowns and villages.

Though the exodus was started on Friday, the city terminals witnessed more rush of commuters yesterday. The exodus will complete on moon night, a days before Eid which is expected to be celebrated on Wednesday.

The federal and Punjab government have announced four holidays (from Tuesday to Friday) but majority of the government employees will enjoy nine days holidays (from Saturday to next Sunday) by taking one or two vacations from their respective departments.

A Wapda official said that the presence was thin at authority head office. The situation was same at Railways headquarters, Civil Secretariat, Agriculture offices and other departments, according to the some other officials.

Federal government employees have two holidays in week against the Punjab government servants who have only Sunday off in a week.

Lahore Railways Station was packed with passengers as most families with children and luggage prefer trains on buses for long travelling. The PR is operating 10 special trains to facilitate passengers from different city stations including Lahore to cater heavy rush of commuters. The booking on special trains has already completed 100 per cent and seats are hardly available on ordinary trains.

According to some estimates, more than five million people leave Lahore twice in a year on Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha. Transporters taking benefit of the situation increase the fare by double or thrice and authorities concerned give them free hand to fleece the people. Except from few transport companies like Daewoo and Faisel Movers and some others, the commuters pay double fare and get seats with great struggle. People have to wait in queues for long hours to get ticket at bus.

Labourers, students who come from other cities to study at Punjab University, medical colleges and engineering and IT institutions and families of mostly government employees leave the city days earlier to avoid the transport problems. The owners of small businesses whose dealing is not concerned with Eid also leave Lahore in advance.

Those who have their own conveyance or live in nearer cities like Kasur, Gujranwala, Patoki, Okara and others mostly go to their homes on Eid night. Similarly who run the business related to Eid shopping also prefer to stay in Lahore till the last day.

The city presents a deserted look on Eid days due to mass exodus . Roads, shops, restaurants and other businesses remain close during the festivity as major businesses were controlled in Lahore by the outsiders.

Heavy rush was seen at some bus terminals and city’s exit and entry point. Some passengers made usual complaints of overcharging by the transporters and some were angry on unavailability of seats.

“I travel to my city Khanewal on both Eids (Eid-ul-Fitr, Eid-ul-Azha) by paying double fare,” said a passenger Akram who was standing at Thoker Niaz Beg bypass bus terminal and works in a government department. He said the fare for his city was around Rs500 on common days but it went to Rs800 and even higher near Eid.

The manager of a transport company, however, justified the increase claiming the buses returned empty and they got only 20 to 30 per cent occupancy from other cities to Lahore.