Rawalpindi - The public transporters plying between Rawalpindi and Chakwal are looting the poor and helpless passengers with both hands by charging the old fares while the authorities concerned are acting as silent spectator and taking no action against the transport mafia.

Meanwhile, the owners of cabs and rickshaws are also following the footsteps of public transports and charging the old fares from passengers without any fear of legal action.

After a considerable slash in prices of petroleum products by the federal government, the provincial government has reduced transport fares on urban and inter-city routes from 5 to seven percent in order to provide relief to the poverty-stricken masses. Similarly, Regional Transport Authority (RTA) also issued notification about fares of public transport reducing stop-to-stop fare. However, the transporters have been defying the orders of Punjab government as well as RTA daringly and charging the old fares from passengers travelling from Rawalpindi to Chakwal, Doltala, Jatli, Ramma, Dhudial and other areas.

As a result, clashes and exchange of harsh words between the passengers and conductors could be witnessed on all the bus stops and in the vehicles plying on the aforementioned routes.

Talking to The Nation, Muhammad Siddique, a passenger, said that the transport mafia had been robbing the poor passengers round the clock by charging old fares despite reduction in oil prices and fares by the government and RTA. He said that the transporters used to charge Rs 80 per head from passengers, who travelled from Rawalpindi to Syed Stop in Chakwal, when the price of petrol was Rs 114 per litre. Now when price of petrol was Rs 78.48 per litre, the transporters are getting the same old fare from passengers, he said.

“What I will like to say is that the government and the RTA have become puppets in the hands of transport mafia. Passengers have been tabling scores of complaints before the authorities concerned regarding looting spree of transporters of Chakwal but to no avail,” said Salar Ahmed, a university student, hailing from Doltala. He said that he traveled from Syed to Rawat against Rs 80, the old fare, in a hiace. “The conductor misbehaved with me when I tried to highlight this injustice and pay less fare according to RTA fare list,” he said.

Transport mafia is above the law and no body can stop them from robbing the poor passengers, said Zubair Khan, adding that the transporters were charging Rs 20 as stop-to-stop fare.

Secretary RTA Owais Manzoor Tarar, when contacted for his point of view, said that he knew about public woes and would accelerate action against transport mafia from Monday. He said that the RTA officials had displayed banners on all the bus stops and terminals mentioning new revised fare list. He informed that RTA impounded 7 public transport vehicles plying on route # 1 and 35 on charges of violating fare list.

On a query, the secretary while admitting that cab and rickshaw owners had also been charging high fares vowed that meetings were being held to finalise strategy against the taxi and rickshaw drivers and bar them from looting the public.