KARACHI - The recent hike in CNG price has increased the miseries of Karachiites who are already facing transport shortage as the fares of buses and rickshaws have been increased by 50 percent.

Due to shortage of public buses, the people have started commuting in six-seater CNG rickshaws that emerged as alternate transport for them. Although the routes of CNG rickshaws are not very long just like buses but the people make use of these for shorter routes. The maximum fare of a rickshaw from Allah Wali New Karachi to Gurumandar was Rs 40 which has been increased to Rs 50.

The local fare has also been increased to Rs 15 from Rs 10. “I was paying Rs 30 from New Karachi to Hyderi before the hike in CNG price but now the rickshaw driver is charging Rs 40,” said Mohsin Ayaz, who works as a salesman at private shopping mall.

Justifying the hike in fares, a rickshaw driver Imran said that they had no choice other than increasing the fares. “A sudden increase of Rs 22 per kilogram of CNG has forced us to do so. We do have families and have to look after our children. We would not earn anything, if we still charge previous fares,” he added.

On the other hand, the people are being overcharged in buses as well. The maximum fare of Karachi’s famous W11 was Rs 17 which has been increased to Rs 30. “The official fare from New Karachi to Keemari was Rs 17 but the bus conductor used to charge Rs 20. Even before the hike, they started charging Rs 30 and it is feared that now they would charge Rs 40,” a commuter said.

Karachi Transport Ittehad President Irshad Bukhari, when contacted, said that the fares are still not increased officially but termed it inevitable after the hike in CNG price. When asked about the unofficial hike by the bus owners, he admitted that some of them are overcharging but maintained that they had no other option.

Bukhari claimed that the fares are not enhanced since 2007 when the CNG was being sold at around Rs 57 per Kg, adding that they had managed the same fares even when the gas price was Rs 82 per kg. “The CNG rickshaws are charging even Rs 60 for long routes despite the fact that they don’t have any route permit but we are still charging maximum Rs 25,” he added.

The KTI President asked the provincial government to convene a meeting to review the fares. If the fares are not increased as per CNG rates, we would go on strike, he threatened.

The school vans owners also asked the parents to increase the fares owing to high CNG prices. Sohail, a father of school going children informed that he pays Rs 1,500 for pick and drop of his each child, adding that now the van driver is demanding Rs 2,000 to commute a child from school to home and home to school.

After the federal government hiked the CNG price from Rs 700 per MMBTU to Rs 980 per MMBTU, per Kg rates had now reached to its highest ever price as it is being from Rs 103-104 across the city.

Apart from high fares, the people are also compelled to commute in sub-standard transportation as buses plying in the city are in very dilapidated condition. A report said not even 10,000 buses are currently plying in the city to cater the need of the city which have a population of over 25 million.  The former official of the transport department said that the city needs 10,000 big and 20,000 small buses on the roads to cater its demand.

As many as five mega bus projects were announced by the federal and Sindh government which named as Bus Rapid Transit System (BRTS) Green Line, BRTS Orange Line, BRTS Red Line, BRTS Yellow Line and BRTS Blue Line; however none of them got completion. The federal funded- BRTS Green Line which had to be completed by December 2017 but it suffered a lot of delay owing to lack of coordination between Sindh and then previous federal government. Now the authorities set December 2018 as its completion deadline but keeping in mind its progress, it is unlikely that it gets completion on time.

On the other hand, the Pakistan People’s Party-led Sindh government had announced BRTS Red Line, Yellow Line, Blue Line and Orange Line; however it failed to even utilise all the funds allocated for its schemes. The transport department could manage to spend only Rs 757.324 million out of Rs 1503.441 million allocated for Orange Line for the fiscal year 2017-18.

Similarly, the expenditures on Red Line remained Rs 131.529 million against the allocation of Rs 277.498. Not a single penny was spent for the revival of Karachi Circular Railway and Blue and Yellow Lines during 2017-18 despite the claims of the chief minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and then transport minister Nasir Hussain Shah.

In December 2016, Nasir had claimed to bring 1000 more buses on Karachi roads within four month in order to ‘relieve’ the people but all he could do is to bring 10 buses for the mega city and that too with the help of a private company.