islamabad -  ahmad ahmadani -

Despite reasonable cut in fuel prices with the start of May, transporters are still overcharging passengers, while the concerned authorities are ostensibly reluctant to stop the violation and commuters are demanding transport authority revise fares in line with cut in oil prices.

Like other parts of the country, high fares are being charged by passengers even in the federal capital as situation is not different despite passing 12 days to the decision of cut in the prices of petroleum products (POL). The caretaker government in a bid to give relief to the masses had reduced fuel prices on May 1st while the public transport owners operating in twin cities - Rawalpindi & Islamabad - are in no mood to reduce fare and had refused to lower fares. Most of the commuters found saying, though transporters operating in the twin cities mostly use CNG as fuel, but the transport authority is used to issue the fare-list according to the prices of the diesel and petrol.

A survey disclosed that high fares are being charged from commuters even after up to Rs8.46/litrer cut in fuel prices by the government.  The main argument made by transporters for not reducing fares is that petrol prices are not the only deciding factor. The transporters said until they receive a notification from the Punjab transport department, they would not decrease the fares. According to the transporters, the petrol accounts for 30 per cent of their expenditure, while companies engaged in transporting commodities say oil accounts for 45 per cent of their expenses.

However, passengers were hoping that fare would be lowered but transporters on all routes are receiving the same fares, which were fixed by the Transport Federation before the oil decrease was announced. Public transport in the twin cities is still receiving Rs15 per stop and there is no check from the concerned authorities. People said that they were paying old fares, which is totally unfair and the relief is not being passed on to people.

“Transporters raise fares immediately when fuel prices are increased but they do not show the same spirit in case of lowered fuel prices,” they added. They said that transporters had no fresh fare lists as the fuel rate had lowered. Passengers claimed that the concerned authorities in Rawalpindi and Islamabad had increased fares more than increase in oil prices. They demanded of the government to reduce the fares and issue new fares lists immediately.

“Van conductors not only abuse but also drop us from vans when we complaint about the high charge”, passengers said, adding, that the concerned officials should be appointed to get rid of day to day quarrels over transport charges.

The commuters of the twin cities have demanded of the government to reduce the fares as prices of diesel and petrol have been decreased. They said that when the prices of petroleum are increased, the same day transporters increase their fares at short as well as long routes. Shahid Nazir who daily travels from Rawalpindi to Islamabad and pays Rs 20 said that it was difficult for him to meet both ends, as he has to pay Rs 40 every day while he earns only Rs 6,500 per month. He said during last eight months, fares were increased up to intolerable level.

Commuters said wagons plying between the twin cities still charged Rs15 as minimum fare. “I travel from Zero Point to F-6 on a wagon and pay Rs25,” said Ali Hassan, a security guard.

Kashif Abbasi, a commuter, said the taxi drivers demanded Rs200 from Zero Point to I-9 Islamabad. The fare was the same even before the reduction in CNG prices.

People who travelled by taxi from Rawalpindi to the Cattle Market at I-II, Islamabad, said the fares were still high. “I used to pay Rs 120 from Shamsabad to Pirwadhai but today the fare stood at Rs200,” said Imran Ahmed.

According to data, more than 3,000 public transport vehicles ply on 10 different routes of Rawalpindi and Islamabad and thousands of residents of the twin cities use the facility to reach their destinations by paying low fares. However, discrepancies in transport fares despite cut in fuel prices were forcing passengers to pay high fares.

After announcement of reduction in diesel prices, arguments between transporters and commuters were witnessed throughout the day on Sunday, as commuters insisted for revised fares but transporters refused to reduce them.

Several passengers while talking to TheNation on Sunday said that government had failed to stop public transporters from overcharging and they were being charged high fares.

Now when the diesel prices have come down, they are refusing to bring down fares,” Ramzan Ahmed, a passenger said.

He said that he spent up to Rs 1,500 on transport fares and that his total salary was around Rs 6,000. Imran Gul, another passenger, told that fares were very high as compared to salaries of the people. He termed high rates of transport major cause of inflation and shrinking in buying power of residents.

“We end up spending Rs 1000-1800 on fares, which is almost 25 to 35 percent of the total earning of majority of the people. If the government sincerely wants to benefit masses, fares must be brought to half,” he demanded.

Ali Haider, a student of Government College H-9, said that his parents could not afford his transportation expenses from Rawalpindi to Islamabad. He said that transporters were not providing relief to students even. He said that due to high fees, it had already become hard for the people to get education.

Julius Pervez, who worked as a sweeper in a private firm, said that he earned Rs 3,000 per month and spent around Rs 1,500 on fares.

Following the global downward trend in oil prices, the caretaker government had passed on partial relief to the masses by decreasing the fuel prices with the start of on going month of May. The government had set the price of petrol at Rs 97.59, high-octane blended component (HOBC) Rs123.57 and per liter price of  high-speed diesel (HSD), used mainly in transport vehicles and agriculture, had been set at Rs106.06 while Kerosene oil, used as fuel in remote areas where liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) is not available, was set at Rs94.17. And, the price of light diesel oil, used for industrial purposes, had been set at Rs89.06.

It is to note that around 60 to 70 percent of the population of the twin cities uses public transport to reach their destinations and commuters travelling on daily basis are the worst hit due to increased fares of public transport. The increase in fares actually affects the commuters, particularly students, low-income and daily-wagers who had already been on a tight budget.