Islamabad - Thank God, Islamabad is free of the auto-rickshaws as a mode of transport for the “second most beautiful capital in the world.”

Auto-rickshaws are usually notorious for spreading noise pollution and emission of plentiful smoke in other cities of this country. But then the question arises: Are the cabs running on the capital’s boulevards or pothole of roads any good?. The answer will hardly be in the affirmative. Almost all of them are plying in dilapidated condition and without any metres installed in them.

Passengers say FX-brand Taxis are in such a pathetic condition that their window-glasses are almost impossible to pull down or pull up and seats so ridiculously adjusted that it is certainly not comfortable to climb in or step out of these so-called cabs.” These “desi” cabs are a far cry from the latest-model cars being used as taxis in places like Dubai.

The working-class and Middle-class people have rapidly increased among the population of Islamabad, as compared to affluent class. This is in addition to the people doing jobs in Islamabad and returning home to Rawalpindi and other adjacent places in the evening.

The launch of Metro Bus has certainly resolved the commuting problems of this segment of society but a better cab system is also need of the hour. The absence of metres in the cabs means that cabbies, mostly the uncouth and insolent lot, have a free hand to fleece the passengers. For Instance, a cab driver, having his taxi parked at some point, say near

PIMS hospital, will ask for Rs 200, to carry a passenger to, say Zero Point, while another cabbie, somehow passing along and in a hurry, will take you to Zero Point for Rs 100. Daniyal, a resident of sector G-13, said that he has to go to office daily from G-13 to F-10 and he is charged with different rates by every cab driver. Calling them “the mafia”, he said, “They charge me from Rs 300 to 400 and I am forced to pay as there was no proper forum to complain against them. They have their own justification to their varying fares.”

The problem is not confined to overcharging only. Travelling on these decades old obsolete cabs is a bitter experience. Majority of the drivers doesn’t have proper training and licenses to drive.Hailing a Mehran cab is safer than hiring a FX taxi, says a passenger.

“The ITP in its campaign started in January 2015 fined hundreds of taxi vehicles plying without permit and driving license. Over 18000 vehicles are not registered as cabs and the same number of drivers was without license. Daily almost 227 cabs are fined and every third taxi is unregistered or without permit using vehicle as a public transport facility”, it was revealed in the data provided by the SSP Traffic office. To challan a taxi is also a risky business, say the traffic wardens who have to attend ceaseless court appearances afterward. “Issuing tickets to the unauthorized vehicles is headache as I am facing court for the last six months in a case filed by a private car driver using vehicle as a public transport facility” said a traffic warden Zahid.

For public, the most difficult job is to agree a fare with a cabbie as there is no auto mechanism like meters to streamline the system. Sometimes, the arguments lead to a scuffle between the passenger and the cabbie.

One solution to the whole problems is to introduce cab-running companies in this capital city on the pattern of advanced countries, with companies made to run comfortable cabs with metres installed as per fares prescribed by the Islamabad Transport Authority.

For his part, SSP traffic Islamabad says the fluctuation of oil and gas prices is a hurdle in the installation of meters, adding the ITA takes too much time to re-adjust prices creating hurdle in implementing the meter system as petroleum prices in our country are monthly reviewed.

The ITA claim seems to be a lame excuse. How do cab companies in other countries readjust to the fluctuating energy prices? Cabbies usually have one stock reply in answer to complaint about charging. “CNG is more there, so we have to use petrol.” But fares are fixed according to petrol prices and not CNG prices.