RAWALPINDI - Transporters observed a complete wheel jam strike on Monday in the twin cities against the recent surge in petroleum prices and unfair attitude of traffic wardens.
A violent protest demonstration was also staged by the transporters on IJP Road, Pirwadhai, where they burnt tyres and blocked the roads for private traffic to vent their anger against the government for not decreasing the prices of petroleum products.
Because of absence of public transport vehicles including minibuses, wagons, Suzuki pick-ups, Hiace, tens of thousands of passengers, office goers, students and common people travelling between the twin cities faced a lot of troubles. They termed the strike as baseless, saying both the transporters and the government have been looting the poor people with both hands by increasing fares and prices of oil products. The drivers of taxicabs and rickshaws minted money from the passengers as per their own will to bring them their destinations.
There was huge rush of passengers including woman, girls, children and old people at Kalyal, Jarahi, Ali Town, Chungi Number 20, Katcheri, 22 Number, Morgah Mor, Soan Bus Terminal, Mareer Hassan, Mareer Chowk, Moti Mehal, Committee Chowk, Benazir Bhutto Road, Saddar, GPO Chowk, Lal Kurti, Dheri Hassan Abad, Bakra Mandi, Dhoke Seydan, Raja Bazaar, Peshawar Road, Misrial Road and many other areas.
Later, Muttahida Transport Union (ATU) office bearers announced in a press conference at Pirwadhai Bus Terminal that strike would be continued till September 25. They gave more time to the government to solve the problems.
They said that transporters would go on strike again after consulting the associations in other cities of Punjab if the government did not address their issues.
MTU Secretary General Malik Sultan Awan told TheNation that the strike was successful and the transporters conveyed their strong message to federal government and Punjab government to redress their problems or face the music. He said that demands of the transporters were simply increase in fares after recent surge in fuel prices by the federal government, reduction of penalties charged by traffic warden while issuing tickets and abolition of different fees collected by Rawal Town administration and Rawalpindi Cantonment Board.
The penalty rates were increased earlier this year by Punjab government and maximum penalty was increased from Rs500 to Rs1000 which was injustice, he added.
Raja Shahid, resident of Adyala Road and an employee in Islamabad, said that he left his house for office in morning but could not find any public transport on the road. “I hired a taxi cab against Rs 300 for Khanna Pull. But there was no public transport available their and I came back to Katcheri by foot. The government and transporters should solve the problems amicably instead of rubbing salt on the wounds of passengers” he said.
Humaira Noor, a college student who was standing at Tulsa Chowk in wait of public transport, said that it was very difficult for women to travel in the absence of transport as the only available option was fewer cabs and their drivers demanded higher fare. She said that she had to commence an important test in the college but could not attend her class today because of strike.
A large number of transporters gathered at IJP Road and staged a protest demonstration. The blocked the road by torching tyres and chanted slogans against the government. Mess of huge number of people of IJP Road caused immense troubles on linking roads.
They also pelted the private vehicle with stones damaging their windowpanes and bodies.
Regional Transport Authority (RTA) Secretary Asad Kazmi, when contacted, said the issue of raise in fare rates was addressed last Friday when the minimum rate was increased from Rs14 to Rs16 from stop to stop and the maximum rate from Rs38 to Rs41. However, the transporters were not happy on this move, he added.
Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) and SSP Syed Ishtiaq Hussain Shah said the wardens issued tickets only when the transporters made any violations on the roads. He denied any misconduct with the transporters on the part of any warden.
He said that the penalties had been fixed by Punjab government and his office could not revise the penalty rates. The wardens were authorised to issue tickets as many as the transporters violate traffic rules, he added.
APP adds: Public transporters on Monday observed strike against imposition of heavy fines by the Rawalpindi Traffic Police (RTP) over minor violations, demanding automatic adjustment in fare-chart according to petroleum prices.
Public transport except Taxi and Rickshaw remained off the roads at almost all the routes of the twin cities of Rawalpindi and Islamabad on a strike call given by the Muttahida Transporters Federation.
Cashing the opportunity, taxi drivers made extra money from commuters who had to reach their destinations like offices, schools, colleges and courts in time.
Attendance in offices and educational intuitions remained thin as everyone was not able to pay heavy fares charged by taxi drivers, who are operating under no check by the concerned departments.
“There is no mechanism to fix taxi fare per kilometre. They charge on their own keeping in view the situation and weather. If there is strike, gas holidays, late night time or rains, they will always charge extra money as they know there is nobody to check them,” said a furious commuter, Kabir Shah, who paid Rs 400 as fare from Swan Adda to Saddar.
Talking to this agency, General Secretary of the Muttahida Transporters Federation Malik Sultan Awan said the strike would continue till their genuine demands are not fulfilled. He said no official has so far contacted the federation to call-off the strike or negotiate on the issues of public transporters.
“Not adjusting the fare chart as per petroleum prices is unjustified,” he added.
Awan said around 16,000 buses, wagons and Suzuki vans operating at different routes of the twin cities would continue the strike for an indefinite period, till introduction of a proper mechanism regarding fare-chart adjustment and reduction in fines imposed on traffic rules’ violations.
He said the traffic police were imposing fine amounting to Rs 500, Rs 750 and Rs 1,000 on the transporters for minor traffic violations.
“The provincial government has also increased the insurance guarantee fee from Rs 300 to Rs 3500,” he complained.
The federation’s general secretary said different options, including extending the call to other districts of Punjab province, were under consideration to make the campaign more effective.