KARACHI, June 6: Many people had to travel on the rooftop of buses on Wednesday to reach their destinations as public transport remained thin on city roads due to an indefinite strike called by a CNG dealers association.
While the few rickshaws and taxis available during the day raised fares, motorists, too, had to spend much more on petrol and diesel due to the closure of gas stations, which also hit ambulance services.
People thought twice about taking out their cars and resorted to walking to get household groceries.
“I had to walk to the nearest market in this heat and humidity to get the groceries today,” said a young man, Umaid Wasim, whose family car only runs on CNG as its switch is out of order.
“My father joined a long queue and filled up the car as soon as he heard about the strike on Tuesday evening. Now he has parked it at home with strict instructions to only take out for the sole purpose of driving my younger brother to and from his examination centre,” he said.
Another commuter, Saira, said that she had to spend over Rs1,000 on petrol. “And if I take a cab or rickshaw to work, they don’t agree to anything less than Rs180. Even the cabs running on LPG are charging more than usual,” she said.
At the Edhi ambulance service, Mazhar Abbas said that they were under a lot of stress due to the strike. “Some of our ambulances still have some CNG so we are using those for short runs. The others going on longer routes are running on petrol and diesel. Our out of area service has been affected badly, too. We generally use the bigger Toyota Hi-ace ambulances that run on diesel for our out-of-area calls, but now we are using them to fulfill the city needs,” he said.
Asked if they were charging more for their services in view of the CNG strike, he said that they were under orders to not do that.
“Diesel and petrol both are expensive than CNG, of course, but we are sticking by our regular Rs200. We are running Maulana Edhi’s mission of service, and not a business. Edhi Sahab has given special orders to not charge anything than the usual during this crisis-like situation. To our regular dialysis patients, he even refunds Rs100 and he has not done away with the practice even now. It is true that we have a major problem at our hands due to the strike but we are determined to not let the poor people suffer due to this,” he said.
According to the Sindh CNG Association, there are 650 CNG stations across the province. “Of these, 300 are in Karachi and 350 in the rest of Sindh, including Hyderabad,” Sindh CNG Association Chairman Zulfiqar Ahmed Yousufani told Dawn on Wednesday.
“Though the CNG stations in Karachi are mostly closed due to the strike call by the CNG Dealers’ Association, some on the Superhighway and areas near Sohrab Goth, NIPA and Numaish, too, have started opening due to rising public pressure,” said the chairman, who had refused to close the stations in Hyderabad and the rest of Sindh where he had control after the strike call was announced on Tuesday evening.
“Ninety per cent of our public transport has been converted to CNG and the closing of the stations will affect the poor and middleclass consumers. So we decided against it until the proposal of additional tax in the budget in the form of cess is actually implemented by the government,” said the splinter group representative.
“In the meantime, we are showing our disappointment over the proposal by putting up banners at CNG stations working in our area and by distributing flyers to educate the people of what may happen if the proposal is accepted,” he said.