KARACHI: A controversy surrounding ride-hailing services and the provincial authorities surfaced again on Monday when the Sindh transport minister ordered Careem and Uber to obtain route permits within a week or be prepared to “face a ban”.

Chairing a meeting, Sindh Transport Minister Syed Owais Qadir Shah expressed anger over the department’s officials for being so “callous” when it came to regulating the ride-hailing services as the issue remained unresolved after more than one and half years.

“Careem and Uber have not yet got [route] permits from the Sindh government,” the minister said in a statement issued after the meeting. “If Uber and Careem fail to get route permits from the Sindh government within a week, they could face a ban. A memorandum of understanding was signed three years ago but they [ride-hailing services] have not responded since then for the regulatory compliance of their operations.”

The minister also expressed his anger over his department’s officers who had not been active to resolve the issue and also referred to last week’s incident when a woman jumped out of a moving Careem car on Sharea Faisal due to alleged harassment by the driver.

Orders action against CNG-fitted school vans

Although the police arrested and booked the driver on charges of harassment, Minister Shah wondered why his officers had not taken any action against the company.

“The Sindh government will write to Careem and Uber so they can make immediate measures for registration and route permits of their vehicles within a week,” added the statement.

While the government’s move aims at addressing regulatory concerns, it has raised fears among Karachiites who, considering the current state of transport facility, are left with few options of commuting in the sprawling metropolis.

However, sources privy to the talks between the Sindh authorities and ride-hailing services sounded confident that the issue would not take a turn for the worse as the talks between the two sides were already going on and only “micro-level issues” were left to be resolved.

“There is no such threat to operations of ride-hailing services in Karachi or any other city,” said a source. “There are a few hiccups which the companies are confident to remove after meeting the authorities.”

One of the issues is about issuance of route permit. “The ride-hailing services took the plea that the route permit should be granted in favour of the driver and not the company but the government argues that the company, and not an individual, should take responsibility. However, it is expected to be resolved amicably as well,” said the source.

Meanwhile, Uber in a statement sounded quite confident about the role of the Sindh government and vowed to work with the provincial authorities in future as well to “address their concerns”.

“The Sindh government has been supportive of technologies in recent years and we appreciate the role they have played in providing masses a more convenient and affordable mode of transport along with creating numerous opportunities. We are looking forward to work with the Sindh government to address their concerns,” said a spokesman for Uber.

Action against CNG-fitted school vans ordered

Also on Monday, minister Shah took up the issue of school vans fitted with CNG cylinders.

He issued directives to the officials concerned to launch a campaign against such vehicles and submit a report in a week.

“The installation of CNG cylinders is banned since 2015 but unfortunately that curb is openly defied. Similarly, many vehicles plying on highways on long routes are also using CNG as fuel. This is against the set rules. Stern action should be taken against all such transporters to prevent any major disaster,” he said in the statement.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2018

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