LAHORE: Transporters have refused to resume inter-city operations from Monday (today) under the standard operating procedures (SOPs) devised by the government in the wake of Covid-19.
Speaking in a meeting at Badami Bagh and later a press conference near Babu Sabu, the transporters under the banner of All Pakistan Public Transport Owners Federation said the government’s SOPs were not clear.
“How is it possible to run our buses with 90 per cent deficit in the presence of unclear SOPs? The government is pushing us to run buses with 50pc passenger occupancy. Moreover, it also wants a discount of 20pc in fares,” Federation Chairman Akram Zaki said while speaking to journalists. “We are ready to run buses with 50pc occupancy but we will charge full fare.”
Federation spokesman M.H. Jahangir said the government was yet to issue them written SOPs. He also sought reduction in the toll tax.
Traders see lack of strategy on Covid-19, lockdown; urge govt to open businesses all day all week
On the other hand, Transport Secretary Asad Gilani rejected the transporters' stance, stating that some transporter groups wanted to create problems for the government as well as passengers. “They (the transporters) held a meeting with us on Saturday and agreed on all SOPs, including 20pc discounted fares. But now they are telling a different story to the media,” he claimed.
Gilani said despite issues created by some transporters, public transport would resume operation from Monday (today).
Traders: Traders have criticised the government for its failure to bring their community, provinces, political parties and others on the same page over a strategy to fight coronavirus, reopening businesses and easing the lockdown among other issues.
They have also urged the government to end the confusion, adopt a clear strategy and open retail businesses all day ahead of Eidul Fitr if it seriously wants to contain the Covid-19 pandemic.
“People are not ready to take the government’s plans seriously. They say the government is minting money in the name of coronavirus and that in reality there is no such virus, and the government is not at all serious in dealing with the issue. That is why they are not following the Covid-19 precautionary measures,” All Pakistan Anjuman Tajiran General Secretary Naeem Mir told journalists at a press conference at the Lahore Press Club on Sunday.
Flanked by office-bearers of other traders bodies, Mr Mir said the government kept people in a 60-day lockdown and the media created awareness on the virus. But people did not find the political leadership on the same page as all political parties were seen issuing statements against each other over the issue.
“This situation forced the people to not respond to the government’s narrative of fighting the coronavirus, as they saw the government fighting with traders, political parties etc,” Mir said. “It means the government’s narrative has completely failed and now the people are convinced there is no coronavirus.”
The traders representative said the government issued standard operating procedures on coronavirus against ground realities, which was not practical for traders and the people. The government allowed businesses to open only four days a week, so how does it plan to stop people from coming out in this limited time? “We had asked the government to allow opening businesses 24/7 before Eid so that people can shop at all times instead of creating a crowd in a limited time,” he said. “We also ask the government whether it desires to end coronavirus or spread this pandemic further.”
Published in Dawn, May 18th, 2020