PESHAWAR: Taking advantage of the suspension of public service vehicles (PSVs) by government as part of restrictions to contain spread of Covid-19, the drivers of taxicabs have started fleecing passengers, who want to go from Peshawar to their respective districts for celebrating Eidul Fitr.
The bus terminals in Hashtnagri, Haji Camp, Firdous and other areas have been closed. This situation serves as a good opportunity to taxi drivers, who overcharge the passengers, particularly the families intending to move to their hometowns for Eid.
On Wednesday, the passengers with their baggage were seen roaming in Haji Camp to find seats in taxicabs. The service of passenger coaches and coasters has been suspended from May 8 to 16 due to the lockdown.
Transporters say they have been badly affected by lockdown
Most of the passengers complained about 100 per cent increase in the fare. They said that they used to travel in those taxicabs to and from Timergara, Swat by paying Rs500 to Rs600 in routine but the fare was increased up to Rs1,000 owing to suspension of public transport.
“I am going to my village Ghaligay in Swat but taxicabs have multiplied the fare. In routine we pay Rs500 to Ts600 but now the drivers demand Rs1,000 per passenger,” said Azeem Khan, a passenger. He added that separate fare was charged for the luggage.
Subhan Khan, another passenger with his five-member family, wanted to pay Rs5,000 for hiring a motorcar but the driver was demanding Rs8,000 from Peshawar to Swat. However, the matter was settled for Rs7,000. The driver said that they were not allowed to accommodate additional passengers otherwise they had to pay to police.
The taxi drivers said that in routine they charged Rs4,500 from Peshawar to Rawalpindi, Swat, Dir and other districts but on eve of Eidul Fitr they increased the fare owing to their compulsions.
“We have to go through different rough routes instead of main roads in order to avoid police checking otherwise we have to pay money to the police,” they said. They added that the fare to all the districts was doubled owing to lockdown.
The drivers said that they were strictly following the standard operating procedure by wearing face masks but they were unable to maintain physical distancing due to seat to seat passengers.
Public Transport Owners Association provincial president Khan Zaman Afridi told Dawn that they had kept their vehicles off the roads since May 8. However, he said, they were observing the problems being faced by the passengers owing to increase in fare by taxicabs.
He said that PSVs in routine charged about Rs400 from Peshawar to Timergara and Swat; Rs480 to Mansehra; and Rs400 to Abbottabad and Dera Ismail Khan per passenger. In the absence of PSVs, the taxi drivers were charging Rs1,000, he added.
“We have submitted applications to the provincial government to announce a financial package for the transporters with the hope to get some sort of relief,” said Mr Afridi. He added that it was the second lockdown that hit hard the transporters.
The transporters, he said, demanded of the provincial government to approve concession in route permit fee, driving licence fee and station tax but the demand was yet to be accepted.
He added that transporters including drivers and cleaners were affected badly by the lockdown.
Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2021