Karachi Transport Workers Hit Hard By Lockdown, Govt. Denies Relief Package

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By Ahmed Saeed

Pakistan’s financial hub, Karachi has probably been the worst-hit economically by the lockdown. As life and business come to standstill, tens of thousands have been left unemployed in the city.

With the majority of offices and businesses closed, the roads which were earlier used to be jam-packed with the traffic, have now become deserted. In these circumstances, the number of daily commuters has also gone down drastically that’s why those linked with the business of public transport within the city, especially bus, rickshaw, and cab drivers are facing a very hard time earning their livelihood.

“My vehicle is not allowed to run on the roads so how I can earn anything to feed my family,” a bus driver Waheed Khan told voicepk.net.

“I have to earn to get some food. I am now surviving by getting alms from generous people. The situation here is very devastating and the poor have been destroyed.” Khan added.

He also complained that if any rickshaw or bus drivers took out their vehicles on the road to earn some money, the police stopped them and took bribes from them.

Jameel Ahmed, a bus mechanic also shared the same views on the effects of the lockdown. He said that mechanics were out of work because buses were not operating.

“If the buses resume operations then we will have some sort of work to do. Since there is no work so we are barely fulfilling our needs to survive”, Ahmed said.

Although the Sindh and federal governments have announced a relief package for the unemployed daily wagers but the head of Karachi transport ittehad, Irshad Bukhari said that the Sindh government had denied those who are associated with the transport industry any package.

“We have 7000 minibusses operating in Karachi, 42000 people get their livelihood through these buses. But if you add rickshaw, taxis, and loaders then there are around 175,000 drivers and conductors altogether. These all are daily wagers. Provincial minister Saeed Ghani has categorically denied us any relief package by saying that the Sindh government has not received any fund from the federal government,” Bukhari said

When contacted Mr. Ghani, he told voicepk.net that due to financial constraints, the Sindh government could not give relief package to everyone.

“We know that tens of thousands of people have become unemployed but no provincial government can’t provide them the money equivalent to what they used to earn before the lockdown. Provincial governments are bearing the extra burden of healthcare expenditures and we have diverted all the funds to it. So, relief is our second priority,”

Ghani has also urged the federal government to take relief measures on a large scale because the debt payments have been rescheduled and the federal government is receiving more income by raising taxes on petroleum products, so it should increase the relief works too.