Cars and motorcycles a luxury?


Commuting in a city the size of Karachi is very difficult. The policy of the junta as regards the price of fuel is inconsistent – because of this the owners of public transport – be they taxis or buses do not have fixed fares. Those who travel in buses are not sold bus tickets and taxis do not have meters – they justify this on the grounds that the price of petrol varies from one day to the next, so it is impossible for them fix the fare.
When it comes to taxis (or rickshaws) one has ask the driver how much he will charge for going to a particular place. The shorter the distance the more the fare, the longer the distance the fare is comparatively less. If one wants to go to some residential area – the fare is higher, because in such places people usually have their private vehicles and rarely rely on public transport, so taxis go back without any passenger aboard.
But if ones destination is a major shopping area, then the fare is great deal less, because the taxi driver will most likely find a passenger. As for buses they have fixed routes – but the so-called ticket collector is just tells the fare for the next stop is exactly what he pleases – there is very little a passenger can do about this except pay that amount. In such matters the police is no help.
But public transport in Karachi is not proving to be a solution at all. Taxis and buses are badly maintained and there are very few of them. In buses the space is very uncomfortable and cramped, the standing space endangers passengers if any are happen to be over 4 feet tall, because their heads hit the ceiling, some passengers are dangling at the back and others are sitting on the roof.
Taxis are dirty and smelly, just as are the buses, something or another wrong with them. One is literally risking life and limb practically everyday when one uses public transport, because of the terrible mess the public transport business is in. In order to save money taxi drivers do not buy wipers, the few times it does rain, they usually avoid coming on the road, but those who are desperate will around, but be unable to see anything in front of them.
Public transport is not considered a business because because the junta has not even thought of it of considered giving it the status of an industry. Had this been the case then there would be companies owning fleets of buses and taxis and they could negotiate fares and routes with the junta. If such companies exist - then the drivers and ticket collectors would be its employees. These companies would know exactly what the size of the market is and how many more buses and taxis they require, ithey would also be in position to keep its vehicles very well maintained. Presently buses on specific routes rush from one stop to another and race against buses to board as many passengers as they can and pack them beyond capacity, this results in many fatal accidents. This is an example of the absolute criminal apathy of the junta.
The junta is not interested in improving public transport system for its own 'top secrret' reasons, because of this people are forced to purchase cars or motorcycles. But the problem with this is that is not everyone can afford to buy a new car – because according to official rules cars and motorcycles are still luxury items, hence the import duty on them is over 400 per cent, and insurance of these imported cars is determined on the basis of its price.
Since the junta has kept price of all new vehicles artificially exceedingly expensive – for this reason insurance is also high. So buying new cars and motorcycles out of the question. The only vehicles, which are imported, are from Japan and only three companies, two from South Korea they have a near monopoly, although there are several other Japanese car manufacturers but they have not been allowed to enter the market. From Europe there only two car manufacturers are allowed and there are none directly from USA , however there is one USA brand which comes from South Korea.
New cars (and motorcycles) are not imported in one piece, they are brought in separate individual parts – which are assembled here. It is an open secret that these spare parts do not have many of the features, qualities and specifications of the original car, because they are deliberately under engineered, as a result some essential components an are missing entirely. Cars with seatbelts and airbags are taxed more than those which do not have them although these are very important safety items.
No one can really know what components are also missing in the engine and elsewhere. But these cars go from the showroom and straight to the workshop in a matter of six months after people have had paid to pay millions of rupees to buy them. These cars turn rust buckets after a year after which all kinds of things start falling apart. Some racketeers have been suggesting to the junta, that it should allow the import of reconditioned cars - cars which have been overhauled and completely repaired in their respective countries.
This is just another racket because it is just like buying a second hand car except it is being purchased from abroad it has all its orginial placed in it, so such vehicles are most likely going fall apart in a very short time. These reconditioned cars are slightly cheaper than brand new ones.
Although one is expected to pay millions of rupees to buy these terribly defective new vehicles, prior to purchase a potential buyer is never given the opportunity to test drive it, to see that everything works perfectly instead of breaking up in the first run. A 'test drive' is a luxury also - because none of the new car retailers are prepared to risk being caught for trying selling a severely defective vehicle. The people who buy any of these cars end up regretting their decision. The biggest risk of owning a new car, although it is seriously defective is that they are stolen. Up to 4000 cars are stolen every year and junta does not have any means of preventing this crime. It could very well be that the ringleaders in this crime are military officers, police officers, bureaucrats, feudal lords and tribal chiefs.
Old and second hand cars ( not the reconditioned version) are cheaper; at least one would does not have any regrets when they break down on a regular basis. But considering of public interest there is the factor of ever increasing pollution from these old vehicles. Neither private nor public transport, can never be maintained because of the outrageously expensive price of spare parts. These vehicles are very badly repaired and maintained, one is most likely to see cars spewing tremendous amount of smoke from the exhaust pipe and leaking engine oil just to name a few sources of pollution.
Both generals and the bureaucrats can ever be expected to make sensible decisions in such matters. Things are most likely continue as they are. Without realising they will eventually become intolerable because the population of the city is not going decline and there will be greater demand for more buses and taxis. The first step the junta has to make is to declare public transport a full-fledged industry. The people driving the buses and the ticket collectors would be employees of transport companies. Only transport companies can truly assess how many buses are required and how much money they can make. The second thing the junta can do is lower the import duty private cars and motorcycles and import them from all over the over the world.
Not limit the import of Japanese to three companies only. All of them should be imported in one-piece not separate parts , this will prevent the car and motorcycle assemblers from getting away with the absolute fraud they have been committing for decades. True competition would emerge; customers will have a wide variety of choices and will buy the most reliable and trusted vehicle . Not some jalopy assembled in some makeshift ridiculous factory.
When privately owned cars and motorcycles are treated as a luxury, then there should be a hyper-efficient public transport system, so that no one should ever feel the need to purchase a car or motorcycle. A commuter should be able to reach every single part of the city by bus or taxi and the fare should be nominal. But this is will never ever happen.

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