KU transportation woes weigh students down
Karachi, July 9 : The University of Karachi boasts some 25,000 students enrolled in
its evening and morning programmes combined. The students, majority of them
girls, come from far-flung areas of the metropolis to attend the university.
Despite having a large student base, which makes it undoubtly the largest public
sector university in the country, there is as yet no adequate and reliable
transport system available for the students, which could provide them with a
safe and comfortable journey to and from the university. The evening students
are the worst affectees, for not only are they charged higher but they also do
not have the luxury of traveling by the university buses.
about the state of affairs surrounding the KU transport system, the university
administration had its own sordid tale to offer: insufficient funds were cited
as the prime reason for bringing the transport sector to this deplorable state.
Prof. Khalid Muhammad, Head of the Department of Microbiology and Chairman of
the Transport Committee since 2003, admitted that the KU transport was in an
appalling state but narrated his side of story, to express his inability in the
face of innumerable problems. Khalid said, žTo accommodate such a large number
of students is an uphill task, but we have been managing the affairs with
minimum resources available to us,Ó adding, žThe students are charged three
rupees one way from university to any point in the city; from NIPA it is only
one rupee, which is clearly not enough, as the rising prices of the diesel have
increased the operational expenses of the Committee. Our expenditure at the end
of the fiscal year 2006 was Rs10.71 million, while the university chipped in
with a subsidy of Rs10.37 million.Ó
Until a while back, some buses would
take the students from the Silver Jubilee and Muskan gates to the departments,
which saved students from walking long distances in the scorching weather. The
service has been discontinued, causing great distress to the students. Prof
Khalid defended the decision saying, the students were not cooperating in the
successful running of the service. Majority of them seeks lift from private
cars ignoring the buses. This attitude results in the discontinuation of
service,Ó he added.
There are always invariably more students in the
buses than the busesŪ capacity, which certainly is highly dangerous and has
often in the past caused major accidents. Hence, in the absence of proper buses,
majority of the students have to make their own travel arrangements; which means
using either personal conveyance or public transport that is not only expensive
but also cumbersome during the summer season. Some buses also ply between NIPA
and the university and carry about 1000 students at the peak hours, which is
indeed a great relief to the students.
Currently, the KU Transport
Committee manages the fleet of buses that picks and drops the students in the
morning and afternoon: 6.35 a.m. to 6.45 a.m., 1.30 p.m. and 4.00 p.m. from 25
designated points in the city, respectively. The fleet has 20 Hino buses that
are in relatively good condition, 11 Isuzu, three Nissan and nine Bedford buses.
However, it is very rare for all the buses to be in running condition at one
time and seven to eight buses need mechanics help almost everyday before they
are considered roadworthy. The sojourn of the students in the 31 obsolete and
rickety buses, emitting thick trail of smoke can hardly be termed comfortable. A
common sight of the university bus is that of both girls and boys hanging
precariously at its gates because of little or no space inside. The drivers,
driving at breakneck speed are by and large, oblivious to the situation inside
the buses. Whatever the official line, it is the students that bear the brunt in
Incensed at the situation, Ayesha Adeel, a student from the
Pharmacy Faculty added, žI come from North Nazimabad and face this ordeal every
day. It is just insane. The students and staff are packed in the bus like
sardines. Others cling to the door handles. Either the university or the
philanthropists must do something to save us from the humiliation and indignity
we go through everyday.Ó Gibran, a student from the Mass Communication
Department termed traveling by university bus a virtual ŽnightmareŪ and the
worst experience of his academic life.
There is another aggrieved party
that voiced its grievances when queried about their stance on the situation. The
drivers, numbering 32, complain about lower wages and long working hours,
despite the fact that they earn between Rs8000 to 10,000. It was surprising to
hear from one driver that žif the students choose to travel in the cramped
buses, then there is no reason to complainÓ. A novel comment indeed, considering
that the students hardly have any choice in this regard.
It is also
alleged that the conductors and drivers pocket money in league with committee
officials depriving the university of large sums money that could be used to buy
new buses and maintain the existing ones. However, Prof. Khalid refuted the
charge right away. He made it clear that until the fare for the students is
increased or some private party comes forth to manage the KU transport system,
things are not likely change. He pointed that the proposed new CNG buses that
are to join the fleet of Urban Transport System (UTS) should be allowed to pick
the students in about 30 to 40 buses and then drop them at the designated hours.
The UTS should be given a suitable amount for this service that could be borne
by the university or the government.
In the absence of a Mass Transit
System, this suggestion must be given a serious consideration. The corporate
sector could also donate buses to alleviate the suffering of the students. the news