Conversion of 60,000 two-stroke rickshaws in jeopardy

KARACHI: Yet another deadline to convert some 60,000 two-stroke rickshaws into four-stroke plying on the roads of the province to make them environment-friendly is about to over by the end of June this year. It is pity that even first phase of converting 500 such rickshaws have not been kicked off so far despite lapse of 10 months.The failure will press the Sindh Transport Department to extend the deadline once more to comply with the order of the Sindh High Court (SHC) to convert smoke-emitting vehicles in 2007, an official of Sindh Transport Department told Media.More than 60,000 two-stroke rickshaws are plying in Sindh, of which over 42,000 are in Karachi.The government is also deprived of taxes from these two-stroke rickshaws because their renewals are not being given to them due to ban on these problematic vehicles, the official claimed. He said taking swift actions against these rickshaws was not in favour of people associated with this business.The Sindh government had assured the SHC of converting all noise and smoke-emitting two-stroke rickshaws into four-stroke. It had banned two-stroke rickshaws in the province, which resulted in massive protests by the owners and drivers of these vehicles.

Soon after the ban on two-stroke rickshaws, President Karachi Taxi and Motor Rickshaw Owners Association Hafizul Haq Hassan Zai had called on Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan on May 30, 2007 to realise the fact that the ban would make about four million people jobless. He also asked him to allow five to six years for conversion, ultimately, both agreed on three-year relaxation period for conversion of these rickshaws.He said that it had been decided that the government would provide engine for conversion of these rickshaws, but no measure had yet been taken by the government as the deadline of three-year ended on 30 June 2010. Afterwards, the transport department came with different approach by extending deadline of one-year till June, 30 2011 on 100 percent self cost of rickshaw owners, which they rejected at once. However, they agreed on 50-50 percent share on engine cost to upgrade it, he informed.Zai said Rs 15 million was approved for conversion of 500 rickshaws for experience, but the department said that the money was spent on tackling floods. “We are not in hurry. If the money is spent on rehabilitation of flood affectees, it is not matter, but we say let us do our job and convert rickshaws when they regain money”, he said. He regretted that the value of two-stroke rickshaws had gone down due to the decision of the government while further delaying tactics had added fuel to it.

In the meantime, Zai had requested the governor to give him one month time to demonstrate that he was capable to convert 2-stroke rickshaw into 4-stroke.Somehow, he made it possible and showed it to Provincial Secretary Transport as governor was not in the country but what he (Zai) described the secretary found unnecessary flaws into it that the clutch was too hard, the engine didn’t start with a kick and it could operate on petrol as well as CNG. Consequently, the efforts of Zai went into vain as altered rickshaw failed the test.When asked how much cost he had to bear on conversion, he replied that he wanted to win the ‘war’ for the sake of his community so cost was not the matter.He said until the conversion was not taking place the government at least ban substandard oil which was the core reason of pollution and noise, adding such oil was openly being sold in the market at more than 2500 cabins and shops. Oil is the main reason behind the engine failure of vehicles that causes 80 percent of the smoke in Karachi – Dailytimes