If you live anywhere near Karachi University, overloaded point buses would be quite a common sight. Young girls and boys crammed inside, with some protruding out of the exit doors, in a bus slightly tilted due to their sheer weight. Like the education sector, the bus has also become the victim of state negligence.
Lack of a proper transport system at the Karachi University, one of the biggest and oldest in Pakistan, is a serious headache for students—a lot of whom belong to the working and middle-class.
Aisha, a student who uses the shuttle service, says it is a hassle to travel in the buses filled to the full. After a long day at the university, when the students are finally ready to go home, there is little patience left in them. “It seems everyone is angry and looking for a fight when you enter the bus,” she says.
For many students, using the service means they save money and the time it takes to use public transport to areas far from the university. Aisha lives in Model Colony and says the alternate for her is to take a rickshaw from her department to the university gate, then a public bus, followed by a 10-minute walk to reach home.
While the walk home is required if even she takes the point, since it operates on a fixed route, Aisha says using the service used to save her a lot of trouble. But she could not take the abysmal service for long and eventually chose public transport.
But the point service is almost irreplaceable for students, especially girls, hailing from Kemari, Landhi, Korangi and Gulshan-e-Hadeed. These far-flung areas require students to take two buses to reach their university.
Tariq Abbas, incharge operations at the transport department, is of the opinion that the service is after all not that bad considering the meagre amount students have to pay; Rs10 are charged per seat for every ride. Abbas has been with the department for 30 years and was promoted from a driver to incharge four years back.
“I've seen this bus service operating when the cost was Rs0.5 to this day operating at Rs10. But the one thing that hasn’t changed is that there will always be someone who will manage to dodge the conductor and travel without paying the fee,” he chuckles. The number of students using the service keeps varying; for example, 23 buses function in the morning and 21 in the evening.
Moreover, transport authorities say students avoid points not because of infrastructure issues but because of irregular classes schedule. The number of seats in a bus ranges from 48 to 56; while transport authorities say approximately 80-100 students can be adjusted in one bus.
But students using the bus say the number mostly crosses 100. Moreover, some drivers complain about the inadequate funds for the maintenance of the buses, while others say the increased prices of diesel are also not taken into account while disbursement of funds to the transport department.