Eman Fatima is a second-year student at Government College Baghbanpura, Lahore. She resides in the Union Council Bhasin, only about seven kilometres from the college. However, she has to travel more than 23 kilometres daily to college.
Eman Fatima does not have direct access to public transport for Baghbanpura. Therefore, in the early morning, she covers a distance of 10 kilometres on a Chingchi rickshaw from her village to Jalo mor. She travels another 13 kilometres on another rickshaw to reach the college. If it rains, she cannot find a rickshaw, and she cannot reach the college.
Her father is a small-scale farmer. The daily expense of 200 rupees and educational expenditures is an additional burden for him. She says that due to such extra expenses, other girls in the village have discontinued their education after completing matriculation.
"My father has repeatedly suggested that I should quit going to college and prepare for private exams at home. However, I want to continue my education."
The Government of Punjab Local Community Development Authority has designated Wahga Town on the 24 Union Councils (UCs) of the eastern regions of Lahore. The residents of approximately eight UCs of this town face severe difficulties commuting to and from the city.
According to the statistics of the Punjab Local Government, the population of these eight UCs, including Lakhodier, Handogjaran, Awan Dhaiwala, Atoke Awan, Manawan, Bhasin, Manhala, Wagah and Dogroy Kalan, is 3,66,884.
Eman Fatima and all the residents of these populations face difficulties due to the lack of public transport facilities.
In 1965, double-decker buses used to operate from Wahga to Lari Adda. For some time, trains with a few carriages ran from Lahore Railway Station to Jaloo village. Until about ten years ago, Lahore Transport Company (LTC) buses used to run on this route. However, now only Chingchi rickshaws are available on this road.
Currently, Lahore city has international standard facilities such as Metro Bus service and Orange Line Train. The 'Orange Train' runs on a 27-kilometre route from Thokar Niaz Baig to Dera Gujran. However, the Dera Gujran to Wagah border areas still lack public transport facilities.
The nearest public transport from Wahga village is the Orange Line Train, with its first station being Dera Gujran, approximately 13 kilometres away, and Jalumur, about eight kilometres. The Orange Train station from Mihala is about 19 kilometres away.
Similarly, Bhasin village is 13 km and Awan Dhaiwala is 11 km from the Orange Line. However, Batapur, Manawan, Sutramal and Adachbel areas are a few kilometres from the Orange train station due to being on the GT road.
Eman Fatima cannot travel on the Orange Line well. She says that rickshaws charge 40 rupees from Jalumur to Dera Gujran and 50 to Baghbanpura College Stop.
‘’When I board the Orange Line from Dera Gujran, the train drops one kilometre away from the College Stop. Then, I have to take a rickshaw from there, and the expenses increase further.’’
Muhammad Saleem, a resident of the border village Narvoor, used to work in a steel mill on BundRoad in Lahore. However, he has been unemployed for the past three years. He says that he used to commute to the steel mill on a motorcycle with a colleague from his village.
"When my colleague left the job at the steel mill, I had to travel on a Chingchi rickshaw. From the village to Jalo mor, and then changing three rickshaws from there to Dargah Wala Bund Road and finally to the steel mill. This way, a significant portion of my daily earnings was spent on transportation."
These areas, deprived of public transport, fall within Lahore's National Constituency NA-128 and Provincial Constituency PP-155. Suhail Shaukat Butt, a former member of the National Assembly from the Pakistan Muslim League-N, acknowledges that there is a serious issue of public transport in his constituency.
He says his effort is to initiate a speedy bus service from the Wagah border to the Orange Line station under the administration's supervision. After that, separate buses will be operated for female students and women in the morning and afternoon.
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Efforts were made to contact several officers of the Transport Authority, including Secretary Ahmad Javaid Qazi, regarding the closure of public transport on the Wahga Route (GT Road), but no response was received.
However, the Provincial Minister of Transport, Ibrahim Murad, states that he will propose to the Chief Minister and other authorities to start a shuttle service for Speedo buses on this route.
Executive Director of the Sustainable Development Organization (SDO), confirms while endorsing the statement of Provincial Minister Nasir Hussain Shah that shuttle services are provided worldwide along with the Orange Line Train. Providing this facility to rural areas of Lahore is also essential.
He says the government can start bus services in rural areas to provide access to public transport or Orange Line train stations. Similar to how it is being implemented in various areas of Lahore.
Deputy Commissioner Lahore Rafia Haider says that she will discuss this issue with the Punjab Transport Authority officials so that the issue of public transport in the eastern rural areas can be resolved quickly.
Published on 4 Dec 2023