Many forced to walk long distances during Ramazan
With summer approaching and Ramazan already begun, the student body at the University of Karachi (KU) anticipates physical exhaustion due to limited shuttle services leaving many with no option but to walk long distances on campus.
Where intra-department strolls alone during the scorching summer heat are enough to dehydrate the average fasting student, those from KU are left drained. Students have to walk kilometres in order to reach their departments because of restrictions placed by the university on the operation of shuttles.
“Ever since the university announced the operation of limited shuttles on campus, hundreds of students, including myself, have to walk from one department to the other,” complained Aamna Ali, an Islamic Studies student.
According to sources, in recent times, KU has restricted the operation of shuttle services on campus and has only allowed their usage during fixed time slots of the day, citing the petrol hikes as an excuse.
This comes as a bombshell for the thousands of students, faculty and academic visitors, who frequent the campus during various times of the day and have to walk to reach their respective departments in case their detour falls outside the specified shuttle operating time.
“My department is located at the main road near Metroville Gate and the shuttle service stops working after 9:30am. It is not available during my class timings,” revealed a pharmacy student.
The students of Computer Science, Mass Communication, and Applied Economics face the same conundrum. They are unable to find shuttles near their departments after 10 in the morning – even though the official shuttle schedule clearly states the operation of vehicles during the morning hours up until 10:30am at various gates including Metroville, Maskan, Sheikh Zayed, and Silver Jubilee.
Some sources have blamed the university administration for purposefully creating a shortage of shuttles on campus claiming they were in cahoots with rickshaw drivers. Indeed, multiple rickshaw stands can be spotted on campus with each driver charging the fare that they fancy, further fueling the suspicion of the critics.
Apart from rickshaws, private shuttles also operate in KU but they are few and far in between while the prices are steep for students. “The private shuttle charges Rs 20 per student and has only eight buses. How can 45,000 students be accommodated in 8 buses,” questioned one irked student.
In his response to the outcry of students resenting the unavailability of ample shuttles, a grade-16 officer, Dildar Khan, had an amusing response: “Buses have to visit the workshop for regular maintenance checks, several times a day, and hence are unavailable for the students.”
Such controversy surrounding the functioning of the shuttle service is, however, not a novel occurrence. Last year, too, the university administration had come under public scrutiny for purchasing eight new shuttles but still depriving the student body of their services by choosing to keep them safely parked on campus premises. However, it is not just the new shuttles that are sitting idle. The Express Tribune learnt that out of the 41 buses parked on its premises, KU only has eight that are functional.
As the daily plight of students continues, Dildar Khan attributes increased fuel prices as a major reason behind the university not allowing most of the shuttles to fully operate. “Our fares are just Rs10 per student, and with petrol prices rising exponentially, we have no choice but to limit the operation of these shuttles in order to monitor our expenditures.”