Tonga taxis expelled from Pakistan’s streets

The traditional tonga, a two-wheel carriage once a popular mode of urban transportation, is becoming a thing of the past. They have been expelled from city streets in Pakistan.

Syeda Zahra

2009-10-16

LAHORE — The traditional tonga, a two-wheel carriage once a popular mode of urban transportation, is becoming a thing of the past after being expelled from city streets, and is being replaced by noisy motorcycle rickshaws.

As many as 4,000 tongas plied the streets of Lahore just a few years ago, but after being banned from the downtown area, only a few are left in the northern suburbs.

In addition, a profession linked to tongas, saddle-making, is also facing extinction.

“The government should have considered that it is not only drivers who depended on tongas for income. What about me?” inquired Allah Ditta, a professional saddler.

“Ten to 15 years ago I had a booming business, but now I am living hand to mouth,” he said, adding, “Most of the work I do now consists of making reins and some other articles that are used for animal-driven carts.”

Most of Ditta’s customers live in villages on the outskirts of Lahore, and still keep horses for leisure.

Thousands of people once associated with the tonga business became jobless as a result of the ban, and recent inflation has added to workers’ miseries.

“The government should have arranged alternative means of earning a living for tonga-drivers and others associated with this business,” said Murad, a driver at Mochi Gate, Lahore.

“I used to carry children from school and colleges. It was a pollution-free and safe transport, but now I can no longer earn a livelihood,” he said, overlooking the fact that horse droppings in large quantities on major roadways in urban centres constitutes a significant form of pollution.

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