–No mechanism to keep check on exorbitant prices, substandard quality of helmets in place
–CTPL claims action also being taken against cops without helmets
LAHORE: Amid the ongoing crackdown by City Traffic Police Lahore (CTPL) against helmet rule violators on the orders of the Lahore High Court (LHC), motorcyclists are decrying the heavy fines being imposed and skyrocketing prices as well as poor quality of the helmets, which the authorities concerned have failed to keep a check on, Pakistan Today has observed.
The Lahore High Court on September 11 had directed Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Lahore to take a strict action against those riding bikes without helmets and ordered to take action from September 23. LHC had ordered the CTO while hearing a petition regarding the non-compliance of traffic rules leading to an increase in road accidents across the provincial capital.
Taking advantage of CTPL’s action, helmet traders are either selling those at exorbitant rates or cheaper but substandard ones in the city’s markets. During a survey conducted in different helmet markets by Pakistan Today, it was observed that traders have increased the prices of helmets and those, available in markets prior to the campaign at a price of Rs300, are now being sold at prices up to Rs700. Likewise, good quality helmets that were available for Rs1,000 before court orders are now being sold for around Rs2,000.
The basic purpose of a helmet is to protect a rider from head injuries in case of a road mishap; however, it has been observed that citizens are buying helmets without checking their quality and if they meet the required safety standards or not. Most of the helmets available in markets are made of cheap materials, thus putting bikers’ lives at stake.
McLeod Road, Lahore Hotel, Lytton Road and Montgomery Road are some of the city’s largest helmet markets where substandard and costly helmets are being sold as authorities concerned bat no eye.
A helmet buyer, Jawad, while talking to Pakistan Today said that he was not aware of the quality standards of helmets, but could tell that prices had been jacked as compared to last month. He said that he had no other option but to buy a helmet to avoid challans and was of the view that authorities should be concerned over the sale of cheap and substandard helmets.
Asghar, a motorbikes spare parts dealer, said traders had to increase prices of helmets as the wholesale prices had been increased. To a question regarding the safety standards of helmets, he said that all helmets present at his shop were fulfilling the quality standards. “However, no government official has ever approached me to check the quality of helmets I am selling,” he added.
“The government should first provide commuters with their rights such as smooth and cleaner roads without encroachments and a better traffic environment. Only then they should be able to impose fines,” said another motorcyclist, Muhammad Ali. He lamented the fact that helmets were too costly and it was not possible for every citizen to purchase one.
Montgomery Market President Javed Bhatti said only 15 per cent bikers used helmets in the provincial capital and therefore, there had never been such a demand for helmets earlier. He lamented that the government had not given ample time to importers and said traders should at least been provided three months so they could have imported more helmets from China.
Commenting over profiteering and skyrocketing prices of helmets, he said it was simple demand and supply economics. “There is a shortage of helmets in the market and so the rates are going up.”
NO CHECK ON SUBSTANDARD HELMETS:
Sources in the home department revealed that there was no mechanism to keep a check on helmet sellers; however, they added that discussions regarding a setup to monitor the availability of helmets in markets were underway.
When contacted, Deputy Commissioner’s Office spokesperson Imran Maqbool admitted that no one was keeping a check on the quality and prices of helmets available in the markets and said that the authorities were concerned over the issue. “A strategy in this regard would soon be devised,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lahore CTO Capt (r) Liaqat Ali Malik said it was hard to check if every single helmet being used by the motorcyclists complied with the safety standards or not and the prime responsibility of the traffic police was to implement court’s orders.
“5,904 traffic law violators have been slapped with heavy fines on the Mall Road so far while a total of 27,827 motorcyclists have been fined,” he said, adding that the traffic police would ensure the writ of law at any cost.
COPS NOT BEING SPARED EITHER:
City Traffic Police Lahore spokesperson Arif Ali said banners of a Rs1,000 fine on Mall Road over the violation of helmet rule had been put up on the orders of LHC so that people abided by the law.
He said a summary had been moved to the law department for increasing fines ticket for bikers from minimum Rs300 to maximum Rs1,000 and said the crackdown on traffic law violators was in full swing.
Ali further said that police personnel and lawyers were not being spared either. According to him, police officials violating traffic laws had either been suspended or served show-cause notices besides challans.
With additional reporting by Ihsan Qadir