Scammers pretending to be parking officials are scalping the public with inflated parking fees
ohsin Khan is a resident of district central. In view of the recent fuel price hike, he has reduced his daily commute. When he does use his own vehicle, he is robbed of hundreds of rupees by the parking mafia.
Poor governance and overpopulation have resulted in substandard mass transit, so that most Karachiites prefer using their own transport. When you manage to find a parking spot in the cramped streets, a guy wearing a high-viz will appear and demand immediate payment of the parking fee. At times you will be baffled and ask, “even here?”
District Central is a densely populated area. The authorities responsible for parking here are the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and the District Municipal Corporation (DMC) Central. On April 8, all parking sites in the district were abolished except for those run by the KMC. DMC Central is collecting no parking fee anywhere – not at parks, not at shopping malls and not at hospitals. This should be welcome relief for citizens. Unfortunately, once somebody has established himself as a parking contractor at some site, nobody can question them. They will continue to charging you the fee at the rates they determine.
According to Waseem Siraj, a deputy director general in KMC, Deputy Commissioner Central Taha Saleem has yet to discontinue the fee collection at DMC sites. A DMC-Central official (who requested anonymity) says the contract expired on March 31 and was not renewed by the DC. Consequently, collection of parking fee at the sites has been suspended.
The KMC collects parking fees under the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA 2013) which allows single-lane street parking. There are four categories of parking sites. “After the 2015 bifurcation in KMC, some of the sites were handed over to the DMC Central,” says Siraj.
The first category is ‘proposed’. Once a mall or hospital is constructed, a parking site is suggested in the vicinity to find out if it can generate adequate revenue and the people benefit from it. If the site becomes a success, it becomes ‘permanent’; otherwise, it is abolished.
The second category is ‘auctioned’. The right to collect parking fees at these sites is auctioned; the successful bidders are registered with the government as contractors.
The third category is ‘reserved’. If a shopping mall or superstore has a parking space, they cannot legally facilitate their customers unless they have permission from the KMC. They usually enter an agreement with the KMC and a payment is made to the KMC so that their customers do not have to pay the parking fees.
Then there are experimental sites. Such a parking site is established for three months to check whether it can help improve the flow of traffic, generate revenue and facilitates the public. If it does, it is put up for auction.
It is pertinent to mention that parking fares are the same at all sites: Rs 10 and Rs 30 for a bike and car, respectively. Siraj says that the KMC is responsible for main roads while the DMC-Central has charge of secondary roads. The following sites come under KMC in District Central:
DMC Central collects parking fees under Sindh Local Government Act 2013 (after the third amendment, it is now called SGLA,2016). It allows single-lane parking only. The parking fare is Rupees 10, Rs 30 and Rs 50 for bikes, cars and 4x4 vehicles, respectively. The revenue is used for land utilisation and improving the conditions of streets in the area.
Siraj says the bifurcation was made in 2015. The DMC official says it was in 2017, and a total of 14 sites were handed over to them.
According to the official, DMC Central does not categorise its parking sites. They are auctioned to contractors approved by the government and registered with the FBR. The sites might become functional again. Two locations, namely: Zia ud Din Hospital in North Nazimabad and in front of KFC to Kababjees Block A in North Nazimabad, will not be auctioned again; hence there will be 26 sites. The following sites fall under DMC Central:
I visited four sites of DMC Central and found them still running. At Hyderi Market/ Supermarket and Saima Pari Mall, the scammers charged me 30 rupees and were reluctant to hand over a slip. Upon my insistence, a parking slip was given; it had DMC written on it. There was no receipt book. At the Imam Clinic, I was charged 50 rupees; and they did not have a receipt booklet either. I later checked out the Bin Hashim Store, a reserved Parking site under the KMC, and they were not charging any parking fees.
The parking mafia in District Central is a nuisance for residents like Khan. They are trying to cut down on what they spend on petrol, only to lose that money to the parking collectors.
So where is this money going if the DMC Central is not getting it? At Imam Clinic, I got into an argument for not paying 50 rupees. A collection worker said, “We work for the DMC. The police collect bhatta (extortion money) from us; that’s why we charge Rs 50”. The money probably goes into the contractor’s pockets.
Some people believe that when you park your vehicle at these sites, the parking collectors take responsibility for its safety. As a matter of fact, the fine print on the slip clearly says that if your car or anything inside it is stolen, the administration will not be responsible.
Muhammad Aijaz, 35, is vexed. He says, “I have been trying to save money for groceries and for fuel. Imagine handing over what I save to the parking mafia.”
Sameera Ali, a university student, says, “I do not have a job. I depend on pocket money from my parents, which is not much. I also have to pay parking fees at literally every stop I make. So I am out of hundreds of rupees just because I drive.” Sameera says there should be free parking for students as they rarely have a lot of disposable income.
Whoever drives a vehicle needs space to park it. The parking mafia takes full advantage of this. This makes it a lucrative business in Karachi. It is as if all one needs to make a quick buck is a high-viz jacket or a cap with KMC/DMC written on it.
Complaints can be made to the KMC (1339) and there are vigilance teams to check illegal parking sites. You can also complain if you feel that unfair parking fares are being collected. Strict action is promised. DMC-Central, however, does not have a complaint number to report illegal collection in the name of its parking facilities. Also, always ask for a receipt when paying a parking fees. If they do not have a receipt booklet, it is most likely a scam.
The author is a freelance journalist studying mass communication at the University of Karachi. She can be reached at email@example.com