Srinagar, June 29: Transporters in Kashmir have been pushed to the wall. Their operations have been hit since August 5, 2019, when the Centre announced its decision to revoke J&K’s special status and bifurcated it into two union territories.
A transporter while talking to Precious Kashmir said, “Our vehicles have been stranded for the past 10-months now. We were unable to run our services after August 2019 due to restrictions and the subsequent shutdowns which followed. As the things had started getting revived, COVID-19 happened. Since March again our fleet has been stranded.”
He said, “The frequent closure of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway due to heavy snowfall this year also led to transporters facing huge losses.”
Another transporter said, “The government has lifted the lockdown and life is slowly returning to normal but no decision has been taken about restarting the public transport service. Even public transport vehicles are not being allowed to ply on the highway. We are in a mess and have no idea about how we will pull ourselves out of the prevailing crisis.”
He said that transporters have assured the authorities that they will follow the social distancing norms and if anyone violates the norms stern action should be taken against him. “If SRTC buses can ply then why cannot the buses run by the private transporters be allowed to move. Even authorities are not allowing the Sumos and other cabs to ply between Jammu and Srinagar. In many parts of the countries the inter-state bus services are operating. It’s strange that we are not being allowed to run the services even within the union territory, ” the transporter added.
“We were told that COVID-19 is a part of life now and we have to live with it. But it seems the right of transporters to live has been snatched. If the restrictions on public transport are not lifted, we will be pushed to penury,” he said.
Last week transporters had tried staging a protest in Srinagar to attract the attention of the authorities towards their plight. “It’s true that we are not being asked by the banks to pay the instalments on the loans we have taken for our vehicles but the banks are charging the interest. Our liability is accumulating. This interest should be waived off,” the transporters said. “The government has to come for our rescue. The transport sector has been badly hit. We have been left to fend for ourselves. It’s unfortunate that our entire community and our families have been ignored completely.”