In strike-ridden Kashmir, replacing damaged car windowpanes daunting task

As every other car moving on city roads has faced some kind of damage, particularly has broken windowpanes, due to smashing and stone throwing by ‘stone pelters and forces’ in past four-months of unrest, the automobile companies here say that they are unable to meet the demand for replacing the broken car glasses.
In strike-ridden Kashmir, replacing damaged car windowpanes daunting task

As every other car moving on city roads has faced some kind of damage, particularly has broken windowpanes, due to smashing and stone throwing by 'stone pelters and forces' in past four-months of unrest, the automobile companies here say that they are unable to meet the demand for replacing the broken car glasses.   

In order to get these damaged windowpanes replaced without any further delay, many car owners now prefer local mechanic shop, as and when available instead of waiting for the authorized service station for long durations.

They are ready to forgo their insurance claims, as they do not want to wait for longer periods due to approaching winter, which is forcing them to pay hefty amounts to local mechanics instead of replacing the panes at company service centers where they can claim replacements as per insurance norms with a nominal fee.  

"Car windowpane sales are picking up in Kashmir as thousands of car owners whose windowpanes were smashed during present unrest are in hurry to replace the damaged one," said Khurshid Ahmad, one of the employees at a private automobile company.

He informed that some people come up with partially damaged windowpanes while in most of the cases, the windowpanes is fully broken. "In both cases, the windowpane has to be replaced," he said.

Mushtaq Ahmad, a car owner said that the front/ rare window shield of his car got damaged as a stone hit it at Batamaloo.

"It is not possible to drive a car in this chilly weather without the front window shield. It was after several arguments with the company that they reduced the rate. Otherwise they were charging exorbitant rates," he added.

Some of the car owners also alleged that dealers and mechanics are charging exorbitant rates, exploiting the situation.

"As the dealers are witnessing huge demand from the customers, they have started charging very high rates. They also exploit situation as there are few working hours during which hundreds of customers throng these companies and want to get their cars to be fixed first," said Ishtiyaq Ahmad of Bemina.

Hundreds of cars with polythene sheets working as a makeshift windowpane has become a common sight across Kashmir after the rise in incidents of stone pelting and security forces damaging vehicles since July 8.

A service executive of a leading car dealership, at the condition of anonymity, said 10,000 to 15,000 vehicles across Kashmir have suffered breakage of windowpanes either due to stone pelting or damage caused by security forces.

"These damaged vehicles are of all models and all brands. Either their front/rare windshield or door glasses have suffered a breakage but all this damage is registered under the insurance cover," he said. "Earlier due to the continuous strike and government restrictions only a small number of car owners with cases of windowpane breakages had approached this dealership for replacement but now one and all want us to replace their windowpanes at the earliest.

The steep rise in incidents of windowpane breakage has also led to a huge demand in the unorganised after-sale service market. A Barzulla-based mechanic said he keeps his workshop open for three to four hours every morning to only replace windowpanes. "At the moment I have almost a dozen orders for new windowpanes waiting to be replaced but meeting every requirement is a tough job amid this unrest," he said.

"For availing insurance benefit there is a requirement of furnishing an FIR copy or newspaper report which mentions the stone pelting incident during which the breakage occurred. Now-a-days we are shut for most of the time. Our service centers have been able to service only a few windowpane breakages during deal hours," said an official.

He informed that a 'compulsory clause' in the motor insurance makes it mandatory for a car customer to pay Rs 1000 for a hatchback (small segment cars) and Rs 2000 for (Sedans, SUVs) for getting "any number of broken windowpanes replaced".

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