Transport sector in worst crisis

Over 1.5 lakh people affiliated with the transport sector in Kashmir are living in penury as the lockdown since August last year has hit them badly.

The aggrieved transporters including the drivers and cleaners alleged that the government has neglected them and the administration has failed to come to their rescue.

Though the central government announced a slew of packages for different segments of the economy, the aggrieved transporters in Kashmir said that they have got nothing.

“Since August 2019, I did not earn anything. I am surviving by the help of some NGOs, which is too little to suffice my and my family’s needs,” said Muhammad Ayoub, a bus driver.

Since the abrogation of J&K’s special status in August 2019, transporters in Kashmir have been able to resume operations for just 25 days prior to the imposition of covid19 lockdown.

Though the government has eased restrictions allowing reopening of shops and business establishments rotation-wise, “no such relief has been given to the public transport”.

This situation has left an estimated 1.5 lakh people affiliated with Kashmir’s transport sector jobless.

As per preliminary estimates, there are around 50,000 commercial vehicles operating in Kashmir which constitute a major chunk of public transport here.

Secretary, Kashmir Transporters Welfare Association, Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf said  ” We have knocked at all the doors in the administration, be it Divisional Commissioner, DC or advisors to LG. Everybody assures, sympathizes but does nothing. We are facing the worst ever crisis, transporters are on the verge of starvation, yet nobody is listening to our pleas.

“It is ironic that nobody is bothered about the transporters. On one side, public transport is barred and on the other the transport department has ordered operation of SRTC fleet for ferrying intra-district passengers.

“There are 1.5 lakh workers who are directly associated with the transport sector, they include drivers, conductors and others. More than 50,000 commercial vehicles are grounded.

“Nobody is even talking about us. The government of India announced a mega Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus package, but unfortunately transporters in Kashmir haven’t got anything. Such is the situation that transporters are using their costly vehicles for selling fruits or vegetables,” Yusuf said.

He said there is a huge liability on account of insurance, taxes, bank loans accumulating on them. “How can we pay when we don’t earn anything, don’t have anything to feed our families,” he asked, adding that the transporters have felt compelled to sell their properties for their survival.