Commercial transporters enforced a complete strike across Jammu and Kashmir Wednesday, severely affecting life in all three regions of the state.
The transport operators went on a ‘Chaka Jam’ to protest against the recent imposition of toll tax along the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, difficulties in securing fitness certificates for their vehicles and government orders asking them to install expensive security gadgets.
Buses, mini-buses, Tata Sumos and Auto Rickshwas remained off the roads causing inconvenience to commuters, many of whom were seen walking to reach their destinations.
The strike also resulted in very thin attendance at offices and educational institutions.
“I had to attend a marriage ceremony but couldn’t find an auto-rickshaw to travel,” said Ghulam Rasool of Bagh-e-Mehtab.
Similarly, students and office goers said they either reached their destinations very late or in many cases were forced to stay back home.
Transporters said the authorities asking them to install vehicle tracking system devices in order to secure the fitness certificates was “unjustified”.
The transporters are also agitating against the toll levied on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway saying the high tax was proving a huge burden for them.
Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf, general secretary of Kashmir Transporters Welfare Association told Greater Kashmir that transporters have given an ultimatum of five days to the governor’s administration for fulfill their demands.
“We will launch an indefinite chakka jam strike if our demands are not fulfilled. Not providing us the fitness certificate just because we are resisting installing the hi-tech devices, panic buttons and GPS is unfair. How can we spend Rs 20,000 to fix these devices after suffering huge losses since 2014 floods,” Yusuf said.
The umbrella body of the transporters also held a demonstration at Pratap Park and shouted slogans to highlight their trouble.
Several transporters who were trying to enforce the chakka jam strike were detained by police along with their vehicles at Bemina and Pantha Chowk but were released later, officials said.
The strike had complete impact as even movement of the inter-district public transport was badly affected.
“I travel from Srinagar to Sumbal every day but found it very difficult today due to the strike,” said Sakeena, a schoolteacher.
In spite of the statewide strike, Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) failed to operate its fleet of buses to provide relief to commuters.
On most of the important routes within the city and inter-district routes, no state government owned public transport was seen plying.
However, managing director, JKSRTC, Bilal Ahmad Bhat said on some routes in the city buses were pressed into services but had to be withdrawn soon after “miscreants who were imposing the chakka jam” damaged windowpanes of some of these buses.
“Windowpanes of almost 2-3 brand new buses have been broken. One such incident took place on the Qamarwari route due to which we couldn’t operate buses for rest of the day,” said Bhat.
The scenario on Wednesday was the same in Jammu too, affecting normal life.
Commercial vehicles including buses, mini-buses, trucks, load carriers, oil tankers, tempo travellers, sumos, taxis and auto-rikshaws remained off the roads.
The protesting transporters said their representative bodies in Ladakh also joined the strike.
The members of Transport Union damaged several windowpanes of commercial vehicles at Bikram Chowk for not following the strike call given by All Transporter Union.
Some commercial vehicles were seen plying on roads in Jammu city, but came under attack from union members enforcing the strike.
“We are seeking an appointment from Governor from past two months,” said Tirlochan Singh Wazir, Chairman All J&K Transport Welfare Association, the organization spearheading the agitation.
“Government is not serious and keeps ignoring the genuine issues of people engaged with transport trade,” Wazir said, adding, no fare revision was affected since two years but the government was mounting burden on them by asking to install high security number plates and speed governors on commercial vehicles.
“We are worst sufferers of government’s policies and people who invest lot in the trader are facing loss, due to state sponsored harassment.”
The transporters say they will continue the strike indefinitely if the government did not meet their demands.
Meanwhile, Vaishno Devi pilgrims were also stranded with no commercial vehicles plying on Wednesday.
However, SRTC deployed some buses on popular routes but that was way inadequate