Transporters call 50% occupancy rule an injustice as overcrowded cabs, buses continue to ply in Kashmir

While in main city Srinagar, the traffic police did crack down on the erring vehicles, those in peripheries went off the hook in absence of the required checks. [Aman Farooq for Greater Kashmir]

Amid a surge in COVID-19 infections in Kashmir, private transporters in Kashmir are operating at the normal full capacity in violation of government directive to reduce the seat occupancy to half thereby putting lives at risk.

The transporters cited “loss of livelihood” by the 50 percent occupancy and urged authorities to factor in their predicament while issuing such orders.

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha while extending night curfew to the urban areas of all 20 J&K districts on Tuesday, also issued directions to the respective district administrations to ensure only 50 percent occupancy in the public transport vehicles to ensure social distancing among passengers to contain disease spread.

However, on ground, the drivers of the public transport vehicles, nowadays dominated by cabs, were seen operating at the normal full capacity throwing caution to the winds within hours after the government order.

Name any route in Kashmir, the cab drivers on Wednesday were seen crowding passengers as usual in violation of orders.

The Srinagar-Chadoora route is one such route where the drivers did not pay heed to the SOPs regarding social distancing posing a risk of infection among passengers.

Likewise, the Jehangir Chowk-Rangreth route, Jehangir Chowk-Hyderpora-Humhama routes too witnessed cabs operating at their full capacity.

While in main city Srinagar, the traffic police did crack down on the erring vehicles, those in peripheries went off the hook in absence of the required checks.

After the police action on the erring cabs, the drivers plying on the Jehangir Chowk-Rangreth route claimed they had halted the service in protest even as the cabs were seen plying at intervals.

The drivers alleged the government directive asking for only 50 percent seat occupancy in the cabs was an “injustice” with them as it amounted to depriving them of half of the livelihood.

They demanded a hike in the passenger fare in case they were to reduce the seat capacity to half.

“How will the half seat occupancy for the same fare suffice our needs when 90% of the earned amount would be spent in filling diesel?” Showkat Ahmad, a driver asked.

Some drivers demanded a government allowance instead of a hike in passenger fare, they said, will overburden the common masses.

Pertinently, transporters in Jammu division are currently on strike against the government order saying they had suffered too much due to the earlier lockdowns.