Transport sector in dire straits, over 1.5 lakh workers in financial crisis

Rs 7000 crore losses incurred in 3 years since 2019
Transport sector in dire straits, over 1.5 lakh workers in financial crisis
GK File Photo

Srinagar, June 8: Covid-19 induced lockdown for the second year in a row has hit the beleaguered transport sector of Kashmir hard, pushing 1.5 lakh workers associated with this segment of economy in deep financial distress.

Since March 2020 Kashmir’s transporters are facing double whammy of lockdowns and whenever the restrictions are eased the government asks them to operate at 50 percent seat occupancy which according to them is burdening them with operational losses.

As per the preliminary estimate done by the transporters in Kashmir division, in the last three years which include a period when Kashmir was under restrictions following abrogation of Article 370, transporters have incurred losses of Rs 7000 crore.

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

As per preliminary estimates there are around 60,000 commercial vehicles operating in Kashmir which constitute a major chunk of public transport here.

“It is a distressing situation for our community. I have exhausted all my savings. There are just a few hundred bucks left, I don’t know how I would feed my family. I used to labor hard to feed my family and live respectably, if there is no work my family will have to sleep without food,” said Ajaz Ahmad, a driver who used to operate vehicles owned by a transporter.

Secretary, Kashmir Transporters Welfare Association, Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf said that the transport sector has been facing onslaught of the situation in Kashmir from last three decades.

“There are 1.5 lakh workers who are directly associated with the transport sector, they include drivers, conductors and others. More than 60,000 commercial vehicles have been non-operational for most part of last three years. Now as the government has issued unlocking guidelines it has announced that public transport will be allowed to ply with only 50 percent seat occupancy.”

“This has further aggravated our miseries, from three years we are paying all taxes, idle insurance premiums without earning anything, now we have to operate with half occupancy which means we have to run in losses,” he said adding that “government is insensitive towards the miseries of transporters. If these babus who issue these inhumane orders will be asked to work on 50 percent salary, the next day they will be on roads protesting.”

He said that the government should immediately announce a revival package for the transport sector as it is the worst hit in the last three decades and continues to suffer.

“Though we have been assured time and again, but on ground nothing has been done to help poor transporters who continue to suffer silently as nobody pays any heed to our miseries,” Yusuf lamented.

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