Fulfil our demands or we’ll go on indefinite strike: KTWA
The transporters in Kashmir on Wednesday observed strike to demand revoking of government order calling for installing hi-tech systems including vehicle location tracking devices, panic buttons and paying of toll tax at Srinagar-Jammu highway.
The public transport including buses, mini-buses, trucks, load carriers, oil tankers, cabs, taxis, auto rickshaws, etc were off from the roads today as transporters went off strike.
The strike was called by Kashmir Transporters Welfare Association (KTWA) against government circular directing them to install panic buttons and imposition of tax on the highway.
The commuters across the Valley faced immense hardships as buses and mini-buses remained off the roads.
“I have to reach Shopian in south Kashmir but no public transport is available anywhere. I am now worried how I will reach my place,” said Mohammad Aabid Wani, a student.
Another commuter, Jalal-ud-Din Tass of Kupwara district, said he has to board a Sumo or Tavera to reach home.
“The government should either have accepted the transporters demands or made alternative arrangements for commuters,” he said.
Similarly patients and their attendants at SMHS and SKIMS hospitals also found it difficult to go to their places.
Mohammad Muneeb, an attendant of patient at SKIMS Soura told Rising Kashmir that in absence of public transport, people were forced to pay extra money to hire private cars.
To avoid inconvenience to commuters, the government had deployed State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) buses for ferrying passengers. However, the buses could not cater to the commuters rush.
“There are only a few buses and they too were overcrowded by passengers. The government should have made alternate arrangements,” said Adil Ahmad, a student at Batamaloo.
“Many of our classmates were not able to reach the center as they had to cover long distance to reach the tuition center,” he said.
General Secretary, KTWT, Sheikh Muhammad Yusuf, told Rising Kashmir that government should revoke the circular.
“We do not have any issues with the online system but transport department is not fully prepared for that. In online system, there are several issues in permit renewal, renewal of all documents of commercial vehicles. There is a dearth of staff in transport department which is problematic for the smooth functioning of the transport sector in the state,” he said.
Yusuf said transport sector in Kashmir have been suffering huge losses and now administration wants them to install costly hi-tech gadgets.
Taking a dig at government, he said no control room has been set up to monitor these things. “They don’t have tracing option, they are just irritating us apart from imposing exorbitant one-way toll charges”.
“We are suffering badly. Authorities have fixed a toll of Rs 285 for every trip of a bus. It means we have to pay over Rs 500 if buses carry two trips to Anantnag in a single day. This is injustice with us," he said.
Yusuf said if government does not accept their genuine demands, they would go for an indefinite strike.
Transport Commissioner, S P Vaid said the installation of panic button and online system is an order from the Supreme Court and all states have to follow these guidelines.
“These guidelines are for benefit of people as well as transporters. We have to tie up with BSNL. Once transporters install hi-tech buttons, all monitoring process will be done through the mobile app. They don’t have to build any separate control room for this process,” he said.
On imposing of toll tax, Vaid said, “It is upto Finance Department and we do not have any mandate do away with it”.