Increase In Taxes: Daily Life Hit as Public Transport Halts In Valley

Srinagar: The daily life in Kashmir valley was adversely hit on Monday as public transport operators suspended theirservices against several government decisions taken viz-a-viz transport sector.

Buses, mini-buses, sumos, cabs and auto-rickshaws remianed completely off the roads in Srinagar and other districts across the Valley forcing commuters to walk towards their destinations. Only private cars were seen plying on the roads.

However, the transport operators in Jammu continued their services today.

Even though shops and business establishments were open in civil lines, including Lal Chowk, the nerve centre of the summer capital, very less number of people could be seen in the markets as public transport stayed off the road. However, private vehicles were plying on all roads.

The transporters had called for a 72-hour strike to press for their demands including withdrawal of yearly passenger welfare fund and rollback of hike in fitness and other fees for renewal of documents.

Speaking to the Kashmir Observer, a representative of Kashmir Transporters Welfare Association – an amalgam of all transporters in Valley – Muhammad Yousuf said detailed the government decisions regarding the transport sector. He, however, termed them “anti-transporters”.

“A transporter was supposed to pay Passenger Welfare Fund (PWF) at the time of registration but now government has ordered us to pay it annually,” Yousuf said, “similary, the fitness fee for mini-buses has been increased from Rs 400 to Rs 1000 and in case of any delay, Rs 50 will be additional fine.”

Further, Yousuf added, “government has increased the annual Passenger Tax almost by 300 percent.” “Mini-buses owners used to pay Rs 600 annually and sumo owners were supposed to pay Rs 500 annually but now the government has asked us to pay Rs 2000 annually as passenger tax.”

Yousuf said that the orders have been issued after the transport was completely shut for four months of uprising.

“To add to this,” he said, “ we have been asked to install ‘Speed Governor’ and GPS in our vehicles.”

The transporters association reprenetative said that the “anti-transporter” orders were issued despite the fact that “transporters’ income runs the state”.

On the issue as why their Jammu counterparts has deferred the strike, he replied, “Cheif secretary had called Jammu transporters association for a meetin g on Sunday itself but we (Kashmiris) were completely ignored.”

“It was today at 2 PM that the regional RTO called us wherein meeting with chief minister was fixed on January 25 at 11 AM,” he informed.

Due to the strike, a large number of students, employees and others were seen urging the private transporters to ferry them while large number of commuters were seen walking by foot to reach to their destinations.

Muhammad Rizwan, a student said, “due to the no public transport on roads, I walked at least 9 kilometer by foot to reach my tuition point at Parraypora. There is no public transport on roads today thereby resulted in immense hardships to the commuters.”

Ali Muhammad, one of the commuters whose father was ill said, “My father’s health got deteriorating today I went outside to call an auto-rickshaw so that we can bring him to hospital but unfortunately all the transporters are on strike thereby I face severe inconvenience to take my father to the hospital for treatment.”

Attendance in government offices, private offices, banks and businesses too remained thin.

Meanwhile, Hurriyat Conference (M) chief, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, termed the strike called by transporters as “just”.

“Their demands were fair and reasonable which ought to be accepted,” he said.

Mirwaiz called for protection of the rights of thousands of Kashmiris involved in this industry and cautioned against ‘victimizing’ them “as taxing them so heavily was equivalent to snatching their bread and butter, which was highly condemnable”.

KU Students Miss Exams

After “chaka-jam” by public transporters in Kashmir on Monday, scores of Kashmir University students said that they missed their university exams scheduled for today.

“We missed our quantitative techniques paper today as we couldn’t reach the center due to non-availability of transport,” a group of students said.

This was despite the fact that the students had asked the KU authorities to postpone the examinations owing to bad weather conditions and transporters’ strike.

Strike ‘Deffered’ After CM Intervenes

Following the meeting call from the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti, the Valley transporters on Monday deferred their strike till Jan 25.

Secretary Geberal of Kashmir Transporters Welfare Association (KTWA), Muhammad Yousuf told the Kashmir Observer, “the association members were called for a meeting by Kashmir Regional Transport Office (RTO) in which the Chief Minister has called us for a meeting on 25th of this month at 11:00 am in Jammu.”

“After the meeting with RTO, we called a meeting in which all the federation members were present during which it was unanimously decided to defer the strike till January 25. The next course of action will be conveyed after meeting with the CM,” he said.

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