Good Riddance Tongas! 

Malik Javaid

THE recent significant decision taken by the Sopore administration regarding the banning of tongas from plying on the streets of Sopore town can be termed as a better-late-than-never decision. The decision has come at a time when the administration seems to have geared up to clear the  grown up mess in the form of ever increasing encroachers like cart vendors, vegetable hawkers and now archaic horse driven carriages(Tongas) from municipal areas in order to give new makeover to the apple town — often abandoned and neglected by the past regimes due to reasons  better known to people at the helm of affairs.

Sopore is often affiliated with the cliché of 3R’s, Ropaye (money) Rub (slush) and Reade (horse cart). Without bragging about the first two R’s, I’m here to debate the relevance of horse carts (tongas and Raedhas) in contemporary times. Why the ban on tongas needs to be applauded instead of opposed by denizens of Sopore is the premise of my argument.

Being someone who has studied and worked in Sopore for some time, I have developed a good rapport with some saner voices from Sopore and I often tend to discuss the issues, which are ailing the social set-up of Sopore with them. The recent ban on tongas came like a bolt from blue for many. In response to this ban, many of my all weather friends erupted like active volcano to vent their anger on social media platforms against this ban, terming it as cultural assault on chequered history of Sopore, which could directly lead to snatching of source of livelihood to 200 families, give or take 10 ,who are currently running their households on it.

With due respect to cultural sentiments of my Sopore friends, I will try to play the role of devil’s advocate here, I will be opposing arguments of my friends on genuine grounds in support of this ban just for the sake of further productive argument on this ban.  Personally, I am surprised by the erratic behaviour of many folks, the same people who used to cry foul for being neglected by erstwhile governments are today trying to be a hurdle in paving the way for future development of Sopore by opposing this ban― more out of emotions than out of rational conviction. If we think sensibly, it is not only the tonga wallas who have been at the receiving end of this administrative order but many cart retailers and vegetable vendors, who have been illegally occupying roads for decades. They have now been forced to vacate illegal encroachment of roads to facilitate the smooth movement of traffic on congested roads.

No doubt, Tonga is more than a horse cart for soporains as it has become a part of their cultural folklore and many well-off families still prefer to travel short distance destinations by tongas in the times when we are seeing the boom of modern fuel cars. Tonga has become cynosure in cramped and crowded streets of Sopore, meandering around narrow alleys of Sopore regularly. But one must remember, the law of nature, the only permanent thing in this world is change and one can’t resist change.

Next, one can’t deny the fact that everything loses its shine and sheen with time, the same thing has happened with these horse driven carriages. They can’t keep pace with modern vehicles driven on fuel, who are outpacing this traditional ride in being more time effective and comfortable for travel purposes. In the west, they are planning to replace conventional vehicles being run on petrol and diesel with eco-friendly electrical vehicles, but we are doing cart before the horse here by trying to justify the relevance of tangas in the 21st century. So, tongas are not battling with administration for survival, in reality they are fighting with changed time for survival.

Now coming to the cultural aspect. How is it cultural assault if cons of tangas outweigh it’s pros? Ask any pedestrians walking on streets or person driving his/her vehicle in Sopore, how much inconvenience tongas cause in smooth flow of traffic, reply will be on these lines: they don’t follow any traffic rules, stopping in the middle of the road is normal for them and with no permanent parking space(adaa) available for them these tangas can be seen parked at random places on road. Just a few months back, while driving in Sopore, I dared to ask a tonga wallah about his wrong parking on road, his response was beyond my expectations. Instead of listening and acting on my gentle request, he pounced upon me with a barrage of cuss words  and irony is that  he didn’t spare my vehicle too  by calling it  a “Loana Gaeed”/ (Car bought on finance).

Yet another issue is the foul-smelling excreta of horses found on roads and pavements, it’s simply unacceptable in these times when we are already fighting with deadly COVID19, we can’t afford to be victims of communicable disease as poor hygiene is considered precursor for these diseases. Regarding rehabilitation of these cart drivers, authorities already have plans in mind. They will be provided alternate sources of employment in the form of auto rickshaws, that will simply add value to their income and status. So, for the larger good of Sopore town we have to swallow this bitter pill of ban. I am sure this step of administration will prove to be a game changer for development of Sopore.

Views expressed in the article are author’s own and do not necessarily represent the editorial stance of Kashmir Observer 

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