Late Arrivals, Desperate Lifts and the ‘Nexus’ — Bumpy Ride in Kashmir

“I was forced to bundle 13 passengers in my Sumo lately and most of them were women. Nobody complained about it as none of them had any choice.”

 By Umer Ahmad 

DAILY commuting in Srinagar has become a slog and shame for Fayaz Ahmad being rebuked for reporting late in office these days.

He faces the regular humiliation from his superiors despite leaving home early.

After arriving on time at Pantha Chowk, this Anantnag resident struggles to keep pace with his daily movement.

“Since Sumo cabs have been barred from entering the city, I’m forced to board the slow available transport,” he said. “And it proves a daily bumpy ride for me.”

Frustrated over the existing traffic scenario, another commuter from north Kashmir said that he has to regularly wait at Parimpora Chowk to find another transport to enter the summer capital.

“If the government wanted to streamline traffic in Srinagar, they should’ve provided alternate to public,” Gowher Ahmad, a resident of Pattan, said. “Just banning entry of Sumos into Srinagar won’t resolve the issue, they’ve to think about people as well.”

Many passengers told Kashmir Observer that they’ve been facing hassles from the last three months now when cabs from different routes were stopped at various entry points — Nowgam, Parimpora, Hyderpora and Pantha Chowk.

The stringent manning and drop-gates make the availability of public transport “scarce” and due to which the passengers including students and patients have to wait for hours to find a ride.

“Entering Srinagar in Sumo has become a penalised act,” said Nazir Ahmad, a sumo driver from south Kashmir.

“I was lately fined Rs 2000 for my regular ride in the city. I now tread with caution. We know people face issues in finding transport to commute, but we too are helpless. While those blocking roads and sideways with their personal cars go scot-free, we poor souls are facing the music for the heck of it.”

However, Muzaffer Shah, Senior Superintendent of Traffic Police, said his department is only implementing the 2017 J&K High Court order barring Tata Sumos and taxis coming from the south and north Kashmir beyond the Pantha Chowk and Parimpora bus stands.

“Srinagar has more vehicles than its carrying capacity and the illegal Sumo stands were creating a traffic mess,” SSP Shah said.

“We’re only streamlining the traffic in Srinagar. There was a nexus at play where Sumos from different districts were given patronage and allowed to create a traffic mess inside the city. I’ve talked to all the Sumo stands associations all over the valley and they assured full support to my decision.”

Even as the SSP said that the traffic department has enough 407 Matador vehicles available to carry commuters inside Srinagar, the passengers from south and north Kashmir decry the slow drive.

“Since this Sumo ban, it takes hours to reach Srinagar now,” said Sheikh Reyaz, a resident of Khrew. “The lack of alternate mode of swift transport is creating issues for us.”

As the roads beyond Pantha Chowk and Parimpora have become ‘no-go zone’ for the cab drivers, some of them detail the desperate travel scenario created by the Sumo sanction.

“I lately entered Srinagar and saw some 13 people waiting for the lift at the deserted stand,” said Bashir Ahmad, a Sumo driver,

“Most of them were women and my cab was the only vehicle for that route. I was forced to bundle them all into Sumo. You can imagine the scene where 13 anxious people are jostling for the space meant for 9 passengers only. But nobody complained about it as none of them had any choice.”

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