Srinagar- Nearly 24 percent of the population in Jammu and Kashmir own a car—highest in North India, the National Family Health Survey (NFHS) for 2019-21 has revealed.
Most of these private cars have been financed by different banks across the J&K, as per an official from Regional Transport Officer, Kashmir.
“Over 60 percent of private cars are financed by banks, many have cleared the loans,” said the official, wishing not to be named as he wasn’t authorised to speak to the media.
As per the NFHS report, Jammu and Kashmir ranks third in India having the highest population with a car. Goa tops this list with 45.2 percent followed by Kerala at 24.2 percent.
The report further reveals that in Punjab 21.9 percent own private vehicles, while in Delhi and Haryana 19.4 and 15.3 percent population own personal cars.
An official from Jammu and Kashmir Bank said that the car loan cases have increased from the last ten years.
“The car business has indeed flourished in the Kashmir Valley. There is not a single day when we don’t provide car loans,” said the official.
He further said that most popular cars in demand range from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 6 lakh.
Assistant Regional Transport Officer (ARTO) Srinagar Arif Parvez told Kashmir Observer Srinagar registered over 9000 cars in 2021. In 2020 the number of private cars registered was only 6000.
The official said that the commercial and private vehicle numbers in J&K had increased to 24 lakh in 2022 from 12 lakh in 2014-15.
The official added that the number of two-wheelers have also increased manifold since the last five years.
The increasing number of vehicles have led to a spike in accidents across J&K.
An official from the traffic department noted that the banks have made it easy for people to get personal cars.
“It is true that the roads are the same and the traffic has increased but who is responsible for it? Any one can get a car loan from the bank,” the official said, wishing not to be named.
Earlier, Chief Engineer, R&B, Rafiq Ahmad Rafiq told Kashmir Observer that the capacity of the roads in the city can’t accommodate the current volume of traffic.
The people complain that the roads in the city remain the same as they were five decades ago while the traffic volume has increased manifold. This often leads to a chaotic situation on the roads affecting the smooth commuting and taking toll on the time of people.
Status symbol or a necessity
It’s both in the case of Kashmir at least. Typically, people tend to buy a car before they buy a house, as a house is a bigger, more serious expense. Over 76 percent households in Jammu and Kashmir have their own houses, according to the NFHS survey. So with that sense of belonging the car is the next natural choice. More so when Kashmir lacks a robust public transport system.
“Lack of public transport, rather absence of it after dusk, is a major factor pushing people in J&K to go for personal vehicles”, tweeted a senior editor after the survey was out.
Senior journalist, Altaf Hussain argues that Kashmir needs wider roads and the government should make public transport attractive for commuters in order to arrest the trend.
“We need wider roads. We need flyovers. We need to make public transport attractive for commuters. And we need better traffic management. It’s not a tall order, provided you have a responsive and performing govt,” he commented on twitter.
Like Altaf former SSP, Riyaz Bedar attributes the increase in the number of private cars to a “very bad public transport policy” besides very liberal bank financing options. Besides, he says, “We are a consumer state only unlike Maharashtra”.
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