Transporters’ strike a success, govt agrees to talk

Defer strike till Wednesday
Srinagar: Following a formal invitation from the government, the Kashmir Transporters Welfare Association (KTWA) has deferred its 3-day strike call till Wednesday. General Secretary KTWA Sheikh Muhammad Yousuf told Reader that the decision to defer the strike was taken after a formal letter from the government on Monday inviting the association members for talks.
“We have received a letter from Transport Commissioner inviting us for talks with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on Wednesday. We will attend the meeting and see whether the government accepts our demands,” Yousuf said.
“Our demands are just and legitimate. Our strike will continue if the government fails to accept our demands,” he said.
Normal life was badly affected in Kashmir on Monday due to the strike called by KTWA against the recent hike in taxes on passenger vehicles. All commercial vehicles, including buses, mini buses, taxis and auto rickshaws, were off roads causing inconvenience to commuters. Students and office-goers were seen walking to their destinations or waiting on roads trying to get a lift from private vehicles.
Thin attendance was observed in private and government institutions, while markets and streets were free of congestion.
“I haven’t sold a piece since morning,” said Javed Ahmad, a street vendor of readymade garments at Residency Road.
A group of Kashmir University students said that they missed their university exams scheduled for Monday due to non-availability of public transport.
Public transport operators called for a 72-hour strike from Monday to press for a rollback of “unjustifiable” orders issued by the government. The call was supported by the Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) and Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI).
General Manager of JK State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) Mushtaq Ahmad Chadha said that nearly 128 SRTC buses were operating on city and inter-district routes. “In Srinagar city, 68 vehicles were plying since early morning while the remaining ones were ferrying passengers, including students and employees, to other districts of the Valley,” Chadha said.
General Secretary of KTWA Sheikh Muhammad Yousuf told Kashmir Reader that the strike call was given to push for various demands that include withdrawal of yearly passenger welfare fund and rollback of hike in fitness fees as well as in fees for renewal of vehicle documents.
He said that the transport community went through immense hardships due to last year’s uprising. “Rather than providing some sort of relief to the transport community, the government seems to have resorted to vengeance. How could we have driven our vehicles when even a pedestrian was in fear of public anger,” he said.
Yousuf said that the decision to hike vehicle fitness fees from Rs 400 to Rs 2,000 and an additional annual tax in the name of passenger welfare fund was “unjustifiable”.
“We are in no position to pay that hefty amount. We will resist it by every means. Apart from that, the government has also heavily hiked the costs for renewal of transport documents and other penalties,” Yousuf said, adding, “If the government fails to meet our demands, the strike would be extended for an indefinite period.”
Transporters have also called for immediate rollback of an order calling for installation of speed governor in all commercial vehicles. They have also demanded an upward revision in passenger fare for all commercial vehicles given the recent hike in oil prices.