Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir government on Tuesday seized the Batamaloo General Bus Stand following the J&K High Court’s directing the vice-chairman of the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) last month to ensure the land was sealed as the bus stand has been relocated to Parimpora. Acting upon the order, SDA officials arrived at the bus stand along with police and paramilitary forces on Monday afternoon and seized the land by digging up all entry and exit points with bulldozers.
Sheikh Mohmmad Yousf, the general secretary of the Kashmir Welfare Transporters Association, told Kashmir Reader that the Station House Officer of the Batamaloo Police Station had asked transporters to report to the concerned police station as the Inspector General (IG) of Police (Kashmir) had called for a meeting with them, aimed at breaking the deadlock they were in with the government authorities regarding the relocation of the bus stand to Parimpora truck yard.
“When we reached the police station, officials there asked us to surrender our mobile phones under the excuse that no one is allowed to meet the IG while carrying a cell phone,” Yousf said, adding, “After some time, we were surprised to see that there was no IG but the Superintendent of Police (SP), South-Srinagar. He insisted that we take out our buses from the stand, but we resisted, saying we could not do so unless a proper space was allotted to us that could accommodate a fleet of 8,000 vehicles.”
Yousf said that the SP then told transporters to “chill inside the police station” for some time. “In the meantime, SDA and Srinagar Municipal Corporation officials along with police and paramilitary went to the bus stand and dug pits in order to seize it. As a result, maximum buses remain stuck inside it,” he said. Mushtaq Ahmad Lissa, chairman Western Bus Stand, said that the land available at Parimpora is not worth being called a general bus stand as it can only accommodate 80 buses, 80 mini buses, 80 cabs and 40 autos. “The first order issued by the government had mentioned that only a set number of vehicles was to be relocated, but within two days, another order was issued that said the entire fleet should be relocated,” he said.
Lissa said that he fails to understand where the transporters should park the rest of their vehicles in such circumstances. “This bus stand had more than 100 kanals of land, while the one in Parimpora has only 57 kanals, out of which seven to eight kanals have been occupied by parapets constructed between the tracks,” he said.
He added that if the government has restricted buses from entering Batamaloo, then it should also stop movement of cabs as the bus restriction will ruin their business. “We have seen what happened to KMD bus stand after it was shifted to Pantha Chowk; they had 720 buses earlier and now they have only 230 buses,” he said. Meanwhile Aijaz Shahdhar, the chief spokesperson of the traders association, told Kashmir Reader that relocation of the bus stand will affect the livelihood of traders that operate in the vicinity of the Batamaloo bus stand. “Everyone will be affected from shop owners to pushcart owners. What will we feed our families when we have to adjust huge amount of loans to banks and dealers. We request the government to not relocate the bus stand because it is a matter of thousands of people who are dependent on it,” he said.