Srinagar: At a time when official records suggest a whopping increase of over 160 percent in the number of vehicles in Kashmir over the past decade, Delhi-registered vehicles are selling like hot cakes in the state, giving departments curbing traffic increase a tough time besides increasing pollution levels.
Dealers here while talking to Kashmir Reader claimed that on an average, a dealer sells nearly 150 vehicles in a year in Kashmir.
“Earlier, there was a huge demand for Delhi registered vehicles in Kashmir, and on an average a dealer would make a profit of Rs 30,000 to Rs 50,000 on each vehicle,” said Omar Rafiq, a car dealer at Srinagar’s commercial hub Batamaloo.
He added that the margin is lowered with more and more people entering the trade with each passing day. “People go to Delhi on their own and purchase pre-owned vehicles from there.”
Dealers say that many of the vehicles do come cheap from Delhi as they are pushed out for not conforming to the city’s pollution norms.
However, many locals say that this trend must be stopped as it would add to pollution in the Valley.
Muhammad Shabiudin, a local, said “people’s urge to lay hands on a vehicle should not be at the cost of their and other’s health”. He wished the government to initiate action and see to it that “only those vehicles are allowed for sale in Kashmir that adhere to set emission norms”.
The second-hand car market is not without its attendant risks. Dealers say that people who buy cars from Delhi often feel cheated for they, many a times, “find that their new purchase has had its odometer altered”.
“The common man doesn’t have a proper understanding of the automobile mechanism, and tampering with the odometer is common to give an impression that the vehicle has not run for long,” said Shabiudin.
Major dealers in Srinagar claim that on an average a dealer sells 10 cars a month, which, according to experts, is throwing a major challenge to the traffic department in curbing vehicular movement as well as to the roads and buildings (R&B) department, forced by the traffic volume to expand the roads in a hasty manner.
“The paper work is also facilitated by the brokers, who do offer ownership rights for the buyer,” says Gulzar Ahmad, a car dealer at Baba Demb.
“In Kashmir, having a car is still a luxury for most of the population”, Gulzar said adding that the most preferred choice here is the Maruti Suzuki Swift VDI, Maruti Suzuki Wagon R, Maruti Suzuki Alto K10 and Ford Figo.
He noted that preferences and tastes were changing with growing incomes and “customers’ aspirations too are changing”. “There is good demand now for SUVs in Kashmir, however, the Kashmir car market does not as yet favour diesel-run cars,” Ahmad said.
“60 percent of cars sold in Kashmir run on petrol, and there is very less demand for diesel vehicles here because of their jittery starting in winters.”
Delhi is India’s largest car market. As per data from Delhi’s transport office, there were a total of 31,72,842 registered cars in the city in 2017 and a total of 66,48,730 two-wheelers. After Delhi, Kashmiris’ second preference for car purchase is Haryana and Punjab.