Covid lockdown leaves private transport operators in dire straits

Covid lockdown leaves private transport operators in dire straits

Srinagar: Private operators of passenger vehicle services, on which much of the public transport in Kashmir depends, say they are finding it difficult to even earn two square meals for their families because of the government’s regulations on physical distancing among passengers to prevent the spread of Covid.

General Secretary of the Kashmir Transporters’ Welfare Association (KTWA) Sheikh Mohammad Yousuf told Kashmir Reader that the government has been consistently neglecting private transporters amid the Covid pandemic.

He said the government should provide compensation to private operators who have suffered huge losses during the pandemic.

“Our commercial activities were badly hit following the lockdown imposed after abrogation of Article 370 and then the coronavirus lockdown,” he said.

Yousuf said that drivers and conductors of mini-buses, tourist cabs, passenger jeeps, tempos, and auto-rickshaws have been victims of constant disruptions in normal life in Kashmir.

“There are about 50,000 commercial vehicles and as many people associated with the public transport industry. All of them are struggling to continue their operations,” he said.

He said that vehicle owners should be compensated as it was the government that had imposed the lockdown. He said drivers and conductors should be provided financial assistance immediately.

“Although we are operating our vehicles on roads, but that is hardly enough to provide for our needs. We are facing many hardships,” said Aijaz Ahmad, a driver.

“I was not poor but the circumstances have made me poor. People around me do not believe that I am struggling for two meals,” he said.

As per the official data, there are 6,000 mini buses in Kashmir, 1,600 of them in Srinagar. Apart from them, there are 30,000 maxi cabs and 12,000 auto rickshaws.

Bashir Ahmad, who owns three mini buses, told Kashmir Reader that before the lockdown he earned a handsome amount of money, but now he cannot even earn enough to pay money for his daughter’s marriage.

“My daughter is going to get married next month but I am struggling for money,” he said.

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