Shutdown cripples transport industry in Kashmir

Shutdown cripples transport industry in Kashmir

Shutdown in J&K after abrogation of Article 370. (Photo/PTI)

The transport industry in Kashmir is going through worst crisis as thousands of commercial buses, cabs, trucks and autorickhaws remain grounded since August 5 due to restrictions and spontaneous shutdown in the Valley.

Ghulamm Mohammad Dar, a cab driver from central Ganderbal district said that he had purchased a Taveera vehicle in June after investing his lifelong savings and amount financed by Jammu and Kashmir Bank. “To my bad luck, the vehicle remains grounded for the last two months. Not only I am unable to pay the instalments to the Bank, but I have nothing left to feed my family now,” he told DH.

Dar, who was earlier working as a cab driver, made the decision to purchase his own vehicle with the hope that situation in Kashmir had improved. “Since last year, strike calls by separatists had almost vanished and tourist flow to Kashmir was increasing. My wife’s jewellery and other savings went into purchase of new cab. Where will we go now? It seems we are caught in a dark tunnel,” he rued.

In Srinagar, some drivers who were defying strike calls, had to face huge losses as their vehicles were damaged by stone pelters. Lateef Ahmad, an autorickhaw driver said after sitting idle for a month, he ultimately decided to ply his vehicle to earn some money in early September. However, only three days later he was caught by a stone-pelting mob in old city area and his vehicle was severely damaged. “I suffered at least Rs 10,000 worth damage to my vehicle. Who will compensate me? I had resumed my work only to earn two square meals for my family. It seems earning livelihood is a sin in Kashmir,” Ahmad lamented.

Abdul Rahim from south Kashmir Shopian district said dozens of truck drivers in his area are sitting idle in absence of any business. “The plucking of apple season is already at its peak, but farmers are not plucking the crop due to the prevailing situation, forcing all the truckers to stay idle at home rather than venturing for any load,” he said.

“Last year, during this season 500 to 600 trucks were leaving Kashmir to outside states daily with apples. But this year there is little business,” he said.

A senior official of J&K Bank said that 90% of commercial vehicles financed by them have failed to pay monthly installments since August. “If the prevailing situation continues, there is every likelihood that most of these loan accounts will turn into NPAs which is a bad news for the Bank,” he said.