Govt presses SRTC buses into service; overcharging by cab drivers rampant; traders and transporters protest in Batamaloo
SRINAGAR: Transportation in Kashmir Valley was affected for the second consecutive due to shutdown (Chakka Jam) call given by Kashmir Welfare Transport Association (KWTA) on Tuesday.
People across the valley found themselves stranded or travelling in overloaded cabs as buses remained off the roads. The J&K Government deployed State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) buses for ferrying passengers, but the buses were too few for the commuter rush.
Abdul Hamid Dar, a resident of Kupwara had managed to reach Srinagar early in the morning in a SRTC bus. He said that he was happy to see arrangements made by government in the morning. “But I did not find those buses in the afternoon. I have been waiting for more than an hour and I just came to know that the last bus to Kupwara left Batamaloo at 3p.m,” he said. “I fear that I might have to stay the night in Srinagar. Everyone can’t afford 200 rupees on cabs,” he added.
Cab drivers used the opportunity for overcharging. A commuter, Moazum, told Kashmir Reader that cab drivers charged 30 rupees from Bemina to Jehangir Chowk in Srinagar, instead of the usual 10 rupees.
Other commuters complained about three wheeler drivers. “The amount they charged me was more than double. I could not say anything to him because it was an emergency otherwise I would not have let him rob me,” Mohmmad Sultan Wani, who travelled from Nawa Kadal in old city to Shiri Maharaja Hari Singh Hospital to see his ailing son, said.
Maryam Fazili, a mother of two kids, was charged 500 rupees from Soura to Munshi Bagh. She said that auto rickshaws refused to operate using meters or charging normal fare she paid otherwise. “My kids had to appear in a unit test at their school. When I was bargaining regarding the rates, auto rickshaw driver rudely replied ‘if you are not comfortable with the rates then don’t book an auto’,” she said.
Sheikh Asma, a student from Women’s College Srinagar, said she missed her classes because she failed to reach in time. “This is perhaps for the first time that I missed my classes,” she said. “When I did not find any transport playing on the road, I had to plead with my brother to drop me to the college.”
Transporters and traders pitched a tent inside the Batamaloo bus stand amid their ongoing standoff with the government regarding relocation to Parimpora. The protesters were addressed by various members of All Traders Coordination Committee Batamaloo.
One member said that they had a meeting with Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti. “We met with her and she asked two days from us (to address) our concerns.”
The members, however, refused to divulge any more details regarding the meeting with the Chief Minister. They, however, said that they have extended shutdown call till Sunday.
The transporters demanded the release of their association leaders. “Our leaders have been detained by police since Monday. Once they are released, we will decide further programme accordingly. Till then, we have acceded with traders coordination committee,” one of the transporter told Kashmir Reader.