Jammu transporters go on strike over capping of seating to 50% capacity
Jammu: Private transporters in Jammu went on an indefinite strike on Wednesday to protest a government order capping the seating capacity to 50 percent in public transport vehicles in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The new guidelines, which also include restrictions on opening of shops at market places and malls as part of steps to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection amid a recent spike, came into effect on Wednesday morning.
Protesting against the order, the transporters launched a strike to press for hiking of fares.
While most private buses, mini-buses and cab operators suspended work in response to the strike call given by the J&K Transporters Welfare Forum (TWF), three-wheelers were seen playing normally, bringing some relief to commuters.
“The government has taken a decision without consulting us. It is not feasible for transporters to ply their vehicles with 50 percent passengers on board. The fuel prices are skyrocketing and the transporters were the hardest hit since the outbreak of the pandemic,” TWF president T S Wazir said.
Secretary Disaster Management, Relief, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Department, Simrandeep Singh said the government has taken note of the strike and will look into their issue.
“They are of the opinion that it is not viable for them to ply their vehicles. They are concerned about the fare and have gone on a strike. The transport department will look into it and see what consideration they can be given so that they are back (on the roads),” Singh told reporters here.
However, he said police personnel have been asked to ensure strict adherence to the government order with regard to the seating capacity in the passenger vehicles.
“The violators including drivers would be fined and also booked under Disaster Management Act,” Singh said.
The government, in the meanwhile, pressed State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) buses on different routes to facilitate commuters, but the non-availability of the public transport caused much inconvenience.
Policemen were also seen patrolling main markets in the city to enforce the government order to keep 50 percent of the shops closed.
Among the new COVID-19 control measures announced on Tuesday, the government imposed a night curfew in municipal and urban local body limits of all 20 districts in the union territory.
It also said that public transport (matadors/mini-buses/buses) shall be permitted to ply only at 50 percent of its authorised seating capacity, and only half of the shops in market complexes, bazaars and malls within the municipal or urban local body limits shall be opened on an alternate basis through a rotation system.
In Kashmir, it’s business as usual with overcrowded buses, cabs
Srinagar: Brazenly violating the government directive to reduce the seat occupancy to half, private transporters in Kashmir on Wednesday continued operating at the full, and even more-than-full capacity.
They said that operating at 50 percent capacity is not economically viable option for them. They also claimed that they have suffered immense losses since August 2019 – first on account of the months-long shutdown that followed the abrogation of Article 370, and then government-sponsored shutdown with the COVID outbreak in March last year – and on both occasions government did practically nothing about their financial hardships.
Pertinently, Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha while extending night curfew to the urban areas of all 20 J&K districts on Tuesday, has also issued directions to the respective district administrations to ensure only 50 percent occupancy in the public transport vehicles to ensure social distancing among passengers to contain disease spread.
However, on ground, the drivers of the public transport vehicles, particularly the minibuses and cabs, were seen operating at the normal full capacity throwing caution to the winds. Overloading – carrying passengers in access of the seating capacity — was also continuing as usual in most of the city routes.
Interestingly, the police, which was very prompt in implementing the RTO’s controversial circular on non-J&K registered vehicles and would listen to no reason or logic on it, did nothing to implement COVID guidelines vis-à-vis the public transport.
Barring a few paces in the city where some cops were seen arguing with transporters, buses and cabs were plying as usual, packed to the full.