They are the people who ferry other people and goods from one town to another. Or for that matter transport people from one part of the city to another part of the city. They are the transporters. And they are in bad financial health right now. In the times of global pandemic and the subsequent lock-down in Jammu and Kashmir these transporters are finding it hard to make two ends meet.
Let us start with the people we call the ” sumo waalas’. These drivers brought about a revolution in the inter-district transport in late 90s and the journey from front-line districts of Kashmir to the capital was reduced from the earlier 5-6 hours to a mere 2-3 hours. People in the neighbouring districts of Srinagar found it easy to do a to and from from their village to the capital city. They have done a great service to our valley. Unfortunately, almost all of them have to buy a new car as the older one wears out soon owing to constant drive distances of 200 to 300 kilometres per day. Most of them buy new vehicles on loan.
It was all going well and most of them had recovered from the financial losses incurred due to the violent situation in 2016. However, the abrogation of the Article 370 and the subsequent lock-down brought the entire transport sector in doldrums. The vehicles just did not ply post August 5. In January and February, which is an off season for tourism, these drivers did make some money but the lock-down owing to corona has broken their back. There are families borrowing daily grocery items from their neighbours. They cannot pay the school fee of their children.
Though the union government has ordered a three month’s moratorium on all kinds of loans but still the constant joblessness is making the financial condition of the transporters stare at a cul de sac. The government needs to chalk out a strategy to ensure that the transporters are able to not only to make their daily needs meet but also to pay off the loans and make enough savings for their children’s education.