LOCKDOWN & LIVELIHOODS

45,000 taxi operators on verge of starvation

Seek immediate financial assistance, waiver of parking fees, taxes from government

45,000 taxi operators on verge of starvation

Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 5

Sanjeev Singh (39), is among over 45,000 taxi operators in Jammu and Kashmir who are virtually on the verge of starvation due to the non-operation of their vehicles since the second week of March.

‘No work at the local level’

There is no work at the local level as well. We are virtually on the verge of starvation. This taxi was the only source of income for me. — Sanjeev Singh, taxi operator

Singh, who used to ferry pilgrims and other visitors from Katra, the base camp of the holy cave shrine of Vaishno Devi, to other tourist destination has not earned even a “single penny”, making it difficult for him to meet both ends meet.

“The government is yet to decide on the resumption of the Vaishno Devi pilgrimage and there is no work at the local level as well. We are virtually on the verge of starvation. This taxi was the only source of income for me. My family has not been able to pay the tuition fee of our two children which is being repeatedly demanded by the school,” he regrets.

Singh believes that it would not be possible for him to sustain his livelihood through his taxi, saying “even if the government allows us to operate and the Yatra resumes, there are bleak chances that people will come to J&K in good numbers.” According to the official statistics, Jammu and Kashmir has a total of 45,623 taxis, including 31,584 in Kashmir Valley and 14,039 in the Jammu region.

Amid the mounting worries of taxi operators, representatives of various taxi unions recently called on Rajiv Rai Bhatnagar, Adviser to the Lieutenant-Governor, and sought immediate announcement of a financial package for taxi operators.

“Our people are the worst sufferers of the lockdown as they have been hit hard by the restrictions imposed to contain the spread of coronavirus. The SRTC buses, with more than 35 passengers, can operate on roads, but taxis with single or double passengers are not allowed to move. The government should immediately consider our demands,” said Anchal Singh Manhas, president of the Jammu Province Tourist Taxi Operator Federation.

Manhas said they had requested the government to waive the annual parking fees at the railway stations and airports, insurance and other taxes and a suitable package for taxi operators.

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