Inter-State passengers protest at Lakhanpur against curbs

Passengers protesting at Lakhanpur after they were forced to deboard an inter-State bus on Wednesday. —Excelsior/Pardeep
Passengers protesting at Lakhanpur after they were forced to deboard an inter-State bus on Wednesday. —Excelsior/Pardeep

Movement of traffic disturbed for 3 hours

Avtar Bhat

KATHUA, Feb 10: Facing unnecessary curbs at gateway of J&K, Lakhanpur on their entry in the Union Territory, hundreds of Inter-State passengers held a massive protest at Lakhanpur this morning and disrupted the movement of vehicular traffic on Jammu-Pathankot National Highway for about three hours.
As per reports, the passengers coming via Inter-State buses from Delhi when reached Lakhanpur at 4 am today were asked to de-board their vehicles and take the J&K Road Transport Corporation (J&K RTC) buses for their onwards journey to Jammu by the authorities on duty at COVID Check Post, Lakhanpur. This infuriated the passengers and they entered into heated arguments with police on duty against the unnecessary curbs imposed on entry of inter-State buses in the UT saying when there is no such ban in any other part of the country why the J&K authorities were unnecessarily harassing the passengers here.
As the authorities on duty refused to allow the inter-State buses to move ahead with passengers from Lakhanpur, the irate passengers held a demonstration at Highway which disrupted the movement of vehicular traffic for three hours. The protestors also shouted slogans terming that this was authoritarianism on the part of J&K administration. They demanded such undue curbs be lifted once and for all and the inter-State passengers and operators of buses should not be put to unnecessary harassment in future.
A high drama prevailed for three hours on NH with the passengers insisting that they will not board the RTC buses or any other mode of transport for Jammu as it will be expensive and troublesome for them. They accused the authorities of adding to the problems of passengers as they had to pay extra fare from Lakhanpur to Jammu as they had already paid the fare to Inter -Sate buses up to Jammu, besides they have to put more labour in shifting the luggage from one bus to other which will be troublesome for some of the old and infirm passengers.
There was a crowd of about 500 people who had travelled in seven to eight buses and were asked to de-board at Lakhanpur. The protesting passengers while expressing their surprise and dismay over the official directives said when the trucks, light vehicles including cars etc as well as Army vehicles are permitted to leave towards Jammu without any curbs why the restrictions are confined to Inter-State buses only. Even there is no restriction on people traveling Jammu in trains from other states. This way a common man is made to suffer as it is he only who travels in buses while the people belonging to affluent families travel via plane or trains, they added.
The protestors, while challenging the Government decision said no SOPs are maintained in SRTC buses where 80 to 85 passengers are boarded in a bus having a capacity of 60 passengers only which kills the basic spirit of maintaining COVID guidelines. They said all the SOPs and the COVID guidelines will be obeyed by them provided they are allowed to travel to Jammu in the inter-State buses.
Ghulam Hassan, an old man from Kashmir and Mustafa Kamal, a youth studying in Delhi said they travelled various states of the country but no where they were put to such a problem as in J&K.
However, SHO Lakhanpur Inspector Sanjeev Chib, who rushed to dharna site said that they have to enforce the orders of the higher authorities and they can’t allow the passengers to proceed further in inter-State buses from Lakhanpur. But the protestors demanded that the barrier at Lakhanpur be lifted and there should be free movement for all vehicles and passengers as in other states of the country.
When contacted SSP, Kathua Dr Shailendra Kumar Mishra said that restricting inter-State buses to travel up to Jammu with passengers is not the decision of the district administration but the Government at the higher level. He said the district administration on its level can’t do anything in this regard and only the Administrative Council can take a decision to lift the curbs.