Srinagar : The beleaguered auto-drivers of Kashmir Monday expressed their grudge against Jammu and Kashmir government for forgetting them at a time when they were in a desperate need of a financial support.
At least 10,000, auto drivers under the banner of All Kashmir Auto Rikshaw Drivers’ Association petitioned the J&K government and Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandera Murmu as to why they were left out in the recently announced Rs 350 Crore package for the weaker sections of the society.
“We have a grudge against the government and that is if they covered all like pony walls, houseboat owners, Shikarawallas, labourers, migrant workers, etc, why we were ignored and completely left out. Don’t we deserve the package too,” Showkat Ahmed, President of AKARDA told news agency. “Aren’t we humans, don’t we have families?”
He said majority of the 10,000 auto drivers kept their autos shut after Regional Transport Officer (RTO) ordered that autos shouldn’t ply in the wake of pandemic Covid 19.
“Whatever we used to earn, be that Rs 400 or Rs 500 maximum a day, we use to spend the same to feed our families on the same evening and next morning. So we were entirely dependent on the daily earnings and since March 20, we have not earned a single penny and we are on the verge of starvation,” said Showkat.
Asked how they are surviving, he said that majority of auto drivers are surviving on charity and relief kits being distributed by the government in Srinagar. These ill-fated auto drivers have also taken up the issue of their livelihood with the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir P K Pole but to no avail. “Nothing happened so far,” said showkat.
He said that their main demand to the LG and the government is to include them as well in the recently announced relief package for people who suffered due to the lockdown.
“Let the government appoint teams and visit our homes to see how we are surviving. Some of us may be getting financial support from their relatives but large chunk of us is facing huge livelihood issues. We urge the government to include us in the package so that we too can survive,” he said, giving example of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s initiative of depositing Rs 5000 into the accounts of every segment that suffered due to lockdown, adding that the J&K government must follow suit.
It is to mention here that the Jammu and Kashmir administration had announced a Rs 350-crore package to mitigate hardships of people, particularly labourers and the destitute, during the coronavirus-triggered lockdown.
The administrative council, in its meeting under the chairmanship of Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu, had approved the relief package for various categories of people.
Giving the detailed breakup of relief, the JK UT government spokesperson Rohit Kansal has said that under income support category, the government has earmarked Rs 46.40 crore to provide Rs 1,000 per month for three months to a varied class of workers.
“It includes Rs 35.2 crore to around 1.76 lakh construction workers; Rs 1.8 crore to houseboat and shikarawalas registered with the tourism department; and Rs 8.1 crore to tourist guides, ponywalas, palkiwalas, pithuwalas, he had said.
Construction workers have already been paid for one month through direct benefit transfer.(KINS)