Sunday, 14 June 2015

Army Operations in Kashmir Pit Taxi Drivers Against Militants


There has been an unwritten rule in Jammu and Kashmir for the taxi drivers to follow. Even the authorities don’t poke their nose into this routine. It has been in existence for almost 13 years. The drivers give away their cars – mostly Innova or Chevrolet – for a night’s use by the military personnel attached to 29 Rashtriya Rifles unit in north Kashmir. This has left the taxi drivers from Baramulla district of Kashmir region in peril. Due to their association with the military personnel, they have become the target of militant attacks.

army personnel

Army-Taxi Drivers Tie Up

For more than a decade, the taxi drivers operating from stands of Kreeri Wagoora in Baramulla district of north Kashmir have been giving their vehicles for the Army use. The taxi drivers have pooled together with their vehicles for this purpose and give their vehicles in turn according to a roaster prepared by them. The local drivers say that they give their vehicles to the visiting Army men near their taxi stand. These vehicles would only be returned by next day evening. The civilian drivers are not allowed to go with the vehicle. It has been going for almost 13 years. The Army personnel are not giving rent for the vehicle they are taking. In return for this service, the vehicle owners – mostly drivers – get just a litre of diesel when the vehicles are given back. The taxi drivers swear that the kind of compensation given by the Army authorities is not at all enough to sustain their taxi business.   

taxi drivers

Woos Faced by Taxi Drivers

When the vehicles are given to the Army authorities, the vehicle owners don’t know for what purpose it is used. This is because they are not allowed to go with the vehicle. They speculate that their vehicles are being used in the night for patrolling and combing operations. They strongly believe that their vehicle registration number is visible. Hence, they are in all probability in the hit list of militants against whom the Army is waging a pitch battle using their vehicles. In some of the recent shooting incidents, the civilians have been killed by the unknown gunmen. Hence, the taxi drivers are living with the fear that they might get killed on the road one day when they are rendering the daily services to the commuters.

gunmen shooting

Taxi Drivers’ Dilemma

Taxi Drivers also swear that they don’t get adequately paid for the service they are rendering to the Army personnel. Most of the time, the vehicles are returned with some repair work pending. The owners of the vehicle have to spend the money from their pockets to resolve the repair issues. Though local taxi drivers don’t like to give their vehicle for combing operations by Army units operating in Kashmir, they are bound by some obligation as part of a tacit understanding with the Army. Hence, they have to sustain this working relationship somehow. They have approached the local leaders and MLAs to find a solution. So far, their plights have fallen to the deaf year. They are ready to continue the service keeping in mind the needs of army. However, they want adequate compensation for the service they render and protection from the authorities for their families.