Tractor owners in north Kashmir’s Kupwara district have been banned by the district administration from using tractors for non-agricultural purposes, specifically transporting of construction materials.
The transport sector is a lucrative job market. Manzoor Ahmad, a tractor owner, was taken by surprise when the Geology and Mining Department officials told him that his tractor was no longer permitted to carry construction materials.
A postgraduate by qualification, Ahmad has been supporting his family on earnings from the tractor, supplying sand and rocks to construction sites. “I purchased the tractor on a bank loan and now Geology and Mining department employees told us that tractor is not meant for carrying construction materials but for agricultural purposes only,” he said, adding that the agriculture season when tractors are required lasted for only about two months and therefore severely limited their earnings.
On Wednesday, tractor owners and drivers held a protest against the authorities in the Gulgam area of Kupwara. They called the decision callous and meant to put the families of tractor owners and drivers at starvation.
A protester said that they were told by the employees of the Geology and Mining Department that the rules have changed after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A owing to which tractors were no longer allowed for non-agriculture purposes.
Javid Ahmad War, a tractor owner and head of a local association, who was also part of the protest in Gulgam said that tractor owners and drivers would protest on the roads if the issue wasn’t resolved.
Officials of the Geology and Mining Department didn’t respond to calls for comments.
Speaking to The Kashmir Walla, the District Commissioner Imam ud Din said that tractors are defined for agriculture purposes and if being used for other works is naturally violation of the permission secured at the time of purchase.
“Owners and drivers can give representation to my office so that the matter is taken up with the Regional Transport Office, and concerned agencies for warranted redressal,” he said.