The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has termed the abrupt cancellation of movement passes and suspension of mobile services in the middle of a pandemic as an “ill-considered step”.
The Srinagar District Administration had on May 5, 2020, through Order No. DCS/PS/20/Movement announced that in view of “large scale misuse of passes” including fake, forged, scanned and copied passes all passes issued by or before May 5 stand cancelled/invalidated. On the 6th of May, 2020 the mobile and 2G internet services were also suspended, said the spokesman.
The spokesperson stated that over a period of almost two months since the COVID-19 lockdown has been imposed, after comprehensive scrutiny of their needs, thousands of movement passes had been issued. “It included those requiring medical attention and their attendants, suppliers of essential commodities, media persons and others. We do not dispute the reports about unscrupulous elements in the society indulging in misuse and duplication of passes,” said KCCI spokesman.
He said that the focus of the administration would have been better placed on taking punitive action against such elements.
“It requires no special operations but basic policing. Had action been taken in time, the matter could have been contained without taking resort to such extreme measures. Instead, the punishment has been meted out to the genuinely affected,” said the spokesman.
“At the same time, it was the responsibility of the administration to first substitute all the passes issued by them with those having enhanced security features before the cancellation. Was it not before the April 24 that the misuse and forgery of passes was detected by the Srinagar administration? Normally shouldn’t urgent steps first have been taken to substitute all the existing passes in the following two weeks,” he added.
“Instead, the onus has been put on the already beleaguered public, without a valid pass, to somehow reach the District Magistrates office and stand in line to apply afresh. Even with valid passes, vehicles carrying essential commodities to various areas have been facing trouble with reports of manhandling of drivers by police which has been duly brought to the notice of the administration. Now the cancellation is bound to create further confusion,” said KCCI spokesman.
Following the order, strict cordons were put up all over Srinagar on the May 6 resulting in jams at all major junctions. The number of police personnel manning the junctions were too few to ensure any regulation of necessary travel. Consequently, they simply sealed off the roads until the people were forced to withdraw, he said.
He said that whatever the intentions behind the order, it has caused incommensurable hardships and harassment for the public.
“It would be helpful for the District Administration to view the CCTV footage of important junctions like Abdullah Bridge, Dalgate, Batamalloo, Sanatnagar for the 6th of May to understand the impact of their orders. To add to their woes, mobile services were suspended on May 6, 2020, thereby resulting in a total breakdown of any communications. The mobile services have been restored on May 9, 2020,” he added.
“While the KCC&I has been unequivocal in our appreciation of the administration wherever it deserved such appreciation, especially of our local officers, fairness demands that we be equally unequivocal in our disapproval,” he said.
“The unprecedented situation emerging out of the COVID pandemic has required an out of the box approach and the administration has been working round the clock for keeping the wheels moving. There is justifiable stress. But due consideration has also be to given to the local community which has been enduring the 10th month of what the TIME magazine has termed as the “World’s Longest Lockdown”. The rights and privileges of the people need to be accorded proper respect and they should not be treated as mute savages,” said KCCI spokesman in a statement.