by Saifullah Bashir
SRINAGAR: Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, Aijaz Asad Thursday said that there is no ban on Tongas in north Kashmir’s Sopore town which comes in stark contrast with the orders passed by his Additional Deputy Commissioner Parvaiz Sajad.
The DC Baramulla said, “There is no ban order; it is the local administration that has done some internal regulation to make sure the smooth movement of essential service like ambulances.”
However, local Tonga driver’s real situation on the ground.
“We are being harassed by the police. They aren’t allowing us to enter the town,” Head of Tonga Drivers Association Sopore Nazir Ahmad said.
He said around 200 odd people are associated with Tonga driving and the ban is going to adversely affect their families as well.
Sopore town has various interconnected link roads in which the Tongas are still considered as a viable means of transportation.
Ahmad said, “No obstruction in traffic is taking place due to Tongas. It is the cab drivers who are creating a mess on roads. Shopkeepers also wrongfully park their vehicles.”
He said they don’t want any alternative in terms of vehicles which the government might provide them on loans.
The Tonga drivers in the apple town include senior citizens, youngsters, and even specially-abled people.
“Our Tongas are eco-friendly so there should have been no objection to them,” another Tonga driver said.
It is pertinent to mention that there were reports stating that Tonga has been banned in Sopore town.
A local newspaper had quoted Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) Sopore, Parvaiz Sajad saying that: “This decision was taken for the betterment of the town, especially for the smooth movement of traffic.”
The Station House Officer Sopore Azim Iqbal had also stated, “Tongas were the biggest hurdle.”
Earlier in December last year, the Bharatiya Janata Party had taken out a symbolic Tonga rally in the town as a part of their campaigning for the District Development Election.
In 2016 also the then government headed by Mehbooba Mufti had suggested similar phasing out of the Tongas in Sopore town on the lines of Anantnag where the horde-driven carts.