Normal life suffers as transporters' strike enters day 3

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Jammu, Jun 11 (UNI) Private transport operators continued to paralyse normal life in Jammu and Kashmir on the third consecutive day of ''chakka jam'' today, with pilgrims and other tourists bearing the burnt of agitation.

Nearly one lakh Vaishnodevi pilgrims and other tourists were stranded at various places between Jammu and Srinagar.

After about 75,000 private transport vehicles came to a grinding halt in the entire state on Monday to protest the government's apathetic attitude towards their demand of fare hike, especially after the recent hike in fuel prices.

In consequence to the increased demand of food and shelter following the strike, hoteliers and 'dhaba' owners have raised their prices.

''Even small vehicles are charging Vaishnodevi pilgrims three to five times the usual fare to shift them to railway station,'' a source at Katra told UNI.

Besides Katra town, Jammu Tawi Railway station and the general bus stand here were overcrowded with stranded passengers, sources said.

Government offices, banks, schools, colleges and business establishments reported thin attendance as commuters found it difficult to reach their destinations.

The State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) vehicles, which were pressed into service, also seemed to have failed to contain the increased pilgrim rush following summer vacations in schools.

Acting on a call for strike given by the Jammu and Kashmir Transport Welfare Association (JKTWA), minibuses, which ply small distances in the state, load carriers, taxis and the inter-district transport vehicles remained off the road.

Even auto-rickshaw operators, which generally do not abide by government set fare rates and charge their own rate, were also not plying on roads in support of strike, the sources said.

The complete ''chakka jam'' also revived the old-fashioned Tangas (horse-pulled carts) in the city, as several groups of tourists were seen travelling via this traditional and ''environment-friendly'' mode, they added.

The fares of buses have not been revised since 2005 despite ''manifold increase'' in the petroleum products and spare parts of vehicles, JKTWA said.

UNI VJ AM BST1154

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