STATE TIMES NEWS
JAMMU: Protesting against, what they say, beginning of battery car from Katra base camp and cancellation of their registration by Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, thousands of Ponywalas and Pithus on Tuesday went on strike in Katra town.
“The labourers, comprising Ponywalas and Pithus this afternoon were called for talks by the Reasi District Administration after National Green Tribunal (NGT) proposed immediate stopping of mule and labour services on 13-km long track,” official sources said.
They said that keeping environmental hazards in view, the Ponywalas and Pithus have been asked to submit their registration cards as their services will no more be required.
“The Board authorities have asked the registered Ponywalas to get the amount fixed as loan and suspend their services,” Bhupinder Jamwal, President Pithu, Ponywala Labourers Union said.
He said the labourers have rejected the offer saying, “With the beginning of battery car service from Katra to Bhawan, thousands of labourers will go jobless in one go.”
He however, said that next course of action will be decided in a meeting tomorrow.
As per the Union Head, there are around 16,000 labourers working in Katra town, comprising 10,000 ponywalas (3000 registered) and 6000 pithus (1500 registered).
Meanwhile Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Katra, Neelam Khajuria said, “The exercise of cancellation of registration of Ponywalas and Pithuwalas is part of NGT but not in one go.”
“It will be done gradually and in a phased manner,” she said, adding that entire process has to be completed in 10 years.
“Not all the labourers will be disengaged from the services at once,” she asserted and said that November 24 has been fixed the date for the opening of new Katra track, if all goes well.
Pertinent to mention here that most of the labourers, engaged as Ponywalas and Pithuwalas, are from the remote areas of Reasi district, which was once most militancy affected.
The National Green Tribunal on Monday directed that only 50,000 pilgrims will be allowed to visit the Vaishno Devi shrine to avoid any untoward incident.
The NGT directed that no horses or mules shall be allowed on the new route to the shrine and these animals shall be removed slowly from the old path as well.
It also directed the authorities to impose a fine (environment compensation) of Rs 2,000 on anyone found littering the roads as well as the bus stop in Katra.
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