An acute shortage of food items is looming large in Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) after hundreds of truck owners refused to supply food items to the region.
The strike enters its sixth day on Tuesday, creating shortages of food stuff including, vegetables, meat, oil wheat and milk, along with LPG cylinders, in a region that is only accessible via the Karakoram Highway (KKH). Capitalising on the situation, the hoarders and black marketers have stockpiled food in an attempt to maximise profits.
According to witnesses, over two hundred trucks loaded with food items have stopped in Besham, demanding an increase in fares, removal of ‘kanta system’, a weighing machine for trucks, and expediting of repair work on KKH.
G-B Truck Association General Secretary Gul Mohammad said that influential people in G-B had been extorting money from poor drivers in the name of kanta.
“The drivers are often beaten when they question the legality of the kanta system in G-B,” he said, adding that their strike will continue unless their
demands are settled.
Amir Mohammad, vice president of the association, said that they had rounds of meetings with government officials in Gilgit in recent times but the government did not show any sympathy.
“When we met with the chief secretary, he directed the deputy commissioner to immediately resolve the issue, but it didn’t happen,” he said and added that ‘kanta’ is meant for wheat trucks only and is fixed in the depot.
The representatives of the association demanded security from Komila to Skardu on the KKH, saying that loaded trucks are
often robbed on this portion of the route as most of this part is sparsely populated. “When robberies take place, we have to repay the loss to the owners,” said a representative.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 3rd, 2011.
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