Government-owned tractors and tractor-trolleys, meant for the transportation of agricultural products, are being misused in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and causing loss of millions of rupees to the public exchequer.
The vehicles are exempted from customs duty, token tax, route permits and fitness certificates to facilitate fruit and vegetable producers, but owners of these vehicles are instead using them for commercial purposes such as transportation of water, bricks, sand and mud for construction.
“Commercial use of these tractors and tractor-trolleys is unlawful,” said AJK Transport Authority Secretary Azad Adil Mahmood Khan when asked by The Express Tribune to comment over the issue.
Khan said that Transport Minister Tahir Khokhar has already directed the divisional and district administrations as well as the police to book owners of the tractors and tractor-trolleys being misused.
He maintained it is the responsibility of the district traffic police to impound the vehicles.
Khan stated that there are over 2,500 registered tractors plying in AJK, of which 1,441 are being operated in Mirpur, Kotli and Bhimbher districts, and the remaining in Muzaffarabad, Rawlakot, Bagh and Palandri.
When contacted, Sheikh Pervez Barkat, who operates a tractor-trolley in Mirpur, admitted that the vehicles are exclusively meant for agricultural purposes.
However, he said that since there was no substantial work in the agriculture sector, owners have been constrained to use the vehicles for commercial purposes.
A local police officer, requesting not to be named, said the traffic police launched a campaign to discourage misuse of tractors and tractor trolleys, but it bore no fruit as most of the vehicles belong to influential people, including political bigwigs, who become a hurdle in the way of law enforcers.
Inconvenience to locals
Taimur Khan, a university student, said the tractors cause environmental pollution due to the large amount of smoke and noise they produce.
“Patients, elderly people and children can better explain the agony they face when the tractors pass through their homes, billowing smoke and creating immense noise,” he added.
Jammu and Kashmir Human Rights Commission Chairman Humayun Zaman Mirza had a similar point of view. He suggested that tractors should not be allowed to ply within residential areas given how much smoke and noise they produce.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2012.
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