Pony, pithuwalas agitate over cancellation of registration, start of battery car in Katra

GJ Report
Jammu, Nov 14: Protesting against beginning of battery car from Katra base camp soon and cancellation of their registration by the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board, thousands of ponywalas and pithuwalas on Tuesday went on strike in Katra town of Reasi district in Jammu and Kashmir.
In view of new battery car track likely to be thrown open by the end of this month from Katra to Bhawan have triggered agitation by the labourers.
“The labourers comprising ponywalas and pithuwalas this afternoon were called for talks by the district administration after National Green Tribunal (NGT) proposed immediate stopping of mule and labourer services on 13-km long Vaishno Devi track,” official sources here said.
They said that keeping environmental hazards in mind, the ponywalas and pithuwalas 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 Labourer Union here said.
He said that the labourers refused the offer instead wanted to continue with the services and added, ”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, “an 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 phased manner,” she added and said 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 piithuwalas are from the remote areas of Reasi district, which once were most militancy affected.