Leh, Ladakh, the place which sees a host of tourists during May to October period, is renowned for its scenic beauty. Local taxi operators in the region depend on tourists for their daily earnings. This is where the problem begins.
Tourists come in their own vehicle, or rent a vehicle from Chandigarh, Ambala, Jammu, Pathankot, etc (where the railway stations are). After hiring vehicles, these tourists then drive up to Leh and visit surrounding places in the same vehicles. This eats into the business of local taxi guys in Leh. And there were incidents of violence and attacks on some occasions.
To stop this, few years ago, a rule was passed that tourists can come up to Leh in any taxi they want, but if they want to visit places in and around Leh, they will have to hire taxis from Leh Taxi Union. If tourists come in their own private cars, then they are free to visit places in their own car. The ban was only on taxis with yellow number plates, registered outside of Leh.
But, what if tourists are coming in self-driven rented cars? This is what has happened in the latest attack.
The convoy of 15 cars which was attacked, consisted of 2 self driven rented cars with yellow number plates. Not only the attack was shocking, but it was surprising that they vented their anger towards privately owned cars as well.
During the attack, which left a brand new Toyota Fortuner with broken windshield and two Thars, One Honda CR-V and Mahindra XUV500 were also severely damaged with iron rods. The mob pulled out a passenger from the Thar after breaking the door and hit him on the upper arm. The door lock knob was broken making it unable for the victims to get back into the car.
While Leh Taxi mafia damaged cars with iron rods, smashed windshields and dented cars beyond repair, local police and ITBP stood silent spectators and failed to take any action. They neither came to the assistance of tourists and nor did they file any FIR against the offenders.
We hope the government officials in the region take note of this matter. People have the right to opt for whatever mode of transport suits them and their pocket. It does not give taxi operators in the area any right to take law in their own hands and cause so much damage and destruction resulting in mental and physical harassment to travellers and tourists.
UPDATE – Video