It’s been four months since Farouq Ahmad, a bus owner from Srinagar’s Qamarwari locality made a profit - of Rs 300 - only to give it back to the driver he had hired.

Now his bus, whose rear tires he has already sold along with the battery and some window panes, lies at the bus depot in Parimpora.

It is one among several other buses which despite having years of service left are waiting to be stripped of their parts, one by one, thanks to the succession of lockdowns Kashmiris have witnessed over the years.

“We have nothing to feed our families. The daily shutdowns have forced us to scrap our buses and sell their parts to make ends meet. My bus still has three years of service left,” says Ahmad. “My son was studying in class 11 and he had to quit his studies to support our family. He now works for a fruit vendor for the meagre amount of Rs 2500 a month.”

The managing director of the Kashmir Motor Drivers Association, Abdul Majid says over fifty buses have been dismantled and sold for parts since 2019.

Currently there are about 250 buses at KMD and allied stands across Kashmir, and all of them, says Majid, are unable to make money.

“The entire transport sector is running at a loss. Bus owners had to borrow money or sell some of their possessions to pay the insurance and token amount, which has been increased from Rs 8,000 to 16,000 a year. Similarly, permit and fitness fees have also been doubled. What will a bus owner do in these circumstances?” says the managing director.

“The government initially said that it would help, and even showed some signs, but then later said the process had been halted due to some issues. This is what has led the owners to dismantle their vehicles, to help their families” Majid explains.

According to Manzoor Ahmad, who has been a bus driver for 25 years, “We have been able to work only a month or so each in the last three years. And then, we are told to drive with only 25 passengers which doesn’t help us even meet the fuel expenses.

“Nobody is listening to us, hence our compulsion to do away with our buses in this way. The government is only doing lip service. On the ground there is no help.”

A report last year by the Kashmir Trade Alliance said that since August 5, 2019 the Valley’s business community had suffered losses of Rs 45,000 crore. It put the Covid lockdown loss suffered by the transport sector at a further Rs 2,888 crore.

After India scrapped Article 370, another report by the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society estimated losses worth Rs 17,900 crore in the first five months alone, and said more than 500,000 Kashmiris had been disemployed.

“I paid Rs 70,000 as insurance money in March this year but I haven’t been able to work because of the restrictions," says Imtiyaz Ahmad, a young bus owner from Sumbal in north Kashmir.

Speaking among his many fellow owners and drivers at the KMD depot in Parimpora, he says he is willing to sell his bus at a lower price to free himself from the constant agony of being unable to earn.

He has already let his conductor go. “When I couldn’t earn for myself, what will I give him?”

Others around him echoed the same concern.

At the Regional Transport Office in Srinagar we were told the concerned officer had been transferred and a new officer was yet to arrive. While assistant regional transport officer Shaikh Manzoor Ahmad consented to seeing us, he refused to comment.