Even though there is a ban on entry of interstate buses into the J&K UT still more than two dozen vehicles of private operators have been constantly entering Jammu through Lakhanpur without any restrictions. As the coronavirus pandemic started spreading, the entry of interstate buses was banned.
Sources said that the entry of inter-state buses including the buses operated by the public transport corporations of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan Corporation was banned into J&K. These buses could only run up to the J&K border. Guidelines state that people travelling on these buses have to disembark at Madhopur and then undergo the COVID-19 test at Lakhanpur and then use buses run by Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation (JKSRTC) to enter into J&K UT.
Sources said that even after these restrictions, over two dozen buses of private operators (including luxury buses with sleeper coaches) are making rounds from Lakhanpur to Jammu without any hurdle. There are estimates that more than two dozen private buses that carry passengers to and fro from Ludhiana, Amritsar, Chandigarh and Delhi visit Jammu on a regular basis. Even the timings of these private buses which make regular rounds has been fixed so that they get a “safe passage” through Lakhanpur.
Sources told Early Times that at Lakhanpur, the J&K administration has set-up a separate counter for Vaishno Devi pilgrims. On this counter, passengers have to make self-declaration. Bus operators have links with the local agents, so they instruct the passengers to categorize themselves as pilgrims in the self-declaration forms. Even though there are police personnel deputed at the checkpoints but still, they don’t interfere.
Sources also said that during day-time, the private bus operators park their vehicles in different parking areas and during late evening hours, receive passengers from the Jammu bus-stand. When asked then Arun Kumar Manhas, Deputy Incharge Lakhanpur, said that the issue doesn’t fall within his domain of action.