Frequent closure of Sgr-Jmu highway leaves Kashmir financially, economically choked

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Ishtyaq Ahmad

Srinagar, Feb 12: The frequent closure of 300-km long Srinagar-Jammu highway stretch inflicts countless miseries and pain on the people of ill-fated Kashmir valley as prices of essentials soar, shortage of stock triggers frustration among masses and the black-marketing of cooking gas touches all time high.
Since January this year, the traffic officials said that the Srinagar-highway, only surface link connecting Kashmir with the rest of the world, has remained closed for traffic for at least 29 times. Since past five days, the highway remains blocked due to landslides and shooting stones at vulnerable points that include Panthal, Ramban, Ramsoo and at few more places.
The frequent closure of the road link, also known as life-line of Kashmir, triggers all sorts of crisis in Kashmir with people asking as to why even after passage of 70-long years all the successive governments failed to find alternative to the closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway which leaves people of Kashmir, especially the poor lot in a great trouble.
The government tacitly admits that Mughal road should have been thrown open for traffic for being an all-weather route while as direct train services from Jammu to Srinagar should have been an old affair but due to “technical glitches” Kashmir continues to suffer.
Khalid Nazir, an engineering student, said that despite the passage of 70 years, all the previous regimes, National Conference, Congress, PDP and now BJP failed to ensure an alternate measure was found to deal with the issues of frequent closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway that leaves people in frenzy.
“A poor man is left to die. I myself saw acute shortage of mutton, chicken and fresh vegetables in the market,” Nazir said. “There is an acute shortage or LPG and kerosene is already invisible. In such a situation what can a poor Kashmiri do, where he shall go.”
An elderly Abdul Hameed, a resident of Saraf Kadal, Srianagar area said that every single day, highway is closed and the frequent closure of the road leaves an ordinary Kashmir in lurch.
“Except the dry vegetables, people of Kashmir remain dependent on few selected vegetable produced from the Dal Lake. But that can’t suffice the entire Kashmir population who also need cooking gas, kerosene, petrol, poultry and above all mutton,” he said. “Kashmiris are known as the voracious meat eaters and the non-availability of mutton and chicken make people crazy.”
Ironically, there is no check on the black-marketing as prices of vegetables have gone skyrocketing while LPG and petrol are sold against high prices. “After searching for LPG cylinder in Srinagar for hours, I finally got one at Karan nagar against Rs 2500, thrice the fixed price of the government,” said Imtiyaz Ahmed a resident of Lal Chowk.
The Mutton dealers complain that they don’t receive any supply given the road closure but in many places, “butchers were selling mutton at exorbitant prices—Rs 500 per kg against government rate of Rs 400.” “I wonder when the road is closed, how the mutton shops have two sheep hanging for sale. There is no check at all,” said Raja Begum, a resident of Pantha Chowk. “There is a big question mark as to why all the previous regimes sat on the proposal of addressing the highway mess issue. Perhaps there are political dividends and that’s why this issue.”
Divisional commissioner Kashmir Baseer Khan admits that people are facing hardships due to frequent closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway. “One can’t stop landslides and shooting stones. I believe Mughal road should have been fully functional long back, vulnerable areas where prone to shooting stones and landslides should have been dealt with by the concern departments and that the train services from Jammu to Srinagar should have been through,” he said. “Had these three things been done, there would have been no shortage or essentials in this hour of crisis.” (KNS)