Highway ban throws life out of gear in Kashmir

Highway ban throws life out of gear in Kashmir
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Srinagar, Apr 7: Normal life was on Sunday affected in the valley due to suspension of civilian traffic on Kashmir-Jammu national highway to allow free and secure movement of security force convoy, badly paralysing movement of people who were undertaking journey on the road.
The highway wore a deserted look with only security forces, state police and Army personnel deployed in strength to prevent people from moving towards the highway though it is said that security force convoy which left Jammu will enter Kashmir only in the afternoon.
However, district authorities have now appointed nodal officers to help people to cross the highway at important places.
The government in an order said that civilian traffic will not be allowed on Kashmir-Jammu national highway for two days — Wednesdays and Sundays — in a week for security reasons between 0400 hrs to 1700 hrs, attracting sever criticism from political parties and general public. Only security force convoys will be allowed on these two days.
Officials said that the entire stretch of highway has been divided into different zones and magistrates along with police have been placed at every zone of the highway to allow people with medical emergency, government employees, tourists, schools busses and election rallies.
Security forces have closed roads connect the highway between Baramulla in north Kashmir and Jammu with other roads with barbed wires to stop civilian vehicles from coming on the national highway, which also connects different districts of the valley with each other. Only security force convoys could be seen plying on the national highway.
“It is really ironic that the highway has been closed for vehicular movement for two days in a week. It is not just a national highway, but also a road which connects all the districts of the valley with each other. How can we commute from one district to another district,” Javeed Saleem, a businessman, said.
He said the road is also used to connect different parts of the same district, including Srinagar. “I live in Natipora, but the place I work is on the other side of Nowgam bypass. So this means I can’t go to my work place for two days in a week,” he said. Meanwhile, roadside vendors and people, whose shops, including hotels, are along the highway, expressed concern over the ban, claiming that it will badly effect their business. “I have been running a fruit shop at Hyderpora bypass, for many years. But now if I have to close the shop for two days in a week, how can I make by ends meet. The government should revoke the ban on civilian movement,” Shabir Ahmad said.
Similar views were also expressed by workers at ‘Dhabas’ (local restaurants) along the national highway.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir Baseer Ahmad Khan had on Friday said there will be no blanket ban on movement of civilian traffic on the highway. “There are exceptions for medical emergency, government employees, tourists, schools and election rallies,” Mr Khan told reports during a press conference.
However, calling for immediate withdrawal of ban on the movement of civilian traffic on the highway, senior CPI (M) leader Mohammad Yousuf Tarigami on Saturday said the explanation of Divisional Commissioner Kashmir that “there will be no blanket ban on movement of civilian traffic on the highway” is unsatisfactory and confusing.
He said the ban on the movement of civilian traffic on the highway twice a week would have serious repercussions. “The Governor Administration must revoke the ban immediately and find an alternative for the safe passage of security forces convoys. The decision must have been taken by the Government as a security issue, but why should be the issues of patients, students, employees, businessmen and others who will suffer hugely due to this ban left unattended?” he said.
Government committed to ensure least inconvenience to civilian traffic
The elaborate arrangements made by the Government for the convenience of the public on the National Highway 44 during the restricted travel period on NH, was quite successful on the first day of the traffic prohibition today.
As per the latest reports received from districts, the movement of civilian vehicles in Kashmir Division and Jammu Division remained normal in all interior roads except for the NH where only exempted categories of vehicles were seen plying. As per the reports gathered from the DCs of Pulwama, Anantnag, Budgam and Baramulla, special permission passes were given to 128, 210, 45 and 110 vehicles, totaling 493 vehicles, falling in the exempted categories. Passes were issued in Udhampur and Ramban also. These vehicles were given passes for traveling on the Highway.
Further, a very large number of vehicles were allowed to cross the NH at various crossings in all districts. In Srinagar, over 2000 civilian vehicles crossed Panthachowk towards various destinations along the National Highway. Further, normal civil traffic movement was observed in various areas including Tengpora, Shalteng, Parimpora, Nowgam, Batamaloo, Sanatnagar, Bemina Chowk, Hyderpora, Chanpora and Narbal Crossing where over 10,000 vehicles crossed the NH unhindered. In Anantnag, around 3000 vehicles crossed the NH at various crossings.
Many people used alternate roads, especially the old NH where available, and other internal routes to commute and also to reach Srinagar, thus completely avoiding the NH. It is pertinent to mention that students appearing in various exams also reached in time as their roll number slips were treated as passes. All emergency cases, medical or otherwise are being cleared without any delay. Doctors and businessmen who have to attend their establishments on the NH were
allowed without any problem. From the overall proceedings of the day, it appears that the movement of vehicles was hassle free, although heavier on alternate routes. It may be mentioned that the local administration made extensive arrangements to facilitate the movement of public through the provision of Travel Passes through a Nodal Officer in each district for covering (i) various emergencies, including medical, (ii) school buses, (iii) students appearing in any examination, (iv) Government employees on duty (iv) hospital staff on duty, (v) passengers travelling by air, (vi) political persons needing to campaign, etc. on production of requisite identification documents. Besides, over a 100 Executive Magistrates were on duty today along the NH from Baramulla to Udhampur from 5 a.m., to ensure smooth movement of Security Forces’ Convoy and also facilitate smooth civilian movement.
The Government stated that the regulation of civilian traffic during movement of Security Forces’ convoy had to be notified for two days a week, in the larger interest of security of everyone and appealed to people to extend full cooperation in the smooth regulation of traffic as was the case today. The restrictions are, in any case, applicable upto 31st May 2019 only. The total duration of prohibition is for 26 hours out of 168 hours in a week, which is 15% of the time. Further, the total number of restricted days is just 15 during this entire period. 8 of these are Sundays. Planned restrictions, with active facilitation of the public by the administration for exceptions and emergencies, is far more convenient to the public so that they can plan their movements in advance. As movements reduce, the restrictions will be relooked. The State Administration is committed to ensure the least inconvenience, particularly on the two notified days, i.e. Sundays and Wednesdays. This should set at rest any misgivings and also give the true situation on the ground on Day 1 of the restriction.