Higher reaches of Jammu and Kashmir recently received snowfall, leading to the closure of roads going across high passes like Zoji La, Sadhna Top, Razdan Pass, and Pir ki Gali. While the winter is in the early stage and snowfall has not been heavier so far, some of these roads have been cleared and opened for movement of traffic. The concerned authorities may try to keep these roads open but eventually with heavier snowfall, they will get totally blocked for the winter, the duration of which is almost six months. Some places like Tanghdar and Gurez in Kupwara and Bandipora district respectively get totally isolated in winter. A courier service operated by the Indian Air Force at the request of the J&K Government remains a link. Even in the present era defined by technological breakthroughs, helicopter rescues are required and are sought through the concerned Deputy Commissioners to transport people in need especially sick. The people of these areas have been craving for all-weather connectivity for a long time. The government needs to immediately put in place arrangements for ensuring helicopter service on a regular basis, more on an emergent basis.
There have been proposals, some of which are already being implemented, for tunneling various high mountain passes. One of them happens to be the construction of a 14-km tunnel which started at the over 11,500 feet Zojila Pass to keep Srinagar connected with Kargil, Dras and Leh. More than for the public, the road has strategic importance for military purposes. The people of Tanghdar have been for a long time demanding a tunnel to keep the area connected all throughout the year. The tunnel construction over Mughal road is stuck in a detailed project report by National Highways and infrastructure Development Corporation (NHIDC) entrusted with the job in March 2019. The corporation reported engaged Rodic Consultants Private Limited in a joint venture with Madrid-based Getnisa-Euro studios to prepare the DPR but there has been no headway so far. The tunnel on historic Mughal Road, which connects Kashmir with Poonch via southern Shopian district, would be an alternative to the Jammu-Srinagar highway, which often remains closed during winters due to snowfall and landslides besides other impediments. The government needs to hasten the processes to complete the tunnels. In the meantime, the government needs to explore the possibility for regular air connectivity and ensure infrastructure which would enable such operations so that the people of these remote areas do not suffer during harsh winter.