Srinagar, Jan 7: With ‘Chilai Kalan’ at its peak, the demand for sun-dried vegetables, fishes and pulses has witnessed a major surge as Kashmir valley remained cutoff from the rest of the country due to closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway and suspension of air traffic at Srinagar airport since Sunday due to heavy snowfall.
The use of dried vegetables had witnessed major decline over the years with the availability of fresh food round the year in the valley and medicos issuing warning against consumption of this traditional food.
However, since the agencies, entrusted the job of widening of the highway to four-lane, started work, it has cause more landslides and shooting stones between Ramban and Ramsu, resulting in frequent closure of the only all weather road, which connects Kashmir valley with the rest of the country.
People in Valley have again been forced to consume dried vegetables in the 21st century due to non-availability of fresh vegetables, mostly being imported from different northern state, including Punjab and Jammu due to closure of the highway.
Until 90s, people in the valley preferred to relish the taste of this traditional food due to closure of the highway for weeks and months in winter because of heavy snowfall. Though, there was no shortage of fresh vegetables in summer when local vegetables remained available, even for export to Jammu and Ladakh.
Since 2000, the highway used to close rarely with Beacon project, introducing sophisticated machines to clear the snow and landslides on the highway, particularly between Qazigund to Banihal, including Jawahar tunnel and Shaitan Nallah, which was considered very dangerous portion of the highway. Fresh vegetables used to remain available round the year though the prices of the eatables used to be very high as compared to winter capital of the Union Territory – Jammu.
ut, since the road widening started, the suspension of traffic on the highway has now become a daily routine due to disturbance caused by disturbing the local environment by blasting hills and other activities.
With the commencement of the 40-day-long Chilai Kalan, harshest period of winter, from December 21 last year, the Srinagar-Jammu highway has witnessed frequent closure despite authorities allowing only one-way traffic to avoid traffic jam and other problems.
Kashmir-bound trucks loaded with essentials, particularly vegetables and poultry products, remain stranded on the highway for weeks, leading to shortage in the valley besides massive price rise without any proper checking from the authorities.
“In winter only turnip, radish and carrot and local “Haak” (green leave vegetable) grow locally while all other vegetables are imported from outside. Villagers still bury turnip, radish and carrot in the earth only to use them in harsh winter period. The vegetables remain fresh and don’t get frozen under earth,” Shabir Ahmad, a local said.
He said frequent closure of the highway has resulted in major demand for dried vegetables in the valley, adding people consume pulses and dried fish though fresh fish is also available in the market.
The shops selling dried vegetables have witnessed rise of many folds in the business during the last couple of weeks. “The business, which had witnessed declines, has started to pick up with non-availability of fresh vegetables following frequent closure of the highway,” a dried-vegetable settler from Srinagar told UNI.
In the early 90s, people across the valley used to dry vegetables only to use them in winter. Even households in Srinagar and other parts of the valley used to stock sun-dried vegetables for winter. But this practice was discontinued to some extend with fresh vegetables remaining available during the harsh winter period.
Later, some persons started business of sun-dried vegetables though their number was very less. The sellers used to stock the dried vegetables during summer to sell them in winter. The dried vegetables available during winter included tomato, bottle-groud, brinjal, Palak, meethi, aubergines, lentils, turnips, radish leaves and dandelion greens, quince and spinach and haand.