The highway betrays again
How crucial the only surface link, the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is for the two regions-Kashmir and Ladakh can be gauged from the fact that once the highway witnesses a closure, the two regions suffer the most.
Though during this part of the season the highway used to be open but this year due to untimely snowfall along the Pirpanchal range the highway has been witnessing closure from the past three days.
The closure has left a mark on all the sectors in Kashmir valley but this time around the worst hit has been the fruit business as fruit worth more than 500 Crore has not been able to make it to the markets in Delhi on the eve of Diwali festival.
The closure of highway for days together is an annual feature with most of the days of winter season getting lost to clear the highway to make it ready for traffic. The closure not only cuts off the Valley from the rest of the world but it also leads to curtailments of supplies to the Valley which is almost dependent on all its needs and supplies coming from Punjab, Delhi and other parts.
Even today, the Valley has been facing acute shortage of fresh vegetable and other supplies as the highway is witnessing a closure. Besides, the stranded passengers too have to go through lot of troubles to arrange for their boarding and lodgings at Jammu and other places costing them a fortune.
All this has been over the years making us realize that Jammu and Kashmir needs an alternate highway other than the NH1 so that the issue of all weather connectivity is settled once and for all.
Though some breakthrough was managed some years back as the Union Surface Transport Ministry had intimated the state government about declaring Mughal road as an alternate national highway between Jammu and Valley.
Though a formal request was made by the then Chief Minister Mufti Sayeed to declare the Mughal Road as an alternate national highway until the completion of four lanning of the existing Jammu-Srinagar national highway, no headway was made in making Mughal road a reliable alternative.
The Mughal road could have been a viable alternative but this alternative needs time and attention both from the central as well as the state government. The road which could have been a game changer needs some funds which it has been craving for many years now.
The Natipora-Nowgam-Newa road which connects Srinagar and Budgam with South Kashmir districts of Anantnag, Pulwama, Shopian and Kulgam besides leading to Poonch and Rajouri districts in the Jammu division is not getting the due share.
Over the years this road has been used as an alternate highway to the existing Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Despite the importance, the Roads and Buildings (R & B) department is yet to make the road fit so that it could sustain the pressure of the traffic.
The entire stretch of road is very narrow and no step whatsoever has been taken to widen it. Thousands of vehicles including trucks pass on the road and as such the pressure of traffic is enormous. Since this road has assumed the importance of a highway it is more than important that widening process is taken up immediately.