The dreadful highway
The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is once again in news and once again for wrong reasons. The highway is giving sleepless nights to the commuters and the trade fraternity in the Kashmir valley, so much so the valley traders have either called to stage protests or call off their business activity.
On the one hand, the Fruit Traders Association has been raising alarm and have already announced a strike from 29th of this month, on the other the mutton dealers too have expressed their inability to get the stocks of mutton from outside states and sell it here in Kashmir.
The present scenario has led to a chaotic situation with the upcoming marriage and tourism season too taking a hit. The overall supplies position too is so bad that the apex trade body, the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry has expressed serious concern at the lack of proper infrastructural planning and mismanagement of traffic on the National Highway.
The trade body has claimed that highway is causing crippling losses to the economy and sufferings to the general public.
The frequent closure of the Jammu-Srinagar road link due to landslides and shooting stones, unscheduled declaration of one way movement, the two days closure for movement of Security Forces and the harassment of travelers due to multiple check points has resulted in the development of an abnormal situation wherein people are being dissuaded from using the Highway.
Though the journey from Udhampur to Srinagar is a mere distance of around 200Km- but it has turned into a nightmare. Vehicles laden with goods have been stuck at various places for weeks together. Documents submitted by members of the KCC&I show that some trucks have been stuck at Udhampur since 10th of April.
Transportation of livestock including poultry and sheep towards Srinagar and movement of fruits from Srinagar to outside the valley has also been severely hit. There are reports the fruit sent from Kashmir has reached various mandi’s in a bad condition. Tourist vehicles are also stopped and there are reports that tourist groups have often taken more than 20 hours to reach Srinagar which has disrupted their booking schedules and programmes. Tourists are therefore avoiding travel by road.
In view of the huge monetary risk involved, movement of perishable goods including frozen products has reduced to almost nil. Transporters are now flatly refusing to ply their vehicles on the Jammu-Srinagar sector.
The losses caused to various sectors are mounting as many businesses have been rendered unviable due to the fact that the highway is in a very bad state and travel which could have cost a few hours is taking days and weeks together.
The situation is turning out to be very discouraging for the valley as all its facets are directly dependent on the Jammu-Srinagar highway. And if the pattern goes as has been witnessed over the past few years then the government has to seriously look out for some alternatives.