Kashmir and Leh regions are dependent on a single highway for all its needs and the same highway remaining closed for days together every winter plays havoc with the local economy. All this has been happening for decades now and except assurances and promises the people of the region have got nothing to ease out their troubles.
Just this week the strategic Jammu-Srinagar national highway remained closed for all sorts of vehicular traffic for almost five days at a stretch. Though it opened for some time in-between but a massive landslide at Digdol in Ramban district left the highway closed yet again and the traffic resumed later on Tuesday.
The 270-km national highway, the only all weather road linking Kashmir with the rest of the country, was cleared of the landslide at Digdole around 4 am on Tuesday after over a 40-hour-long operation to clear the snow.
Kashmir is all set to witness a long winter period and this is just a beginning of the nearly six month’s long ordeal. If this is the status of the highway at the onset of the winter season then the people here are headed for lots and lots of trouble during the coming months.
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 on 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 Srinagar and other places on the highway 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 after the Union Surface Transport Ministry had intimated the state government about declaring the Mughal road as an alternate national highway.
However, the announcement has not moved beyond papers and the Mughal road too faces closure once the weather takes a turn for the worse.
The Mughal road could have been a viable alternative but this alternative needs time and attention. The road which could have played a game changer needs some funds which it has been craving for many years now.