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Highway blues

The arctic weather conditions continue to trouble the daily life in landlocked Kashmir valley. With the closure of Jammu-Srinagar highway, the valley is witnessing severe shortage of essential commodities. The Jammu-Srinagar highway has remained shut for traffic for nine consecutive days. Though the men and machines of BRO are working on the highway to clear the highway of the snowfall accumulation but it is actually landslides that are posing the threat continuously.The Banihal-Ramban patch of the highway is quite prone to such landslides while Qazigund-Banihal patch remains shut due to heavy snowfall. As there are no chances of improvement in weather conditions, the problems facing the people are going to multiple. The weather authorities have predicted fresh snowfall over the next three days.

The inclement weather has collapsed the entire normal life across the valley. With power supply becoming the first casualty, the valley has plunged into darkness. The government claims about improvement in power supply are false and fabricated. The entire rural Kashmir is reeling under darkness in absence of power supply. Even the capital city Srinagar faces irregular and intermittent cuts exposing the government claims. The road connectivity is yet to be restored in most parts of the valley.

Most of the roads in rural Kashmir continue to remain closed for traffic due to blockages. The scene in Srinagar is even more pathetic. Though the roads and streets have been cleared of snow but water remains logged in the streets, lanes and by-lanes and the people in power are damn concerned. The Srinagar Municipal Corporation which has an army of officials and work force at its disposal but they appear to be in deep slumber leaving the residents to fend for themselves. In absence of the government and accountability, the black marketers have a field day. The essential commodities have gone missing from the market, and whatever little available, these are sold at whopping prices. The fresh snowfall across Kashmir on Thursday snapped the region’s aerial connectivity of the valley with the outside world. The entire air traffic, barring two flights, was cancelled on Thursday for the second consecutive day. That gives one the idea of isolation the valley is facing presently.

The worst of it is the loot that air transport companies are making in the wake of bad weather. These white-collars plunderers are making maximum use of valley weather to fleece the hapless people. The air fare from Srinagar to Jamaau on Thursday was put at Rs.26,635 while the air fare from Srinagar to Dubai was shown just Rs 13, 325. That speaks of the heartless attitude of the air transport companies. It is almost usual with the air traffic companies to raise fare arbitrarily during inclement weather, particularly when the land routes between Srinagar and Jammu get closed. The airline companies appear to be accountable no none. They are law unto themselves. Nobody is questioning them for the wrongs they do with the passengers. Ironically, the government is also mum over their outrageous conduct. Steep hike in airfares has raised serious concern in Kashmir’s tourism industry as well, with stakeholders accusing the airliners of deliberately trying to make Kashmir the costliest and least preferred destination to cut out tourist inflow. The concern is genuine because there is no discernable reason to raise the airfare.

The airfare rates float in proportion with increase in petrol prices. Over the past several years, the petrol prices have come down drastically. What makes airliners to hike the fare is a dilemma. The hikes have affected not only our tourism sector these have also hit students and patients who have to travel outside the state not for luxury but because of necessity. It is all the more necessary for making these airline operators answerable. The state government should take up the matter with civil aviation ministry and other authorities who have control over these companies to fix cap on air fare.