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Highway of miseries affects passengers, locals alike

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Srinagar, Feb 12: While they are no less than a nightmare for the stranded passengers, the frequent blockades on Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only all-weather road connecting Kashmir with the rest of the world, are equally affecting all and sundry in Kashmir.

The highway has remained closed for a total of more than four weeks in 2019, leading to a shortage of essentials including vegetables, meat, chicken besides petrol and diesel in the valley.

 

Khalid Nazir, an engineering student, said that all the previous regimes have failed to effectively deal with the recurring issue of closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway.

“A poor man is left to die. There is acute shortage of mutton, chicken and fresh vegetables in the market. In such a situation what can a poor Kashmiri do, where he shall go?” Nazir rued.

An elderly Abdul Hameed, a resident of Saraf Kadal, Srinagar said that almost every other day, the highway is closed forcing an ordinary Kashmiri to depend on the black marketers, who, ironically, always get away with their illegal price hikes.

“The price of vegetables has skyrocketed while LPG and petrol too are sold against higher prices. After searching for LPG cylinder in Srinagar for hours, I finally got one at Karanagar against Rs 2500, thrice the fixed price of the government,” he said.

Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, Baseer Khan, as per news agency KNS, admitted that people were facing hardships due to frequent closure of the highway.

“One can’t stop landslides and shooting stones. I believe Mughal road should have been fully functional long back, vulnerable areas prone to shooting stones and landslides should have been dealt with by the concerned departments and that the train services from Jammu to Srinagar should have been through,” he said.

“Had these three things been done, there would have been no shortage of essentials in this hour of crisis,” he said.

Meanwhile, tens of hundreds of Kashmiri passengers stranded in Jammu due to a closure of the highway alleged that the state administration has done nothing to help them.

“The fares, which were in the range of Rs 4,000 for traveling to Srinagar, have been hiked steeply to Rs 12,000 by the airlines after highway closure,” one of the passengers stranded at Jammu Bus stand told The Kashmir Monitor over the phone.

The hike, he said, has hit the passengers who belong to labour class and have exhausted all their cash in buying the essentials.

“We cannot afford the hefty air fare,” he said.

Pictures and videos of passengers wrapped in thin blankets reclining against the luggage bags in the bay area of Jammu bus stand are being widely shared on social media in the last one week.

The passengers–students, businessmen, labourers¬–all rue the apathy of the government in dealing with the issue.

Wasim Ahmad, a University student complained that the frequent closure has made him skip his examinations.

“We kept calling the officials and they gave us false hopes for three days that the snow was being cleared but we are still stuck. As a result, I am unable to appear in the examinations,” he said.

Many commuters also accused the governor’s administration of being biased towards them and deliberately turning a blind eye to their plight.

“The governor rule was implemented in the past as well but this administration has other priorities. They are more interested in granting division status to other places and not attending to the needs of the people,” the passengers said echoed, adding that the governor is not paying any heed despite witnessing the difficulties they are facing.

While the travelers lament the apathy of the administration, they also complain of overcharging by nearby hotels and shops.

“For charging a mobile phone, we are asked to shell out fifty rupees,” said 20-year-old Umar.

“The people living in the nearby quarters gave us some food. We are literally living like beggars right now.”