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Srinagar-Jammu highway: Stranded passengers suffer as hotel, restaurant owners resort to overpricing

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Jan 12: In view of the recent snowfalls and frequent closure of the Srinagar-Jammu Highway, the shopkeepers on the stretch have resorted to undue profiteering by demanding exorbitant prices from the stranded passengers.

Since mid-December, the over 300-kilometre highway connecting Kashmir with rest of the world, has remained on and off, leaving hundreds of passengers stuck on the road.

On Friday evening and for most part of Saturday, the traffic on the highway was halted due to heavy snowfall in Banihal sector, leaving hundreds of vehicles stranded.

 

Adding further to the miseries of the already peeved travellers, the shopkeepers, and hotel and restaurant owners, on the highway, charged exorbitant prices for their services and food items they sell.

Bashir Ahmad, who runs a shop in Jammu, was returning to Srinagar a few days ago when he was left stranded near Banihal for two days due to the snowfall.“We were forced to pay Rs 160 for a plate of rice and lentils,” Bashir said.

The Dhabawallas and hoteliers, he added, fleece the customers by selling overpriced food items whenever the highway is closed.
On an average daily, 4,000 to 5,000 vehicles ply on the national highway.

Imran Bhat, a cab driver from Srinagar, said the shopkeepers were dictating their own prices, leaving the stranded passengers embarrassed.“Five passengers and I were stranded on the highway near Ramban market last week. We were reluctant to eat our meals as the restaurant owner demanded Rs 200 for a plate of rice with rajma,”
“For a cup of tea and a slice of bread, we were forced to pay Rs 50,” he said adding:

“There is open loot whenever the highway is closed for traffic.”

“For a room with a single bed, they charge Rs 2500-3000. The stranded passengers have no other option than paying the money,” he said.
Fayaz Ahmad, another cab driver from Budgam, said the authorities have failed to keep a check on such malpractices.

“If somebody refuses to pay the extra charge, they (Dhabawallas, restaurant owners, hoteliers) not only refuse to sell the food item but indulge in abusive language,” he said.
“Government keeps no facilities available and the shopkeepers are rampantly looting the travellers,” Fayaz added.

He said he had to pay Rs 1,600 to share a small shabby room with other stranded passengers.

District Development Commissioner, Ramban, Showkat Aijaz said the government “won’t allow” fleecing of passengers.
“If anybody has any complaint, they can contact to our officials and we will take action,” he said.


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Kashmir

Scientific waste disposal continues to remain a challenge in Kashmir

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar, Jan 18: The authorities have not been able to strike a balance between the increased tourist inflow and the scientific disposal of garbage, official documents reveal.
“Being a popular tourist destination, issues pertaining to solid waste are on the rise in the state and need to be addressed immediately,” reveals the Housing and Urban Development (H&UD) department’s 2018 draft action plan for solid-waste management.
It says that sold waste generation has witnessed an increase of over 8 percent in a decade.
“The Central Pollution Control Board report estimates that a total of 400 metric tons of waste is generated per day in Srinagar, 62 percent of this waste is organic in nature while the remaining is inorganic including 7 percent of plastic waste,” reads the document.
An official of H&UD department said that given the rapid urbanization and growing population, this sector (waste management) needs immediate attention.
“The valley’s non-dumping options to manage waste have also shrunk drastically. Burning waste no longer seems viable because of environmental concerns and poor segregation of waste. Compost plants are not doing well because manure doesn’t sell, and again becomes garbage,” the official said.
With population of 12.36 lakh, spread over an area of 294 sq km on both sides of Jhelum, not even a single residential area or commercial establishment in Srinagar has the facility of segregation of solid waste, and much of the waste is dumped into water bodies including Dal Lake.
“Civic bodies blame residents for not segregating the waste but what’s the point when everything will eventually be mixed-up? Segregation by residents will only work when the municipal bodies have complete door-to-door waste collection system and trash pickups have separate containers for dry and wet waste,” the official added.
He said for segregation, greater civic awareness was a must.
“But municipalities must also set up the infrastructure and notify their solid-waste management policy under the 2016 rules. So far, it has remained confined to papers only,” the official said.
A recent report by NITI Aayog ‘Report of Working Group II, Sustainable Tourism in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR)’ too revealed that waste management was a huge challenge in Jammu and Kashmir and will become much more threatening as the number of tourists grows.
J&K fares poorly, with 0.14 gm per capita per day solid waste generation, the second worst in IHR region after Mizoram.
The state has faced repeated censuring by National Green Tribunal.
J&K has witnessed a mushroom growth of tourism infrastructure around water bodies, with little or no concern for the former’s impact over the latter.

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Kashmir

90s massacres: Joint Hurriyat calls for shutdown on Jan 21, 25, and 27 in Kashmir parts

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Srinagar, Jan 18: The Joint Hurriyat Leadership on Friday called for shutdown in Gaw Kadal, Handwara and Kupwara to mark the anniversaries of three massacres that took place in January 1990 in these areas.
The Joint Hurriyat comprising Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umer Farooq and Yasin Malik, in a statement asked people to observe complete shutdown in Gawkadal, Basant Bagh, Chota Bazar, Budshah Chowk and adjacent areas on January 21 (Monday).
It also asked people to observe shutdown in Handwara and Kupwara areas on January 25 and 27 respectively on Handwara and Kupwara massacres anniversaries.
“Carnage at Gaw Kadal, Handwara and Kupwara remind us of Indian brutal occupation and oppression. Illegal Military occupation followed by such massacres symbolizes callousness under the garb of so-called democracy. The nation of Kashmir is indebted to martyrs who laid down their lives for freedom and resistance leadership pledges to continue this struggle till the achievement of the sacred goal,” the statement said.
Joint Hurriyat said Kashmir is “indebted to martyrs who laid down their lives for freedom and resistance leadership pledges to continue this struggle till the achievement of the sacred goal.”
“Days like 21st, 25th and 27th January 1990 remind us of the sacrifices rendered by our dear ones. These are the days for reiteration of our commitment towards the sacred mission and today while recalling these great sacrifices we reiterate our pledge to take forward the task of martyrs till the achievement of the desired goal,” they said.

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Kashmir

Fruit growers, dealers association meets Governor

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Jammu, Jan 18: A delegation of The Kashmir Fruit Growers and Dealers Association, from Sopore led by its president F A Malik, met Governor Satya Pal Malik at the Raj Bhavan here on Friday.
The members of the delegation requested that the KCC loans of farmers be waived off on account of damage to the horticulture crops due to unexpected hailstorm.
They also requested that unhindered movement of fresh fruits outside the State be allowed.
“They also requested sanctioning of adequate funds for development of Fruit Mandi at Sopore; installation of High Mast Lights at Fruit Mandi Sopore and enroute from Sopore Bye-Pass to the Fruit Mandi; availability of quality pesticides and Tree Spray oils at genuine rates; construction of a fly over from Chakrodaykhan up to Hakim Sonaullah Hospital and Fruit Mandi; sanctioned railway track from Baramulla to Kupwara be routed from Amargarh Sopore station with a station in vicinity of Fruit Mandi; construction of a truck terminal at Tulball, Sopore and revival of juice plant at Doabgah,” a Raj Bhavan Spokesperson said.
Governor assured due consideration of their demands.

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