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

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.