The 290 kilometer long Srinagar – Jammu national highway is witnessing frequent closure due to the triggering of landslides and avalanches at many places. This is not first time when this highway that is only road link of Kashmir with rest of the country has remained closed for traffic especially in the winters. Every year dozens of civilians get killed on this road as it is one of the dangerous roads and prone to shooting stones and slides. Recently a major tragedy got averted when hundreds of private vehicles got stuck inside the Jawahar tunnel. Three top officials of J&K police were suspended for not responding to calls of passengers in distress. Though work is on full swing on the four lanning of the Srinagar – Jammu national highway however the work is being executed at snail’s pace especially on the stretch from Ramban to Banihal that is the most venerable part of the highway. And it is evident that the completion of this project which has so far missed multiple deadlines will again fail to meet the deadline. Recently the stranded passengers were forced to sleep inside their vehicles when highway got closed. In freezing temperature and fear of landslide passengers narrated horrific tales when they reached on their destinations after 18 to 24 hours of closure of this surface link of mountainous valley. Such is the restlessness growing among people over the frequent closure of the national highway that calls for opening of the Srinagar Muzaffarabad road as an alternative road link for trade and travel. Even opposition parties have demanded opening of the road owing to failure of government in completing the project. The airlines also take undue advantage of the peoples miseries during the closure of road link and raise the fares to an extent that common man fails to opt for the air travel notwithstanding his business and personal compulsions. Recently during the closure of highway, the fares between Srinagar and Jammu touched upto Rs 35000.
Time has come when government should wake-up from slumber and get this highway completed on war footing basis.
From the print edition of Feb 8 to 14, 2016