By Haroon Rashid Bhat
Frequent Closure of Jammu Srinagar National Highway Adds More Hardships. “Do we live with this fate forever or the concerned authorities will come out with some enduring solution? This is the question that our future generation asks.”
The Jammu-Srinagar National Highway is the northernmost segment of the National Highway in India (NH- 44 ). It is the only vital surface link that connects Kashmir with the rest of the country. The frequent closure of this road due to snow accumulation, avalanches, and heavy landslides particularly during the winter season not only snatched the precious lives but also adds countless misery and pains to the people of Kashmir valley. Almost all sections of the society get directly or indirectly impacted by this closure but people who become the first sufferers of this situation are- Patients who are bound to avail any emergency medical treatment from the outside and can’t afford to buy air tickets. The students who are enrolled in different institutions within the country, job seekers who are supposed to attend any examination or interview, the business class people who are associated with small business. Tones of vegetables, fruits, and other essential food item rotten due to the prolonged stay of load carriers on the road.
This is the one side of the situation that emerges due to this closure, the other side is darker than this. Whenever there is an announcement by the Administration that this particular road remains closed for a few days, some selfish wholesale traders, shopkeepers take it as an opportunity to increase the price of the essential commodities subsiding the government rate list. Even our locally produced food items are being sold at high prices. Airfares become so expensive during those odd times that a common person can’t think to avail facility of this alternative means of transport.
We live in a postmodern era, an era of scientific advancement. The world has witnessed wonders in construction works. Huge mountains are erased unto the ground to make passes and tunnels, undersea tunnels are constructed. Proposal and designs have been made to establish space settlements. Dashrath Manjhi- the Mountain-Man of India single-handedly carved a path through a ridge of hills by using only a hammer and chisel; shortened the travel between the Atri and Wazirgan from 55 km to 15 km but unfortunately the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways and National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) failed to find alternatives to the crises that result from the closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway. The recent announcement made by the administration about the closure of this road for more than a week due to the severe damage at Kela Morth in Ramban reminds me of the famous poem of legendary English poet Agha Shahid Ali- A Country Without post office” though which, he bestowed a voice to the ordinary people of Kashmir whose sufferings remained unheard.
There is a Kashmiri saying “Pooth Chandee” means- a pocket behind your back. We usually use this axiom when a person or any matter get the least consideration in terms of its attention or solution. Sometimes, It seems to me that when people call this land the paradise on the earth or the crown of the country, they only considered its scenic beauty, lush green forests, mountains, or water resources as neglecting the most precious entities of this land that are its inhabitants.
The authorities who were/are at the helm of affairs know its economic and social importance but they never bother to find its ever-lasting solution. Unfortunately, the valley of Kashmir remains in the news for one reason or the other reason but our vital issues remain unattended so far.
Do we live with this fate forever or the concerned authorities will come out with some enduring solution? This is the question that our future generation asks.
Haroon Rashid Bhat is a teacher by Profession and can be reached at [email protected]