The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry has expressed serious concern at the lack of proper infrastructural planning and mismanagement of traffic which is causing crippling losses to the economy and suffering to the general public. The frequent closure of the Jammu-Srinagar road link due to landslides and shooting stones, unscheduled declaration of one way movement, the two days closure for movement of Security Forces and the harassment of travelers due to multiple check points has resulted in the development of an abnormal situation of people being dissuaded from using the Highway.
A spokesperson of KCC&I today said that although the Jammu- Srinagar highway suffered from minor problems earlier also but the condition since last year has been unprecedented. The journey from Udhampur to Srinagar a mere distance of around 200Km- has turned into a nightmare. Vehicles laden with goods have been stuck at various places for weeks together. Documents submitted by members of the KCC&I show that some trucks have been stuck at Udhampur since 10th of April.
Transportation of livestock including poultry and sheep towards Srinagar and movement of fruits from Srinagar to outside the valley has also been severely hit. There are reports the the fruit sent from Kashmir has reached various mandi’s in a bad condition. Tourist vehicles are also stopped and we have reports that tourist groups have often taken more than 20 hours to reach Srinagar which has disrupted their booking schedules and programmes. Tourists are therefore avoiding travelling by road. In view of the huge monetory risk involved, movement of perishable goods including frozen products has reduced to almost nil. Transporters are now flatly refusing to ply their vehicles on the Jammu-Srinagar Sector. Losses caused to various sectors are mounting as the sector has been rendered unviable due to the reasons enumerated above.
The situation in the capital city of Srinagar and other major townships of the valley is no better. Traffic bottlenecks, jams and inadequate management manpower at all major and peripheral junctions has choked the roads. Srinagar seems to be the biggest casualty of ill-conceived planning over the years.
The conversion of a motorable bridge at Rajbagh into a footbridge is a case in point. The wastage of crores of rupees of public money into the creation of a foot bridge when the choked public is gasping for more road links is a bizzare decision. Same can be said of the erstwhile Zero Bridge which could have – with appropriate reinforcements – provided necessary traffic disbursal linkage for light one-way traffic. The Government has, in it’s wisdom, converted two motorable bridges into foot bridges and built another footbridge near the Museum in a stretch of around 1.5 km whereas the requirement is for providing of multiple motorable bridges across the Jhelum. The Government seems to be oblivious to and unconscious about the miserable plight of the public who have to waste hours everyday while commuting to work on these routes. After the Durbar Move, the situation is likely to go from bad to worse.
The Government needs to take immediate corrective measures to rectify the abnormal situation which is clearly moving towards an economic collapse. But at the same time, it also needs to re-assess long term infrastructural requirements as it cannot be digging wells every time there is a fire.
The Kashmir Chamber has also been pressing for the early opening of the Mughal Road and in this regard appreciate the efforts put in by the Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir for issuing necessary directions for diverting road opening machinery for this purpose. The efforts put in by the district administration of Shopian especially R&B Department, Mechanical Engineering Wing has resulted in the clearance of the road upto Peer Ki Gali despite inclement weather conditions and heavy snow. The blockade is now on a stretch of about two kms falling in Jammu Division which we have been assured will be cleared up within a week. The KCC&I strongly recommends that the Mughal Road should be developed as an exclusive corridor for uninterrupted movement of civilian traffic during the summer months in addition to correcting the problems on the National Highway.
The Kashmir Chamber of Commerce & Industry also urges for conversion of the Foot Bridge to Motorable bridges, as originally planned adequate augmentation of personnel for management of traffic throughout the valley is also recommended.