Unreliable highway

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The recurring closures of Jammu-Srinagar national highway, particularly during the wet months is a sad old commentary on the affairs of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. While day-in and day-out tall claims are made suggesting that the state was not far behind other states, a slight drizzle and a mild snowfall throws everything out of gear in the entire Valley. In an era when people are adopting e-governance, here is a state that has failed to ensure that a stretch of just 300 kms remains open in all weathers.

Today’s world is world of communication. Entire globe is experiencing IT revolution and here the state of Jammu and Kashmir has failed to take care of the basic surface communication. Interestingly, this highway is the only surface link of Kashmir Valley with the outer world. Although Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road too has, of late, re-emerged as another link but given the polity of the region, its being open or blocked hardly effects the day-to-day life of the Valley people. When the government talks of progress and development, the blocked highway must be laughing at these claims. In today’s world Jammu and Kashmir may be the only example where an all-important highway remains blocked every now and then because of rain and snow.

It is also true that the 300 km road stretch has outlived its tenure and whatever help it renders to the commuters is only because of the hard efforts of BEACON. The highway is prone to shooting stones, mud slides and soil erosion. It is the continuous patch-work process of BEACON that helps it to brave the heavy traffic that runs over its surface. Voices have on umpteenth times been raised for lying of an alternate highway but such voices have always fallen on deaf ears. The successive governments have never given a serious thought to the alternate highway option and have continued with patch-work process, thus not only putting precious lives to risk but also jeopardizing the Valley’s economic progress.

Though efforts are on to connect Valley with a railway link, which of course is going to take time, maintaining the Srinagar-Jammu highway properly should have been the priority. Nobody opposes a rail link; in fact, when it matures it would give a big boost to state’s economy and would revolutionize the surface communication. But dreams are not horses one could ride so easily. People are being made to dream of rail running between Jammu and Srinagar for past so many decades and thus far it has barely managed to reach anywhere close to being a reality. Let railway project be pursued and let construction of Mughal Road move ahead with greater pace but at the same time there must be a beginning to take care of the troubled spots on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. It is needed the most and much time has been wasted by looking right and left. Let there be no further wastage of time.

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