Unreliable highway

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The recurring closure of Srinagar-Jammu national highway, particularly during the winter months is a sad old commentary on the sorry state of affairs 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 270 kms remains open in all weathers. Neither ever have the governments that be given serious thought to laying down an alternate highway nor have the repairs of the existing road been of any concern and that is why come winter, the road gets blocked for days together risking hundreds of lives besides impacting life in Kashmir as the Valley gets all necessary supplies via this road only, and any stoppage in the traffic movement on this road pushes up the prices of almost everything in Kashmir.

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 Srinagar-Jammu highway 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.

Instead of fooling people by saying that Valley would be connected to the mainland India with a railway link, construction of an alternate highway and making the existing highway an all-weather connection should have been the priority. Nobody opposes a rail link; in fact, if and 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 some fifty odd kilometers beyond Jammu. Let railway project be pursued with greater pace but at the same time there must be a beginning to do something to the existing Srinagar-Jammu highway which would at least ensure that it remains open without being impacted by the routine weather phenomena. 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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