110 kilometer long NH 1B remains closed even on third day for all vehicular traffic owing to boulders and rock slides coming down from heights as a result of incessant and stormy winds that gripped the Pir Panchal and Shivlak ranges. All vehicular traffic came to a standstill, hundreds if passengers were left stranded at the 100 meters long stretch of landslide in the area of Kuligard at DrabshaIla. It is not clear if the weatherman had issued forewarning about the consequences of highly inclement weather or not. Landslides cannot be exactly foretold despite much advancement in aspects of space science.
The NH B1 connecting Batote with Doda and Kishtwar is notorious for landslides and mudslides especially during the summer rainy season and the winter season when snow begins to melt. The road is cut through non solid rocks that contribute to the instability of the hills across which the road has been cut. There have been serious suggestions that an alternative road connection between Batote and Doda needs to be explored just because the existing road does not serve the purpose as it gets blocked unexpectedly when there are summer rains or winter snow. We understand that sometimes back there was a move in official circles to get a survey of the alternative road made that would replace the present once. Somehow little was heard about any progress this concept had made. Whatever the position, the ground reality is that the connecting road between Batote and Kishtwar seems to have outlived its days and as such it would be in fitness of things to think of analternative or alternatives that could replace the present connectivity. Of course, it has to be a lengthy project provided the Government agrees to give it a go, and could take decades to complete. There are many projects of the central Government that take a longer time to complete for various reasons.
We know that the Chenab region has lagged behind in the development of infrastructure and other related civic facilities. Road connectivity is of crucial importance to development. That is why so much importance is being given to road connectivity especially in J&K which is 80 per cent hilly. Three or four days of closure of road means enormous human and economic problems for the masses of people. Essential supplies like food grains, milk powder and most importantly medicines when halted, cause enormous disruption of life. And this phenomenon is happening not once or twice but very often. Therefore it is unavoidable for the Government to revive the subject of ordering survey of an alternative connectivity between Batote and Ramban. The Government is duty bound to provide a safe and less prone to landslides road now that emphasis is on countrywide network of road connectivity. Stranded passengers should have been evacuated on war footing and even food and water should have been air dropped so that no deaths owing to hunger would have happened. We learn that Government machinery has moved fast and succor is being provided to the stranded people. That is commendable and should have been done on emergency level. It has to be understood that Batote – Doda -Kishtwar link is also an alternative to the National Highway 1 that connects Jammu with Kashmir. That significance cannot be underestimated. Moreover, our policy planners are envisaging road connectivity with Chamba also. Therefore in totality Batote-Doda-Kishtwar link is of enormous importance to the State and finding an alternative to this unstable mountain road is very much warranted.