National Highway— passengers stranded

As usual, landslides due to intermittent rains and heavy snow falls on the Jammu – Srinagar National Highway have played havoc and rendered the road incapable of running of traffic . Not only vehicles, mostly trucks, are reported to be stranded but passengers too have been greatly inconvenienced. The other link, that of by air too, is affected and most of the flights have been cancelled due to poor visibility at both the capital airports. Even helicopter services to Shree Mata Vaishno Devi were suspended on account of inclement weather conditions. The wintry weather laced with rains and snow had its fury unleashed on several roads in Doda, Bhadarwah, Kishtwar, Ramban, Udhampur, Reasi and Poonch resulting in their temporary closure. Even at the time of going to the press, it has been raining and snowing in the entire region coupled with icy winds while the Srinagar- Jammu Highway continues to be closed as several fresh landslides between Banihal and Ramban have been reported.
Most of the period of winter in Jammu and Kashmir this year remained dry or with sporadic drizzling excepting snowfall on higher reaches and mountainous areas which resulted in the uninterrupted smooth traffic movement on the National Highway . Usually, during the tail end of the harsh wintery days , it rains and very often in torrents coupled with snow falls which causes disruptions in the traffic as also difficulties for travelling public to and fro the twin capital cities. It is not as if something unusual happens but what appears unusual is that the administrative machinery is very often caught unawares in tackling the well-known problems faced on this very important and critical National Highway. Measures required to address the problem are rarely well planned in a professional manner and in advance but when weather gods put the administration to test without foretelling , it fares poorly . Agreed, the geological nature of the hills through which the road passes are volatile in nature and cannot be manoeuvred effectively so as to ensure smooth uninterrupted traffic movement but much can be done to keep the situation arising under full control.
The National Highway of today is not the same it used to be two or three decades back and naughty spots like Nashiri, Khooni nallah and some other patches with shooting stones and slippery rocks would cause loss of life and property but the fact remains about only a few spots still remaining in fragility too much to withstand torrential rains and snow falls which could be managed effectively and necessary machinery and personnel deployed to keep such patches clear. The fact , however, remains that motoring on Jammu Srinagar National Highway , otherwise is enjoyable , comfortable and less time taking exercise though it remains busy nearly three times as much as two decades back due to widening of roads and construction of the longest Highway tunnel of India known as Chenani – Nashri tunnel .
It is , however, a matter of satisfaction that to tackle the arising situation some help and necessary required steps by the administration have been taken as at Ramban , nearly 500 stranded passengers were provided shelter as well as food for which the District administration deserves commendation. It is again a good gesture of the inhabitants of Ramsu and Panthyal areas who provided help , food and shelter to many stranded passengers . The need , however , as one of the long term measures must be constructions of hotels and shelter houses at or near such spots and patches where landslides cause disruptions so that shelter could be provided to passengers who get stuck up en- route under the conditions prevailing at such weather conditions.
Since the rains and snowing have been widespread , several snow bound areas of Jammu region had power supply disrupted which include Machhedi, Lohai- Malhar, Bani, Dadu-Latti Basantgarh, Gool- Mahore, Bhalesa, Doda , Kishtwar and Ramban resulting in lot of hardships to the people. Though a large number of Srinagar and other hilly areas bound passengers are stranded at Jammu Bus stand , and facing inconvenience are however assured of safety , shelter and food than if stranded en-route and it should be the combined cooperation of the Traffic Police, Police, District administrations as also Meteorological Department to allow vehicular traffic on the Highway from both sides only after being assured of hassles free running as weather forecasting in the present era of satellites and technology has become less of assumptions and more of accuracies though there could be leverages for errors but assuredly not much.
It will not be entirely out of context to mention that lot of funds were spent on the construction of and maintenance of the Mughal road which was conceived of as an alternate route to reach the valley especially during temporary closure of the National High-way but it appears that some more time would be required to have that possibility turn into a workable proposition. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is on record having assured an amount of Rs.7000 investment in Jammu and Kashmir Highway projects during 2019-20 which kindles the hope of seeing more improvement and facilities on this important National Highway . In the meantime, as weather hopefully improves in a day or two , the current situation in respect of road and air mobility is expected to improve.