NH closure triggers crisis in Kashmir as prices soar, Srinagar shivers at -7.8 deg C

Sun comes out amid freezing Dal as mercury dips to record minus 7.8 in Srinagar.
Sun comes out amid freezing Dal as mercury dips to record minus 7.8 in Srinagar.

1500 trucks stranded, bailey bridge in next 24 hrs

Gopal Sharma/ Irfan Tramboo

JAMMU/SRINAGAR, Jan 13: With the closure of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, a crisis-like situation has emerged in the Valley as the prices of the essential commodities have considerably gone up while National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has claimed that bailey bridge near Ramban will be ready in next 24 hours.
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Over 1500 trucks and oil tankers with supplies for Kashmir are stranded in Ramban, Chanderkote, Chenani-Nashri, Udhampur, Samba-Mansar and Jammu-By-pass area for the last four days. The truckers are also facing lot of hardships enroute.

BRO engineers examining bailey bridge site at Kela Morh in Ramban on Wednesday. —Excelsior/Parvaiz Mir
BRO engineers examining bailey bridge site at Kela Morh in Ramban on Wednesday. —Excelsior/Parvaiz Mir

A senior officer of the NHAI said that that pre-fabricated material of bridge has been dumped by the BRO men at Kela Morh in Ramban where road has caved in. They examined the area where bridge has to be launched. Tomorrow morning, the launching work would commence and traffic will be restored on Friday with the completion of the bridge.
SSP Traffic, National Highway, JS Johar said that he was in constant touch with the NHAI and BRO officials. He said all the bridge material has reached at the site. With round the clock work, the bridge would be restored within one day. He disclosed that many loaded trucks and oil tankers, are stranded at various places between Ramban and Jammu, Over 500 vehicles are in Samba-Mansar -Manwal area. At first trucks loaded with perishable items and essentials would be cleared for Valley.
Meanwhile, people in Kashmir told the Excelsior that the prices of all the day-to-day commodities such as vegetables, fruits and other essentials have sky-rocketed and it appears that there is no regulation on the prices by the authorities. The vegetables, fruits are being sold at more than double the original price in markets with the situation being bad in Srinagar City where the vegetables such as onions, tomatoes and potatoes are being sold at unaffordable prices.
Interestingly, several traders who are dealing with the vegetables and other essentials have also resorted to black marketing where they are creating a shortage of the essentials to pay the way for the price-hike.
“Several essential items, as they are consumed on daily basis, are missing from the markets and those that are available are being sold at high prices which make it difficult for a common man,” Abdul Qayoom a resident of Hawal said.
The locals said that one single commodity is being sold at different prices in Srinagar and elsewhere in the absence of any regulatory mechanism.
Mutton is absent from many markets in Kashmir while as the markets where it is available, there is a considerable price hike. While the government rate for mutton is Rs 480 per kg, the same is being sold at Rs 600-650 per kg and that too of low quality.
Majority of the butchers in the Srinagar city do not open their shops during the day as they carry out their business early in the morning or in the evening in the wake of market checks by the concerned department.
Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs (FCS&CA) has also swung into the action and sealed at least 7 shops in Srinagar city today. The Department has made it a point time to seal the shops of the habitual offenders as earlier an FIR was lodged against them.
“We today directly sealed 7 shops of the habitual offenders in Srinagar, these included butchers as well as the vegetable sellers along with recovering at least Rs 17000/- as fine from the violators,” Assistant Director Enforcement FCSCA, Mushtaq Ahmad Wani told Excelsior.
He also said that the sealed establishments will be allowed to operate only after the mohalla committees give it in writing so that there are no violations in future while assuring that there is a sufficient stock of supplies available.
On the other side, the wholesalers of the vegetables, fruits and other commodities said that their stock of vegetables has ended on Tuesday, which they said, might aggravate the crisis further.
“We have exhausted our stock of vegetables yesterday; while as the fruits and other items are in stock. We don’t know to keep enough stock of these commodities while those who come second in line in the market chain do; and with the shortage of commodities, the prices do go up,” a wholesaler at Parimpora Mandi told Excelsior.
Notably, the National Highway is officially closed for 10 days while as the repair works on the road are going on. Amid such a scenario, people said that the Food Department should intensify its markets checks so that the situation does not go out of control.
Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Pandurang K. Pole said that there is a sufficient stock of ration available in Kashmir valley to last for the next 3 months, and petrol and diesel are also available in sufficient quantity. He said that the LPG stock is also sufficiently available and is going to last more than 15 days.
He added that the concerned department has been asked to intensify the market checking to make sure there is no black marketing and there is a check on prices.
“We are expecting that within one week the National Highway is thrown open for the traffic till then we have enough stock supply,” he said.
Meanwhile, Jammu witnessed sharp decline in temperature as compared to last couple of days. Jammu today recorded a minimum temperature of 6.9 degree Celsius and maximum 12.4 degree C. The fog continued to grip plain area of Jammu, Samba and Kathua areas.
Bhaderwah recorded a minimum temperature of -0.4 deg C and maximum 16.1 deg, Batote minimum 4.9 deg C, Banihal 4.0 deg C while holy township of Katra minimum 4.4 degree C and maximum 15.2 deg C temperature today.
A MeT spokesman said that in next three days, the weather in Kashmir ansd Jammu regions will remain mainly dry. The fog continued to hit morning flights at Jammu with delayed arrivals for the last couple of days.
Meanwhile, the dry weather conditions after last week’s heavy snowfall led to plummeting of temperatures across the region with Srinagar recording the coldest night after eight years while the temperature dropping to minus 7.8 degrees Celsius.
Kashmir woke to the coldest morning today with temperatures plummeting to minus 7.8 degree Celsius in Srinagar. The minimum temperatures was minus 9.3 in Qazigund, Pahalgam recorded minus11.7, Kupwara minus 5.6, Kokernag minus 9.9, Gulmarg minus 10.0, Awantipora minus 10.2, Anantnag minus 9.3, Bandipora minus 5.5, Budgam minus 8.8, Shopian minus 12.3, Pulwama minus 8.7 and Kulgam minus 10.0 degree Celsius.
Srinagar recorded coldest temperatures after 8 years. Last time Srinagar recorded minus 7.8 degree Celsius eight years ago in 2012. In 1995, the coldest temperature of the city was recorded at minus 8.3 degree Celsius, in 1991 it plummeted to minus 11.8 degree Celsius, in 1997 coldest was recorded at minus 8 degree Celsius and in 1986 minus 9 degree Celsius.
The plummeting of temperatures led to freezing of water bodies and taps with world famous Dal lake also freezing. It was a spectacular view at Dal lake with major portions of the lake turning into sheets of ice.
The boatmen faced difficulty in rowing their boats in the frozen lake. They had to cut the ice to make way for their boats. The other water bodies including ponds were also frozen across Kashmir.
The water taps were also frozen leading to temporary water shortage across Kashmir. However, late in the afternoon due to a sunny day, there was some relief.
In the morning and evening the roads had become a sheet of ice causing slippery conditions.
The Meteorological Department (MeT) said that the weather will remain dry till January-20. “There is a forecast of dry weather till Jan-20,” MeT Deputy Director, Mukhtar Ahmad said.
He said that there was a dip in mercury following heavy snowfall across the valley. “Last night was the season’s coldest night,” he said.