No relief for people of Kashmir as Srinagar-Jammu highway remains shut

SRINAGAR : Over 5,000 vehicles, including those carrying essentials and oil tankers, remained stranded at different places on the 270-km-long Srinagar-Jammu national highway on Thursday which has been closed for traffic movement after the retaining wall of a bridge in Ramban collapsed on Sunday evening.
Barring the Kela Morh, where the main bridge on the highway has been damaged, the road is open for traffic. Meanwhile, stranded passengers are now crossing a nalluh near the damaged bridge to reach the other side and board vehicles for their destination.
The historic 86-km-long Mughal road and Anantnag-Kishtwar roads have remained shut since last week of December, 2020 due to accumulation of snow while the national highway, the only road linking the Union Territory (UT) of Ladakh with Kashmir has been closed for the winter months.
A traffic police official said this morning that the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, the only all weather road connecting Kashmir valley with the rest of the country, remained closed for the fourth consecutive day on Thursday due to sudden damage to the bridge at Kela Morh in Ramban on Sunday evening. The highway will remain closed for the next few days, he said.
The National High Authority of India (NHAI) had informed the state authorities that repairing by concrete filling and settling of concrete to make it usable by vehicles may take over a week. However, the NHAI said in the interim period, to restore connectivity a bailey bridge is being set up by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). The BRO has stored all necessary equipment for the bailey bridge. Meanwhile, the NHAI have also started work on the construction of a permanent bridge.
Traffic official said Jammu and Kashmir bound vehicles remained stranded on both sides of the damaged bridge at Kela Morh as there is no alternative to divert the traffic.
However, he said that vehicles can ply between Jammu-Doda-Kishtwar, Jammu-Ramban, Magarkote-Banihal and Banihal- Qazigund stretches on the highway.
Several thousand empty trucks, oil and gas tankers are stranded on this side of the Jawahar tunnel.
A family travelling in their car said they had to return back to Banihal after the bridge was damaged. They further said that on Monday they travelled from Banihal to Kela Morh bridge and later crossed a nullah on foot to reach other side, where vehicles were available for Ramban.
Similarly other passengers from both sides also crossed the nullah on foot to reach other side before boarding vehicles for their destination. However, the passenger alleged that they were charged Rs 300 per person from Banihal to Kela Bridge.
There was nobody from the administration to guide the stranded passengers, they alleged and said only few police personnel had blocked the road from both sides of the bridge.
Meanwhile, people alleged that the prices of essentials, particularly fresh vegetables have increased after the highway was closed.
The Mughal road, which is seen as alternative to Srinagar-Jammu national highway has also remained closed since December last year due to heavy accumulation of snow and slippery road conditions.
The road connects Shopian in south Kashmir with Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region.
The road connecting Anantnag in south Kashmir with Kishtwar in Jammu region also remained closed due to snowfall.
The Srinagar-Leh national highway has also been declared closed for winter months by the authorities from January 1, 2021. (agenceis)