Ramban/ Jammu: As 300-kilometers long Srinagar-Jammu highway remained closed for the sixth consecutive day, thousands of stranded passengers, including children and women faced with shortage of food and shelter, carried on their journey on foot to reach their desired destinations. Distraught passengers lashing out at the government for its callousness Monday alleged that not a single official from Ramban administration was available anywhere on the blocked part of the mountainous road.
The lone highway connecting Kashmir Valley with rest of India remained closed for the sixth consecutive day on Monday due to fresh landslides and shooting stones at Ramban and Panthal areas.
An official said that fresh landslides hit the road at Ramsoo and Mehar areas of Ramban district while shooting stones continued to hit the highway at Panthal.
Hundreds of vehicles, including passenger buses, cabs, trucks and oil tankers, remained stranded at different places on the highway, including Qazigund on this side of the Jawahar tunnel for the past about one week.
Thousands of passengers who had left Jammu yesterday morning after authorities announced that highway has been reopened are stranded at different places on the highway, particularly at Ramban, Ramsu and Batote.
There were huge landslides at different places between Ramban and Ramsu besides fresh snowfall at Jawhar tunnel, Banihal, Shaitan Nallah and Patnitop, forcing closure of the highway.
The stranded passengers however, were provided meals and other facilities by a local Darul-Uloom at Ramban when the local administration was missing, alleged
Recounting their horror, some of the passengers from Kashmir Valley accused police and civil administration of being callous towards their woes. Due to lack of coordination between police and civil administration, the passengers have been suffering beyond imagination. The road from Chanderkote to Panthal was clear and yet stranded passengers were not allowed to move on in their vehicles. They alighted from their vehicles and carried on their journey by foot. The irony is that between Chanderkote and Panthal the local auto rickshaw drivers who tried to give lift to the children and women were admonished by SP Ramban as he was not allowing any vehicle to move from Chanderkote to Panthal, CNS quoted one Irfan Ahmed saying over phone. Ahmad claimed that children and women were crying as they didnt find any place to rest during the night.
An army officer somehow managed a vehicle and tried to give lift to some stranded passengers, but he too was rebuked by the police, he said and added that the stranded passengers have been suffering due to callous attitude of Ramban administration.
Another passenger said that Sarpanch Ramban adjusted some of the stranded passengers in an abandoned building belonging to JKTDC. The building was without matting and windows. The passengers shivered with cold whole night and there was not a drop of water available for them, he said women and children spent night under the open sky.
We contacted Deputy Commissioner Ramban on phone who declined to help us on the excuse that he has been recently transferred, he said and added that there is no shelter for the stranded here.
Men, women and children are hungry and thirsty since there are no food outlets. We cannot even get a bottle of water. Government has left us on Gods mercy. Not a single official from Government is seen anywhere. The children and women are in panic. They are starving, he said.
A senior police official said that they didnt allow drivers to move towards Panthal as there were apprehensions of land sliding. We have been trying our best to ease the sufferings of the stranded passengers, he said and added that Border Roads Organisation (BRO), responsible for the maintenance of the highway, has pressed into service sophisticated machinery and men to clear the highway for traffic.
An official said there were huge landslides at different places between Ramban and Ramsu besides fresh snowfall at Jawhar tunnel, Banihal, Shaitan Nallah and Patnitop, forcing closure of the highway.
However, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), responsible for the maintainance of the highway immediately put sophisticated machines and men into work to clear the landslides. The National Highway Authority of India also joined the road clearance operation.
However, intermittent rain and snowfall, triggering fresh shooting stones, was hampering the road clearance operation.
Though the BRO had cleared snow at Patnitop, Tunnel and Banihal yesterday but there was fresh landslides between Ramban and Ramsu. There were fresh landslides
We allowed traffic yesterday after receiving green signal to resume traffic from the BRO and traffic police personnel posted at different places on the highway this morning.
However, traffic was again suspended due to fresh landslides in the afternoon, he said.
Meanwhile, hundreds of vehicles, particularly empty trucks and oil tankers, have been stopped at Qazigund and other places on this side of the tunnel due to closure of the highway. Truckers stranded for the past about one week alleged that they are facing acute shortage of essentials, particularly rice and vegetables. There is also no water, they said and demanded that government make proper arrangements at all places where vehicles are stopped from moving ahead.
Traffic on the highway remained disrupted frequently since first major snowfall on January 6. However, despite putting all out efforts by BRO, only one-way traffic could be restored on the highway.
Meanwhile, the historic Mughal road, connecting Shopian in south Kashmir with Rajouri and Poonch in Jammu region, also received fresh snowfall since last night. The road, which is seen as alternative to the Srinagar-Jammu national highway remained closed since January only to reopen in April-May.
Dozens of far-flung and remote villages, including those near the Line of Control (LoC) in north Kashmir, remained cut off from their respective district headquarters due to snow.
The Bandipora to border town of Gurez road in north Kashmir also remained closed due to accumulation of snow. The road is expected to reopen only in April-May after remaining closed since January this year. However, the authorities claimed to have stored all essentials, including rice, wheat flour, sugar, LPG cylinders in cut off areas for six winter months.
The national highway, linking Ladakh region with Kashmir also remained closed for the past three months due to snow, particularly at Zojila, Zero point and Meenmarg. There was fresh snowfall on the highway, including at Sonamarg during the past 24 hours.
Disinformation & Chaos at Jammu
Several thousand Kashmir bound passengers, including women and children, had to spent night in their vehicles or open sky on the highway as there was no arrangement from the authorities, alleged the passengers.
Talking to UNI over phone from Ramban the passengers alleged that they were forced to leave Jammu yesterday since there were massive protests at Jammu bus stand against the government for failing to provide them any facility.
A passenger Javid Saleem said he and hundreds of others, including women and children, were stranded at Ramban. We cannot go back to Jammu since we were told that there was a landslide, he said.
He said local Darul-Uloom at Ramban provided food and other facilities to all stranded passengers. The authorities were missing, he said adding most of the passengers had to spent night in vehicles or open sky.
Mr Javid said now a large number of passengers, mostly youngsters have started their foot journey as we were told that there are vehicles for Kashmir on the other side of the landslide.
Demanding permanent solution to frequent closure of the highway, the only road connecting valley with the rest of the country, the passengers said people after visiting different parts of the country are reaching Jammu with very limited money to travel to their homes. But, they said due to closure of the highway, they had to spend entire money on room rent and meals which goes up after road communication is snapped.
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