Stranded Passengers Charged for Help

Ramban: Kashmir bound passengers stranded at Chanderkote on Srinagar-Jammu highway Tuesday staged an angry protest alleging that no government help reached them from past couple of days.

 The protesters alleged that government officials have informed them that in case of air-lifting, they have to pay from their own pockets. “We have been without food and facilities suffering here. There are sick, elderly people, children and women and the government wants to make money for the mess created by them,” protesters said.

They said that it has been for the first time that stranded passengers will have to bear the expenses. “There are scores of people who have little money left with them.  In this situation instead of helping the needy, the government is trying to fill its own coffers,” they alleged.

“We were informed that we will be air-lifted but so far no help reached to us. Government should airlift the stranded passengers without charging them anything,” said a lady stranded at Chanderkote from past three days.

Pertinently, the government had said that it will arrange air sorties from Srinagar towards Udhampur for stranded passengers in the valley due to closure of the highway.

According to the Director State Road Transport Corporation, no SRTC buses were pressed into service to take back the stranded passengers back to Jammu from Chanderkote. “Our own buses have been stranded at Chanderkote and stranded passengers are reluctant to go back to Jammu. There were some SRTC buses that dropped some of the stranded passengers at Udhampur,” G.A.Sofi said and refuted allegations that they charge anything extra from the stranded passengers.

However, an official from District Ramban confirmed that passengers have to pay for both road and air transport. “A passenger will need to pay Rs.75 for a bus ride from Jammu to Uhampur and Rs. 1,500 for onward journey to Srinagar on the Air Force plane.  Meanwhile, about a hundred passengers, mostly youths having very less luggage, covered the most affected portion of the highway between Ramban and Ramsu on foot to reach their destinations yesterday.
However, thousands of passengers, including woman and children, who had left Jammu on March 12 morning after the highway was opened briefly, are stranded at different places on the highway, particularly at Ramban, Ramsu and Batote.

The stranded passengers alleged that local administration was missing and they were provided meals by local Darul-Uloom at Ramban.

The highway remained closed due to landslides at several places between Ramban and Ramsu, particularly at Penthal, a traffic police official told UNI.

He said vehicles which had left Jammu on March 12 for Kashmir have been stopped at safe places on the highway.

However, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), responsible for the maintainance of the highway and National High Authority of India (NHAI) are working round the clock to put through the highway, the only road linking the Kashmir valley with the rest of the country.

 He said traffic on the highway was allowed from Jammu to Srinagar on March 12 after four days closure only to suspend again in the afternoon due to fresh landslides.

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.

A passenger Parvez Ahmad Dar, who alongwith about one hundred passengers covered the damaged portion of the road on foot, said at several places the road has been totally washed away. The BRO men are working to rebuilt the road, he said.

Dar, who reached home late last night said they left vehicle they had boarded from Jammu at Ramban only board another vehicle at Ramsu for Kashmir.

Javid Saleem another passenger said he and hundreds of others, including women and children, were stranded at Ramban. We could not go back to Jammu since there was a landslide, 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 besides financial loss, they are facing acute shortage of essentials, particularly rice and vegetables.         

 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.

There was no relief for the people living in dozens of far flung and remote village in border area of Gurez as road to district headquarter Bandipora remained closed due to accumulation of snow. The road is expected to reopen only in April-May after remaining closed since January this year.  

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. (With inputs from CNS)


Stranded light vehicles allowed to move

Traffic on the highway, connecting the Kashmir valley with the rest of the country, was partially restored Tuesday as only light vehicles stranded for last several days were allowed to proceed towards Srinagar this afternoon.

 However, no heavy vehicles, also stranded on the highway for the past seven days, were allowed to move, a traffic police official said.

He said light passenger vehicles stranded on the highway at Ramban only were allowed to move towards Kashmir this afternoon.

The authorities have arranged special air sorties for passengers stranded in Kashmir today.

Now light vehicles carrying passengers stranded at Ramban were allowed to move towards Srinagar this afternoon.

However, traffic police official said that normal traffic on the highway will be resumed only after receiving green signal from BRO and traffic police officials posted at different places. However, no fresh vehicle will be allowed from Srinagar or Jammu untill all stranded passengers are cleared, he said.

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