Highway remained closed for 3rd day, Stranded Protest, Essential and fuel crisis across Kashmir

Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only surface link to Kashmir with outside world, remained closed due to heavy snowfall and landslides for the third consecutive day Friday, triggering protests by the stranded people in Jammu.

Over 1500 vehicles, mostly trucks carrying essential supplies are stranded at various places on highway fromLakhanpur in Kathua district to Banihal belt of Rambandistrict.

“The highway is closed for the third consecutive daytoday due to multiple landslides and snowfall.No traffic has been allowed on highway fromJammu,” police officials said.

Due to landslides and snowfall, the highway has becomefragile for the vehicular traffic and in various other sectors it has become slippery, they said.

Apart from snowfall in Jawahar tunnel and Patnitopareas, there were landslides in Ramban district, they said.

The men and machines of BRO are working to clear thehighway of landslides and shooting stones, occurredat Marog, Battery Chashma, Anokhi fall and Panthal areas, theyadded.

One body was recovered from landslide hit Marog areain Ramban district on the highway and another was injured inlandslide on Batote-Doda road, they said.

The highway had remained closed for over 15 days sincethe beginning of the new year owing to intermittent spells ofsnowfall and rains. On Tuesday, the one-way traffic wasallowed from Srinagar towards Jammu after five days.

High altitude areas of Jammu and Kashmir experiencedfresh spell of snowfall, while the plains were lashed by rainssince Tuesday night but stopped Friday.

The MeT office has already predicted widespread tofairly widespread rain and snow across the state till tomorrowevening.

After day long heavy rains in plains of Jammu, bright sun shrine has increased the temperature.

Over 150 stranded passengers at Jammu bus stand held protests against the government seeking early snow clerance and reopening of the highway so that they travel back to Kashmir.

A day after the Kashmir divisional administration pressed a panic button over “fast-depletion of petroleum products” in the Valley, chaotic scenes were witnessed at petrol and diesel outlets in the Valley, especially in the state’s summer capital Srinagar, on Friday.
Scores of consumers accused the governor’s administration of “lying” that enough stocks of fuel and LPG were available in the Valley.

The divisional administration Thursday asked outlets to restrict sale of petrol at 3 liters per-vehicle per-day and diesel at 10 liters per-vehicle per-day. The administration asked deputy commissioners to keep a check on “judicious” sale of petrol and diesel and ensure that each consumer “does not buy cooking gas cylinders in bulk to avoid further shortage”.

Many consumers said the administration’s order triggered panic.
“The administration has been seemingly lying that stocks will last for a month even if the highway remains closed for such a period. Following the divisional administration’s call, people are rushing to petrol outlets with their vehicles and also rushing to get many as (LPG) cylinders refilled,” said Basit Ahmad, a consumer from Hyderpora.

A source said that ahead of winter, the administration would ensure that 17,000- 20,000 LPG cylinders, mostly from the Indian oil corporation, are dumped in Kashmir, while this stock for Leh and Kargil happens to be nearly 1 lakh cylinders.

This figure is however notwithstanding the fact that Kashmir witnesses average consumption of 3500 cylinders a day.
“8450 cylinders are stuck on the highway and if the road remains closed for more than seven days, we will be facing a severe shortage of LPG in the market,” said an official of an oil marketing company, wishing not to be named as he wasn’t authorised to speak to media.

Consumers say frequent closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway results in truckloads of LPG and fuel tankers getting stuck on the road. However, this is exposing the government’s tall claims of sufficient stocks of fuel and cooking gas being available in the Valley, they said.
The impact of fuel shortage is felt even at the Srinagar airport, where, despite improvement in weather, more flights may get cancelled as the airport is “running short” of aviation turbine fuel (ATF), which is needed to refuel flights before their takeoff.

A source said supplies of ATF are stuck on the highway since mid-January.
An oil marketing company executive, wishing anonymity, told Kashmir Post that even though the companies have a “hospitality agreement” to share stocks of LPG and other petroleum products but “due to highway closure and a subsequent massive demand of its own consumers, lender companies can provide only a limited support to companies in need”.