National Highway blockade chokes Kashmir as traffic remained disrupted for fifth consecutive day

The traffic on the 270-km Jammu-Srinagar national highway remained disrupted for the fifth consecutive day on Sunday as only stranded vehicles were allowed to move on the road after the clearance of debris of landslides that have hit the highway since Wednesday.
Though the traffic was scheduled to be restricted to defence vehicles only on Sunday, the authorities allowed stranded vehicles, mostly trucks carrying essential commodities, to move on the highway.

More than 5,000 vehicles were stuck on the highway since Wednesday due to continuous landslides and shooting stones in the Digdole area of Ramban district. Of them, over 4,000 were cleared by Sunday evening.

Various agencies on Saturday evening cleared the debris and allowed the Srinagar-bound vehicles to move.

“Only stranded vehicles were allowed on the highway on Sunday. More than 4,000 vehicles have been cleared from the highway,” said a police official, adding that the normal traffic would resume on Monday.

The official said no security vehicle was allowed from the either side of the highway on Sunday.

The movement on the Jammu-Srinagar highway has been restricted to security vehicles only on Sundays and Wednesdays since April 7 in the wake of the Pulwama attack. The state administration later eased the restrictions by allowing the traffic on the Srinagar-Baramulla stretch.

Meanwhile, The unusual summer blockade of the 300-km Srinagar-Jammu national highway ended on Sunday, but the markets across Kashmir valley witnessed soaring prices and shortage of supplies.
As soon as the highway was shut, the prices of vegetables and fruits almost doubled. The highway shutdown, which is common during the winter but rare during the summer, led many to conjure up conspiracy theories.

“It is being done deliberately. They want to weaken us economically and make us beg. Otherwise when has it happened in the past during the summer,” said a vegetable vendor in the city.

The Srinagar-Jammu highway, which is the only supply route for the essentials to the Valley, was shut four days ago when a massive landslide blocked it at Digdol in Ramban district. As hundreds of vehicles were stranded on the highway, Kashmir ran out of stocks.

The highway shutdown has caused a rise in the prices of commodities in the Kashmir valley as stocks have depleted amid a high demand in the wake of Ramzan.

An official of the traffic department said the highway was restored on Sunday but only stranded Kashmir-bound vehicles were allowed to move. The latest shutdown has led to a call for alternative and all-weather supply route to the Valley.

On Saturday, National Conference general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar issued a statement, urging the administration to make “fully functional” other routes, connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country.

“The blockade has ruined various perishable items and other edibles. It has also killed many livestock. The traders continue to be at the receiving end,” Sagar said.

The highway had remained shut for most days during the winter due to spells of rain and snowfall. The frequent shutdown of the highway has also created a scare among the traders in Kashmir.

Only stranded vehicles allowed
Of the 5,000 vehicles stuck on the highway since Wednesday due to continuous landslides and shooting stones in the Digdole area of Ramban district, over 4,000 were cleared till Sunday evening
Various agencies on Saturday evening cleared the debris and allowed the Srinagar-bound vehicles to move
A police official said no security vehicle was allowed from either side of the highway on Sunday