The business in Kashmir faces a loss of Rs five crores per day due to frequent blockade of Srinagar–Jammu highway, the data provided by Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Fund (KTMF) has revealed.
The highway remains frequently closed due to the ongoing blasting of mountains for highway expansion and adverse weather conditions, having a far reaching effect on Kashmir economy.
According to reports, the highway has remained blocked for more than fifty days this year alone. The blocking of Srinagar-Jammu highway results in decline in the quality of fruits due to which fruit growers of Kashmir are unable to sell their products at a decent price to outside buyers.
“The overall business in Kashmir faces a daily loss of five crore rupees due to the products that get stranded on the highway for days including livestock, merchandise and fresh fruits,” said Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF) president Muhammad Yaseen Khan. “I don’t think the government is serious about reviving the economy because if they are talking about development, they must first improve the road connectivity on which the businesses here depend.”
While giving details he said that the demand of fruits outside J&K is high between October and March but “unfortunately this is the time when our highway remains mostly blocked, restricting our fruit industry to do business in its full capacity.”
He said that the fruit industry of Kashmir is currently doing business of Rs 9000 crores compared to its actual capacity that is Rs 20,000 crores.
Mohammad Ashraf, president of Shopian’s fruit mandi said “when a truck is stranded for 5-6 days on the highway and reaches the buyer after delay of ten days, the buyer refuses to pay the transporting rent and doesn’t agree to pay the proper price for the products.”
“We load a maximum of eleven hundred boxes of apples in one truck with each box costing Rs 950 but with no schedule of truck convoys and random blocking of highway there is a huge delay in the delivery due to which fruit loses its quality before reaching the buyer,” said Tariq Ahmad who owns a transport firm in Shopian. “Then we are forced to sell these boxes at a lower price to the buyer. Each box is sold at a discount of average Rs 200 thus incurring a heavy loss to a seller.”
He said “in Qazigund the trucks are kept on halt for almost three days because of no proper schedule but if the government comes up with a proper schedule for trucks loaded with fruits and keeps one day for them in a week, then we will have an idea about when to send our shipments and there will be a smooth movement of the trucks also.”
Responding to the question whether a specific day would be announced for the fruit carrying trucks Inspector General of Police Traffic (IGP) T Namgyal said “The condition of the road is unfavourable and only one-way traffic would be allowed for some time, so we cannot keep one day for only particular vehicles.”
He said “it will take three to four years in improving the highway and get rid of all the bottlenecks.”