Passengers recount horror of highway gridlock

Passengers recount horror of highway gridlock

SRINAGAR: The Srinagar-Jammu highway turned into a highway of horror for tens of hundreds of people since Thursday, as hundreds of vehicles were stuck on the road, forcing hungry and thirsty passengers to spend freezing nights inside vehicles.
The worst traffic blockade, which continued for about 30 hours, reflects poor traffic management. The government claims of restoring the highway, which was blocked due to snow and landslides, also got deflated as it remained blocked at a few vulnerable places like Ramban due to landslides.
Mohammad Shafi Dar, a businessman from Anantnag, said they began their journey on Thursday 11:30am from Jammu.
“We couldn’t afford air travel as a ticket cost Rs 14000. So we decided to travel by road. But it was a nightmarish experience,” Dar told Kashmir Reader.
“Till Kud, the travel was smooth. But when we reached Batote the traffic snarls started with thousands of vehicles unable to move ahead. It took us five hours to cover a distance of 20 kilometers to reach Nashri. From Nashri, we could not move an inch forward till Friday morning,” he added.
Photojournalist Javed Dar, who was also travelling on the highway, said that the traffic jam was such that people found it difficult to even walk.
“For around 18 hours hundreds of vehicles remained struck at Nashri,” Javed said.
“It was the most horrible experiences of my life. Most of the passengers remained inside their vehicles. It was pitch dark, cold and freezing winds made it too scary,” he said.
He said for the entire period of the jam, passengers turned panicky and children wept a lot.
“There was no habitation where we got struck. Men, women and children were hungry and thirsty since there were no food outlets. We could not manage to get a bottle of water. There were no heating arrangements and the cold was unbearable. The children were in panic. They were weeping for the want of food,” Javed said.
“The talk among the passengers was that if it would rain, nobody would come alive as downpours would trigger landslides. It was so horrible,” he added.
Javed said there was not a single traffic policeman or a government official to streamline the traffic.
“Nobody was there to clear the traffic mess,” he said, adding, “The small passenger vehicles coming from Srinagar made it more difficult despite that officially traffic had to ply from Jammu to Srinagar only. The drivers of those vehicles may have either bribed the traffic officials or might have got some official recommendations to move ahead,” he said.
Another commuter Bilal Ahmad from Bhijbehera said on Friday morning, some people got down from their vehicles and started regulating the traffic on their own.
“We reached Ramban after 18 hours from Nashiri after traffic flow started,” Bilal said.
However, just ahead of Ramban, landslides had blocked the highway. Only one earth mover was removing the debris.
“It has been more than 30 hours since we left Jammu but still we just left Ramban at around Friday 5:10 pm,” Bilal said. “I have no idea when we would reach home. I think it is the longest time I have ever taken to complete journey of 300 kilometers”.
Superintendent of Police Srinagar-Jammu highway Sanjay Bagwat said the vehicles were stranded because of landslides at several places.
“The traffic jam turned uglier after local vehicles started plying on the road. This made the traffic movement too difficult,” he said, while denying that traffic officials were not present on the road to help the stranded passengers.
“Finally on Thursday evening we restored the highway and vehicles have started plying. So far 500 vehicles moved ahead from Ramban,” Bagwat said.

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