Gurez: Those travelling to the Gurez valley will be happy to know that an oil-filling station has finally opened in the region. The station’s owner told Kashmir Reader that it took him three years to secure approval from the government for the Indian Oil Corporation (OIC)-supplied filling station.
“The DC (Bandipora) finally signed the documents in November 2016, after three years of meticulous leg work for no-objection documents from various agencies,” said Hilal Ahmad, the owner of the Sheikh Hamza Oil Filling Station. Ahmad is a resident of main Bandipora town, where he runs an important oil-filling station.
The new oil-filling station has been established in Dawar and has a capacity for 5,000 litres of diesel and 3,000 litres of petrol. It was opened to the public on August 2.
“The (oil-filling) pump will be operational between May and November,” Ahmad said. “On average, public vehicles outnumber private ones for oil filling during the day,” he informed.
Until August 2, transporters and motorists had to buy oil from the open market at much higher rates than at authorised pumps. “Rates will be controlled now,” said an official. “But petrol and diesel will be sold at Rs 6 higher than the average rate in Kashmir.”
A driver at Habba Khatoon Sumo stand told Kashmir Reader that only cabs (Sumo/Tavera cars) ply between Gurez and the Bandipora Sumo stand.
Habba Khatoon, a 16th-century poetess, is believed to have been a native of Gurez, where a mountain has been named after her. She married Kashmir ruler Muhammad Yousuf Chak and is buried in Bihar.
“We run at least 50 services a day on the internal routes of Gurez,” said Abdul Rehman, president of the Sumo stand. “But these are mostly for one-way passengers,” he said. “We only drop people at their destinations and we rarely drive back with any passenger.”
In main town Bandipora, Abdul Rashid Shah is sitting among a group of drivers at their Sumo stand. When asked about the number of services they run to Gurez on average, he answered, “At least 30 a day.”
“But only 20 return (to Bandipora) carrying passengers,” he informed.
He said only Sumos carry passengers to the valley, which is situated 8,000 feet above sea level and 85 km from Bandipora.
“Rates differ,” he added. “For the front and middle seat, we charge Rs 300 per passenger while those who sit on the back seats only pay Rs 200.”
Given the tough terrain of the road leading to Gurez, passengers usually prefer the first two choices while boarding a Sumo, a driver said. “It takes almost three hours to reach the destination.”
Shah said that Sumo services to Gurez are stopped after November 15 every year. “Given the heavy snowfall, the government issues an advisory against travelling to the region.”
Besides, he added, two main bridges along the road are removed during winters. “One (Bailey) bridge is removed over Dahi Nallah and another over the Zed Kusi Nallah.”
Drivers, however, attempt to travel to Gurez “if weather allows”, he said. “The drivers ferry passengers up to Pir Baba (a neighbouring shrine), from where passengers walk (to Gurez).”
The Pir Baba shrine is four km from the Razdan pass and about 40 km from main town Bandipora.