SRINAGAR: The closure of the Jammu-Srinagar highway during the months of winter takes a toll on both traders and consumers in Kashmir Valley. Sometimes consumables go off the market, or prices shoot up at rocketing rates.
“During winters Kashmir remains mostly dependent on fruits and vegetables from outside,” Bashir Ahmad, president of New Kashmir Fruit and Vegetable Association, Parimpora, told Kashmir Reader. “So, if a vehicle laden with vegetables remains stranded on the highway for 12 hours, it gets rotten, and fruits after 24 hours. These losses are not temporary, but recurrent.”
The latest closure of the vital highway was from February 12 to 16, when landslides occurred at many places between Banihal and Ramban. Nearly 2000 vehicles, including with passengers, laden with fruits and vegetables were stranded for more than four days.
In this while, per kg price of onion went up to Rs 50 from Rs 20, peas went up to Rs 40 from Rs 15, and cauliflower went up to Rs 30 from Rs 10. The prices began to lower as soon as the highway was re-opened.
According to the government data, every year Jammu and Kashmir imports more than 110 thousand metric tonnes of milk, more than 750 million eggs, more than 90 lakh boiler birds in addition to 22.9 crore culled poultry birds, and a total of 10.24 lakh sheep and goat. All this comes through the highway that becomes closed either due to landslides, or snowfall, for days together every winter.
Mahraj Ganai, general secretary of Kashmir Wholesale Mutton Dealers Association, the largest representative body of mutton dealers in the Valley, said that in nearly 40 vehicles that transport animals in winter, about 5 animals die, while the rest lose weight by 1 kg, if a vehicle stays stranded for more than 24 hours.
“During the recent four days, we suffered losses of more than 5 crores,” he said.
Airline fares also rocketed when the only road out of the valley became closed. On average a ticket from Srinagar to Delhi or vice versa costs between Rs 2,500 and Rs 4,000. During the four days of closure, the price went up to Rs 10,000.
Such are the perennial problems that Kashmir suffers from every winter.