Getting Stranded on the Srinagar Jammu Highway in Winter is Akin to a Journey through Hell

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Hilal Ahmad Bhat

Jammu Srinagar National Highway is a part of NH 44 (former name NH 1A before renumbering of all national highways) system and connects Srinagar (Kashmir Valley) with the Jammu City. The distance between Jammu and Srinagar earlier was 295 km and has been reduced by about 30 km after Chenani-Nashri Tunnel, new Banihal road tunnel and other small tunnels. These tunnels will also help keep the highway open during winter avalanches.
The traffic on the highway is controlled by two control rooms, one in Srinagar and other in Jammu.
The highway begins from Srinagar and then passes through Pulwama district, Anantnag district, Kulgam district, Ramban district, Udhampur district and ends in Jammu city. The highway lies in Kashmir valley for first 68 km up to Qazigund and then passes through series of Mountains up to Jammu. It is famous for the Patnitop Hill station, Jawahar Tunnel, Sweets of Kud and Tea of Sarmuli. The highway is often closed during winter days due to heavy snowfall in Kashmir valley and district Ramban. Many landslides and avalanches in the mountainous region lead to closure of highway during winters.
When a person gets stranded on the highway during chilly winters it is no less than a journey through hell for him or her. It is a feeling for him as if all the doors are shut for him. It is difficult for one to arrange food, water and blankets to withstand the cold weather conditions.We have seen conditions stranded passengers’ plight on news channels. They seem to beg and cry to get destined. Many accidents have happened on this road and so many people have lost their near and dear ones. A person who happens to get stranded on this road for a couple of days or so considers this experience as the worst nightmare of his or her life. Adding insult to the injury, the Airlines raise the rates thereby making it impossible for a common person to make his way to his/her destination. It also creates a big hurdle in the promotion of tourism in the Valley.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir spends a lot of money every year on maintenance of the highway. At many sites new roads with less number of road curves and tunnel are constructed which would not only provide comfort to the passengers but would also reduce distance between two cities. But, the need of the hour is do more needful in order to make the journey from Srinagar to Jammu and vice-versa really happy all round the year.
The railway line connecting Baramulla at the western end of Kashmir Valley with Banihal across the Pir Panjal Range of mountains has eased traffic on the highway as many people prefer to travel in train up to Banihal because train travel is both economical and time-saving. The distance between Qazigund, north of the Pir Panjal Mountains, and Banihal, south of Pir Panjal Mountains, is 35 km by road compared to only 17 km by train and it takes hardly one-fourth the time and fare. After reaching Banihal railway station, people take the road (mainly bus) to reach Udhampur or Jammu.
Chenani-Nashri Tunnel, also known as Patnitop Tunnel, is a road tunnel in Jammu and Kashmir on NH 44(former name NH 1A before renumbering of all national highways). The work was started in 2011 and was thrown open for traffic in April 2017. The tunnel reduces the distance between Jammu and Srinagar by 30 km and travel time by two hours. The all-weather tunnel bypasses snowfall and avalanche prone areas in winter at places like Patnitop, Kud, and Batote that obstruct NH 44 every winter and cause long queues of vehicles – sometimes for days at stretch
There is dire need to complete the work on all other tunnels and the railway line to make the road ‘Life Line’ of the valley in the real sense.

The author can be reached at: bhat.hilalahmad32@gmail.com

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