Srinagar-Qazigund highway continues to be a nightmare with long halts enforced to make way for convoys

Srinagar-Qazigund highway continues to be a nightmare with long halts enforced to make way for convoys

Anantnag: While the lockdown has eased and traffic has returned to the roads, traveling on Srinagar-Qazigund highway continues to be a nightmare due to regular, long halts enforced to make way for forces’ vehicles throughout the day.
The worst affected remains the Srinagar-Qazigund stretch, where no exceptions are made by the government forces who sometimes make even ambulances wait.
This particular stretch of National Highway-44 became a flashpoint after 40 CRPF men were killed on February 14 last year in a suicide car bombing.
Following the attack, the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh, during his visit to Kashmir, said that civilian traffic movement will be restricted during movement of army and security forces convoys on the highway.
“This may cause inconvenience and I apologise for this but this is necessary for the safety of jawans,” Singh said in Srinagar.
Subsequently, the Jammu and Kashmir government, then led by Governor Satyapal Malik, imposed a blanket ban on civilian traffic movement on NH-44 for two days a week.
Though the ban on civilian traffic movement was withdrawn, after about two months, movement on NH-44 has not been any easier since.
Every day, twice during the movement of forces’ convoys, traffic comes to a grinding halt on the entire Srinagar-Qazigund stretch.
“Every morning I have to spend more than an hour at different spots as forces make way for the convoy, which is being made to ply in smaller lots of 10 to 15 vehicles at a time,” said a daily commuter who travels to his office in Srinagar from Anantnag.
He said that the new practice of moving convoys in smaller lots was making travel on the highway all the more cumbersome.
“It means that we are stopped multiple times. Sometimes the halt is as lengthy as 45 minutes. I can speak on behalf of hundreds of people who reach their offices late every day. It has become a nightmare,” the commuter said.
Apart from the halts in mornings and evenings, traffic is put to a standstill every time there is a movement of forces’ vehicles.
“Regardless of the number of forces’ vehicles moving, we are stopped, even for the movement of a single vehicle of government forces,” said a cab driver who shuttles between Anantnag and Srinagar.
As the forces are making no exceptions, heated exchange of words between forces’ personnel and civilians is on the rise along NH-44 and people fear that a “mishap” might be in the offing.
“I had a flight to catch and was getting regular calls from the airline I was travelling by. But I was stuck for more than 40 minutes near Barsoo on the highway. When I tried to reason with the CRPF men on guard, they came charging towards me and would have beaten me if I had not shut my mouth,” a government employee from Kulgam told Kashmir Reader.
He said that similar incidents are a common sight every day.
“I fear for the day when an altercation will spiral out of control,” the government employee said.
Kashmir Reader tried to talk to Inspector General of Police (IGP) Kashmir Vijay Kumar, who said, “I am in a meeting”.
Divisional Commissioner Kashmir PK Pole told Kashmir Reader that he will look into the matter and talk to the traffic department as well.
“You have brought it to my notice and I will look into it,” Pole said, adding that there may be a security concern during convoy movements, “but it should not happen after that.”
He said that he will check with the traffic department first and see what the situation is, “and how it can be improved.”

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