Locals rue traffic snarls, business losses due to Yatra curbs

Locals rue traffic snarls, business losses due to Yatra curbs

Anantnag: People here in Anantnag district are complaining of massive traffic snarls and a slump in their business as authorities have imposed some of the most stringent curbs on public movement for the ease and security of pilgrims travelling to the Amarnath cave.
The Yatra is being conducted after more than two years of a pandemic-enforced hiatus. Before that, it was scuttled midway in 2019 due to the abrogation of Article 370.
“This is the first Yatra being conducted after the reading down of Article 370. Also, there is a huge threat perception, which is being dealt with through unprecedented security measures,” a senior official in the police told Kashmir Reader, requesting anonymity.
The security measures include an addition to the armed forces on the ground and hundreds of new bunkers being erected. Most of these bunkers have come up along the Khannabal-Pahalgam (KP) Road in Anantnag, with every alley meeting the KP Road being plugged in with a bunker.
“It is not the overwhelming presence of security forces, though, that is weighing us down. It is the curbs imposed before, after, and during the movement of vehicles carrying the pilgrims,” locals in Anantnag told Kashmir Reader.
They said that even pedestrians are not being allowed to move around amid the Yatra movement. A video of an altercation between a pedestrian and a CRPF man also went viral. The man wanted to cross the road but was not allowed to do so.
There have been massive traffic snarls, as the government forces halt traffic on every possible road leading to the pathway of the Yatra movement. “This morning, it took me one-and-a-half hour to reach Anantnag from Bijbehara. It usually takes me 20 minutes, at the most,” a doctor told Kashmir Reader.
He added that the entire traffic on the old National Highway was put to halt near Battengoo because there of the movement of Yatra vehicles.
Similar complaints have been received from many parts of the valley, particularly from the NH-44 and places located along it.
Apart from static bunkers, hundreds of mobile bunkers remain in place throughout the day. Shops and business establishments located along the KP Road, particularly between Khannabal and Mattan, have been badly hit. “For others, the ordeal lasts till the yatra vehicles pass by, but for us, it is the whole day,” some shopkeepers located in the area told Kashmir Reader.
They said that no vehicle is allowed to make a halt anywhere along the KP Road and no pedestrians are allowed to stop anywhere, as well. “It has badly affected our business. We have done almost no business since the Yatra started,” the shopkeepers said.
While most people complain in hushed tones, for the fear of reprisal, some are taking to social media to voice their disappointment.
Sharing a picture of a desolate KP Road, a Facebook user wrote, “KP Road has lost all its sheen. Once the Jamboree (sic) and scintillating looking road is now presenting a gloomy and desolate picture. No more business left now.”
Another person shared a picture of a traffic halt on NH-44 and wrote, “Civilians should be given a separate highway for a smooth and uninterrupted drive. If loudspeakers can be an inconvenience to others, the same way a pilgrimage should not be a pain either.”
The officials that Kashmir Reader talked to said that the threat to Amarnath Yatra is quite real. “Look at the gunfight that took place in close vicinity of NH-44, on the day the Yatris arrived in Mirbazar – not far from the site of the gunfight,” an official said.

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