NH 44: Freeway for troops, jammed for people Locals, tourists put to grave inconvenience

The ban on movement of civil vehicles on highway from Baramulla to Udhampur was enforced by troops on Sunday, causing chaos across the Valley.

The police, CRPF and Army men had set up barricades and placed concertina wires in different areas on the highway to restrict movement of civilian vehicles.
The force personnel were manning different areas on the NH 44, the only road link connecting Kashmir with rest of the world.

The curbs threw life in valley out of gear as there was negligible movement of civil traffic on the highway. It badly hit the footfall in Srinagar, which witnesses heavy rush of people on every Sunday as the city hosts largest fleet market on Sundays’.

Only forces’ vehicles carrying troops to their destinations were moving on the highway, which had remained open even during peak of militancy or during Kargil war between India and Pakistan.
The Governor administration had last week announced two-day ban on the civil traffic on highway from Baramulla in north Kashmir to Udhampur in Jammu division on two-days in a week (Wednesday and Sunday) to ensure smooth and safe passage of security convoys.

The travel ban from 4 am till 5 pm prompted people to stay indoors while some had to reach to their destinations by foot as public transport was off the highway.
Ghulam Mohammad, a resident of Rafiabad area, cancelled his travel to Srinagar to avoid inconvenience and frisking on the highway.
“I had to visit a hospital in Srinagar for check-up but stayed back home to avoid any trouble during the travel,” he said.

As the administration exempted patients, students and government employees from travel restrictions, the forces’ manning all four-way crossings or T-junctions on the highway were only allowing vehicles after thorough checking of vehicles and antecedents of drivers and other occupants of the vehicles.
At all the road junctions’, magistrates were deployed for public convenience. The magistrates were issuing on-spot permission passes to those in distress.

The magistrates were deployed at Parimpora, Pohru crossing, Nowgam, JVC, Hyderpora, Bemina Chowk, Pantha Chowk, Shalteng and Railway crossing in Srinagar section.
Long queues of vehicles were seen stranded at the intersections on the highway and many vehicles had tourists and patients on board.

People, who had to visit patients admitted in different hospitals in Srinagar, had to face huge inconvenience due to traffic ban.
Ghulam Ali, a resident of HMT, had come to visit patient at SHMS hospital.
He boarded a mini-bus at Jahangir Chowk and travelled up to Parimpora bus stand. However, from there he couldn’t find any means of transport upto HMT, which is located on the highway, and had to travel by foot along with his minor daughter.

“I had no option but to walk on foot. Everyone does not own car and they are dependent on public transport. We are helpless and pushed into the problems,” he said.
A family from Delhi had to travel to Anantnag from Srinagar but they were not allowed to move before 5 pm.
“We have come from Delhi and were to travel to Anantnag. But we were not allowed. We didn’t knew about the travel ban, otherwise we would not have booked the ticket,” said Rafia, who had come to valley along with her husband and two kids.
A senior official said people were provided permission passed wherever needed on the highway.
“But, the element of inconvenience will remain there,” he said adding they were waiting to see how things would unfold in future.
The ban on civil traffic was imposed following Pulwama attack that left 40 paramilitary CRPF men dead on February 14.
Following the attack, the government closed at least 17 link roads leading to the highway stretch between Srinagar and Qazigund.
On March 30, a car was damaged in a blast on the highway near Banihal and police had called it an unsuccessful attempt to target the CRPF bus whose windshield was partially damaged.