Highway Closure Hits Trade, Business In Valley

Highway Closure Hits Trade, Business In Valley

1 January 2014
Greater Kashmir
Mukeet Akmali

Srinagar: With the Valley receiving heavy snowfall, the Srinagar-Jammu highway blockade once again came to haunt business community as well as local people in Kashmir. Curiously, the business community here has been pleading since long for completion of work on Mughal road which could become alternative link between Valley and rest of the country. According to traders the state government has missed many deadlines to complete this project. At the same time the continued closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway for second day and availability of limited flights at Srinagar ‘International’ Airport, according to the traders, have been “unduly exploited by the airliners who have increased the airfares manifold.” President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, KCCI, Sheikh Ashiq said: “It is unfortunate that in the 21st century Kashmir has only one road link connecting it with rest of the world that too remains open subject to the weather conditions.” “In this scenario how can we expect our trade to flourish? KCCI has time and again urged the state government to complete work on Mughal road on fast track basis but our pleas have gone unheard,” Ashiq said, adding that government of India has let them down on Cross Loc Trade “as a number of obstacles in it has not let this trade flourish.” “The LoC trade has potential to be an all weather trade for Kashmiris but unfortunately government’s callous attitude towards this trade has discouraged the traders and this trade is on verge of extinction,” he said. The KCCI also raised their concern over increase in airfares during the times when the Srinagar-Jammu road remains closed. “Airfares have increased three to four times on Srinagar-Jammu-Delhi sectors, which really is a cause of concern for people who have to travel and in view of road closure they have no alternative other than to shell out huge sums to purchase air tickets,” Ashiq said. Chairman, Kashmir Economic Alliance, Muhammad Yaseen Khan said that the closure of Highway is unheard of in present age. “We fail to understand that despite this coalition government is on verge to complete its term, the work on the Mughal Road is yet to be completed which they had promised at the time of formation of government. This road could provide an alternative connectivity to the people in Kashmir,” Khan said. “It is a ploy to keep us economically background whenever Highway remains closed, our business community suffer losses of crores of rupees as we are a consumer state and most of the things are being imported from outside states,” he said. Khan who is a president of Kashmir Traders and Manufactures Federation alleged the government of India has not allowed the Cross LoC trade to flourish. “If the cross Loc Trade is fully explored it could prove to be a bone for our economic prospective and help our trade and commerce,” he said, adding that there is conspiracy taking place to derail the Kashmir’s Economy. Airfares Skyrocket Air fares from the state’s summer capital to other destinations have increased manifold since the closure of highway, with air tickets being sold at a whopping price tag of Rs 9000 to Rs 23000 on Srinagar-Jammu-Delhi sector. “The fares are shocking. There are not even flights available right now. They are hitting hard on us,” said Muhammad Yousuf a resident of Srinagar city, who had to confirm a ticket to Delhi but returned home high and dry. A week back airfare was around Rs 4,400 on Srinagar-Delhi or Delhi-Srinagar sectors and around Rs 3,700 on Srinagar-Jammu-Srinagar sector. “Now the Srinagar-Delhi airfare anywhere between Rs 10,000 to Rs 20,000,” said Mushtaq Ahmad of Travel Master, a reputed travel agency in Srinagar. “There are very less flights available right now. And there is huge fluctuation in the rates,” he said.