JAMMU, India—”We feel helpless. For four days we kept on traveling across a distance, which we otherwise cover in six hours and still we did not reach our destination. We were sent back here. Women and children are the most troubled. People back home are worried. For the past 10 days we are waiting for the weather to be better and return home,” said Abdul Hamid Bhat a resident of Kashmir stranded in Jammu as fresh snowfall lashed the hilly regions of this northern most part of India.
Abdul is one of the thousands of people stranded in Jammu due to the closure of the 185-mile (300 km) Jammu-Kashmir National Highway connecting the twin capital cities. Jammu in turn is connected to many parts of Northern India, including New Delhi and thus the highway is the region’s lifeline. According to local media reports as of Tuesday, over 2,500 vehicles and 1,200 passengers have been stranded. These vehicles are carrying essential commodities to the Kashmir Valley.
An acute shortage of cooking gas in Kashmir has forced the authorities to start rationing and the gas companies have been asked to supply cylinders filled with just 5 kg (11 pounds) of gas to consumers.
According to local media reports people have complained of unscrupulous traders charging heavily for other essentials like kerosene, foodstuff, vegetables, pulses (edible seeds from legumes), mutton, and poultry.
The moderate to heavy snowfall that started Saturday snapped terrestrial and aerial connections with the rest of the country. The Srinagar-Jammu highway remained closed for the third day Tuesday and no flights have operated in or out of Srinagar International Airport for two days.
Heavy snowfall is not a new occurrence in Jammu and Kashmir. Western disturbances originating from the Mediterranean Sea bring snowfall and rains in the northern regions of India in winter.
“What we need is better preparation and management! Such problems could be avoided!” says Abdul.