Facing criticism from both the political class and the civil society, the State government’s ban on civilian traffic twice a week on the 270-km-long national highway in Kashmir is bound to dent the Valley’s horticulture industry and tourism, according to the stakeholders.
“We have stored apple stock in cold storages, which requires urgent transportation to various destination in the country. The apple crop will be hit badly by the ban. Besides, it will delay the chemical treatment of orchards. The ban is unjustified and will make small-time farmers suffer,” said Bashir Ahmad Basheer, chairman of the Kashmir Valley Fruit Growers-Cum-Dealers Association.
According to an estimation, around ₹300 crore worth of fruit is in cold storages in south Kashmir. However, the ban order issued by the Governor’s administration has barred the movement of civilian vehicles, including trucks, from 4 a.m. to 5 p.m. twice every week.
Travel Agents Association of Kashmir president Ashfaq Siddiq Dug said, “This will have serious implications for upcoming tourist season. It will only add to the woes of tourists and pilgrims.”
Stating that Kashmir does not have any alternative road connectivity, Mr. Dug said, “It will result in shortage of essentials.”
Doctors Association of Kashmir president Dr. Suhail Naik warned of “increase in morbidity and mortality in patients due to delays in patient care”.
Parties condemn ban
Calling for its immediate withdrawal, all major political parties, including the Congress, the National Conference, the Peoples Democratic Party, the Peoples Conference and the CPI(M), condemned the government move taken in the wake of the Pulwama attack, which left 40 CRPF jawans dead on February 14.
“The Srinagar-Jammu Highway was not closed even during the Kargil war. Is the Governor’s administration trying to make Kashmir a colony?” said NC president Farooq Abdullah.
PDP president Mehbooba Mufti said, “The Government of India only wants Kashmir and not Kashmiris.”
Seeking its revocation, State Congress president G.A. Mir said, “It’s a decision taken in haste and will prove perilous for civilians.”
“It’s another dictatorial move that will cause great distress to people. The government should stop punishing people of Kashmir,” said Hurriyat chief Mirwaiz Umar Farooq.