As the winter set in, Ghulam Nabi, 55, a government employee from Astan village of scenic Marwa valley nestled between the Pirpanchal mountain ranges of Kishtwar district migrated to south Kashmir’s Anantnag district.
Lack of proper medical facility at his native place forced Ghulam Nabi to move along with his daughter and daughter-in-law, both in their pregnancy, to Anantnag. The family is now putting up in a rented accommodation at Mati Gawran village of Kokernag.
“I didn’t want to take any risk. So, I bought them here for delivery,” he said, adding that in the past many pregnant women died in his native village for want of proper treatment.
The twin valleys of Marwa and Warwan spread over forty villages are not yet connected to the district headquarters of Kishtwar. Hence, the 95-Km long Daksum- Margan Top – Marwa Road thrown open in 2007 and connecting it with Kokernag remains the only surface link to the outside world. However, it is not the all-weather route and remains shut for at least six months leaving 50,000 souls cut off.
Like Ghulam Nabi, many others shift to Kashmir during winters. “I am a labourer by profession and thus work here for six months to make my living,” said Muhamad Sultan of Warwan valley.
Sultan is also living on rent in Larnoo village of Kokernag along with his family.
However, not everyone migrates to Kashmir; majority stays home after stocking essential things. Ghulam Hassan, a farmer from Marwa said: “I had come here to buy essential things, medicines and warm clothes for myself and my family and now am leaving for home.”
He said they have to wait till June to visit Kashmir or Kishtwar district headquarters. “There is no mobile phone facility in our area and we could make calls only from telephone exchange after booking it like people would do back in the eighties,” Hassan said.
He said only in case of extreme health exigency, the patients are flown to Kishtwar or Kashmir. “Life is still difficult in our part of the world with virtually no communication or electricity facility. The harsh winter makes it worse,” Hassan said.
He said in the absence of a road facility, people have no choice but to trek to reach the main Kishtwar or else wait till summers to travel via the Kokernag-Sinthan route.
Mati Gawran- Margan Top- Marwa Road is still not fully accessible when open for traffic is summers. It is a treacherous trek and fraught with dangers at many places.
An official said the road after approval was handed over by the Roads and Building (R and B) department to PMGYS for upgradation in 2017, however, it is far from completion.
“As there has been snowfall so the work has been stopped and will resume in June next year only,” he said.
An official in PMGYS said that the work on the project that includes widening, fencing, culverts, and black-topping started in 2019 after environmental clearance.
The stretches on which work is being carried out include: Deesu junction to Margan top (40km) on Anantang side; Margan to Inshan (25 Km); Inshan to Warwan to Marwa (29 Km) Kishtwar side and link road Inshan to Bisna (12km) connecting villages like Margi Sukhri and Gumri.
“The work is likely to get completed by next year on the Anantnag side,” Executive Engineer PMGYS Anantnag Khalid Mehmood told Greater Kashmir.
He said despite a limited working season in hand, they have completed a major portion of work.
Another official said on the Kishtwar side excavation and protection part are on and it might take more time.
He said after upgradation all the stretches barring Margan to Inshan will be all-weather. “The later is highly treacherous and will require nothing less than a tunnel,” an official said.
Haji Ghulam Hassan, an elderly man believes that if this road is fully made operational, besides alleviating the sufferings of far off places of Kishtwar it would boost the tourism of these areas.
“Decades back when there was no road at all, foreigners would come for trekking here. So efforts should be made to attract tourists visiting Kashmir to take the return route via Kokernag for a visit to Warwan and Marwah, the beautiful valleys in Kishtwar and scenic spots like Inshan Top, Margan Top, Dachan, and Fambar Nallah (known for trout fish),” Hassan said.