Highway traffic crisis hits Valley's wedding season

With hundreds of sheep-laden trucks stuck along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway for the past several days, mutton shortage has badly spoiled the ongoing wedding season.

Mutton dealers, who haven’t been able to deliver orders to customers, have threatened to suspend business activity from the next week if the traffic is not restored on the highway. The dealers said more than 250 trucks laden with sheep are stuck at Udhampur. Several families have cancelled or rescheduled weddings. 

“At the last moment we were informed by the mutton dealer that he cannot deliver the sheep. It is not us only. Five to six weddings in our locality face the same fate. We have trimmed the guest list also and restricted it to close relatives,” said Muhammad Ashraf Wugra of Kanitar, Sadrabal, whose niece is getting married on Thursday. 

The Wugras on Tuesday issued a notice in a leading newspaper, informing the invitees that they would be now hosting an austere ceremony at home.

The cancellations or announcement of low-key celebrations have come at the last minute, when the families had distributed invitation cards and made all preparations for the weddings.

Even the mutton dealers are suffering huge losses due to the disruption in traffic movement.

“The Valley is not self-sufficient in mutton production and our entire mutton supplies for weddings during this season completely depend on imports from other states. We will suspend trading activity from April 29 in case traffic is not restored,” said Mehraj-u-din Ganai, general secretary, All Kashmir Wholesale Mutton Dealers Association.

Ganai said retail sales of mutton have been badly hit as most mutton shops throughout the Valley have exhausted stocks.

“The mutton industry is suffering daily losses to the tune of Rs 1 crore. On an average, mutton dealers supply about  2000 sheep for weddings during this season,” said Ganai.

The Kashmir Economic Alliance has said the traffic situation has put Kashmir in a state of crisis.

“Even eggs are not available in the market. What will the people cook at weddings?” said Muhammad Yaseen Khan, chairman KEA. Khan appealed to the Governor SP Malik to personally look into the matter and pull Kashmir “out of the highway crises”.

When contacted, Director Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) Muhammad Qasim Wani said efforts are being made to ensure the trucks arrive in time. “ We have strict directions from the Divisional Commissioner Kashmir that this crisis has to be addressed immediately and we are working on it,” said Wani.