Kashmir economy continues to suffer in absence of all-weather road connectivity

Kashmir’s highway woes continue to pile economic losses as well as agonies of inhabitants of the landlocked region which is heavily dependent on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway. 

As per the data, it is estimated that 89 percent of traffic volume which reaches Kashmir uses Kashmir’s lone usable surface link – Srinagar-Jammu Highway. In this scenario the closure of the arterial link has a cascading effect on the economy as well as becoming a source of business losses.

According to the finance department data, goods and raw materials worth Rs 95 crore are imported to Kashmir on any given day. Trucks loaded with goods and raw materials could not reach their destinations in time during the closure of the highway post snowfall, thus hampering the Valley’s normal trade cycle.

The government figures say that J&K imported goods and raw material worth Rs 58050 crore in 2017-18, of which 60 percent (around Rs 34,800 crore), was imported to the Kashmir division.

Though there has not been a detailed study on losses incurred during the highway closure, business leaders say 30 percent worth of supplies are losses, as the trucks coming from outside carry perishable goods which, once stuck in the highway, lose their value on arrivals.

“As Kashmir sans all-weather connectivity, we incur losses every time the highway is closed. Perishable goods lose their value at the same time the trade cycle gets disturbed which is also a loss. It is the responsibility of the government to provide all-weather road otherwise there are bleak chances of development,” said spokesperson, Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation.

The four-laning of Srinagar-Jammu Highway has missed several deadlines due to “lackadaisical” approach of the concerned agencies. This project was divided into six sub-projects, widening of Srinagar-Qazigund road (68-Kms), Qazigund-Banihal (16-Kms), Banihal-Ramban (36-Kms), Ramban-Udhampur (43-Kms), Chenani–Nashri (12-Kms), Jammu-Udhampur (65-Kms).

According to NHAI official, work on the Jammu side is complete, while the areas along the highway which are prone to landslides are still awaiting upgradation and construction of tunnels to make it an all weather route.

Similarly, in the age of technology, Kashmir is still bereft of railway connectivity.

A railway line up to Udhampur on Jammu side, which has boosted the industrial sector there, was completed a long ago but rail network sanctioned in 1995, which would connect Kashmir with other states, is still far from completion.

In the past 24 years, this project has faced cost overrun of over Rs 25000 crore. Its estimated cost at the start was only Rs 2500 crore.