Three years ago, a heart wrenching incident caught people's attention when a man from Karnah area of Kupwara district was forced to walk ten kilometres carrying his mother's dead body on his shoulders in peak winter to reach his native village.
His mother had died at Pathankot in Feb 2017. He brought her body to Srinagar and then to Kupwara. But following heavy snowfall and closure of Karnah-Kupwara road, the man had no option but to trek a 50 km distance over snow-bound mountains on Sadhna Top with the body of his mother.
The incident shook everyone and voices for the construction of a tunnel at Sadhna pass grew stronger. Three years down the line, not to talk of tunnel, even a Detailed Project Report (DPR) has not been prepared.
The residents of the Karnah and adjoining villages have been demanding tunnel at Sadhna pass on the Kupwara-Karnah highway for last thirty years.
"The only access to us with rest of the country is through Sadhna Pass, which receives 15-20 feet snow during peak winter and remains closed for six months. The Sadhna pass stretch is an avalanche-prone area and has consumed around 1000 lives till date," said Riyaz Ahmad Khawja, Block Development Chairman (BDC) Tanghdar.
Riyaz said that repeated assurances from the successive governments for the construction of tunnel which will ensure all weather connectivity of the region with rest of the country have proved a mirage.
"Last year we went to Delhi and discussed the issue with Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari and Jitendra Singh and appraised them about the hardships of the people in the absence of tunnel. They assured that a Detailed Project Report (DPR) will be prepared soon. However, nothing has happened on the ground," he said, adding that even during the visit of former Governor G C Murmu to Kupwara, "we informed him about this long pending issue," he said.
"After hearing us, the former Governor called the chief engineer BRO and inquired from him about any progress on the project. The latter informed the former Governor that a detailed project report will be prepared soon. However, till date nothing has been done," he said.
In the absence of the all-weather connectivity, scores of people have left the area and are settled in other parts of J&K. "I along with several other relatives left Karnah village some five years back and are now settled at Srinagar and Kupwara. No one is willing to leave his birth place, but at the same time no one wants to go through pain and misery," said Shafkat Ahmad of Karnah, settled now at Bemina Srinagar.
While recalling his decision to shift from the area, Shafkat said that it was five years back, when one of his close relatives fell from rooftop of a house while clearing snow.
He said following critical head injury he was referred to SKIMS but since weather conditions were adverse and there was no connectivity "we could not shift him to Srinagar with the result he died after five days of the incident".
"The incident left us shell-shocked, we could have saved him had there been connectivity. A tunnel at Sadhna top could have saved my relative. Following the incident, our five families left the area and got settled at Srinagar and Kupwara," Shafkat said.