Transporters refuse to ferry supplies

Dilapidated condition of the road and twice-a-week ban on civil traffic movement has caused unprecedented hike of 40 percent in freight charges on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. Consequently, transporters are refusing to ferry supplies to Kashmir.

On an average, a trucker carrying supplies from Delhi to Srinagar used to charge Rs 40,000 to 50,000, now the rates have gone to around Rs 80,000. Similarly freight charges from Mumbai, Kolkatta have gone up by 40 percent, stoking unprecedented price rise in Kashmir.

Even with increased freight charges, transporters are refusing to ferry supplies to Kashmir due to the government imposing ban on highway travel for two days a week – which has now been reduced to one day – and frequent closure of the highway due to landslides.

“It took me 13 days to delivery order in Srinagar from Kolkata, normally this journey was completed in 5 to 6 days,” said Chander Prakash, a trucker who now refuses to operate on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway citing wastage of time.

“I have lost my time due to the pathetic condition of the highway. Nowhere a 300-kilometre journey takes this much of time,” he said.

Chairman, All Kashmir Fruit Growers and Vegetable Dealers Union, Bashir Ahmad Basheer, said the freight rates have gone up 40 percent.

“We are facing peculiar situation as the transport charges have gone up by around 40 percent since the government imposed two-day ban on vehicular traffic on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway. A normal truck trip from Delhi to Srinagar which used to be completed in a week’s time, takes more than two weeks, which again is a loss for transporter as well as for traders,” he explained.

“Condition of our highway is already known to all, but this ban has added to the chaos,” he said adding that government must do away with the ban on highway as it already remains closed for at least twice a week due to landslides.

Kashmir’s dependence on outside supplies has increased manifold over the years. Whenever the highway remains closed, there is scarcity of goods, ultimately resulting in price hike.

Currently essential prices have skyrocketed in Kashmir, mutton is being sold at Rs 500 a kg against the government approved price of Rs 430. Chickens are priced at Rs 160 per kg, prices of vegetables and fruits too have soared since the highway ban was put in place.

A single day of the highway closure costs Kashmir economy around Rs 95 crore, according to rough estimates.  

The recently-released government figures say that J&K imported goods and raw material worth Rs 58,050 crore in 2017-18, of which 60 percent—around Rs 34,800 crore—is imported to the Kashmir division.

The Kashmir-based business community as well as civil society members state that the failure of the mainstream political parties to ensure round-the-year connectivity has dented Kashmir’s economy badly.

The Logistics Ease Across Different States (LEADS) Index has given only one index point to J&K, placing it at the bottom of the list of states having “worst logistic” connectivity in India.