Govt left us to die: Stranded passengers at Ramban

Ahmed, a resident of Handwara in Kashmir, is a vegetable transporter. He buys the stock from Jammu vegetable market (Subzi Mandi) in Narwal and transports it to his hometown.

As the vehicles slowly start to move on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, with traffic personnel shouting and asking the drivers to hurry up, Bashir Ahmed sits patiently in his load carrier, waiting for the driver ahead of him to start his truck.

Ahmed, a resident of Handwara in Kashmir, is a vegetable transporter. He buys the stock from Jammu vegetable market (Subzi Mandi) in Narwal and transports it to his hometown.

“I have been travelling on this road for more than two decades. But I regret travelling this time around. I left Jammu seven days ago. I am still stuck here in Ramban. My entire stock has turned bad, which means losses worth thousands of rupees. But, right now, all I care about is reaching home,” he said.

Narrating a litany of hardships he faced all these days, he said, “The government left us to die. They had no Plan B.”

“They airlifted stranded passengers from Jammu, but what about us? Had the highway not partially opened today, what plans did the government have for us?”

Like Bashir, Sartaj Ahmed, a poultry transporter, has a similar story to tell.

“I have been stuck on the highway near Sham Palace for almost eight days. Has the government no necessary equipment to predict weather? And if the forecast mentioned there were high chances of heavy snowfall and rains, why were we allowed to leave Jammu and ply on the highway,” he said.

Sartaj said that he slept in his vehicle, as he was trying to save the birds.

“Many stranded people slept in the public shelter. The government had made some arrangements there, but is that what the government was thinking to do? Were they planning to leave us in public shelters for as long as the highway remained shut? Is that good governance?” he asked.

Among the many people who spent sleepless nights in the public shelter, Ghulam Hassan, who had come to Udhampur 15 days ago to attend a wedding, also took a dig at the government.

“I have two kids with me and I have been at this shelter for almost a week. How long did the government think we would survive here? I think we were left at the mercy of God,” he said.

On being contacted by Greater Kashmir, divisional commissioner, Jammu, Sanjeev Verma, said, “Though, I cannot guarantee the comfort of home, but we are trying our best to ensure that the stranded people are safe and properly looked after in the public shelters.”

Asked whether the government had any plan to evacuate the stranded people from Ramban if the highway remains closed for long, he said, “We airlifted stranded passengers from Jammu but we cannot do the same from Ramban. The Globemaster, which can accommodate around 400 people, is a big airplane. It cannot land there.”

When asked about the meteorological department’s forecast of another spell of inclement weather and its repercussions on the highway, the divisional commissioner said, “Let us hope for the best.”

(With inputs from MM Parvaiz and Mohammad Taskeen)