Frequent highway closure triggers steep increase in prices of essentials

The prolonged closure of the Srinagar-Jammu highway has led to skyrocketing of prices of essential commodities in Kashmir, with the concerned officials failing to address the problem that has badly hit the pockets of common people.

In the past two weeks, the prices of essential items, especially vegetables, have increased manifold across the Valley, with the food, civil supplies and consumer affairs department failing to crackdown on profiteers.

“There is no rate list in the market right now,” said Ajaz Lolpuri, a resident of Buchpora, Srinagar.

He said retailers are selling chicken at Rs 180 per-kg which is much higher than the price noticed a few weeks before.

Similarly, vegetables are being sold at much higher prices. Even collard green, locally known as ‘haakh’, is sold at Rs 70 to Rs 80 per-kg.

Mutton, wherever available, is being sold at Rs 450 a kilogram.

According to officials, heavy dependence on outside supplies and shrinking farmlands are among major factors behind increasing prices of essentials in Kashmir.

Recently, a report of the union ministry of consumer affairs, pointed out that J&K leads the inflation tally, mainly because of its dependence on outside supplies and failure to achieve targets of import substitution.

Being a landlocked region, Kashmir is wholly dependent on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, which mostly remains closed during winters, for import of food items.

Also, a single day of the Srinagar-Jammu 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.

Director, FCS&CA, Muhammad Qasim Wani said they will issue a fresh rate list in next few days.

“We have deliberately not issued it because the rates of essentials are very high at this moment due to prolonged closure of the highway. Therefore once the supplies are restored fully, prices will come down,” he said.

He said the road closure plays a key factor in determining the prices of essentials as it creates an imbalance in demand and supply.