Lack of roadside amenities and even mobile connectivity in a large area is discouraging truckers from taking on the Mughal Road during this peak apple season. Pawan Kumar, a non-local driver is disinclined to drive his apple laden lorry on Mughal road for a host of reasons. “A simple tyre puncture can leave you stranded for a day or two” said Kumar.
The 84-Km long Mughal road which connects south Kashmir’s Shopian district with twin Rajouri and Poonch districts in Jammu division lacks the basic amenities and utility shops dissuading truckers, particularly non-locals, to ply on the road during the peak apple harvesting season. “There is no mobile connectivity on close to 50 kilometres along the road. It is difficult to seek help in case of an accident or any other emergency,” said Kumar, adding that his past experience on travelling along the road was rather awful.
For around 63 kms–from Heerpora to Chandimarh– there are hardly any eateries, utility shops, or wayside washrooms, discouraging the drivers and other travellers.
Mohammad Ashraf, president Fruit Mandi Shopian says that the arterial Mughal road was a safe alternate to Srinagar-Jammu National highway but owing to the lack of basic amenities, the truckers avoid the route during the apple harvesting season.
“The traffic movement along the Mughal road is more or less seamless. Like Srinagar-Jammu national highway, there are no bumper to bumper traffic jams on the road, but the only problem is the lack of basic amenities”, said Ashraf. According to Ashraf, sometimes it takes more than two weeks for an apple laden truck to reach to mandis in New Delhi via Srinagar-Jammu national highway due to frequent road blockades.
“The growers suffer huge losses as the fruit sometimes go bad before reaching mandis” added Ashraf. Every day around 200-250 fruit-laden trucks from apple rich Shopian leaves for different mandis outside the Valley. “Of them only 40-50 trucks prefer to ply along Mughal road,” informed Ashraf.
A local truck driver, who declined to be named, said that experience at an army facility at Poshana also forces drivers to ply on Srinagar-Jammu national highway in lieu of Mughal road. “The army men pat down every single commuter. The vehicles are also searched thoroughly which sometimes results in traffic snarls,” he added.
The mountainous Mughal road was thrown open for commercial traffic in 2009. The road remains closed for nearly six months due to the heavy accumulation of snow. However, a 10 km long proposed tunnel between Lal Ghulam and Chattapni could not only turn this road into an all-weather road but a sustainable alternate to arduous Srinagar-Jammu national highway.