Anantnag: As the winter sets in, Abdul Rashid, 58, a businessman from Astan village of scenic Marwa valley nestled between the Pirpanchal mountain ranges of Kishtwar district has migrated to south Kashmir's Anantnag district.
He is now putting up in a rented accommodation in Mati Gawran village of Kokernag along with his family.
Rashid's daughter is expecting and with little medical facility available at his native place, he is left with no choice but to bring her along for treatment.
“I didn’t want to take any risk. So, bought them here for delivery,” said Rashid.
He said, in past, many pregnant women died as they could not get the proper treatment.
The twin valleys of Marwa and Warwan, spread over forty villages are not yet connected to the district headquarters of Kishtwar.
Hence the 95 kilometer long Daksum-- Margan top- Marwa road thrown open in the year 2007 and connecting it with Kokernag remains the only surface link to the outside world.
However, it is not the all-weather route and remains shut for at least six months leaving 50,000 souls cut off.
Like Rashid, several others shift to Kashmir during winters.
“ I am a laborer by profession and thus work here for six months to make my living,” said Muhamad Jabbar of Warwan valley.
Jabar is also living on rent in Larnoo village of Kokernag along with his family members.
However, not everyone migrates to Kashmir, the majority stays home but makes it sure to stock up all essentials before the road gets closed.
Ghulam Hassan, a farmer from Marwa is one of them.
“ I had come here to buy essentials, medicines, and warms clothes for myself and my family and now am leaving home,” Hassan said.
He said they have to wait till June to visit Kashmir or Kishtwar district headquarters.
“There is no mobile facility in our area and we could make calls from telephone exchange after booking it like people would do back in the eighties,” Hassan said.
He said only in case of extreme health exigency, the patients are flown to Kishtiwar or Kashmir
“Life is still difficult in our part of the world with virtually no communication or electricity facility. The harsh winter makes it worse,” Hassan said.
He said in the absence of a road facility, people have no choice but to trek to reach the main Kishtwar or else wait till summers to travel via the Kokernag-Sinthan route.
MatiGawran- Margan Top- Marwa road, is still not fully accessible when open for traffic is summers.
It is treacherous at several places and fraught with dangers. An official said the road after approval was handed over by the Roads and Building ( R and B) department to PMGYS for up-gradation in 2017, however, it is far from completion.
“As the temperature has dipped to sub-zero range and the snowfall is expected any time soon the work has already been stopped and will resume in June next year only,” the official said.
An official in PMGYS said the work on the project, that includes widening, fencing, culverts, and black-topping started in 2019 after environmental clearance.
The stretches on which works is being carried include; Deesu Junction to Margan top (40km) on Anantang side; Margan to Inshan ( 25 Km) ; Inshan to Warwan to Marwa ( 29 Km). Kishtiwar side and link road Inshan to Bisna ( 12km) connecting villages like Margi Sukhri and Gumri.
“The work on Anantnag side is in final stages and is expected to get completed by next year only," Assistant Executive Engineer (AEE) PMGYS, Khursheed Ahmad told Greater Kashmir. He said despite a limited working season in hand they have completed a major portion of work.
Another official said on the Kishtwar side excavation and protection part has been completed.
“ The concretization of the stretch is yet to begin,” he said.
An official said after up-gradation all the stretches barring Margan to Inshan will be all-weather.
“The latter is highly treacherous and will require nothing less than a tunnel,” an official said.
Haji Ghulam Hassan, an elderly man believes that if this road is fully made operational, it besides alleviating the sufferings of far off places of Kishtwar would boost the tourism of these areas.
“ Decades back when there was no road at all, the foreigners would come for trekking here. So efforts should be made to attract tourists visiting Kashmir to take the return route via Kokernag for a visit to Warwan and Marwah, the beautiful valleys in Kishtwar and scenic spots like Inshan Top, Margan Top, Dachan, and Fambaran Nallah ( known for trout fish),” Hassan said.