In the absence of a foolproof monitoring system, fears that dead sheep might have made way into Kashmir markets have risen as hundreds of trucks laden with livestock remained stranded in freezing temperatures along the Srinagar-Jammu highway for several days.
Director sheep husbandry Kashmir Dr Mehraj-u-din Rather allayed the fears, saying the department has set up an inspection point at Zig Morth near Qazigund, where the dead sheep, if any, are mentioned in a driver's challan by the officials. A trucker has to furnish the challan at Athwajan, where the dead sheep are confiscated by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation.
However, no such monitoring system exists along the new highway between Qazigund and Srinagar. The bulk of the traffic plies on this highway now. Commissioner SMC Peerzada Hafeezullah said the corporation will be establishing a checkpoint on the new highway.
"Although we have a check post at Athwajan, nowadays almost all trucks take the new highway route. It took us a lot of time to get permission from the National Highways Authority of India to set up a check post. We have our own land along the new highway and have been allotted a site now," said Hafeezullah.
Also, the Sheep Husbandry checkpoint at Zig, which is manned by three locals from the area, is ill-equipped to ensure proper inspection.
"We are unable to conduct night checks as there is no lodging facility for our team. We have asked for their night stay at the Animal Husbandry facility so that round-the-clock checking takes place," said an official.
All Kashmir Wholesale Mutton Dealers Association general secretary Mehraj-u-din Ganie said 250 trucks carrying livestock were stranded on the highway, which resulted in losses to traders and butchers besides threat to the health of livestock.
"Mutton industry faced a loss of Rs 20 lakh a day. In absence of food and water our livestock gets badly hit," he said.
Kashmir imports mutton worth Rs 2,000 crore annually. As many as result 90 per cent of mutton markets in Kashmir were without supply for the days the highway remained closed.