After the construction of Chenani-Nashri tunnel which has reduced the distance of Srinagar-Jammu highway by 30 km, authorities have paid little attention to the maintenance of the traditional Patnitop route, making it more difficult for the truckers to take the road during inclement weather.
The road closure often forces the drivers to spend days altogether on the roadside without any facilitation provided by the authorities.
Veer Singh, a truck driver who is stranded at Patnitop for the past five days, said authorities had not visited them all these days to know about their wellbeing.
“We are still stranded at Patnitop. The road is completely frozen and slippery,” Singh, who hails from Jammu, told Rising Kashmir over phone.
With no official help coming, Singh said all the stranded drivers collected Rs 2000 from their own pockets and purchased salt to spread on the road to unfreeze it.
The shortage of food and water, Singh said was another problem the stranded drivers were facing for the past five days.
“We had some ration on which we are surviving. But water has been a major problem. We have to walk almost 2 km to get fresh water,” he said.
Owing to frequent highway closure of Patnitop route, Kashmir valley often faces shortage of essential commodities like LPG, petrol and diesel.
As per the government orders, due to the safety measures, no flammable items are allowed to pass through the newly-built Chenani Tunnel that bypasses Patnitop.
In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 9 km Chenani-Nashri tunnel built at a cost of Rs 2500 crore.
However, after the construction of the Chenani Tunnel, this issue captures little attention of the authorities when it comes to road blockade.
“The focus of the authorities largely remains on the newly-built tunnel after the road closure while the trucks carrying LPG and petrol supply remain stranded at Patnitop for days together,” officials said.
In December, the Srinagar-Jammu highway remained closed for at least 12 days owing to landslides and heavy snowfall.
An official said moving of stranded Army vehicles and trucks with perishable items like fruits and vegetables remains the first priority of the administration as soon as the road opens.
The 265-km Srinagar-Jammu highway, the only link connecting Kashmir to the rest of the world, often gets blocked during the winters and puts commuters to extreme hardships.
On December 29, Rising Kashmir carried a story that due to the lackadaisical approach of the administration to clear Patnitop road, Kashmir valley was on the verge of severe shortage of LPG.
Regional Officer Jammu Kashmir, National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), Hemraj said the authorities continue to maintain Patnitop road throughout the year.