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J&K: Tourists stranded for 5th day

By Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar
December 08, 2006 18:36 IST
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More than 400 stranded domestic tourists had to brave the chill on the Srinagar-Jammu national highway, which remained closed for the 5th day running on Friday.

Of the stranded tourists, 210 belonged to Maharashtra and the rest belonged to Rajasthan and Gujarat.

"We want to get out of the valley as our vacations have already ended and I have to report back for duties," said a tourist from Maharastra, who had to spend four days at Qazigund in the South Kashmir Anantnag district waiting for the highway to open.

Others like truck driver Balbir Singh said tea stalls had started charging exorbitantly since the road closure. "They are now asking for anything between 7 to 9 rupees for a cup of tea," Balbir said.

As news started pouring in about the plight of the stranded tourists, the administration swung into action and started free boarding and lodge for the tourists.

"We have shifted most of the stranded tourists to Srinagar city where they are getting free board and lodge now," said a senior tourism officer in Srinagar.

The Border Roads Organisation responsible for maintenance of the Srinagar-Jammu highway has pressed both men and machinery to clear the highway, but officials of the organization said snow at Banihal, landslides at Panthal and shooting stones at other places was hampering their efforts.

"Weather improving, we should be able to open the road by Friday evening," said Abdul Hamid, superintendent of police (Traffic) Kashmir.

For the valley people however, the story of shortages has just started.

Upon receiving news of the highway's closure, unscrupulous traders have already created a scarcity of essential commodities.

"Mutton, poultry, eggs, milk and vegetables are already in short supply and the shopkeepers are charging at will for these now," said Abdul Gani Mir, 38, a resident of uptown Rajbagh locality in Srinagar.

The administration maintains the scarcity of essential commodities is "man-made."

"There is no shortage anywhere, but only some unscrupulous traders are trying to take advantage of the highway closure," said a senior official in Srinagar.

Reports also said hundreds of trucks carrying essential supplies to the valley are still stranded on the highway at various points.

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Mukhtar Ahmad In Srinagar