This small village in Pulwama outskirts is experiencing interesting days after the transporters plying between Newa and the town starting taking this route. Srinagar is barely 35 minute drive from Pulwama if Newa road is used. But there were disruptions after the Great September 2014 floods when overflowing Romshi washed away the culvert near Gadoora. It was perhaps one of the first repairs that Omar Abdullah government effect taking the help of army – a diversion was created and the traffic started plying again. In the March inundation, the army-built diversion was erased by the fast flowing rivulet that drains a vast belt from Pakhrepora.
Now the traffic is taking a route to enter Pulwama that has Wahibug crucially located. The road is a small alley zigzagging into the hamlet. People living on the ‘road’ have their tin-boundary walls and so massive is the congestion that it takes almost an hour to move in and out of this village.
But it is coming at a huge cost to the villagers. For the last one month, almost every boundary wall is damaged. Families whose walls are still intact are now staying guard. A vehicle touches a tin-sheet and the brawls start. Drivers say they could manage reducing passage time through the village but brawls take more time.
People skipping the Pandrethan-Pampore patch of the highway for reaching Pulwama and Shopian were using the Newa road. But they have landed in a much worse time loss because of Wahibug. Is there anybody in the government in a position to get somebody’s help to relay the diversion on the rivulet? It would be a great help to Wahibug that has stopped going to fields to guard their prized possessions.
It might be embarrassing for the healing touch regime that a key road linking Islamabad with Shopian via Kader-Herman is still a gated piece of communication. On the sprawling karewa of Chak-e-Hanjan, one of the major garrisons of the army is located and it is placed in such a way that the road passes through the middle of it. It is the same karewah that once housed a major imported facility for walnut grading and packing that collapsed well before it could take off and its prized machinery was sold as scrap by the interested people at the peak of turmoil, thus paving way for a vast piece of land to house the security forces.
Even though the situation in the entire belt has phenomenally improved over the years – there has not been a militancy related incident in and around the belt for years now, but the infrastructure that was raised to fight militancy has not seen even an iota of change. Even today, the soldiers stop commuters, advise them to move at a speed of not more than 10 kms an hour in the garrison part, switch off the mobile – and in certain cases, close the windows of the cars. People have been living with it and the practice has become part of the routine life. But what makes things seriously wrong is during the nights when the road is closed from both ends. It does open once the soldiers feel convinced that it is required.
People say there are two options for better management in case the garrison has to stay. First, the government must identify a 3 kms patch that skips the garrison and use it a 24 x 7 connect. Secondly, the soldiers can raise the walls parallel to the road from two sides and connect the two halves by a flyover, leaving the road free. But is there anybody in the government who can man these gates?
At a time when Mufti Sayeed, the Chief Minister is trying his best to convince Nitin Gadkari to help J&K have better roads, especially the life line highway, the rail between Banihal and Baramulla is perhaps the best facility that tens of thousands of people use daily. Between Islamabad and Srinagar, it is barely an hour long, no-frills, tensions free ride. So is between Banihal and Islamabad or for that matter Srinagar and Baramulla. But there are two major issues with the service.
First is that the infrastructure requires an upkeep which seems at the backburner other than the tracks. Officials say the operations are loss making and low income could be one factor why not many new trains are inducted. The fact is that tickets are so cheap that it sounds largesse if not the corruption. The government must review the ticket costs and encourage railways to improve the infrastructure, fill the vacant positions and induct more services.
Second issue is about the poor show that state government is managing as a partner. Once thousands of people disembark at the Nowgam railway station, there is insufficient transport available for ferrying them to various parts of the city. This has created a situation that people literally jump out and run towards the bus terminal to get the transport. The most pathetic situation is seen when the last train of the day reaches late in the evening. There is nothing much outside and sometimes people use bus tops to move out. Molestation of women passengers is just a routine at these hours. For patients, it is sometimes near death experience.
The government must see the issue more seriously than it sees “future of Kashmir”. It is a low hanging fruit that nobody in the government is willing to pluck and take the credit. It does not require any policy intervention. Just ask the concerned departments to ensure adequate transport facility for the people. The Railway police station which already functions in the Nowgam station can be asked to maintain a balance between the transporters and the passengers for all the services.