Apple Cart In Mess: Thousands of Fruit-Laden Trucks Parked On Highway

by Tahir Bhat

SRINAGAR: With hundreds of fruit-laden trucks parked on the national highway on this side of the twin Banihal tunnels, it is chaos ruling the road. Growers and traders are desperate for crossing the patch but allege they are not getting the green signal.

Trucks stuck on highway: A representational photograph

Reports said there are nearly 6000 truckloads waiting to cross the tunnel and 300 of them are bound for the India-Bangladesh border and have a deadline to reach by September 28. Officials said it is slightly less, “may be around 5000”.

In our area, a senior official from Ramban said there is no truck parked anywhere. “We have a shooting stone issue at one spot of around 153 meters in the 66-km long stretch of the highway,” the officer said. “We have been given four hours for five days starting September 24, and we work between 3 am and 7 am and then permit the transport to pass.” In order to manage repairs ahead of the deadline given by the administration, the officer said we will be working from 2 am to 7 am so that one hour extra helps to manage the shooting stone area quickly.

The officer said that they had a small issue of road clogging in Banihal which has been managed already. “Yes, movement is slow but there is no complete halt in our area,” the officer said, insisting, “the trucks are reportedly parked in Qazigund.”

Legendary Kashmir cartoonist BAB aptly described the state and status of apple on the highway.

The officer said almost 1500 truckloads crossed the Ramban on Sunday, a number that is most likely to go up by tomorrow.

Given the seriousness of the issue, the Chief Secretary, Dr A K Mehta presided over a meeting recently in which the administration was asked to help the fruit harvest move quickly out of Kashmir to the markets. On September 19, during his visit to Shopian and Pulwama, LG Manoj Sinha told reporters: “Instructions have been given that the fruit trucks should be allowed to operate on priority.”

In Srinagar, a senior official in the traffic police department said the trucks being parked on this side of the tunnel is just a routine. “There are issues with road and as soon as the authorities on the other side (of the tunnel) tell us to permit the trucks, we do,” he said. “Halting trucks on this side is routine but this became issue just because of fruit.”

Another officer said the movement of the trucks has started and by tonight most of the “4500-odd trucks” parked on this side of the tunnel should pass.

Fruit growers and traders stuck on the road have been literally crying. They are alleging that some of the trucks are parked for many days and it has started impacting the fruit. Some of the traders who were accompanying their fruit protested and threw away the fruit that had decomposed in the protracted halt by the traffic police.

“Fruit-laden trucks are being halted at Qazigund for around week after that they get a turn to move towards Jammu,” Nisar Ahmad, a fruit grower from south Kashmir has told a local news gatherer, KNO. “If the government won’t ensure the hassle-free movement of the apple-laden trucks, this industry will definitely collapse.”

Bashir Ahmad Bashir, who heads the fruit mandi Srinagar said thousands of trucks halted and cannot pass in a few hours. He led a delegation to the area and personally saw “8000 trucks waiting, some of them for five to seven days”. He hoped the government will take quick measures to manage the issue as the LG and the Chief Secretary have already promised. “In protest, we shut all our Mandi’s for two days (Sunday and Monday) so that government can take this issue seriously and implement orders on the ground,” he was quoted saying.

Given the impact that the delayed departure of the crop will have on the fragile Kashmir economy, everybody is pleading with the administration to act quickly. “Halting thousands of fruit-laden trucks on Srinagar Jammu national Highway is an insensitive act and administrative failure,” Congress leader, Tariq Hameed Karra said. “The failure of Jammu and Kashmir administration to manage and facilitate the clearance of around 8000 fruit laden trucks stranded at Qazigund and around on Srinagar Jammu National Highway, is a sheer insensitiveness.”

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