SRINAGAR: Kishtwar township has gone instantly into mourning and is closed after the more than 35 people including minors and women were killed in a road accident. The death toll is expected to go up as 17 “critically injured” passengers were flown to Jammu in two sorties by the state government, reports reaching from Kishtwar town said. In fact, three highly critical passengers were flown from the site of the accident, reports added.
As the authorities are trying to get more details about the tragedy, reports suggest the dead include 10 members of a clan. In other cases, three members of a family are dead and the lone survivor, a minor, is critically injured. There is a minor of 20 days who was also among killed.
“It is a treacherous road,” lawyer Khursheed Dev said. “The public transport is scarce and all the employees and the students who had to reach Kishtwar by 10 am were on board the ill-fated bus. It lost control and the tragedy took place.” Srawan nulla in which the bus fell near Sirgwari is a tributary of Chenab River, a fast flowing torrent. However, it has less discharge otherwise some of the bodies would have been washed away. The accident took place at 8:40 am, reports added.
The ill-fated bus JK 17/6787 was on its way from Keshwan to Kishtwar, a distance of slightly more than 25 km. The PMGSY road is passing through the peaks of the mountain range and has frightening turns and twists. It was during one such turn that the driver was negotiating when he lost the control and the bus rolled down, more than 500 ft, into a deep gorge.
Officials said almost 20 passengers were reported on the spot. All other deaths took place either in the district hospital Kishtwar or while being evacuated to the hospital.
“It is incorrect that some passengers have survived without injury,” Dev’s colleague Kuldeep Sharma, another lawyer, said. “Almost everybody who was in the vehicle is either dead or seriously injured.”
The bus had the capacity of driving 28 passengers including the driver. But the number of passengers who were travelling in the ill-fated bus was 52, according to Deputy Commissioner Kishtwar, A S Rana. “With so much of load on this dangerous road, how is it possible for any driver to maintain any kind of balance,” reporter Asif Iqbal said. “Last year, there was a similar accident on the same road and authorities had promised to ensure no more accidents take place. Now you see what happened?
On September 14, 2018, as many as 17 people were killed when a mini-bus coming from Keshwan to Kishtwar rolled down into the gorge at Dandaran, near Thakrai. Only 11 passengers could survive injured. The losses were fewer because the bus fell down to a depth of only 300 ft.
The accident occurred at when the driver of the minibus, which was on its way to Kishtwar from the Keshwan area, lost control of it and the vehicle plunged into the over-300-foot gorge, near the Chenab riverbed.
Residents said the official machinery was late in joining them in the rescue efforts. But when the army and the police joined, it helped evacuate the injured quite fast. The hospital was in utter chaos. Given the magnitude of the crisis, there were quite a few people to manage such a huge trauma load.
“There seem to be three major factors responsible for the accident: The rundown road, the outdated vehicles and the failure of the rule of law,” Sharma said. “Everybody knows all this but nobody seems to be taking care of these basics.”
After the people started taking their breadwinners coffins home, the town went into an instant strike to mourn such a large number of deaths in one incident. There is anger, hate and desperation. Its impact is felt in the entire Chenab Valley region. “The Prime Minister has mourned the deaths, Thanks,” one lawyer from Doda said. “But if our country can go to war for 40 killings, why cannot we get a road even after more than 100 people died in Kishtwar alone in the last one year.”
In the main town, the tensions are over the failure of having a proper medical facility. “We have a district hospital that has one stretcher. There is one oxygen cylinder and when the accident took place, the staff was taken aback and could not manage the load,” a reporter from Kishtwar said. “How can such an important place not have the basics when it is a treasure of the state?”
The reporter was referring to the mass installation of hydroelectric projects. Kishtwar has already Dul Hasti project and three more are under various stages of implementation. “Why cannot we have a hospital which has so many huge projects under implementation,” the scribe asked.
Right now, everybody is grieved. Last time, the local lawmaker, BJP’s Sunil Sharma, who was also state’s transport minister, announced 35 SRTC buses for the region. So far, not a single bus has reached the district. In comparison to the private transporters, the reporter said, the SRTC drivers are better placed to negotiate mountain roads and follow a discipline.
In Srinagar, governor Satya Pal Malik said the issue of the tragic accident will be discussed threadbare in the state administrative council (SAC) in its next meeting. Apart from announcing an ex-gratia relief of Rs 5 lakh each to the next of the kin of the deceased, Malik has directed the administration to provide the best medical treatment to the injured and wished them a speedy recovery.
The dead include 14 females, one infant and 20 males. These include at least three couples. Here is the list of the passengers who were killed in the tragic road accident:
Amjad Mir, 22, son of Abdul Latief Mir, a resident of Keshwan.
Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, 50, son of Ahamdu Bhat, a resident of Nagaria Keshwan.
Baguma Begum, 28, wife of Usman Khaday , a resident Nagaria Keshwan .
Deepak Kumar, 18, son of Naib Chand, a resident of Pakalan Thakrie.
Tahira Begum, 27, wife of Lt. Arshad Ahmad, a resident of Naghinar Keshwan.
Noor Din Chauhan, 27, a resident of Jugna Keshwan.
Shafia Bano, 19, daughter of Akhter Hussain, a resident of Naghina.
Bal Krishan, 45, son of Dev Anand.
Binota Devi, 40, wife of Bal Krishan.
Tajja Begum, 65, wife of Ghulam Hassan Mir, a resident of Naghina Keshwan.
Sajja Begum, 65, wife of Ahamdoo Wani, a resident Naghina Keshwan.
Nahida Banoo, 20, daughter of Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Gamas Keshwan.
Akhter Hussain, son of Abdul Samad, a resident of Chanderi Keshwan.
Ruksana Begum, 25, wife of Akhter Hussain.
A male child of 20 days of age, son of Akhter Hussain.
Waseem Raja, 18, son of Abdul Samad, a resident of Keshwan.
Biri Begum, 65, wife of Jawal Ahmad, a resident of Jugna Keshwan.
Zaitoona Banoo, 21, daughter of Shafi Ahmad, a resident of Keshwan.
Noor Din, 25, son of Jawan Ahmad, a resident of Jugna Keshwan.
Hajra Begum, wife of Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Bhalna.
Parmita Devi, 30, wife of Nek Ram, a resident of Angole Kishtiwar.
Bashir Ahmad, 20, son of Mohammad Shafi, a resident of Keshwan.
Aswani, 40, son of Jia Lal, a resident of Keshwan.
Bashir Ahmad, 25, son of Qasim, a resident of Keshwan.
Tariq Hussain Rather.
Abdul Hameed Rather.
The tragic accident instantly pushed the entire state into a sort of mourning. Almost everybody from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to governor Satya Pal Malik was grieved over the loss of lives. “Extremely saddened to learn about the loss of lives due to a road accident in Kishtwar, Jammu & Kashmir,” Home Minister Amit Shah said. “My deepest condolences to the families of those who lost their loved ones. I pray of the speedy recovery of those injured.’’
The former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir Omar Abdullah and Mehooba Mufti expressed grief over the tragic incident.
Expressing her condolences Mehbooba, President of JKPDP, tweeted, “saddened to hear about the tragic accident in Kishtiwar. Deepest condolences to families of the bereaved.”
Mehbooba termed the incident excruciating and expressed condolences with the families of those who have lost their dear ones. She also wished a speedy recovery to those who have been injured in the accident.
The PDP President termed the frequent occurrence of fatal road accidents in Jammu and Kashmir a deeply disturbing trend while asking the government to ensure that proper road safety measures are being taken to avoid loss of precious human lives.
She added that the state was yet to come out of the grief inflicted by Peer Ki Gali accident in which 11 students were killed and Monday’s gruesome Kishtwar episode is enough to make the government ponder over why the road links in the state, especially in hilly areas, are becoming the death traps for common masses with each passing day.
Omar Abdullah, Vice President of NC and former Chief Minister, wrote: “Terrible news coming in about the high death toll in a bus accident in Kishtiwar. Condolences to the families of the deceased & prayers for the swift recovery of the injured.”
“My heart goes to all those who have lost their dear ones in the accident”, said Dr Farooq Abdullah in a separate message and wished early recovery to the injured.
In a separate message, National Conference Vice President Omar Abdullah expressed grief over the deaths and prayed for early recovery of the injured.
Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah conveyed their condolences to the bereaved families, prayed for peace to the departed souls and strength to the bereaved family members to bear this irreparable loss.
Meanwhile, Peoples Conference Chairman Sajad Gani Lone said; “I extend my heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families and pray for peace to the departed souls and strength to the grief-stricken families to bear the loss. I also pray for the swift recovery of those injured.”
He also appealed the governor administration to provide best of medical treatment to the injured
The Pradesh Congress Committee vice president and former MLC Ghulam Nabi Monga termed the accident as unfortunate and tragic, said, the loss of precious lives is shocking for everyone. While praying to Allah to rest the departed souls in peace and give courage and fortitude to the bereaved families to bear the irreparable loss, he also prayed for the early recovery of those who have been injured in the accident.
The Congress leader also urged the government to provide adequate compensation to the families of those dead and to the injured. “While no amount of compensation can recoup their loss and heal their wounds, yet the Government must come forward to stand with the grieving families,” he said.
Senior separatist leader and Hurriyat (g) Conference chairman Syed Ali Geelani has also expressed his shock over the tragic accident. Geelani condemned the discrimination adopted by the authorities, towards the Chenab region on the ground. He said highway running through the mountainous region has been left in the lurch to become open graves for the common masses of this area. Statistics of these killer roads are alarming and exposes the tall claims of the “development”, the Hurriyat spokesman in a statement said.
The CPI (M) leader Mohamad Yousuf Tarigami said that administration’s callousness is responsible for the increasing number of accidents in the state.
This Ramban-Kishtwar highway has become a death trap and such accidents have become a norm. The reticence on part of the government vis-à-vis steps taken to prevent the loss of precious lives in swelling number of road accidents across the state is inopportune which can only worsen the situation.
The State government must come out with a report on action taken over recommendations of a House Committee led by me which was constituted to prepare a comprehensive report on causes and measures to bring down the number of road mishaps in the state. The report that we prepared had not left out any dimension and measures were recommended to be taken by the government to prevent fatal road accidents, the former MLA said in a statement.
But unfortunately, the government is yet to come out with its action taken a report on our recommendations. This speaks volumes about the government’s indifferent attitude towards this serious humanitarian crisis. The government’s silence on this vital House Committee report is not only reflective of a non-serious approach, but it shows the height of contempt with which these House Committees and their reports are treated.
The repeated road accidents in Doda, Kistwar, Ramban and Udhampur districts is a grave concern for all of us. It is a situation which demands the immediate attention of all, especially the officers of transport, traffic police, beacon etc to put forward their departmental specific assignment of the causes responsible for causing accidents in these hilly districts.
Advisors to the Governor, K Vijay Kumar, Khurshid Ahmed Ganai, K. K. Sharma and K. Skandan have also expressed deep shock and sorrow over the loss of precious lives.
In a joint condolence message, the Advisors have conveyed their heartfelt sympathies with the bereaved families over their irreparable loss and prayed for eternal peace to the departed souls. They also directed the Divisional and District administrations to provide the best possible medical treatment to those injured in the accident.