J&K – The issues around the state

Explained: J&K govt blocking of a highway


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Security challenges in J&K

A move for safer transition

  • The J&K govt. issued an order banning the movement of civilian traffic on a 270-km stretch (Udhampur-Baramulla) of the Jammu-Srinagar-Uri national highway for two days every week.
  • On Sundays and Wednesdays, the highway would be exclusively used for movement of military convoys.
  • The decision has been taken considering the security concerns that led to temporarily blocking part of the highway.
  • However this has an implication on civilian population.

Why is the highway important?

  • The Jammu-Srinagar-Uri national highway (NH-1A) runs 370 km.
  • The national highway is not just the only road link that connects Kashmir to the outside world but also the key highway that connects Srinagar with the southern and northern districts of the Valley.
  • The highway passes through five of the 10 districts of the Valley, and highways to at least two more districts branch out from it.
  • The highway, directly and indirectly, impacts a population of over 69 lakh.

The road-block to terror

  • The government has cited the recent suicide bombing of a security forces convoy in Pulwama — which killed 40 CRPF personnel — as the reason for restricting traffic.
  • This stretch would be closed for all forms of civilian traffic from dawn to dusk (4 am to 5 pm) on these two days, leaving it open exclusively for convoys of security forces.
  • While the highway would be closed on these two days, civilian traffic already faces restrictions through the week.

Implications of the road-block

  • It means a virtual lockdown of the Valley for two days every week.
  • According to official figures, over 10,000 vehicles move on the highway from both sides every hour, including around 5,000 light motor vehicles.
  • These include vehicles carrying students, patients, government officials and businessmen.
  • Closing the highway during daytime would mean that most government and private offices, banks, schools and colleges would remain shut on Wednesdays and the movement of people to hospitals would be severely restricted on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Another viable option

  • Almost all colleges, higher secondary institutions and schools in five districts of the Valley are accessible only through this highway.
  • Besides, there are hundreds of villages and towns spread on both sides of the highway from Udhampur to Baramulla. The ban would effectively cut them off from other places on two days every week.
  • Whenever security forces’ vehicles are using the highway, civilian traffic is often halted for various lengths of time.
  • Had the government decided to move security convoys at night, the impact on civilian traffic movement could have been much less.
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