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Editorial
Same old saga
Inclement weather conditions and miseries of stranded passengers necessitate steps for better connectivity
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The harrowing tale of stranded passengers follows the similar pattern of neglect in the face of severe breakdown of road communications and irregular air links between Jammu and Srinagar follows the familiar pattern with the government stepping in after much delay to make stop gap and inadequate arrangements. Hundreds of passengers are facing acute misery in view of the frequent shutting down of the national highway due to inclement weather conditions and many among them are extremely poor with no available shelters other than the bus stands to save themselves from cold weather. There is need for the government to take a serious view of the miseries of the people stranded on the highway and draw up a comprehensive plan to combat this issue which is a regular and common phenomenon. An additional problem is the massive jump in ticket prices by private airlines as well as Air India is a sheer case of exploitation which has gone unchecked. The ticket prices are phenomenally high and cost nothing less than Rs 16,000 between Jammu and Delhi. Last year, the union government had announced that ticket prices for destinations under 500 kilometres under Rs 2500. However, that direction remains unadhered as unscrupulous airlines are reaping the harvest of miseries of stranded passengers.

It is for the huge mass of bureaucracy and the executive of Jammu and Kashmir to have responded to the basic needs of the people, of essentially food and shelter, as they get stuck because of unending closure of the Jammu-Srinagar national highway. Like in the past, the government never bothers, sparing neither a thought to updating its mechanism for supporting the people who get caught in the grip of the onslaught of weather. The closure of highway due to weather conditions is a normal routine phenomenon, and is not some major disaster that should catch the authorities unawares every time. After years of experience, the government should have been in a better position to cater to the needs of the passengers, who sometimes get stranded in Jammu or along the highway for days at end. The weather conditions may not be a making of the government and are also not something anyone can prevent. But while ways have to be found for minimising the extent of damage they do or to lessen their impact on the lives of the people, there is much that the government can do for ensuring a better plan for immediate system of relief and shelter for stranded people. An effective plan requires both short term and long term strategies. For the short term, there is need to put in place a better mechanism for reaching out to stranded passengers and catering to their basic needs. As a long term measure, there is need to improve the road, rail and air links. The state government took up the case of allowing vehicles to pass through the Banihal rail tunnel in case of break down of the highway link and on Tuesday airlifted several hundred passengers. These steps are not only marked by delay and petty whims, they are also no substitutes for improving the connectivity. Both the projects of all-weather rail and road links to Kashmir have been victims of massive delays. The rail stretch from Udhampur to Banihal has been in the pipeline for over two decades but not much work has been done on this project. The new highway connectivity via Nashri tunnel also is bogged down by excessive delays and complacency. There is need to speed up both these projects to ensure better connectivity during inclement weather. Besides, there is need to improvise the landing and take-off facilities at Srinagar airport, which now has the international airport status. While there is need to check the air ticket prices, the government can also take up the case of additional sorties to ease the rush.


News Updated at : Friday, March 17, 2017
 
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