Kashmir’s highways remain unsafe

Kashmir’s highways are one of the most precarious in the country. You travel through precipitous ridges: a small slip, your vehicles could fall into deep gorges. The width and condition of the highway from Jammu to Srinagar are so poor that you often have to move through the outer edges of the highway which may not be stable.

Meandering highway from Jammu to Kashmir.                    Photo:  Roy Mathew

Though highways are being widened and developed from Jammu to Punjab, much of the highway from Jammu to Sri Nagar remain in bad shape despite heavy traffic. The Border Roads Organisation is in charge of the development of the highway. However, it has so far failed to develop safe roads, which is challenging task. The highway passes through mountain slopes and slopes below and above are prone to landslips at many places. There are also areas where boulders would roll down on to the road. The situation poses a major technological challenge which is yet to be addressed.

Army trucks

A large number of army trucks and vehicles move up and down the highway every day, often causing congestion.                                                               Photo: Roy Mathew

Road accidents continue to be on the high side in the State. During three years from 2009 to 2011, as many as 3,288 persons were killed and 27,165 injured in 18,786 accidents in the State. The number of accidents was on the increase during these years. With militancy on the wane, it is said that the more persons are now getting killed in road accidents than in terrorist attacks and army operations.

The Centre recently sanctioned Rs. 1248 crore to Jammu and Kashmir for improving connectivity to its villages. The State government has plans to develop the historical Mughal road for ecotourism purposes. These are ecologically sensitive areas with rich flora and fauna and water bodies. The road development has to keep in view the conservation of wildlife habitats and ecosystems.

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Petrol, automobiles and the rich

A lot of noise is generated in Kerala every time the petrol and diesel prices go up. However, does most of the Malayalees care about the price rise except for the political rhetoric generated over that?

The only section that cares is the ordinary office goes who don’t get a vehicle allowance. However, even for the government employee, today’s price hike came with an announcement of seven per cent dearness allowance with retrospective effect from January.

The worst affected is those living below the poverty line. However they don’t often realise the impact of petrol prices when announced. They feel it in the form of bus fare hikes later, and all round increase in prices which they may fail to connect to the fuel costs.

car show room

An automobile showroom in Malappuram district

For the neo-rich, it does not matter. There is enough money in their hands to burn off petrol and diesel whatever be the costs. One sees a few drivers in posh vehicles parked on the Secretariat lawns every day burning away diesel to run the air-conditioners while their bosses or relatives visit ministers and officials at the Secretariat.  (Those in the Secretariat do not care though it pollutes the area.)

For many, money is pouring in from Gulf countries. The value of rupee has plummeted, and that means increased incomes for those at home. So, who care about the petrol price hikes? The Malappuram district, which was one of the most backward districts in the State, now sports large vehicle show rooms and shopping centres.  The largest show rooms of car dealers could now be seen along the highway between Angadippuram and Malappuram.  The Muslim League Ministers have seen to it that the road network improved.

However, the road network across the State is far from sufficient for increasing number of passenger car units. One sees large vehicles transporting cars blocking the highways and the problem is going to increase with increasing container traffic from Vallarpadam and Vizhinjam port (when realized).

Proposals for expressway and widening of major highways are in limbo. Other works like the Kerala Road Development Project are in limbo. So, also are the proposals to improve the public transport system, especially the rail network including metros and mono rails.

Kerala will be burning away more petrol in the coming years as the traffic slows down along all major roads and highways.  The government does see the problem, but is failing to act. Well, in Pathanamthitta, they want an airport.


And again the Petrol Price Hike!!!