SRINAGAR — PDP president Mehbooba Mufti Tuesday said she, along with fruit-truck drivers, will block the Srinagar-Jammu national highway if their vehicles are not allowed a smooth passage.
“Lakhs of people depend on this (fruit trade), they have taken loans, they have taken money from Delhi’s mandis. Who will give them that money? Will you? So, I warn the government if you don’t open the road for trucks, then I along with others will block the national highway,” Mehbooba said in Shopian.
She visited the south Kashmir district to join the protesting apple growers who have been demanding a smooth transit for the fruit-laden trucks stuck on the national highway.
“You are not allowing us to bring our fruits, which are rotting in the mandis, but, we will not allow this. I appeal to you as well as warn you not to test the people of Kashmir,” she added.
Mehbooba said horticulture is the backbone of the union territory’s economy, but attempts are being made to “damage” it.
“It is not just about fruit growers, but transporters as well, who also have taken loans…This is economic terrorism. They say militancy has ended, but the Government of India is unleashing biggest terror against the people and horticulture here,” she said.
The former JK chief minister alleged that the government is trying to do what the Jews did to Palestine by shutting them economically.
“Trucks from Jammu to Kashmir reach here in a day, but trucks from here are stopped for four-five days. If this is not a part of some conspiracy, then why does it still happen even after the assurances of the LG? We will not allow this.
“I have requested the Lieutenant Governor and appeal to him again to take serious notice of the issue and see to it that our trucks are not stopped. If it continues despite that, then they will also have to face difficulties,” she said.
Fruit growers of Kashmir on Monday held a demonstration here against the alleged stopping of apple-laden trucks by authorities at various places along the national highway en route to terminal markets of the country.
The JK administration has dismissed the allegations, saying the trucks were halted due to natural causes.
In a statement issued on Monday, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, P K Pole, said the trucks were stopped due to natural causes, which were beyond anyone’s control.
“The claim made by certain fruit growers association on the halting of fruit trucks is half-truth and natural reasons are hindering traffic. We have difficulties in the movement of traffic on the highway due to rains and resultant shooting stones which is beyond human control,” Pole said.
He had said all stranded Jammu-bound trucks will be cleared by Monday night.
The official also asked the transporters to use alternate Mughal Road for at least empty trucks so as to lessen the traffic plying on the national highway.
Meanwhile, traffic police have said since September 1, 45,923 trucks (including 17,631 apple trucks) have moved from Srinagar to Jammu via tunnel as per the details provided by the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).
On Monday, trucks were again released from Srinagar to Jammu, even as there was a backlog of approximately 2,500 trucks at Qazigund. However, due to shooting stones at Cafeteria Morh, Ramban, traffic was stopped on Tuesday morning and the movement was possible only in the later afternoon after the road was cleared off.
The police said apple trucks are given priority for release at traffic at Qazigund and hence in no case, any apple truck can remain stranded there for more than two days “contrary to the false claims and propaganda that is being spread by vested interests”.
JK traffic police will initiate strict action against individuals who are spreading false and unverified information regarding the movement of apple trucks, they said.
It said it has taken several additional steps to increase the flow of apple trucks including giving extra time to down convoy to ensure their smooth clearance.
“In case of blockage of NH 44 due to shooting stones, down HMVS (heavy motor vehicles) were released on consecutive days to ensure speedy clearance of apple trucks and extra traffic personnel were deputed to Quazigund and Banihal-Ramban stretches to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic,” it said.
The Traffic Police said Ramban market has been notified as a “No Parking Zone” and the Department of Horticulture was asked to paste stickers on the windscreen of each fruit-laden truck mentioning apple or fresh produce as appropriate with an accompanying picture for ease of identification.
“One Whatsapp group was created at Traffic Hqrs level in which all stakeholders were added for timely redressal of grievance of fruit growers. The Traffic Department also undertook a number of steps to facilitate the flow of traffic through the Mughal Road to ease the pressure on the NH 44,” the police added. — (PTI)