Jammu-Srinagar highway to remain open at all cost: official

August 3rd, 2008 - 7:16 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Amarnath Shrine

Srinagar, Aug 3 (IANS) The Jammu and Kashmir administration shall not allow anybody to disrupt traffic on the Jammu-Srinagar highway, the only link between the Kashmir Valley and the rest of the country, Chief Secretary S.S. Kapoor said here Sunday. “We are not going to allow anyone to disrupt traffic on the national highway. Yes, we have taken the army’s help. The highway is so long and we need constant vigil all along to keep it open. We are not embarrassed to have taken the army’s help,” he said.

“Army commanders at the highest level have assured us of their fullest cooperation and things are slowly getting back to normal,” Kapoor said.

Admitting that the situation in Jammu and adjoining districts was still tense following violent protests over the Amarnath shrine land row, the chief secretary said: “Attempts were made to communalize the situation at some places, but things are completely under control and there is no reason for any panic.

“Let the tempers cool down a little and things will start improving fast.”

The state government last month backtracked on its move to allot forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) for providing facilities to pilgrims after there were widespread protests in the Kashmir Valley. However, the move has been opposed by Hindu groups in the Jammu region that has been witnessing a violent agitation for over a month now.

Asked whether the shoot-at-sight orders given to the deployed troops to contain violent protests showed the administration’s failure in handling the situation on its own, Kapoor said: “Shoot-at-sight orders do not mean we shoot protesters wherever they come out. It is a deterrent intended to ensure that people do not fall prey to miscreants’s intentions.”

Kapoor said the highway had been cleared and all stranded trucks had moved to their destinations. As many as 178 trucks loaded with commodities from the Kashmir Valley had passed out of the state through Lakhanpur in Kathua district of the Jammu region.

As many as 135 trucks carrying fruit produce from the Valley had also moved out to their destinations elsewhere in the country.

Kapoor said the administration needed cooperation from fruit growers and the dealers in the Valley so that trucks are arranged in time for transportation of their produce.

“Let the fruit growers and dealers intimate the administration in Baramulla and Shopian districts and elsewhere in the Valley about their truck requirements a week in advance. We shall also marshal those trucks which come here from outside with merchandise so that these are used to carry the Valley’s fruit produce outside.”

He assured the fruit growers of the Valley that their produce of apple, pear and plum, which was ready for transportation, would be carried to markets without any further delay.

“All we ask the growers and the dealers is to cooperate with us and wait for a day or so to see the results for themselves,” he said.

The chief secretary said trucks with essential commodities and petroleum products had already started reaching here and there was no shortage of petroleum products or other essential supplies in the Valley.

Asked about damages to local trucks and other vehicles coming here from outside by the protesters in the Jammu region, Kapoor said: “FIRs (first information reports) have been registered in all these cases and action will definitely follow.”

Reacting to the charge that certain officials of the administration were being tolerated at their places of posting despite inaction and dereliction of duty, he said: “We removed officers immediately after receipt of reports that they had shown laxity in the discharge of their duties.”

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