After reeling under the fear of gun and losing hundreds of precious human lives to Indo-Pak-hostility in last over 25 years of conflict, this Uri sector of north Kashmir is again witnessing the dance of death due to frequent road accidents.
While the locals attribute the growing number of road accidents to dilapidated road conditions, they accuse authorities of acting as mute spectators to their tragedies.
In one of the most tragic accidents, five persons including a Sarpanch and his son and two teachers from frontier village Silkote here last week died after their car rolled down into 200 feet deep gorge in Hajipeer Nallah. Although the five coffins changed the scene of the entire area into melancholy, the authorities remain unfazed with appalling conditions of roads; the villagers tread in their day to day lives at the risk of their lives.
Silikote is a zero line village on this side of disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir in Uri. Following the accident and loss of five lives, the local MLA Mohammad Shafi urged the authorities to take up the road works in his constituency on priority basis to avoid such mishaps in future.
People in this border sector told The Legitimate that politicians during election times come along with truck load of promises but vanish once the elections are over and leave people in lurch.
“Every time when elections approach, the politicians come to us and seek vote and promises to change our lives. They assure us better roads, drinking water and electricity. But that never happens once the elections are over,” the locals accuse.
The residents of this border sector, who have been suffering a lot due to cross border violence and shelling on LoC, always live under the shadow of gun and artillery. They accuse authorities that as if political betrayal and deception was not enough, the road constructing agencies like BRO, Beacon and Roads and Building department have left the roads in depilated conditions triggering massive chances of landslides and road sinking which result into accidents.
One of the five kilometres roads connecting Silikote to Uri Tehsil is the only life line for the village along Haji peer Nallah. But this road is carving for immediate government attention.
“Many accidents here even didn’t change the attitude of authorities. Hundreds of people treading on this road are playing with their lives due to massive ditches which can anytime cause accident to vehicle plying on it,” says Fayaz Ahmad, local driver.
He says the road is so narrow that only one vehicle can pass through at a time and has become a cause of frequent traffic jams. “One vehicle has to stop to make way for the other. Sometimes we have to wait for hours for our turn to pass through. At least 100- 150 vehicles pass everyday including the heavy loaded trucks,”
He says the passenger vehicles have to move at snail’s pace in order to avoid mishaps as the potholes and bumps which lead to the failure of employees and students to reach their respective destinations on time. “The worst sufferers are the pregnant women and sick on their way to hospitals,” he adds.
Residents of another village Churanda near LoC are also facing with similar problems of pathetic road as only road link from Thajal to Churanda has been under construction from last several years but PMGSY has failed to protect it from landslides.
Locals claim that mild rainfall is bringing major landslides and discontenting them from the rest of world for weeks together in winters. They attributed the non protection of roads by constructing agencies as potential reason for road accidents.
“The area is witnessing more land erosion especially after the roads were constructed under PMGSY. We request the authorities that a comprehensive survey be conducted so that the nature of soil could be gauged,” local Sarpnach Lal Din Khatana demanded.
“Few years back when the road was built under PMGSY people of this border village had breathed sigh of relief as we had to travel 15 kilometres to reach Uri but now as we stand connected landslides and sinking of land disconnects us for weeks together,” rues Khatana.
Several areas in Uri are also prone to landslides cuts off the villages like Garkote, Nambla, Churnada, Udoosa , Gingal, Mohra, Bandi Langama, and Boniyar for days. During summers the dust emanating from the soil of landslides, locals complain cause respiratory problems among children and elder people.
The transport owners in the area complain of increase in the annual maintenance cost of their vehicles due to bad roads. We do not want to ply on this road as the maintenance cost of our vehicles has gone very high,” says Manzoor Ahmad, another driver plying his passenger vehicle on the same route.
Dismayed with the ‘lackadaisical’ attitude of government, people here urge authorities to ensure the proper road conditions for the common people who have been suffering immensely.
The road links of Garkote to Kandikalan, Nambla to Syedpora to Hatlunga, Jabla to Gowhlan, Thaljal to Churanda, Gowalta to Kamalkote, Nowarunda to Gingal Chola, Dachana Slamabad and Udoosa to Kaman Post are in pathetic condition and authorities turn blind eye towards it.
While entering into the border town one can easily understand the hardships people facing here due to delay in the completion of N.S Bridge, dilapidated roads and lack of transport facility.
Local resident of Nambla, Uri Abdul Rashid says: “the bridge was supposed to be completed in two years but due to some technical problems concerned authorities stopped the construction work on it.”
At least one road accident takes place here in Uri sector every week although only accidents in which causalities are reported come to limelight in media.
Rashid says that the technical errors must be rectified in the NS Bridge to ensure the proper connectivity of people between two sides.
“It is a big problem for we people as we don’t have good roads and bridges here in our area. We all know what it means to have poor social connectivity. We are going through terrible hardships”
Another local of Tilawari village says, “Many villages in and around the Nandh Singh (N.S) bridge like Nambla, Garkote, Laghama, Bandi, Tilawari, Silikote, Balkote and other adjoining areas are facing difficulties.”
A group of locals accuse that if the bridges for inter connectivity of far flung areas are built; it can shorten the distance of many villages by 15 kilometres to reach the main town of Uri.
Few years back authorities had assured us that the bridge would be completed within one year, but it is learnt that the executing agency has failed to construct the bridge in a stipulated time period, otherwise there are hard iron gauges worth lakhs lying on it.
Concerned authorities of Beacon and R&B should see the problems of common masses at the earliest to ease the sufferings of people; otherwise the people will continue to die here duet o official negligence.
As the poor road connectivity was not enough, the border town loses its touch with the district headquarter and other areas after no vehicle ply between Baramulla and Uri after 6 pm.
“There is also a problem that after 6 pm you don’t have a facility of transport from Uri to Baramulla due to which common masses suffers a lot. It is almost 50 to 60 kms distance from Baramulla to Uri.”
Interestingly, the road has an international importance with Karvan-e-aman bus plies on the same route besides the barter trade taking place here between Muzafferabad and Srinagar.
The protests occurring from time to time against the authorities for their failure even do not bore nay results.
“Every day in some or the other village the protests occur over poor road connectivity, bridge collapse or road blockade. But authorities remain unfazed to the public demands,” accuse locals.
“Most of the roads are not being developed and widened by authorities for past three years. And there is not check on overloading of passenger vehicles in the area”
Urging authorities to minimize the road accidents till the sustainable measures are taken, they said that local authorities have been informed many times to stop over loading menace and increase the frequency of passenger vehicles, but to no avail.
On 19 Octorbar 2015, two passengers died while as nine others got injured two them of critically when a Tata Sumo vehicle skidded off the road and rolled down into deep gorge in frontier Uri Tehsil of north Kashmir’s Baramulla district
On April 30, 2014, according to locals, a Sumo (JKo5C- 9538) packed with passengers was on way from Dardkot to Uri when driver lost control over it near Dardkhot. The vehicle skidded off from the road and fell into 200 feet deep gorge in which one person died and two others sustained critical injuries.
In another road mishap three days after this incident, two local labourers working with Border Roads Organization (BRO) project Beacon died while as four others including a driver got seriously injured when a beacon tipper skidded off from road and fell into deep ravine at Syedpora on Uri Nambla road.
On 22, April 2014, at least twelve passengers got injured six of them critically when a Sumo skidded off from road and fell into deep gorge at Banga Salamabad.
On 27, May 2014, a Tata Sumo vehicle bearing registration number JK05B-0719 met with an accident at Bagna, Bijhama resulting in injury to a passenger Noor Ahmad Najar son of Mohammad Najar resident of Salamabad.
On 6 July 2013, one person died another got critically injured in a tragic road accident at Boniyar.
On, August 09, 2013, celebrations of Eid festival turned into mourning when nine persons were killed and four other injured when Tata Sumo rolled down a 150-feet gorge between Barnate and Boniyar villages in Uri Tehsil close to Line of Control in Baramulla district.
On 13, Oct 2005, four members of a family that had survived Saturday’s devastating quake were killed when their jeep plunged into Jhelum River near Uri while they were returning to their native village.
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The story first appeared in print edition of May 18.