Highway Blockade Triggers Food Shortage, Inflation In Kashmir

4 April 2015
Rising Kashmir
Junaid Kathju

Srinagar: The frequent and prolonged closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway owing to bad weather has led to shortage and subsequent inflation of food items in Kashmir valley. Consumers are facing the brunt of highway blockade with eatables including vegetables, pulses, meat and other items being sold at exorbitant rates. The prices of haak (collards) and tomato have reached Rs 80 per kilogram in past one week. Beans are sold at Rs 70 to Rs 100 while cabbage Rs 30 and cauliflower Rs 40 per kg have also become dearer for common man. Prices of mutton range between Rs 340 and Rs 360 while chicken is sold at Rs 150 per kilogram against government approved rates of Rs 310 and Rs 90 respectively. Similarly, eggs sell at Rs 50 to 60 per dozen against official rates of Rs 48 a dozen. The Srinagar-Jammu highway remained closed for traffic for the fourth consecutive day Saturday due to landslides triggered by heavy rains, leaving over 600 Kashmir-bound vehicles stranded. 'There are hardly any vegetables and fruits available in the market. The mutton is also running short. I had to travel all the way to Nowpora to buy the meat,' said a consumer Shabir Ahmad of Nawa Kadal. Many people blame retailers for arbitrary hike in vegetable prices. 'Many retailers are taking undue advantage of the situation by increasing prices of eatables. We are bound to buy vegetables and other food items on higher prices. It is our daily requirement,' said another consumer, Ali Mohammad Kachroo. Despite their availability in the market, even onions and potatoes are being sold at higher prices. 'Potatoes that are sold at Rs 8 to 12 per kg in the mandi are being sold at Rs 25 to 30 in the market. Onion rate in mandi is Rs 20 to 22 but in market it is selling at Rs 35 per kg,' said another consumer Iqbal Ahmad. President, New Kashmir Fruit Dealers and Growers Association- President of New Kashmir Fruit Association Parimpora, Bashir Ahmad Basheer said closure of highway has led to huge scarcity of vegetables. 'In vegetables we have only onions and potatoes available in the mandi while in fruits some trucks of oranges are in storage,' said Basheer. He said hundreds of trucks laden with fruits and vegetables are stranded on Srinagar-Jammu highway for the last few days. 'We are afraid that many fruits and vegetables would have rotten by now. Last week out of 25 trucks of vegetables 23 trucks were partially or fully putrid,' Basheer said. Director, Consumer Affair and Public Distribution (CAPD), A R Var said the department conducts regular market checks to regulate the prices. 'Our teams are on ground and are monitoring the market. Even today we visited some areas of Jawahar Nagar and Rajbagh and made sure that retailers are selling vegetables on prescribed rates,' said Var. He said they have also requested the authorities to give first priority to clear the stranded vehicles on the highway carrying essential commodities. 'We have asked the authorities to clear the trucks carrying eatable items and medicines on priority to end the scarcity of essential commodities in the valley,' said Var.