M A I N   N E W S

Kargil revisited — II
Demand to open Kargil-Askardoo road
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, August 3
The 434 km long NH 1A, passing through Dras connects Srinagar with Leh, the capital of the twin districts of Leh and Kargil, comprising the frontier cold desert region of Ladakh.

Dras was given the status of a subdivision on July 19 when Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed visited the area. People are looking forward to the fulfilment of other formalities in this regard.

Six years after the Kargil war, the residents blame the Army and the civil authorities for neglecting them.

There is lack of power supply as the Marpocho hydel project is yet to be completed even after 12 years. One higher secondary school where over 600 students, both boys and girls study, caters to the population and those who pass out move down to Srinagar.

The sub-district hospital with only three doctors provide only the first-aid treatment, while most of the cases are referred to the district hospital, Kargil. “Many patients die on the way due to bad road conditions”, said a resident.

During winters the plight of patients is worse as they cannot be shifted to Srinagar, 140 km away, as the high Zojila remains blocked due to heavy snow.

Moreover, local porters are not given further chance to work and local officials demand bribes, they claim. About a dozen locals were killed due to shelling in the areas during work as porters “We fought the war. Why are porters from outside preferred?” asked many residents.

A youth, Gulzar Ahmad Sheikh, got the lone chance as porter for about three months in the farthest posts on the LoC and returned in November last year, but since then has been looking for some more means of livelihood to sustain his family of old parents and younger siblings.

The GOC, 8 Mountain Division, claimed that the locals did not accept the rates fixed by the civil administration, and that was why they did not get more opportunities. The entire population of Dras had to move out for over two months of the war to live with their relatives or to makeshift camps.

According to officials in Kargil, much needs to be done in women’s education, the health sector and improvement of roads and infrastructure. Several projects like women’s empowerment centres, adult literary centres, medical aid facilities, etc. have appreciably been launched by the Army’s 15 Crops that was raised after the Kargil war.

After the beginning of the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service across the LoC, the people of Kargil have aspirations about the opening of the Kargil-Askardoo road. Official in Kargil believe that it is more of an emotional issue, the opening of which depends on Pakistan

They claim that not more than 35 divided families live on either side of the LoC in the area, and they have not been able to revive their relations like those in other parts of Kashmir. The residents claim that there are more than 350 divided families and the road needs immediate opening.

The opening of the route will also boost trade and tourism. “The road will link the area with Gilgit, Karakoram and Central Asia. It will boost import and export”, claims Asghar Karbalai, a religious leader and Chief Executive Councillor of Kargil. He claimed that the Central Government had given them an assurance that the road would be opened by the end of this year.


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