Srinagar, Jan 13: More than 3000 passengers, including women, children and drivers spent a sleepless night in the freezing temperature on the 300-km-long Srinagar-Jammu national highway due to heavy traffic jam.
It was all confusion and chaos and no official from traffic department or BEACON was available to confirm why the vehicles had been stopped on the highway, passengers travelling from Srinagar to Jammu told UNI over phone.
They said it was free for all and one could see vehicles parked wrongly which added to the confusion and road block for more than six hours.
The agitated passengers complained, ''if the highway was not ready for two-way traffic, why the authorities allowed vehicles from both sides, leading to traffic jams.'' They criticised the National Conference, the main opposition party in the State, for not raising the issue of the frequent closure and mismanagement of highway in the ongoing Assembly session.
The NC leaders are raising issues which only suit them, an agitated woman passenger Rafiqa said, demanding action against the traffic and BEACON officials who mislead the public by announcing that the highway had been reopened for two-way passage.
The authorities announced yesterday that the highway had been reopened for two-way traffic after remaining closed for three days due to landslides at Penthal and heavy snowfall between Jawahar tunnel and Banihal.
A senior official of the BEACON, responsible for the maintenance of the highway, only road linking the valley with the rest of the country, said, ''It will take just a few hours to clear the snow on the road and make it traffic worthy again.'' Abdul Hamid, a passenger, who left along with his wife and three children in a State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) bus for Delhi yesterday in the morning, said they reached Jammu only at 0800 hours this morning.
He said they had to wait near Jawahar tunnel for six hours for the reasons still not clear. After reaching at the tunnel at 1330 hrs they were allowed to cross it at 1800 hrs.
There was no arrangement on the highway by officials and my children had to sleep without any food, he said.
Mr Hamid rued that after crossing the tunnel, there was again traffic jam for hours.
All the passengers in hundreds of vehicles had to spent sleepless night in minus temperature, he said, adding taht they reached Jammu this morning.
Similar complaints were received from passengers who left Jammu and reached Srinagar early this morning.
The agitated passengers said each minister should be asked to travel by road once in a month so that he too have the experience of passenger's plight at jammed highway.
Official sources confirmed that there were hundreds of trucks, loaded with essential commodities stranded on the highway.