Sgr-Jmu NH: Shopkeepers, hoteliers resort to overpricing

Srinagar, Jul 13: The closure of Srinagar-Jammu National Highway becomes a safe haven for the shopkeepers and hoteliers to fleece the stranded passengers.

The 260-kilometres highway, connecting Kashmir with the rest of the world remained closed for five days recently after a portion of the road caved in due to heavy downpours in the Panthyal stretch. The traffic was restored on Wednesday.

At the same time, the shopkeepers, hotels, and restaurant owners are adding further miseries by overcharging for their services and food items.

Mehraj Ahmad, who runs a shop in Jammu, was returning to Srinagar a few days before when the highway got closed due to rainfall.

“We were stranded near for two days. We were forced to pay Rs 180 for plain rice and a bowl of vegetables,” he said.

He said that whenever the highway gets closed, the Dhabawallas and hoteliers fleece customers by charging exorbitant rates for food items.

On an average daily, 4000 to 5000 vehicles ply on the national highway.

Mohammad Altaf, a sumo driver from Srinagar, said shopkeepers are dictating their own prices and creating embarrassment to the stranded passengers.

“I along with five passengers were stranded on the highway near Ramban market recently. We didn’t have dinner for two days as the restaurant owner was demanding Rs 220 for a plate of rice with Rajma,” he said.  “For a cup of tea and bread, we were forced to pay Rs 50,” he said.

He said there is an “open loot” whenever the highway gets closed.  “For a small room, they charge Rs 2000-3000.  The stranded passengers many times have no other option other than paying them money as demanded,” he said.

Another sumo driver Fayaz Ahmad said authorities have failed to keep a check on the malpractices by shopkeepers. “If somebody refuses to pay an extra charge, they (Dhabawallas, restaurant owners, hoteliers) not only refuse to sell the food item but indulge in abusive language,” he said. He said he had to pay Rs 1400 for a small room per night in a shabby room that was shared by some other stranded passengers a few days before.

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