The Jammu and Kashmir government on Saturday partially relaxed the two-day-a-week restrictions on the movement of civilian traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.
On April 7, the administration had imposed the restrictions on the national highway (NH-44) connecting Jammu to Srinagar, from Baramulla to Udhampur twice a week, - on Sunday and Wednesday - from 4.00 am to 5.00 pm, till May 31.
The move came in days after the Pulwama terror attack in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
"The restriction on civilian movement between Srinagar and Baramulla on national highway-44 would now be limited only to Sundays with effect from April 22. There would be no prohibition on civilian traffic on Wednesdays," an official spokesman said.
He said the administration is monitoring the convoy needs of security forces on a real time basis and making all attempts to minimise public inconvenience.
The highway restrictions had attracted widespread condemnation, especially in the Valley. Jammu and Kashmir leaders like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah had hit out at the centre over the biweekly closing of the highway for civilian traffic.
However, the restrictions would continue between Srinagar and Udhampur on NH-44 as earlier. These would be reviewed periodically and relaxation would be made as the need for restriction reduces. "For example, no restrictions were imposed on April 17, although it was a convoy day (Wednesday) as there was no need for movement of security forces' convoys," the spokesman said.
"The government has once again reviewed the requirement of security forces, particularly in the light of successful conduct of elections in Baramulla and Jammu (Lok Sabha constituencies) on April 11 and Srinagar and Udhampur on April 18. As the requirement of security forces is now reducing as they are de-inducted, the government has decided to partially relax the restrictions," he said.
Although the restrictions were only for 15 per cent of the total time in a week, the government was keen to minimize inconvenience to the public.
Elaborate arrangements were made by the local administration to facilitate the movement of public during the period of restriction like provision of travel passes for covering various emergencies, including medical emergencies, school buses, students appearing in examinations, government employees and hospital staff on duty, passengers travelling by air, political persons needing to campaign etc.
As many as 100 executive magistrates were deployed to ensure smooth movement of security forces' convoys and also facilitate civilian movement, he said.
The spokesperson said additional arrangements at the local level have been made to facilitate public movement. "The local administration and police would examine the possibility of allowing public transport of the State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) to ply during the period of restriction on the highway even on convoy days," he said.
A complete review of restrictions on the highway would be done after the last phase of elections on May 6 to examine the need for continuing with them, he added.
The government stated that the purpose of restrictions is in the larger interest of security of everyone and appealed to people to extend full cooperation in the smooth regulation of traffic.
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