The number of soldiers being moved in convoys along the Srinagar-Jammu national highway has dropped to almost a trickle a year after a car bomb attack on a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) convoy in Pulwama on February 14 last year left 40 troopers dead and brought India and Pakistan on the brink of war, officials aware of the matter said.
“Material, rations etc are moved through the same road and soldiers move with convoys to protect the material,” an official said on condition of anonymity. The official added a year ago convoys comprising 10-70 odd vehicles moved between Jammu and Srinagar ferrying soldiers daily. “In contrast, only 7-8 convoys ferrying material and some soldiers are moved in a month now.”
The Pulwama attack prompted India on February 26, 2019, to carry out an airstrike on a terror camp in Pakistan, which retaliated a day later. Pakistan captured and later released an India pilot after an air combat.
A second official said counter-insurgency operations following the Pulwama attack neutralized much of the terror network but convoys are moved under extra security. “Extra caution like link roads connecting the Jammu–Srinagar are sealed when convoys are moved. A network of close circuit cameras monitoring the route from Jawahar Tunnel till Srinagar is also partially functioning and likely to completely functional soon.”
“In addition, before convoys move, the route is checked for IEDs [improvised explosive devices] continuously by special teams and convoys are not allowed to move if they cannot reach the destination before sundown,” the second official said.
A bulk of the CRPF troopers, or about 70 to 80% of them, are moved on Air India flights. Thrice a week Air India airlifts soldiers and officers between Jammu and Srinagar. “The thrice a week flights between Jammu and Srinagar continue and are largely used by soldiers and officers who belong to Himachal, Uttarakhand, and Punjab,” a third official said. “More troops are moved by air…”
The CRPF has ensured that the kin of all 40 soldiers killed in the attack have been compensated. “All the families, except one, have received at least Rs 1.3 crore on an average. In addition, they have also given alternate employment,” a fourth senior official said. The benefits to one family had to be withheld because of a dispute over who the next of kin is.
The CRPF has also launched a mobile phone application to keep in touch with all the 2,199 soldiers killed in action recently.