Poonch, April 13. The much-touted Poonch- Rawalakote bus service, “Rahen Milan”, which had brought cheer to lakhs of divided families on both sides of the Line of Control, is fizzling out due to lack of interest from the Pakistan side.
Over 6,000 applicants have been awaiting their turn to go across the border for the past five years.
Since the beginning of the bus service in 2005, thousands of people from Rajouri and Poonch districts have been applying for travel permits.
But after a wait for over three years, thousands of divided families have lost hope of meeting their relatives again as the Pakistani authorities have been continuously denying travel permits to Indian divided families. There has been no delay on the part of the Indian authorities, which has enabled hundreds of PoK travellers to visit areas across the border.
Mohd Matloob Khan of Chandak says: “I had applied for a permit to visit PoK to meet my relatives in 2007. In spite of repeated visits to the passport office and the agencies concerned, I have been unable to secure a permit. I have lost all hopes of visiting PoK.”
Mohd Nazir, a resident of Gursai, Mendher, says: “I applied for a permit in 2008 and have been making rounds of the offices concerned but to no avail. My relatives from PoK have visited here twice during this period.”
“The bus service was started amidst much fanfare with the hope that all divided families will be able to meet again. Mufti Sayeed, the then Chief Minister, had promised to establish meeting points on both sides of the LoC to facilitate meetings between families once a month.
He had also announced that the permit system would be made hassle-free and the DC would be empowered to issue permits and extension thereof to travellers. But nothing has come out of the assurances so far,” says Riaz, a resident of Harni, Mendher, who has been awaiting permit for the past three years.
Initially, two routes were opened in Poonch district – Tatta Pani and Chakkan da Bagh – allowing 30 passengers in each of the two buses to travel. The number was subsequently increased to 60.
The Tatta Pani road was, however, washed away forcing the authorities to shift the bus service to Chakkan da Bagh. This raised the number of travellers to 120 per week from Chakkan da Bagh.
At the start of the service, over 200 passengers used to travel from this side to PoK. With Pakistan authorities denying permits to Indian travellers, the number has gone down to just around 15 passengers per week. At times, not even a single permit is issued to Indian travellers.
Families lose hope
After a wait of three years, thousands of divided families have lost hope of meeting their relatives as the Pakistani authorities have been continuously denying travel permits to them. There has been no delay on part of the Indian authorities.