People in the border district of Poonch in Jammu and Kashmir had reason to cheer on Monday as the fortnightly bus service across the Line of Control (LoC) to Rawlakote in Pakistan-administered Kashmir became a weekly affair.
"Now onwards the service will be on a weekly basis, instead of fortnightly," said Divisional Commissioner (Jammu) S Pandey, who had visited the cross-LoC route last week to oversee the arrangements.
This comes as a boon to many of the divided families in Jammu region who want to visit their relatives across the border as the Poonch-Rawlakote bus service covers a smaller distance than the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad route. Families in Jammu also don't have to go all the way to Srinagar to take a bus across the border.
Muzaffar Mirza, a Jammu resident, has uncles settled in Mirpur and he is happy that he would now be able to visit them regularly.
"I was waiting for the service to become a regular feature, and a weekly service is better than fortnightly," Mirza told IANS.
Mirza, 54, hails from Darhal area of Rajouri district, but stays in Jammu, where he runs his dry fruits business. His wife Hamida and two children - Nazir, 18, and Sana, 16, - are also keen to visit the other side of Kashmir.
The bus service is being resumed later Monday after a scheduled trip Aug 25 was cancelled due to protests and curfew imposed in Poonch over a row on the transfer of forest land in Baltal to the Amarnath shrine board.
The Poonch-Rawlakote bus service was started June 20, 2006 and has been operating regularly since then. In Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri and Poonch districts alone, there are almost 50,000 families split by the LoC.
The Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus service, named the "Karavan-e-Aman" or caravan of peace, was the first trans-LoC bus service. It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh April 7, 2005.