A New Kashmir Roadmap

Finally after years of effort and some disappointing reverses, Northern Railways has completed a key section linking Qazigund with Banihal. This section comprises 11.2 Kilometre long transportation channel, India's longest, built after a seven years of sustained work. And if the current accomplishment is any indication, we will soon have the train plying between Baramulla and Banihal and this will be first time that there will be a railway line between the provinces of Kashmir and Jammu. This will not only reduce travel time - the distance between Qazigund and Banihal will decrease  from 35 km by road to 17.729 km – but also bring people closer.  However, it will be years before we can have train chugging between Udhampur and Baramulla. The project which was earlier scheduled to be completed in 2007 at an estimated cost of Rs 3,077 crore is now expected to be completed only in 2017-18 at a cost of Rs 19,565 crore.  Though it has assumed a certain centrality in the infrastructure development of the state, the railway line is but part of the massive ongoing tunnel and road building activity across the state. In October, Rahul Gandhi laid the foundation of 6.5 km Z-Morh tunnel at Sonamarg which along with 13 kilometre Zojila tunnel will make possible an all-weather road to Ladakh. Similarly, an alternative road will link Kashmir Valley with Poonch in Jammu province. It is called Mughal road. Efforts are also on to connect district Doda with Valley through shorter all-weather routes. And once completed, the railway line and the roads will stitch Kashmir together with concrete and asphalt and connect places and people alienated from each other by geography. Together with cross-LoC routes like Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakote which seek to promote trade and travel between divided parts of Kashmir, these internal links are due to usher in a profound transformation in Kashmir. However, what remains a cause of worry is the long gestation period of these projects which are set back by the tough terrain and the inordinate official delay in their execution. There is thus an urgent need to expedite the work on these projects to realize the goal of a truly integrated J&K with its limitless opportunities for the trade and travel, both within and with the divided  part of the state across LoC. But the full benefit of these developments can only be derived when the lingering question of Kashmir is resolved to the satisfaction of all the contending parties.

Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 26 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 27 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST




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