Dhara residents threaten to boycott LS polls over delay in road construction

Irked over the inordinate delay to connect their villages with a motorable road, residents of seven villages in Doda district Wednesday staged a protest and threatened to boycott the Lok Sabha polls.

The villagers of Dhara, Dhaloa, Hanga, Bharwa, Chak-Katoch,Dharaan and Noori falling in three panchayats on the western hills of Bhaderwahvalley assembled near the Rashtriya Rifles headquarters at Sarna and staged theprotest.

The villagers said they have decided to continue withpeaceful protests with the slogan 'No Road, No Vote' to highlight their demandfor completion of the already sanctioned Gatha-Dhaloa road without any furtherdelay.

The road was supposed to connect seven villages of Sarna andHanga panchayats with the Bhaderwah-Doda Highway.

The work on the road was started by the Roads and BuildingsDepartment in 2008 and was later transferred under the Pradhan Mantri GramSadak Yojana (PMGSY) in 2015 with a deadline of 18 months for its completionbut even after four years, the work is yet to start, the protesters claimed.

When contacted, the Executive Engineer, PMGSY Doda, AjayKumar Raju admitted delay in the execution of the work on the road and said,"We are waiting for no objection certificate (NOC) from the ForestDepartment."

"Although we changed the alignment of the road lastyear after forest officers raised objection, so that minimum forest comes underit but despite repeated reminders, we are still waiting for the requiredNOC," he said.

He assured the people that the work on the road wouldcommence soon once the Forest Department gives its clearance.

"The tenders have been floated and the work for theroad already stands allotted," Raju said.

The protesters claimed that only earthwork for 900 metres ofthe 4.5 km road stretch has been completed in the past decade.

"All the seven villages have unanimously decided toboycott the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections," said the village head ofDhara, Thakur Yudhvir Singh.

He claimed that several precious lives were lost in the pastin the absence of the proper road as in case of emergency and hostile weather,it takes several hours to reach motorable road.

"We have been running from pillar to post since last 10years. We have lost faith in electoral process and are compelled to boycott theelections," ex-serviceman Narinder Singh Baloria said.

In absence of the road, he said the students and the workingwomen suffer the most.

"It takes four hours to climb up and down the hill through the dense forest area everyday to reach the college. The threat of wild animals always looms large and under given circumstances, how can we compete with other students, who have all the facilities at their disposal," said Manju Baloria, a college student.

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