Anantnag, Aug 2: The National Highways and Infrastructure Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) and Public Works Department (PWD) is yet to proceed on the official communiqués on Doda-Dessa-Kapran road project.
On April 21 this year, the office of the Union Ministry of State (MoS) Jitendra Singh had written to the chairman NHIDCL regarding the project.
The letter came following the representation of Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) district President Doda Vijay Mohan Thakur.
“I am to forward a representation bearing no BJP/D/21 dated March 23, 2023, of BJP district President, Vijay Mohan Thakur addressed to MoS in PMO Jitendra Singh regarding a request for the construction of Doda-Dessa–Kapran road which will prove to be a better and safer alternative highway to the present National Highway between Kashmir and Jammu regions. As the area falls under the Parliamentary constituency of the minister, I have been directed to look into the issue for appropriate action,” read the communiqué.
However, since then there has been no progress.
Project Manager NHIDCL Raghu Nath Sharma said that there had been no instructions as of now to take over the road or prepare its Detailed Project Report (DPR).
Prior to this, a similar letter bearing number PS/OSD/Adv (B) 36/1110 was sent to the Principal Secretary to the Government PWD on Mach 2 this year for the sanction of Doda-Dessa-Kapran-Verinag road from the office of Lieutenant Governor.
That letter had come following the representation B Y Greater Verinag Civil Society to the Advisor of the LG.
“The president of the society approached Advisor (B) to the LG and requested for Doda-Desa road, which is a genuine and long pending demand of the area. In this connection the undersigned is directed to request Principal Secretary PWD to kindly have the matter explained and take necessary action as per norms,” read the communiqué.
Executive Engineer Roads and Buildings (R&B), Qazigund Division, Ishtiyaq Hussain said that the DPR had not been finalised and approved yet.
An official said that the preliminary DPR of Doda-Dessa-Kapran road for the portion falling in Kashmir prepared by the R&B Department was under observation of the government for over four years now.
The project cost for the 47-km road stretch from Hengipora–Kapran village in Verinag from Kashmir side had been estimated at Rs 210 crore.
“The DPR of the road excluding a tunnel for now had been forwarded to the government for final approval a few years back but is still under observation of the government,” an official said.
He said that the DPR from the Doda side till Desa had to be prepared by the Jammu division.
The proposal to construct Doda-Dessa-Kapran road was first mooted in 1958 during Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad’s reign.
The opening of the road picked up momentum in 1966, when the people of Doda launched an agitation for its construction.
Later, in 1978, Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah also promised to take up the project.
In the previous PDP-BJP coalition government’s rule, first the then Chief Minister Mufti Muhamad Sayeed and later Mehbooba Mufti also issued directions for the preparation of the DPR.
Once completed, the road would have linked districts of Doda, Ramban, and even Kishtwar with Anantnag district in the southern part of Kashmir.
It could have reduced the distance between Srinagar and Doda by 90 km by cutting the distance to 140 km from the current 229 km through Jawahar Tunnel.
In fact, Doda would be just 45 km from Kashmir's southern end via Dooru in Anantnag district.
On the Doda side, the road is motorable only up to Manjami in Desa and so people still have to walk 35 km to reach Doda.
On Kashmir side it is motorable till Hengipora-Kapran village in Dooru-Verinag.
Completing the link and reducing the distance further requires the construction of a tunnel across the Pir Panjal range.
"Little has been done to start the construction of the 7-km long long tunnel which was to come up near Gayi in Desa," an official said. “The J&K government had announced the construction of the tunnel in the year 2009.”
In 2016, Member Parliament and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had asked the Centre to declare Doda-Dessa-Kapran Road as a National Highway.
"It is high time that the road be handed over to the NHIDCL so that the project at least sees some progress," an official said.
Locals said that the Desa-Verinag-Dooru road would be safer than other routes to Doda.
"This road is one of the shortest possible routes to Kashmir and safe too with no danger zone of shooting stones or landslides," said Ishtiyaq Deva, a local activist of Chenab Valley.
He said that a tunnel would make it an all-weather road and drastically reduce the number of accidents that had become routine in these districts.
“This road traverses Doda district, touching most of the habitats including Bhaderwah, Thathri, Gundoo Balais which otherwise are connected with narrow precarious roads,” Deva said.
The residents of Bhatta village in district Doda frequently trek the Braribal mountain to reach Kapran in Kashmir for purchasing merchandise.
“Our ancestors came from Kashmir through this route,” Deva said.
Babar Nehru, a lawyer from Doda, said that the area had a tremendous tourism potential with breathtaking scenic spots.
“The lakes like Paritalab and Brari are a treat to the eyes,” he said.
Babar said that the government could for now at least construct the road on the lines of Kokernag-Sinthan-Kishtwar road.
"This will at least connect Doda with Anantnag in summer months till the tunnel comes up to make it an all-weather route,” he said.
Locals expressed hopes that the road would become a reality under the Union Surface Minister Nitin Gadkari's stint.
“We hope he won’t let us down and announce its construction at the earliest,” said Syed Ishfaq of Kapran.