A legislator from Kargil Asgar Ali Karbalai has written a letter to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the union minister of road transport and highways NitinGadkari following reports that the vital Zojila tunnel construction project on the Srinagar-Leh highway was being shelved.
Citing “strategic and socio-economic importance of the tunnel as well as the growing influence of China and Pakistan in Ladakh region”, Karbalai has written that the 14.5-km-long Zojila tunnel project “will, firstly, keep a check on the growing influence of China and Pakistan in Ladakh, and, secondly, it will not only meet the strategic requirements of the country but also reduce the travel time to cross the Zojila Pass.”
“The early construction of tunnel to make the route all-weather will result in a dramatic shift in socio-economic development of the Ladakh region. There is a need to recognise and understand the prominence of the tunnel by looking at its various economic benefits and the social importance attached to it. Keeping in view the geographical location of the region, strategic and cross-border importance of Ladakh, the central government could save ample expenses on defense there by constructing this tunnel,” the letter reads.
“We hope that government will take immediate necessary action by putting ample pressure on the board of directors of ILF&S construction company to take up the work so that injustice and violation of right to live, by depriving Ladakh of all-weather connectivity, end soon,” the letter reads.
Talking to Greater Kashmir, Karbalai said if reports that the government is looking to re-tender the Zojila tunnel project are true, “then it will take two to three more years in construction of this vital tunnel.”
He said the funds for the tunnel have to come from the central government directly.
“I urge Modi and Gadkari to intervene and ensure that the work stopped on both Z-Morh and Zojila tunnels is restarted soon without any further delay,” he said.
Senior National conference leader and MLA from KanganMianAltaf Ahmed had earlier sought intervention of parliament members including Farooq Abdullah and GhulamNabi Azad following reports that the Zojila tunnel project was being shelved.
Permanently, Greater Kashmir had two days back carried a story about the proposed move to cancel the Zojila tunnel contract and considering re-tendering it “as the debt-ridden IL&FS transportation network is going through a major financial crisis.”