J&K needs massive funding in the development of its roads
One of the biggest constraints to Jammu & Kashmir’s economic growth and social wellbeing has been its connectivity constraint in the entire post-1947 history.The emergence of new political borders made vast swathes of the state, geographically isolated. Even as the population grew, the state’s highways remain in the state of early 20th century – hindering movement of people, goods and potential industrialization. Governor N N Vohra’s expression of concern about J&K’s connectivity constraint at the Conference of Governors in New Delhi on Thursday is apt and timely. This state needs considerable investment for the development of roads linking the state – mainly the most populous Kashmir province – with rest of the country. Mr. Vohra is right when he said that J&K’s very poor road network results in costly transportation, thereby impacting its competitiveness. His case for better maintenance of roads and highways in the state and the need for construction of more tunnels between various regions and sub-regions of the state is apt too. However, prioritization is a must. That prioritization must make the civilian imperative of road development in the state prevail over the non-civilian considerations. Traditionally, the policy approach to J&K’s roads in New Delhi has been dictated by a particular kind of political and strategic considerations – leaving little scope for the economic imperative, that basically propel social and economic development. By virtue of its highest population and as the centre of the state’s economic activity, Kashmir province needs drastically better road connectivity with the Jammu plains and beyond. The Banihal Pass Road and the Mughal Road both fall extremely short in addressing that need. In comparison the neighboring countries like China and Pakistan have done tremendous progress in connecting their mountain regions with their mainlands in similar geographical situations. Connectivity between sub-regions of Kashmir and Ladakh would be only meaningful when Kashmir province has reliable and modern connectivity with the plains. As Mr. Vohra emphasized it is time for a radical shift in policy planning – J&K needs massive funding in the development of its roads.