4 decades on, Doda-Dessa-Kapran road yet to become a reality

The construction of Doda-Dessa-Kapran road continues to hang fire for the past many decades, with authorities making little efforts to see that the proposal is through in the larger interest of the people.

The proposal was mooted in 1977 during the Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah-led National Conference government in Jammu and Kashmir and has seen no headway since, according to officials. Once constructed, the road could have linked Kashmir with several areas in Jammu, which were part of the erstwhile undivided Doda district, and provided an alternate link between Srinagar and Jammu.

Officials say even the suggestions to elevate the status of the road, which runs parallel to Srinagar-Jammu highway, have been given a cold shoulder by the central government.

The work on the road was started in 1978 but abandoned soon.

After its completion, the road would have linked the districts of Doda, Ramban, Banihal and even Kishtwar with Anantnag district in southern part of the Valley, and reduced the distance between Srinagar and Doda by 90 kilometers by cutting the distance to 140 kilometers from the current 229 kilometers through the Jawahar tunnel.

In fact, Doda would be just 45 kilometers from Kashmir’s southern end via Dooru in Anantnag district.

In the past four decades, the roads and buildings department—the executing agency for the project on papers—has completed work on the 24-km-long stretch from Doda-side, while the 45-km-long stretch from Kashmir side from Anantnag was already motorable.

On the Doda side, the road is motorable up to Manjami in Dessa area. It is also motorable till Hengipora-Kapran village in Dooru-Verinag tehsil on the Kashmir side.

It requires construction of a tunnel across the Pir Panjal range to complete the link, said an official.

He said little has been done to start the construction of the seven-km-long tunnel, which was to come up near Gayi in Dessa.

The former chief minister Omar Abdullah had announced the construction of the tunnel after assuming the charge in 2009.

A senior R&B department officer said there was no timeframe set for completion of the project.

“Though a preliminary detailed project report (DPR) has been prepared long back, the lackadaisical approach of the successive regimes has given a blow to the project,” he said, insisting not to be named as he wasn’t authorised to speak to media.

The official said the issue of approval to construction of Desa-Kapran tunnel was also taken up during a meeting with the union surface transport ministry by the former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti in 2016, “but it was not approved.”

Another official in the R&B department said the proposal to declare the road as a “national highway” is also lingering for long.

In 2016, senior Congress leader and former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad asked the government of India to declare Doda-Dessa- Kapran road as a “national highway.”

“It’s high time that the road be handed over to national highway authority of India (NHAI) or the national highways and infrastructure development corporation Limited (NHIDCL) so that the project at least sees some progress,” the official said.

Local residents say the Desa-Verinag-Dooru road would be safer than other routes to Doda.         A social activist from Doda, Naseer Ahmad Khoda, said the road could greatly boost the economy of the region.

“It would also strengthen cultural ties between the two regions of the state,” he said.

The road would also have opened up a number of unexplored tourist spots in Dessa.

“The road was described as a dream project by Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah. Even Mufti Muhammad Sayeed had been vociferously advocating for connecting Pir Panchal region with Kashmir Valley through this stretch, but unfortunately it has been marred due to political indifference,” Hussain said.