Kashmir continues to crave for all-weather road connectivity

GK photo

As the western disturbance hits this region, Kashmir gets sequestered from rest of the country for its poor surface connectivity has seen no significant improvement over the years.

Every time the lone national highway that connects Valley with rest of the country gets blocked, Kashmir suffers immensely, particularly on economic front.

According to official figures, Kashmir imports goods worth Rs 95 crore a day mostly through Srinagar-Jammu national highway.

“J&K imported goods and raw material worth Rs 58,050 crore in 2017-18, of which 60 percent (around Rs 34,800 crore), was imported by Kashmir division,” figures show.

Being an import-driven region, around 80 percent goods and raw material come from other parts of the country to J&K, the officials say.

According to traders about 30 percent of imports mainly of perishable items to Kashmir are lost in highway closures.

They say that the government pays little attention towards enhancing the connectivity to Kashmir. “Expansion of Srinagar airport, railway connectivity, four-laning of Srinagar-Jammu highway and construction of Mughal road could have provided all weather connectivity to Kashmir,” they say. “Similarly, the lone surface link— Srinagar-Jammu National Highway— is awaiting construction of tunnels at several places.”

The highway widening project was divided into six sub-projects: Srinagar-Qazigund road (68-Kms), Qazigund-Banihal (16-Kms), Banihal-Ramban (36-Kms), Ramban-Udhampur (43-Kms), Chenani–Nashri (12-Kms), Jammu-Udhampur (65-Kms).

Some of these projects have missed several deadlines due to the “lackadaisical” approach of the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI).

A railway line up to Udhampur on Jammu side, which has boosted the industrial sector there, was completed a long ago but rail network sanctioned in 1995, which would connect Kashmir with other states, is still far from completion.

In the past 25 years, this project has faced cost overrun of over Rs 25000 crore. Its estimated cost at the start was only Rs 2500 crore. Similarly, the tunnel on Mughal road is still on papers making this road also prone to weather vagaries.