Centre asks NHAI to 'fast-track' highway expansion

Greater Kashmir

Assures intervention in clearing bottlenecks

Srinagar, Jan 22: The Government of India Thursday assured the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) of its intervention, if required, in clearing the bottlenecks in four-laning of the Srinagar-Jammu highway while asking it to fast-track completion of the project, sources told Greater Kashmir.
The issues came up for discussion during a high-level meeting held by the Union  Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) at New Delhi this afternoon to “sort out impediments” in highway projects in Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting was attended by top officials of central and state government.
During the meeting, the sources disclosed, the Centre assured the NHAI of its help in resolving bottlenecks in the 4-laning of Srinagar-Jammu in case of “non-resolution” with the state government.
“But the Centre clearly told the NHAI officials to speed up completion of the project for better connectivity of Jammu and Kashmir with the outer world,” the sources said.
Pertinently, the four-laning project is being taken up in six projects: Srinagar-Banihal, Qazigund-Banihal, Chenani-Nashri, Jammu-Udhampur,  Ramban-Banihal and Udhampur-Ramban.
While work on first four portions is underway, the latter two portions were approved for 4-laning by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), last night. The CCEA chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave its approval for four laning of Ramban-Banihal and Udhampur-Ramban sections.
Earlier, Omar Abdullah during his tenure as J&K’s Chief Minister had repeatedly raised the issue of non-approval to four- laning of these two portions with the United Progressive Alliance but to no avail.
The NHAI has come in line of fire from different quarters for slow pace in executing the four-laning project and poor maintenance of existing alignment, particularly between Srinagar and Qazigund.
Sources said the proposal of declaring Khannabal-Panjtarni road in south Kashmir’s Anantnag (Islamabad) district as a “National Highway” also came up for discussion during the meeting—the move which  was truned down by the State Government two years ago.
A top Government of India official, according to sources, “subtly sided” with State government’s view on the issue, during the meeting.
The issues of land acquisition, shifting  of utilities and handing over of roads from Border Roads Organization to State’s Roads and Buildings Department were also discussed threadbare in the meeting, they said.