Katra: Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari Tuesday stated that the completion of 4-laning project of Srinagar Jammu National Highway would reduce the distance between two capital cities to three-and-a-half hours.
The Union Minister also announced the sanctioning of 110-km long four-lane Amarnath Marg (road) to the holy cave shrine in Pahalgam, as desired by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, to be built at a cost of Rs 5300 Cr.
He stated that the attempts were underway to complete the 670 km-long Delhi-Amritsar-Katra Green Expressway, being constructed at a cost of Rs 40,000 Cr before the imposition of Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for the general elections next year.
Gadkari stated this in a presser at Katra while wrapping up his two-day visit to J&K during which he inspected a number of crucial development projects being implemented in the Union Territory.
He was joined by the Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha; the Union Minister of State for Civil Aviation and Road Transport and Highways General (Dr) V K Singh; the Union Minister of State in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh and senior NHAI officers.
Before arriving at the presser venue, Gadkari joined by all these dignitaries had paid obeisance at Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine and Bhairon Baba Mandir besides inspecting InterModal Station Katra.
Giving details about 4-lane Yatra Marg project, he stated that the DPR for 73-km stretch from Khannabal to Chandanwari to be constructed at a cost of Rs 1800 Cr would be ready by 2023 to be followed by Chandanwari to Panjtarni and Baltal for 37 km stretch, to be constructed at a cost of Rs 3500 Cr.
He said that a 10.8 km long tunnel would also be constructed along Sheshnag to Panjtarni stretch.
The project once completed would reduce the distance from Srinagar to Amarnath cave shrine from three days to 8-9 hours.
After getting a first-hand account of its grey areas during his inspection (of NH) earlier in the day, he stated that the four-laning project of Srinagar-Jammu road (National Highway) was proving to be very challenging notwithstanding that it was designed following proper geological and geo-technical investigation to tackle the problem of landslides.
DELHI-AMRITSAR-KATRA EXPRESSWAY DEADLINE TO BE PREPONED; PM TO INAUGURATE
Gadkari stated that the attempts would be made to ensure that Prime Minister Narendra could inaugurate Delhi-Amritsar-Katra Expressway before the announcement of general elections next year.
“The deadline for Delhi-Amritsar-Katra Expressway completion is December 2024. But in May, 2024 there will be (parliamentary) elections. So, we will try to complete it before the MCC gets enforced by preponing its deadline. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate it before that (MMC imposition). We will try to make it a reality,” Gadkari said.
4-LANING OF SRINAGAR JAMMU NH VERY CHALLENGING
Detailing about the progress of NH projects in Jammu and Kashmir during the presser, he admitted that the four-laning project of Srinagar-Jammu road (National Highway) was very difficult. “It (4-laning project) has been designed following intensive geological and geo-technical investigation to tackle the problem of landslides. But it has been very problematic, very challenging (due to landslides). Today also we have seen certain spots. Earlier when there used to be delay in the work or change in the alignment, I would question them (officials). But today I realised that they (officials, contractors, labour force) have accomplished a very difficult job against all odds and while protecting forests and the environment. I congratulate them for this. The stretch between Ramban to Banihal is the most difficult one (to execute),” Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways said.
He said that in this stretch the existing carriage-way of 40 kms was to be widened earlier. “This process faced a lot of problems. A big tragedy also occurred. Yesterday when we were in Zojila, two persons engaged in a job also lost their lives and the contractor lost his entire machinery. So I can see that the climate here is very challenging. In case of Ramban-Banihal stretch also, due to the same reasons, we have to alter the design to include construction of three tunnels in a span of seven kms. This has resulted in cost escalation. The fatigue factor among the contractors also caused obstacles. Out of this 40 km stretch, the work on 10 kms has been completed. We will try to complete work on the rest of 30 km, except Digdol-Marog tunnel, by January, 2024,’ Gadkari mentioned.
He asserted that three corridors were being built at a cost of Rs 35,000 Cr. “Under this, the first corridor from Jammu to Udhampur-Ramban-Banihal and further to Srinagar includes the section from Srinagar to Banihal. This 4-lane road of 250 km length is being built at a cost of Rs 16,000 crore. Out of this, 4-laning of 210 km route has been completed, including 10 tunnels of 21.5 km,” he informed.
He also stated that the old highway stretch would also be renovated.
JAMMU RING ROAD
Gadkari announced that the 58-km long 4-lane Jammu Ring road to be constructed at a cost of Rs 3000 Cr would be completed in May 2023 and would be inaugurated by January 26, 2024. Basic amenities would be set up in three villages and by October 25, Jammu Ring road tunnel would also be completed, he said.
‘RUN AC ELECTRIC BUS LUXURY COACH/DOUBLE-DECKER BETWEEN JAMMU-SRINAGAR
Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways stated that he even suggested to Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha to run an Air-Conditioned electric bus luxury coach or Double-decker between Jammu and Srinagar as he recently launched electric Double-decker in Mumbai.
“This will be both financially viable as well as eco-friendly. I suggested that if they (UT government) want to start it on their own, they can go ahead with it and if they want to bring in the private players, I can help them on this account,” he said.
KATRA TO HAVE STATE OF THE ART INTERMODAL STATION
Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways said that InterModal Station (IMS) to be established in Katra would be a world class state of the art project constructed to improve travelling experience of the pilgrims visiting Shri Mata Vaishno Devi shrine.
NO INTENTION TO RENOUNCE POLITICS
The Union Minister rubbished the media reports that he was going to renounce politics.
“No, I don’t have any intention to renounce politics. Problem is generally the politicians pursue it (politics) for the sake of power. However, I run a number of projects for the welfare of farmers with a turnover of Rs 2500 Cr. 20,000 people have got jobs under these projects. I work in the fields of organic farming, biofuel, handlooms and handicrafts about which I’m passionate. I had only stated that I wanted to spend more time on these areas. Unfortunately, a journalist misquoted me on his website and after a few hours he even withdrew it. But the media across the country ran stories throughout the night based on that false news attributing it to me. This is a question which is related to the credibility of the media. I had never said that (I wanted to renounce politics),” Gadkari said, while responding to a question as to whether he would renounce politics as reported in a section of the media.
With regard to a question about safety measures, he described it as a very important issue and admitted that there were many grey areas on that account.
“I admit that we have to do a lot on this account. We have worked on road engineering and automobile engineering; brought a new law vis-à-vis enforcement and improved black spots. However, after working on these aspects, I’ve realised that this issue (safety measure) is related to human behaviour. One should not jump red signals; should not drive a car or scooter while talking on mobile and should follow lane disciplines. Both media and people are supporting this endeavour,” Gadkari said.
“But it’s unfortunate that we could not work to resolve this problem fully. We have not reached that state. Every year, five lakh accidents occur and 1.5 lakh deaths take place consuming 3 percent GDP of the country. This is the highest rate in the world. We are trying to improve the scenario with the cooperation of all, including the media. As far as credit for good work is concerned, this is not my singular contribution. Generally, we get this credit as the ministers (including the Union Minister of State for Road Transport and Highways). But it is actually a team work, performed by our officers; contractors; engineers, including Authority (NHAI) engineers; state/UT government; officers from Revenue and Forest and Environment Departments. In India, unfortunately, the development works have to cross hurdles thus the credit goes to all stakeholders,” he said.
As the Union Minister for Road Transport, joined by other dignitaries, already running behind the schedule, was in a hurry to return to the union capital, he wrapped up his presser by taking only two queries and that too posed by a single journo representing a national channel, leaving rest of the lot, particularly local journos disappointed.
Prior to it, Gadkari, joined by LG Sinha, the Union Ministers and others inspected Srinagar-Banihal NH-44; Qazigund-Banihal tunnel & Bypass; participated in the breakthrough ceremony of Sitaram Passi-Marog tunnel NT-1 on Ramban-Banihal section; inspected Ramban-Banihal section; Chanderkote Bypass and diversion of traffic to Peerah-Kunfer tunnel T-1 on Udhampur Ramban Section.
During interaction Gadkari said that developmental works worth Rs 1,30,000 crore were being taken up by MoRTH in J&K and since 2014, around 500 km of road network had been completed in the region. “41 significant tunnels are being constructed in J&K and Ladakh at a cost of Rs 45,000 crore, 18 ropeways worth Rs 5,000 Cr will be constructed in the UT. For the journey between Jammu and Srinagar three corridors worth Rs 35,000 Cr are being constructed, which will reduce the earlier distance of 320 kms by 70 kms and time travel will be reduced to three and a half hours,” he said.
Gadkari said, with the development of state-of-the-art road networks across the country through every state and UT, the Kashmir to Kanyakumari would no longer be a dream for the people of India.
Dr. Jitendra Singh who was also present during the media interaction said, the Banihal Ramban Highway stretch would become the hub of lavender cultivation giving rise to Agri-tech Start-ups.
Secretary MoRTH, Alka Upadhyay too was present in the presser.