Srinagar: In last five years the J&K Roads and Buildings Department (R&B) has expended Rs 25,353,525,000 for constructing new roads and bridges and blacktopping of surfaces and other repairs. However, the ground situation hints at the department's lack of channelising the money into the right direction.
As per the official records, between 2021-2022 R&B has blacktopped 767.25 kms under Cities and Towns compartment, exceeding the set target of 696.69kms by 70.56Kms. The set target for blacktopping potholes is also exceeded by 89.33 Kms.
Despite this ‘achievement’ in just the present year, major roads across Kashmir, including Natipora-Rambagh, Babdem-Khanyar, Waniyar-Safa Kadal, Zoonimar Eidgah, Sanat Nagar- Bhagat, Saidakadal-Hazratbal, Dr Ali Jan-Soura roads are in a dilapidated condition.
Asked why the department has neglected these major roads, top officials privy to the matter cited dearth of ‘planning officials on the ground.’
“Although our junior engineers do their best, before any work is executed, if professionals trained in planning are sent to ground prior to execution, a lot of improvement will be observed both in terms of channelising the money into the right direction and the output of it.”
He said, in 2018 Rs 300 crores were approved for each Jammu and Kashmir division under various schemes, “however, the money was not expended,” said the top official.
In the last five years, the department has expended Rs 400 crores for constructing new roads, however, most of them are left at the ‘metalled state and some of them only at shingled state, said the official.
Asked why these roads are not blacktopped, the official said, the new roads are often constructed in the rural areas and “our priority is to blacktop the important and existing roads first.”
Since 2021 R&B has metalled 224.50 kms of recently constructed roads while only 33.81 kms were blacktopped till February this year, as per the official data. 94 kms were made ‘fair-weather’. “Means bad weather can turn the roads incommutably,” explained the official.
From 2015, out of 128 approved projects, 54 have been completed while the remaining 74 are “going on”, he informed.
In between 2021-2022, 180 kms of potholes were metalled and 81.30 kms were shingled, the official data revealed.
But this is just the expenditure of J&K government’s money, the department also expends centrally sponsored money through schemes like Central Road & Infrastructure fund (CRIF/ CRF) and National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). Since 2018, the department has spent Rs 14,60,11.23 (in Lakhs) through these two national schemes.
Through NABARD loan scheme, the department gets 90 percent of the amount for the approved project while remaining 10 percent are funded by the Union Territory govt. 151 projects have been approved through NABARD till date, the official said.
The money received through NABARD and CRF is too used in maintenance of roads, the official said. As per the data 528.18 Kms have been blacktopped in the last five years under CRF, and 789.13 Kms under NABARD.
Till date, a total of 458.58 kilometres of work is languishing, out of which 115.86 kms were approved through CRF scheme and remaining through UT govt.fund, the data further revealed.