NH Widening | Sinking mountains, cracking houses
Men at work along the Jammu- Srinagar National Highway. [File]GK Photo

NH Widening | Sinking mountains, cracking houses

Ramsoo residents spend sleepless nights in unsafe dwellings

Jammu: The Srinagar-Jammu National Highway widening work, especially on the Banihal-Ramban sector, has wreaked havoc on 13 residential houses in Sujmatana village in Ramsoo.

The widening of the highway and related developmental work is costing the inhabitants heavily. They spend their days and nights in houses, which have developed cracks allegedly after “blasting and cutting work related to the widening of the highway”, and praying for the safety of their loved ones.

The cracks in the residential houses are not limited to Sujmatana village. Several other villages on the mountains along the highway have been impacted. Many families are living in houses that may collapse at any time amid the ongoing work on the highway.

Narrating their tale of woes on account of the horrific situation of their houses, Abdul Aziz Sohail said, “I live with my family of six members in the damaged house at Sujmatana village. It is unsafe to live here. We cannot sleep.” He said that they were not opposing the widening work on the highway.

“We know it is for development which will benefit us too but it will reach us at the cost of our houses and even our lives,” he said questioning the silence of the authorities regarding their rehabilitation. Sohail said that they had moved out of the village to a rented accommodation after abandoning their unsafe houses and the revenue authorities also prepared a list.

“However, we were forced to return to the same unsafe houses due to poor response of the authorities,” says Farooq Ahmad, another villager from Sujmatana.

He said that the widening work triggered massive landslides, leading to cracks in the houses on the mountains along the highway.

The families of Muhammad Sharief, Abdul Rashid, Arshad Ahmad, Sarvesh Singh were among 18 families identified by the Sub Divisional Magistrate (SDM) Ramsoo in a report whose houses were damaged due to the widening of the highway.

“The list of damages due to four-laning of the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway was submitted to the Divisional Commissioner Jammu and it was received back with the observations to furnish revenue papers and map from the indenting department,” read a report of SDM Ramsoo, Harbans Lal referring to the 18 damaged houses.

A committee of revenue officials was constituted and it visited village Sujmatana habitation in Halwagan tehsil Ramsoo on 9 July 2019 and verified the damaged 18 structures.

“These structures have been fully or partially damaged due to the sinking of land as the effect of the four-laning of NH-44. Thirteen houses were evacuated by the sub-divisional administration in February 2019 to avoid the loss of life and property,” the report of SDM Ramsoo read.

It said, “The houses belonging to Ayaz Ahmed and Jarnail Singh were damaged in March 2017 and the assessment has been processed in favour of Ayaz Ahmed but not disbursed till date.”

“Jarnail Singh has been running from pillar to post for his compensation. His house also falls within the Range of Works (ROW). Most of the families are putting up either in rented accommodation or in the houses of their relatives,” the report read.

It said, “The displaced families have been demanding rent from the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and HCC Ltd for the last five months, but their demand has not been fulfilled so far.”

The revenue report said that these families also demanded a full amount of compensation assessed by the PWD (R&B) Department.

“They are aggrieved that the assessing authority has fixed percentage of damage which according to them is injustice with them as their houses are quite unsafe and require reconstruction,” the report states. “Most of the houses are unsafe and may not be repaired. Rather they need reconstruction. These families have also stated that the land on which these structures stand has also developed cracks and is not fit for future construction of the houses.”

The report said that as the damaged structures fall out of the RoW of the executing agency of NHAI, the compensation has not been routinely processed by NHAI.

“Therefore, the committee has recommended the payment of full compensation of damaged houses to the first 15 families as per an assessment of PWD (R&B), payment of rent with effect from Feb 2019 till their rehabilitation. This revenue committee had also inspected the houses of Masjid Mohalla Halwagan which also developed cracks. Here, seven residential houses belonging to Abdul Latief, Fatima Begum, Imtiyaz Ahmed, Abdul Rashid, Muhammad Ayoub, Fayaz Ahmad, and Payar Singh were identified. Their houses, falling in Halqa Panchayat Sarbgani, developed cracks,” the report said.

The experts said that the cause of cracks could be a landslide as the houses were situated right above the Moom Passi slide.

The inhabitants apprehend that in case of heavy rains, the slide may sink further, causing damage to 40 to 50 houses. The revenue authorities had recommended treatment of the slide by NHAI to avoid further loss of life and property.

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