Will Mughal road tunnel ever be a reality?

A proposal to construct a tunnel on the historic Mughal Road and make it an all-weather route has not seen any progress for the past eight years despite repeated assurances from the government of India.
Will Mughal road tunnel ever be a reality?
Representational Pic

A proposal to construct a tunnel on the historic Mughal Road and make it an all-weather route has not seen any progress for the past eight years despite repeated assurances from the government of India. From the National Conference-Congress government to the PDP-BJP dispensation in Jammu and Kashmir, the successive regimes in the state have made repeated requests to the government of India to fund construction of the tunnel.

The historic Mughal Road connects Kashmir with Poonch via southern Shopian district and if the proposed tunnel is constructed, the road could be an alternative to the Srinagar-Jammu highway, which often remains closed during winters due to landslides and shooting stones.

So far, the state government has been able to get nothing than mere assurances from the Centre on the ambitious project, according to official sources. 

In 2013, the then chief minister Omar Abdullah wrote to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and sought his personal intervention in construction of the tunnel.  

The state government also submitted a proposal for preparation of a detailed project report (DPR) of the tunnel to the Planning Commission of India, which was replaced by NITI Aaoyg in 2014.

When the PDP and BJP joined hands in 2015 for power-sharing in the state, the construction of the tunnel on Mughal Road was on top of its "common minimum programme".

After formation of the government between the two parties, the state's roads and buildings ministry repeatedly took up the issue of construction of the tunnel with the union ministry for road, transport and highways (MoRTH).

Following repeated pleas of the state government, the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) in 2017 sought proposals from eligible consultants for preparation of the DPR and work out pre-consultation activities for the tunnel.

But, sources say, the NHIDCL suddenly put the tendering process on hold, arguing that the MoRTH has not entrusted the project to it. The move left the state government red-faced, forcing the then chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and R&B minister NaeemAkther to rush to New Delhi to convey that stopping the project "would send a wrong message" to the people of Kashmir. 

Days after imposition of governor's rule in the state in June 2018, the NHIDCL again invited proposals for DPR preparation for two-laning of the Mughal road.

Earlier this month, the NHIDCL said it had selected a consultant for preparation of the DPR, but went on to add that the work (on preparation of DPR) will began only in March this year.

So far, officials say, there seems to be little hope of construction of the tunnel in near future given the government of India's lukewarm response to the proposal.

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