Ensure road connectivity
Since the abrogation of J&K’s special status, people of the state have been treated to an unending chorus on unprecedented progress and development following in the union territory. However, thus far these promises of progress have not moved beyond the rhetorical realm, and development is nowhere visible on the ground. This is indeed very disconcerting for the ordinary people here. In fact what is more appalling is that even the bare minimum of the even routine facilities is not being maintained.
Now take Srinagar-Jammu national highway as an example. This winter the highway, which is the life-line for the Valley as far as the supplies of essentials is concerned, has very rarely remained open. As far as the weather vagaries are concerned, the conditions this year are in no way unique. But what is different this time around is that even the normal and routine weather conditions seem to have very profound impact on this highway, forcing its closure for days together every now and then.
In an age wherein rest of the world has progressed to super-highways in terms of road connectivity, it is very disturbing to see that the authorities here are not even able to maintain a mere 270 kilometre long road stretch between Srinagar and Jammu so as to ensure that it remains open for vehicular traffic. Indeed the actual troubled area of this highway is between Ramban and Banihal and its length won’t exceed more than 35-40 odd kilometres. Obviously this inability to take care of this small road stretch besides so many other things is also a very sad commentary on both our engineering skills as well as traffic management.
Over the past few days a few news reports have quoted officials as saying that the administration is mulling slew of measures including some tunnels to ensure all-weather connectivity between the summer and winter capitals of this union territory. If it is so, then indeed it is a very encouraging thing. However here again what is the real dampener for the popular spirits is the long history of delays in completion of such developmental projects. For instance, it has been ages since four-laning of the existing highway was started, but even today the project is nowhere near completion. In fact this remains one of the major reasons for frequent closures of the highway.
Similarly when work on the historic Mughal road was started, it was claimed that it would provide an all-weather alternative to the Srinagar-Jammu national highway. But today the situation is such that even this road remains closed for major part of the winter season.
It is high time that the governments here and in New Delhi initiate some serious measures to ensure all-weather connectivity of the Valley with Jammu. This could well be a very good take off point for the political executive to translate its promises of progress and development into reality. Indeed, ‘connectivity of hearts and minds’ will remain only a psychological construct until more practical aspect of proper road connectivity is addressed and ensured.