Reliable Transportation System
Reliable and efficient surface communication is the corner stone of progress and development of any region. However, Kashmir has been lacking it since 1947. The only road link that connects the Valley with rest of the country is 300 KM stretch of Srinagar-Jammu highway. The road being a fair-weather one, its frequent closures have been hitting Kashmir’s economy badly. A little drizzle and the road gets closed for day and during winter even for weeks. Kashmir being a consumer region, most of the eatables come from outside and the frequent closure of Srinagar-Jammu highway results into the shortage of essentials in the Valley, hoarding and black-marketing. The fragility of this highway also impacts adversely the horticulture sector. When the apple growers are ready with their crop to send it to outside markets, that is the season when this highway closes down more frequently due to weather conditions and thus results into losses to the apple growers. It was in mid 70’s that then Prime Minister of India laid foundation stone for Udhampur-Srinagar railway line. Decades have passed but the project is yet to be completed. Though the first section connecting Udhampur to Katra and the third section between Banihal and Baramulla have been completed with both sections operational, the main section – connecting Katra and Banihal, the most problematic section still remains incomplete.
In this backdrop, the assertions made by the General Manager Northern Railway, Ashutosh Gangal that Northern Railway will be completing the most difficult 111-kilometre long section of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail link by December 2022 that would connect Kashmir to the rest of India through the railway network, has again rekindled the hope of better connectivity among the Valley populace. He said that the work to complete the most difficult Katra-Banihal section is going as per schedule. Giving details, he said that the Udhampur-Katra (25 km) section, Banihal-Qazigund (18 km) section and Qazigund-Baramulla (118 km) section have already been commissioned and the 111 km Katra-Banihal section is currently under execution. He, however, emphasized that the job is too tough as the terrain passes through young Himalayas, which are full of geological surprises and numerous problems. At the same time he assured that by December, 2022, the project will fully be operational. Given their past experience of such projects, the people of Kashmir may not be that optimistic about the deadline set by the Railway official but it goes without saying that if it really happens, it will be a great boost to Kashmir’s economy. This rail project is highly essential to provide an alternative and reliable transportation system. The project has declared as a national project in 2002 and therefore one would expect that the concerned authorities focus on it and transform their claims into reality.