Asif Iqbal Naik
Distressed over the pathetic condition of Jammu-Srinagar and Batote-Doda-Kishtwar Highways, former Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir and leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad seeks the immediate intervention of Prime Minister Narindra Modi to safeguard the lives of the thousands of the commuters.
In a three page letter written by Ghulam Nabi Azad to Prime Minister Narindra Modi, the copy of which is available with “Kashmir Life”, senior Congress leader not only highlighted the pathetic condition of the two highways of the state, but also highlighted the strategic importance of the Srinagar-Jammu highway keeping in view troops deployment all along China and Pakistan border in Ladakh and other parts of the Kashmir valley as Jammu-Srinagar highway is the only lifeline and road connectivity to key strategic defense locations of Ladakh.
“I am writing to share with you the profound concern and lurking anxiety of the people of the Jammu and Kashmir that has been sparked by the deteriorating condition of National Highway NH-1A linking Jammu region with Kashmir Valley” read Azad letter to PM Modi, added that “You (PM Modi) are aware that the 300 KM National Highway-IA, passing through rugged and challenging terrain, is the lifeline of Kashmir Valley ensuring continuous flow of supplies and provisions for eighty lakh people living in Kashmir and Ladakh, besides facilitating the
movement of people to and fro Kashmir Valley”.
Azad further stated in his letter that people of three and a half Districts of Chenab Valley, in addition to Udhampur and Reasi Districts are also dependent on this highway for commuting and transportation of goods and supplies.
“Significantly this is the only route that allows the flow of supplies and provisions for the armed forces and paramilitary forces stationed in the forward areas of Kashmir Valley and the strategically important
region of Ladakh, having borders with both China & Pakistan” stated Azad, added that however, since last year’s floods and unprecedented rains, compounded by the recent unseasonal rains, this road has suffered heavy damages.
In his letter Azad regretted to PM Modi that; due attention to its proper upkeep and maintenance is not being paid which has multiplied the woes and miseries of the people of the State.
“The journey has turned highly risky and the rate of road accidents has soared to unusually higher levels— Traffic jams have becomeorder of the day and travelling time has increased manifold on this road” stated Azad.
He also informed the PM Modi that due to poor condition of the roads, commuters are facing hardships, which was never seen before especially while travelling between Udhampur and Qazigund. He stated that despite
the best efforts by the State administration to regulate traffic on the highway, the enormity of the challenge is making the matters worse as a result of which supplies and provisions also are getting delayed inordinately.
Highlighting the importance of roads for tourism, Azad brought into the notice of PM Modi that tourism and trade are getting badly affected by the ramshackle and rundown condition of the highway. Similar is the condition of Highway NH1B from Batote to District Doda and Kishtwar— what used to be a fascinating experience once has now become no less than an ordeal.
“You (PM Modi) may also be aware that realizing the inadequacy of the existing national highway, manifold increase in the vehicular traffic and the difficulties of the people of the State, UPA Government had approved the four-laning of the existing Jammu-Srinagar National Highway NH-1A—It is gratifying to note that Jammu- Udhampur stretch
is almost complete and is already in use of the commuters. Journey on this portion has become an enjoyable experience” stated Azad’s letter, added that smilarly, the two very long tunnels at Banihal-Qazigund and
Chenani-Nashri are also at advanced stages of construction” and hopefully will be completed in near future which will ultimately shorten the- distance significantly as also avoid accident-prone and inhospitable terrain near Patnitop ridge and Banihal pass respectively.
“Although the upgradation of certain parts of Jammu-Srinagar Highway has progressed at a satisfactory pace, however, there are other stretches where the progress has been sluggish due to variety of reasons. Work on the Srinagar- Qazigund stretch, supposedly the easiest part in comparison to the otherwise rugged terrain of Jammu &
Kashmir, has been progressing very slowly. Probably the contractor has not exhibited desired keenness and interest to execute the work” stated Azad’s letter. He stated that the slide-prone and treacherous portion between Batote to Banihal is yet to be taken up due to reasons like inappropriate alignment, inaccurate estimation, non-awarding of
Hoping for positive response from Prime Minister Narindra Modi, Azad in his letter stated that “I would like to highlight that this is an accident-prone and difficult stretch of the National Highway which is primarily responsible for the road blocks and traffic jams on Jammu- Srinagar Highway, in addition to loss of precious human lives—As the matter is causing grave annoyance to the commuters, besides severely impacting the credibility of Jammu & Kashmir as a reputed tourist destination, I hope you will lend attention to the matter that it deserves to facilitate smooth and hassle-free journey of the people”.
While suggesting the long-term and permanent solution to the problems faced by commuters as well as the people of the State, Azad urged the Prime Minister for early completion of the ongoing four-laning project, beside short run proper maintenance and upkeep of the existing National Highway can bring huge respite for the commuters/tourists as well as lacs of people living in Kashmir Valley and Ladakh region.
Azad hope that with kind indulgence, Prime Minister will direct the concerned for taking urgent steps to ensure proper maintenance and upkeep of the existing National Highway NH1A, as also expedite the pace of execution on all the six packages relating to its four-laning.