Pantha Chowk Demolitions Ends Frequent Kashmir Highway Blockades

KL Report

SRINAGAR

With around 50 constructions demolished in the second phase of road restoration between southern bus terminal and Sempora in Pampore outskirts, the highway will breathe easy – thanks to the timely action of Deputy Commissioner Srinagar. It will mark beginning of the end of massive traffic jams that would sometime start unlocking past mid-night. Moving out of city or entering into the capital from south will be much easier and will improve overall growth.

While the affected population, mostly comprising shopkeepers and stone-chislers, were out to protest against the drive, the move triggered a huge positive response from the people who are frequenting the road almost on daily basis.

“It is something that we were actually praying for,” a Pampore resident Ghulam Nabi said. “Deputy Commissioner Srinagar deserves credit for not forgetting the promise he made when he took over.”

The road would usually remain blocked because there was not much of space for any kind of movement. The jam would impact entire south Kashmir and the entire traffic that is coming from Jammu and vice versa. At times, the jams would clog the main highway till midnight impacting travelers and the patients severely.

Officials said there was a plan for removing some of the constructions blocking the highway but it, somehow, skipped the priority list of successive administrations. DC Srinagar Farooq Ahmad Shah had announced he would address the mess on the day he was appointed to head the Srinagar district. In the initial phase, earth removers were deployed which created enough of space within the long line of the aged poplars.

In the phase two, bulldozers appeared on the scene on Wednesday with heavy contingent of police. Shah was accompanied by city police chief Syed Ashiq Hussain Bukhari. There were protests in the locality which were managed by police as the dozers worked. AC revenue accompanied the team.

“Most of the constructions were encroachments and were built on the state land but there are quite a few structures which own the land on which they operated,” a senior officer who was part of the drive said. “We are rehabilitating everybody and so far no residential structure was touched.” He said they encroachers had been approached many times but they avoided obliging the government necessitating the move in the larger public interest, and economic growth.

Officials said in the initial phase, they identified 114 poplars of which 60 are already axed in the periphery of Sempora.

In the second phase that started Wednesday morning a number of boundary walls, stone chiseling units, sheds and shops were demolished. “We have already set up a task force that will manage entire rehabilitation of those impacted by the drive,” an officer said. “In the first phase we have identified 28 residential structures which will be demolished after the assessment and rehabilitation is finalized and it must happen within a month.”

Right now 138 shops were impacted by the drive. These exclude 19 stone carving and chiseling units. The stone-related activity is completely being shifted to an area in Sempora that has already been identified.

The shops, officials said, would be shifted to a shopping complex already in operation near the bus stand. The complex had 230 shops and additional space is being created in it by shifting 20 automobile workshops to the SDA complex in the rare of the bus terminal. “It is essential because these workshops encroach upon the main road by parking their vehicles there thus creating more hurdles,” an officer said.

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