Crucial link to Valley from Doda still plugged
2 November 2002
The Daily Excelsior
Jammu: The crucial link to Kashmir valley from district Doda which brought the people of this hilly district more closer to each other is still plugged. Even after the completion this road via Kishtwar- Chhatroo- Sinthon Top and Anantnag about two years ago, the road is yet to be put under use by the Administration. Chief Engineer, Project Beacon of Border Roads Organisation, popularly known as GREF, Brig Mahadevan said that this road is fit for traffic on the either side. It was made motorable from Kishtwar to Chhatroo, Sinthan Top and Bellu from where the jurisdiction of Anantnag district commences about two years back. The light medium and even heavy vehicles of the department and forest etc. are plying on this route smoothly from Kishtwar to Anantnag but unfortunately the State Government and even the District Administration Doda did not bother to formally open this route for passenger vehicles. He said the distance between Kishtwar and Srinagar has been decreased considerably with the construction of this road. The distance of Kishtwar from Srinagar via Batote- Ramban is about 288 kms. This distance has become lesser by at least three hours by using this route. Earlier, the State Government agency—PWD was engaged in the construction of this road but it was handed over to GREF in 1996. Col Padamanaban, a senior engineer of GREF connected with the task, disclosed that from 1996 onwards, the GREF has spent Rs 7 crore on this road which included widening, surfacing, construction of protection walls, culverts etc. Almost all the major works on this road have been completed and the road is fit for use. Now it is up to the administration to open the road for vehicular traffic and provide relief to the people who wish to visit Kashmir valley from Doda and vice-versa. The lack of will on the part of Administration is creating hurdle in the operation of vehicular traffic on this road. Regional Transport Officer, Jammu Mr Salim when contacted said that earlier, it was a fair-weather road and therefore, the movement of traffic on this link throughout the year was not possible. The passenger buses are already plying in between Kishtwar and Chhatroo but thereafter, no passenger vehicle is operating. Militancy is the major factor which caused delay in the opening of this road for general public. He pointed out that on Jammu- Srinagar National Highway the militants despite the presence of a large number of security force personnel manage to strike and cause IED blasts but it is very difficult to ensure security on this route. No doubt the distance between Srinagar and Kishtwar will decrease by more than 70 kms but even then there is no public demand to open this road till today. Responding to a question, the RTO said that though GREF people claim to have completed this road two years back yet the decision regarding opening the route depends on the State Government. There may be some technicalities hampering the process of operation of vehicles on this route. But militancy factor remained the main hurdle in this process, he maintained. He pointed out that even Bhaderwah—Chamba road remain closed due to militancy. During Mani - Mahesh yatra in Himachal Pradesh this year, the buses from Doda district plied through Udhampur-Jammu-Pathankot to Himachal. The pilgrims avoided to use this route due to security reasons. The RTO, however, said that the Government may decide about the opening of this route shortly if the public of the area shows interest in this regard. There will be lot of convenience for the people from this hilly district for going to Srinagar and other parts of Kashmir valley.