February 2006 News

Another Trans-Kashmir Road To Reopen

23 February 2006
The Times of India

Jammu: A second road linking the Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir is likely to open in April after nearly six long decades, and people on both sides of the once tense border are greatly excited. The road will connect Poonch in India's Jammu region with Rawalakot in Pakistani Kashmir. It was closed after the first India-Pakistan conflict in the region in 1948. Although only a 10-km stretch has to be built on the Indian side, it is an arduous task because the route has not been used for 57 years. 'The task involves pruning and cutting trees, bringing in fresh alignment and removing mines from fields,' an official said. Some private land is also to be acquired to build the road. Customs and immigration points have to be built in the area that till two years ago witnessed intense exchanges of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops. There has been a ceasefire along the frontiers in Kashmir since November 2003... Officials said the route would be opened in the first week of April - a year after the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road became operational April 7 last year, in the first major move to bring closer the people of divided Kashmir. Almost each family living in Poonch has relatives across the Line of Control (LoC). And the people share a common language and culture. Gulam Din, a middle-aged school teacher in Poonch whose wife is from Pakistani Kashmir, said: 'We are really excited because this road will pave the way for meeting relatives on either side.' Alam Bee, a trainer in an Indian Army vocational centre in Digwar in the Poonch region, was equally happy. 'It takes three to four days for people in Poonch and Rajouri to reach Pakistan by the Srinagar- Muzaffarabad route. From here it will take only a few hours.'... The Indian Army, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and the civil administration had divided the task of readying the 10-km stretch between Poonch town and Chakan-da-Bagh, close to the border. This is expected to cost Rs 100 million. The Public Works Department is preparing the first 1.5-km stretch from Poonch town. The BRO will build the next 2.7-km and the army the rest. The Jammu and Kashmir government is building the customs and immigration facility and will be in charge of communications. The Poonch bus stand is getting a new look. All this has given an impetus to economic activity in the mountainous and badly connected Poonch district that was reeling under militancy for over a decade. Land prices along the Poonch- Rawalakot road have shot up, a radical change from earlier times when there were hardly any buyers. Majid Khan, an unemployed young man, said he planned to open an eatery along the route. 'But with prices shooting up, I am finding it difficult to buy land.'

 

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