By Gopal Sachar
Under the ongoing peace process with Pakistan while a lot of emphasis is being laid on opening routes between Pak-occupied Kashmir, Pakistan and Jammu & Kashmir, intriguingly little is being done to have alternate routes with India, including the adjoining Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.
In the process for peace, first of all the Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road has been opened. This was the main route through which the Pakistani invaders had entered Kashmir in 1947. In the past too, the Afghans and other invaders had come to Kashmir via this route which was at one time known as the Rawalpindi-Srinagar route.
According to Union Minister Shri Ghulam Nabi Azad and some other Congress leaders, Islam had come to Kashmir via this very route.
There are also active moves for opening up some other important routes including those of Poonch-Rawalakot, Kargil-Askardu, Nowshera-Mirpur, Jammu-Sialkot, etc. During the troubled days of 1947, and also later on, infiltrators and subversive forces generally came to Jammu & Kashmir via these routes which had witnessed fighting between the Indian forces and the invaders.
In addition to the moves for opening these routes, emphasis is being laid on construction of the Mughal Road which links the Poonch-Rajouri districts bordering Pak-occupied Kashmir to Kashmir Valley. The state government has earmarked Rs 50 crore to get the Mughal Road completed within the next two years.
Construction work on this road was taken up many years ago but due to strategic and security reasons a go-slow policy was adopted but now, suddenly the execution work on this project has been accelerated and the coalition of Congress-PDP-JKNPP in Jammu & Kashmir appears eager to get this road completed to carve out an alternate route to link Kashmir Valley with Jammu and the rest of the world.
Many wonder over the hectic moves to have road links with PoK and Pakistan as also those of Kashmir Valley with border districts of Poonch-Rajouri, but no interest is being shown to have alternate links with India which is having only one route viz Jammu-Pathankot road.
Since the early eighties, there has been a demand for a bridge on river Ravi to link Basohli areas of this state with Punjab and Himachal but despite repeated promises and even conducting costly surveys for constructing this bridge, the state government hardly pursued the project with the Planning Commission of India to provide funds for this strategic bridge.
During the NDA rule at the Centre, when Prof. Chaman Lal Gupta was representing this area in Lok Sabha and was the Minister of State for Defence, this bridge at Basohli was included in the scheme of Defence Ministry. Over a year ago, the Defence Ministry had started construction of an approach road to the site of the bridge in Basohli area but after the change of government at the Centre, the execution of the scheme has made little progress.
In 1976, after a long time demand, the Bhaderwah-Chamba road was constructed to link beautiful areas of Doda district of this state with Himachal. But mysteriously, the traffic on this important link road was stopped some 15 years ago on the excuse of militant threats. Because of stoppage of traffic and also lack of repairs, large portions of this link road have virtually disappeared and lie buried under landslides and wild growth.
Another important road from Paddar to Pangi was taken up to link with Himachal Pradesh. Work was in progress but after the change of government at the Centre, the execution of work on this road has been stopped and the GREF authorities were asked to shift the machinery to construct some other road to link Doda areas with militancy-affected Anantnag.
About 100 kms away, the Basohli-Bhaderwah road project is under execution for the past 25 years. Now this road is almost ready but like the Chamba-Bhaderwah road, it is not being thrown open to traffic. Again on the plea of militancy threats.