Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari has promised to reduce the travel time by car between New Delhi and Srinagar from 24 hours to just 8 hours, while the drive between Jammu and Srinagar in December 2023 would be of an incredible four hours.
Addressing a public meeting at Doda after laying foundation stone for 25 surface communication projects, with an aggregate length of 259 km worth Rs 11,721 crore and announcing five new highways in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Gadkari on Wednesday said the construction of the four-lane national highway (NH-44) from Jammu to Srinagar would be completed in the next 24 months.
After completion of the ongoing road projects, the Union Minister added that Jammu and Srinagar would get three road corridors that are currently in different stages of execution. “Srinagar-Jammu national highway (NH-44) will be completed within two years and the travel journey will be reduced to just four hours,” he said. This would mean a total driving time of eight hours from Delhi to Srinagar.
Significantly, in his first meeting with the Jammu and Kashmir politicians in over two years on June 24, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasised on reducing Kashmir’s distance from Delhi-Dil ki duri aur Dilli ki duri. Gadkari’s ambitious project alongside green-lighting the rail linkage between Srinagar and Delhi in the next two years would be a veritable game changer in the process of Kashmir’s physical integration with the rest of India.
The Union Minister added that the second road corridor between Jammu and Srinagar through Doda-Kishtwar (NH-244) and the third one through Akhnoor-Rajouri-Shopian (Mughal Road) would serve as alternate arteries and connect two hilly wings to the two capital cities.
Referring to the 650-km Delhi-Katra express highway, Gadkari said the work had been distributed in different packages and already started on 16 packages in Punjab and Haryana. “After the completion of the Delhi-Katra express highway, the travel time between major cities, including Delhi-Amritsar, will be four hours, Delhi-Katra six hours and Delhi-Srinagar eight hours. This is my promise and it will be fulfilled,” he said.
The Union Minister said work was also under various stages of completion on the 1350-km long Delhi-Mumbai expressway which would reduce the travel time between India’s political and financial capitals from 24 hours to just 12 hours. It is estimated to be completed within the expenditure of Rs 90,000 crore. He said that Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Dehradun, Delhi-Haridwar and Delhi-Jaipur Road journeys would be covered in just two hours.
As regards the four-lane highway between Jammu and Srinagar, Gadkari added that work was going on speedily on the last two packages. While 85 per cent of work had been completed on the 95-km long Jammu-Udhampur-Nashri section (which includes a 10-km long tunnel), the 60-km section between Nashri and Banihal would be completed by December 2023.
These projects, which are strategically important for the swift movement of defence forces along with the agricultural, industrial and socio-economic progress of the region, will provide all-weather connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir.
The projects will connect all major roads leading to various district headquarters and will help in the generation of employment and self-employment opportunities.
Making a significant announcement, the Minister said the road communication projects worth Rs 1,00,000 crore-equal to the total expenditure on 1350-km long 8-lane Delhi-Mumbai Expressway-would be executed in Jammu and Kashmir in the next two years. Tunnels to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore were already under execution in the UT.
Gadkari’s yet another remarkable announcement came about a road, including a tunnel under the Sadhna Top, between Kupwara and Tangdhar (LoC) and a road, including a tunnel from Bafliaz (Rajouri) to Peer Ki Gali near Shopian, Kashmir. Once completed, these two arteries would provide 24x7x365 connectivity through the two hilly terrains.
“Four things water, power, transport and communication are imperative for the success of tourism and industrialisation, which will help in elevating poverty, creating jobs and boosting economy,” the Minister said, adding that the Centre was making all-out efforts to bring development and prosperity to Jammu and Kashmir.
Referring to the development of roads in J&K, he said when the BJP came to power in 2014, the total length of roads in Jammu and Kashmir was 1,695 km, which was expanded to 2,664 km by 2021. J&K, he said, was the only part in the country where tunnels worth over Rs 50,000 crore were currently being constructed. These include Asia’s longest road tunnel near Zojila on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway.
“I assure you that the infrastructure will be at par with the western European standards during the Modi government,” Gadkari said about the roads under execution and in the pipeline.