By Harish Kunwar
With the completion of the 119 kilometers long railway line from Baramulla to Quazigund in the Kashmir Valley, Indian Railways is proud to have attained a long cherished dream of all in the country, especially of people living in the Valley.
The last stretch of 18 kilometres railway line of this prestigious project from Anantnag to Quazigund was dedicated to the nation by the Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on 28th October 2009. The 101 km railway line which is already operational from Anantnag to Baramulla has proved to be very popular with more than 5000 passengers travelling on it every day.
The additional railway line between Anantnag and Quazigund pressed into service will also benefit the residents of the Valley in a similar manner substantially. With the opening of this stretch, the entire 119 km long railway line from Baramulla to Quazigund in the valley has now become operational covering important stations like Sopore, Hamre, Pattan, Mazhom, Budgam, Srinagar, Pampore, Kakapora, Awantipura, Panjgam, Bijbiara, Anantnag and Sadura in both the directions.
With a view to provide an alternative reliable, all weathers, transportation system and to connect the State of Jammu & Kashmir with the rest of the country through railway network, the Ministry of Railways planned a 345 km long railway line connecting Jammu to Baramulla via Udhampur, Katra, Reasi, Sangaldan, Banihal, Quazigund, Anantnag and Srinagar. The project is of national importance. Due to this reason, part of the project from Udhampur to Baramulla has been declared as a “National Projects” and funds are being provided by the Ministry of Finance.
The estimated cost of Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla rail Link project (292 km) is approximate Rs. 11270 crores. So far, expenditure on this project has been approximate Rs. 5500 crore. On 13th April 2005, the railway line of 53 kilometres moved further north from Jammu to Udhampur, when the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh dedicated it to the nation. Later on, in October 2008 and February 2009, the railway lines from Anantnag to Mazhom (66 km) and Mazhom to Baramula (35 km) were also inaugurated by the Prime Minister.
Railways also required approach roads of about 262 kilometres in the Katra-Quazigund section project, to carry construction material and workers, 145 km of new roads are already operational, on which buses are regularly plying from village to village, encouraging movement as each village thus connected drops the adjective “remote”, which was its earlier description. While the sick can easily reach hospitals, the young have better opportunities to travel to distant educational institutions, thus improving their career prospects.
It has also been seen that marriages are also now being solemnized between residents of different villages, rather than being restricted to their own folk, as people have become more mobile. Local produce of the villages is also finding its way into city markets quickly, giving better opportunities to those who were till now on the outer periphery of business opportunities due to the distances and lack of means of transportation.
The railway line in the valley has been constructed at the approximate expenditure of Rs. 3250 crore and has 64 major and 640 minor bridges. Fifteen stations fall on this line and passenger amenities have been provided at all of them. The station buildings have been aesthetically designed in the local architecture, which is not only pleasing to the eye, but is also climatically suitable. Another interesting feature of this railway line is that all the construction material as well rolling stock was transported by road, adding yet another dimension of challenge in the execution of the project.
The introduction of railway line in the Kashmir valley has brought a major revolution in the lifestyle of the people living in the Valley. The railways are more than just a means of transport, its influence is known to transform society. As distant towns, cities and areas begin to get connected, a new all encompassing culture begins to emerge. People travel to other areas for better job opportunities and stay on, facilitating trans-national migration, blurring regional barriers.
Today, these rails of steel hold us tight together as one cohesive force. The day is not for when the Valley’s railway line will be linked to the rest of the Indian Railway network, connecting it to the farther most corners of the country.
The Kashmir Telegraph is the publication of Pune-based, not for profit, think-tank, Kashmir Bachao Andolan. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org