Amid Terror Strikes, Prime Minister, Sonia arrives J&K

Sringar, June 25: Prime Minister of India Mr.Manmohan Singh and Congress President Ms.Sonia Gandhi arrived in Udhampur, in Jammu & Kashmir, on their two-day visit to the state. The visit comes a day after a terror strike at an Army convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s capital Srinagar in which eight jawans were killed. The Prime Minister will launch a train service between Qazigund in Kashmir and Banihal in Jammu, providing an all-weather surface link to the Valley that often gets cut off from rest of the country in the winter due to heavy snowfall.

Eight soldiers were killed and 13 others injured, seven of them seriously, when two militants opened fire on an Army convoy on the outskirts of Srinagar on Monday. The Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the terror attack. A security blanket has been thrown around Srinagar. Police and paramilitary personnel have been deployed in large numbers and the Army is also conducting foot patrols in some areas.

Key highlights of the new Banihal-Qazigund rail link:

  • The section between Banihal in Jammu and Qazigund in Kashmir is 18 kilometres long.
  • The Banihal-Qazigund section includes an 11-km-long tunnel – India’s longest, 2nd longest in Asia.
  • The opening of the section marks the start of the rail service to the Kashmir Valley.
  • The Banihal-Qazigund section will link the already operational 118-km-long route between Qazigund and Baramulla to the rest of the country.
  • Eight coach trains will run between Banihal and Baramulla from June 27 after the inaugural run on June 26.
  • The Banihal-Baramulla-Banihal train will make five trips daily beginning at 7.10 am from Banihal and 7.35 am from Baramulla.
  • The section will reduce the distance from 35 km (by road) to 18 km.
  • The rail link has been constructed at a cost of Rs 1,691 crore.
  • Passengers travelling by train from Kashmir Valley to Banihal can avail bus service from there till Udhampur where train service is available for the rest of the country.

Package for J&K to be announced

During his stay in Srinagar, Singh will also take stock of the implementation of the Rs 37,000-crore reconstruction package for the state he had initiated in 2004 under the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Plan.

They will also address a public rally after laying the foundation stone of the prestigious 850 MW Rattle Hydro Electrical Power Project to be constructed on river Chenab in Kishtwar.

The Plan involves 67 projects and schemes covering 11 sectors of the economy including expansion of infrastructure and basic services and employment generation.

Ahead of the visit, Singh reviewed implementation of the Plan at a meeting where it was noted that 34 projects and schemes have been completed and work in 28 is in progress, the sources said.

Among the projects completed are setting up of 1,000 micro hydro-electric projects, electrification of all villages, expansion of total literacy campaign to remaining three districts of Kargil, Poonch and Doda and training to enhance skills of youth for IT/BPO sector in Jammu and Srinagar.

The project for expansion of infrastructure in Jammu and Kashmir involves 24 projects in sectors like power, roads and external borrowings.

Under this segment, work in respect of six items has been completed. These include 1,000 micro-hydel projects, additional central assistance to Baglihar hydro-electric project and construction of Domel-Katra road.

The infrastructure expansion plan also includes feasibility of Kibar-Korzok road to connect Leh in Jammu and Kashmir with Shimla.

The package envisages expansion of basic services in areas like education, health and water supply.

The schemes which have been completed are starting of six new degree colleges and setting up of five women’s ITIs in Kashmir Valley.

The completed projects also include relief and rehabilitation for the dislocated families and victims of militancy. This involved construction of two-room tenements for Kashmiri migrants and construction of temporary shelters, rebuilding of village infrastructure and repair and restoration of damaged houses for people on the International Border and the Line of Control (LoC) affected by cross-border shelling.

Singh had announced the reconstruction package of Rs 24,000 crore during his first visit to the state in 2004 soon after becoming the Prime Minister. The package has since grown to Rs 37,000 crore due to cost escalation and other factors.