Introduction to KashmirForum.org Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.
www.kashmirforum.org

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Will Kashmiri Politicians Cast Aside Their Petty Politics to Complete an Overdue Infrastructure Project?

Google Earth imagery does not lie ......

A dream project turns distant dream: An 83 crore four-lane highway overdue by 4 years

Abdullah Shervani

(Mr. Abdullah Danish Shervani, 25, a native of Baramulla, was born in the city of Khamees Mushayt, Saudi Arabia. As a child of expatriate parents in the Gulf, his early education was in schools run by the Indian Embassy in cities like Abha, Taif, and Jeddah. He graduated from high school in Aligarh before moving back to Baramulla where he pursued a B.Sc. degree in Mass communication and Multimedia Production from the local degree college. Currently, he is doing post-graduate studies in mass communication at the Media Education Researh Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University. He is also a budding journalist, covering the campus beat for the newest city newspaper, The Daily Rising Kashmir. His interests include documentary film making, clearing misconceptions about Islam, and in general trying to make the world a better place to live in.)

The work on the Rs 83 crore; four-lane road from Dalgate to Zakura was started in 2001. Then chief minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah announced with great pomp and show that the project would be ready in 3 years. But it is seven years since and the ‘dream project’ is still pending. Blame game between politicians and officials is one of the successful developments that the project has witnessed till date.

The foundation stone of four-lane road named ‘Meerakh Shah Road’ was laid by Dr. Farooq Abdullah on September 8, 2001. He had termed the road project as the dream of Sher-e-Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and claimed that the four-channel road would be completed in three years. According to then R&B minister Ali Mohammad Sagar, Rs. 46 crore were to be paid as compensation for acquisition of land and structures along the road, Rs. 11 crore were to be spent on the construction of new bridges while Rs. 26 crore were to be utilized for the construction of the road. At the foundation laying ceremony, Farooq Abdullah had asked the engineers ensure that majestic chinars were saved during the road project.

But all these seem to have been great words that would have made a great idealistic article titled ‘My Ambitions in life’. Such tall claims seem to have only been a means to justify money spent over the years, before and after 8th September 2001.

As per the plan four new bridges were supposed to be constructed at Dalgate, Nowpora, Saida Kadal and Ashai Bagh to remove the bottlenecks on the road. The first two have been constructed while the Saida Kadal bridge was thrown open for two way traffic in mid-2007. The construction of the bridge at Ashai Bagh may be in its final phase, but traffic movement is yet to start.

Talking to risingkashmir.com, Chief engineer R&B said, “The project was sanctioned under the Central Road Fund (CRF) and the state government only pays for the road construction. They do not pay even a single penny for the land acquisition”. (And 46 crores for land acquisition?!)
He said that Rs 83 crore seems to be too less an amount to suffice the project cost. “It would cost much more than that”.

Senior NC leader and then R&B minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar told risingkashmir.com that the first phase of the expressway from Zakura to Ashai Bagh was completed by the end of 2001 while in the second phase the road was widened from Ashai Bagh to Nowpora in 2002. “The state government had signed a memorandum of understanding with the Kashmir University for acquisition of the university land for the road. It is only that part of the road that is almost complete till date”, he said.

CE R&B too admits that the road stretch surrounding the university was first completed as it was acquired from the university. But satellite imagery from Google Earth is witness enough that the road is yet to look like a four-lane proposed project.

Sagar argued that the funds had already been given to the JKPCC to construct the bridges but JKPCC officials say that the construction of bridges had to be stopped halfway as the government reconsidered its decision.

A JKPCC official, on condition of anonymity, said, that the construction on the bridge had to be stopped halfway because the government had second thought on its construction. “We returned the remaining funds to the government”. He further adds with skepticism, “We are the ones stuck in between the lines. Every new government has its own agendas and the plans of the older ones are subsequently taken up with disinterest”. An easy deduction to this can be that every time a new government comes in force, it neglects the already running projects and starts its own. Obviously to justify more money for their own homes like their predecessors.

With the JKPCC and the government playing the blame game, there seem to be no clue as to where all the money for the bridges has gone.

The R&B department, according to its chief engineer, is ready to go ahead with the rest of the construction provided the government settles the acquisition of the land on both sides of the “dream project”. “We have surplus funds for the road construction but due to slow process of land acquisition, the construction work has got delayed”, added CE R&B.

Sagar adds, “I don’t know why the government shelved the project. The government does not want to reveal the reason for shelving this dream project. The shelving of project makes it amply clear that government is not interested in carrying out developmental related activities in Srinagar”.

Is he sincere in his comment or removing blame off his shoulders? You decide.

(News article appeared in risingkashmir.com on 24th January 2008)

4 comments:

tanveer said...

It was a great pleasure to read your article,this is the right time to take right step"abi nahen to kabi nahen"how can a boat move in right direction unless there is somebody to lead it.am very glad you have done a quite lots of reserch to make it an eye opner.pen can do meracles you know and i belive in future also you will work for the sake.the scams which are leading our kashmir to worst will stop for sure if everyone takes responsibility.
TANVEER MOHI-UD-DIN MIR
CINEMATOGRAPHY-L V PRASAD FILM AND TV ACADEMY-CHENNAI.

rouf said...

ASALAAMU ALAIKUM BROTHER.

I THINK THIS IS THE GROWING ISSUES IN OUR RUNNING SOCIETY ....... I AM HIGHLY IMPREESED BY YOUR ARTICLE...........OUR SOCIETY IS IN NEED OF SUCH FRONTIERS.......

rouf said...

it was really amazed when i saw such an article written.i was also unaware of many points which i got from, your article..................brother our society needs fast and sharp blazers like you to end up the currrent scams taking place in our society

ABDUL ROUF KHAN
MFC STUDENT
UNIVERSITY OF KASHMIR

yakub said...

AA:
A bridge here or a road there do not matter the least bit. Nearly two generations have been wiped out. I am not surprised when I hear that girls outnumber boys in a great proportion and our cute little girls are forced into prostitution to earn their living. I have no doubt in believing that Shabir Shah, Yaseen Malik or Geelani and others will have to answer a lot of questions here and in the hereafter. Farooqs and Sagars destination is hell for definite. Yakub from Knottingham