PM's Promise To Put Valley On Rail Map Gets A Boost
23 December 2003
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Prime Minister A.B. Vajpayee's promise of putting Kashmir on the railway map by 2007 got a shot in the arm on Sunday when thousands of youngsters sat for the examination for selected railways technical posts. The enthusiasm of the youngsters came as a blow to the cynics who believed that seeing the railways in Kashmir would always remain a dream given the difficult terrain of the region. Sunday morning saw hundreds of J-K Education Department employees maintaining a vigil over more than 15,000 aspirants who took the test for the 376 posts of gangman-trackman. A railway official said half the posts were meant for the Kashmir division. 'The selected candidates will undergo training like patrolling, station duty, monitoring and upkeep of the railway tracks,' said Abdul Majid, an official with the Railway Recruitment Board. A senior railway official said the exams have raised hopes of the arrival of trains to Kashmir on time. 'Our detractors felt that the tough terrain would make it impossible for a train coach to chug on Kashmiri soil. The conducting of the test, however, has changed their mindset,' he said. 'Now, Kashmiris will understand that the Centre is serious about getting Kashmir connected by rail,' he added. The work on the project has already been taken up at Udhampur, Katra, Qazigund and Baramulla in the last few years and all stations connecting the Valley to the country. Railway officials said work on the Jammu-Udhampur and Katra links and the 118-km Qazigund-Baramulla line are going at a rapid pace. However, the absence of a link between Udhampur and Qazigund in Kashmir due to tough terrain along the Jammu-Srinagar national highway is going to be a long-term project. Official say that the Railway Ministry is giving relief to the tune of several crores against land owned by farmers. Already more than 7,000 kanals have been acquired for a railway line between the twin southern Kashmir districts of Anantnag and Pulwama . The foundation stone for the railway line was laid in 1997 by then Prime Minister I.K. Gujral and work was started in 1999.