Parties Unite On Re-opening Historic Road
13 April 2004
Jammu: In sharp contrast to previous poll campaigns in Jammu and Kashmir, the road network in the State has become the prime developmental issue for all political parties, as they canvass for votes in the remote villages. For instance, in the border belt, the politicians are seeking votes from the people with the promise that they would work to open the historic Mughal road. The Congress candidate for the Jammu-Poonch Lok Sabha segment and the State Roads Minister, Madan Lal Sharma, is seeking votes from the border areas of Jammu province with the assurance that he will expedite work on the Mughal road. Incidentally, the Minister's own department had raised objections about opening of the road on security considerations some time ago. The road was named after the Mughals who used to take the route on their travels. The road is historic in many respects; the Mughal Emperor Jehangir died on this particular road while returning to Delhi and in order to avoid decomposition of his body, he was buried at a place called Chingus (meaning entrails in Persian). The Chief Minister and the People's Democratic Party leader, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, says, 'At a time when India and Pakistan are seriously talking about the opening of the Uri-Muzaffarabad and Suchetgarh-Sialkot roads, there is no reason why a road link between two parts of our State cannot be built.' He adds that the security agencies had objected to the construction of the road on security grounds, but he felt that situation was now entirely different. The National Conference patron and former Chief Minister, Dr. Farooq Abdullah, has also made the opening of the Mughal road a prime issue for his party in the border belt. It was his father, the former Chief Minister Sheikh Abdullah, who had mooted the proposal of an alternative route to the valley to reduce the traffic on NH1A, right now the only link. In the last Assembly session, the issue had become contentious as the National Conference charged the State Government of being lukewarm to the construction of the road. The Mughal road passes through the Rajouri-Poonch districts of Jammu province and was cut off when the strategic Haji Pir area went to Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. If the road is to be rebuilt, a new route has to be carved out of the mighty 11,000 feet Pir Panjal range, which divides Jammu province from Kashmir province. The completion of the project would result in the all-round socio-economic development of the border districts of Jammu region. Till now, the State Government has spent Rs.1500.71 lakh on the project - Rs. 412.74 lakh on the Jammu side and Rs.1060.07 lakh on the Kashmir side. A total of Rs. 27.90 lakh was spent on the feasibility study. A total of Rs.159 crore is required for construction of the Mughal road as per the feasibility study. Politicians in the State are also promising the construction of new routes with rest of the country. For instance, the BJP candidate and Union Minister of State for Defence, Chaman Lal Gupta, is seeking votes from the people of Doda with the promise to expedite work on the Bhaderwah-Chamba road network which would provide an alternative route to the hilly Doda district.