Bus Route 'PoK-marked' By Security Concerns
25 March 2005
The Times of India
Srinagar: The first Srinagar-Muzaffarabad bus will get a VIP flag-off amid much fanfare, but security concerns still continue to dictate its course. Instead of the original venue of Tourist Reception Centre, the bus will now be flagged off on April 7 from the Sher-e-Kashmir cricket stadium by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi. According to official sources, there were concerns regarding the vulnerability of the reception centre that has been targeted by militants earlier. The stadium falls in a highly secure zone and was also the preferred spot for the PM's address during his visit last November. Space constraints for a public rally planned at the venue was another reason for effecting the change, sources added. Two 19-seater Ashoka Leyland mini-buses will ferry 30 passengers and at least four IB officials till Salamabad in Uri. There, the passengers would be served lunch during a two-hour stop, which would be included in the price of the round trip ticket. Authorities haven't announced the sticker price of the ticket, but say it would be between Rs 750 and Rs 1,200. At Salamabad, passengers would undergo permit checks before proceeding to Kaman post from where they would cross over on foot, sources said. A defence ministry spokesman said the road to Kaman bridge was completely cleared of mines, and repair work was on over the 3-km- stretch damaged in recent rains. Security arrangements would also be taken care of by the Army in view of threats by several militant outfits over the road's re-opening. Chief of Army Staff Gen JJ Singh also took stock of the situation here on Thursday, inspecting repair work on the Uri-Muzaffarabad road, which would be opening after 47 years. He also expressed his desire for early return of peace in the Valley. Admitting that there was no insurance cover for first bus, the state road transport corporation managing director, S Mehta, said he was in touch with some insurance companies, but so far, no one has come forward to cover the risk. He, however, said that the JKSRTC has allotted funds for any eventuality.