3 rail projects in J&K on Railways top priority: Lalu

6 April 2008
The Daily Excelsior
Devender Padha

JAMMU: Railways Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav today said his Ministry will accord 'top priority' to three major railway projects in Jammu and Kashmir including Jammu-Srinagar rail link, double laning and electrification of Jammu-Jallandhar rail line. Mr Yadav, who is here on a two-day visit to the State, laid foundation of Rs 170 crore project for electrification of Jammu Tawi-Suchi Pind railway line on Jammu-Jallandhar section of Northern Railways and also flagged off Jammu-Kathgodam Garib Rath Express through remote control in a function organized at General Zorawar Singh Auditorium in Jammu University. The Railways Minister said that Rs 1100 crore have been earmarked during the current year for speedy completion of three major projects of the State while Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla railway line has been declared a national project. He said, when completed, the project would have many firsts including the longest 10 km tunnel and the world’s highest railway bridge over the Chenab river. The electrification of Rs 170 crore 222 km Jammu-Suchi Pind section would be completed in two years, he added. The Minister pledged full support of his Ministry to development of the State, saying the State was an integral part of the country and it was everybody’s responsibility to ensure its full development. 'Laying of railway line up to Kashmir would result in speedy development of the State and bring the separatists into mainstream', he added. 'Kashmir is a part and parcel of India. It is an internal problem of the country and no one will be allowed to interfere in it', Mr Yadav said, adding several steps have been taken to strengthen the bonds between people of J&K and rest of the country. Issuing a warning to separatists, the Union Minister said no one can be allowed to browbeat India. Mr Yadav described launch of the train as a historic day for the two beautiful States-J&K and Uttrakhand-which would be connected by Garib Rath Express. The train offers an opportunity for the poor people to travel by fully air conditioned train with the speed of Rajdhani Express, he added. The Garib Rath, which provides all Air Conditioned (AC) compartments to the passengers in about 30 per cent low fare, will be the first weekly service between Jammu Tawi and Kathgodam in Nainital district of Uttrakhand. He also announced free travel for girl students pursuing graduation courses and boys up to class 12 in the trains. He reiterated the regularisation of licensed coolies as Class IV employees. The Railways Minister, who gave green signal to fully-decorated Garib Rath from Jammu Tawi at 1155 am by pulling the lever by remote control technique, said 'we will also consider if Udhampur (the last station at Northern end) will be made the starting place of this train, as recommended by Member Parliament Choudhary Lal Singh'. Meanwhile, he announced halt for the Garib Rath Express at Kathua which was not earlier a notified halting station for the train. He dwelt on the turnaround brought about in the Railways under the UPA Government and recalled how the scenario was dismal under the NDA rule. He said the Railways had been pushed into a morass and blood was being sucked from the poor people by raising the fare and freight every year by the previous NDA Government. The employees were facing retrenchment, he said, adding that the UPA Government completely reversed the situation. The Railway Minister recalled Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s speech from Lal Qila, wherein he had said the Indian Railways would be made number one in the world from the third place. 'We have brought the Railways out of its bad days, and that also with reducing its fares in successive budgets,' he emphasised. Mr Prasad said his Ministry would focus on infrastructural development in Jammu and Kashmir, where its working on extending its network in the Kashmir valley. He said the suggestions of the State Government, which also included survey of Jammu to Poonch for a railway line as recommended by Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, would be given due consideration. Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who was chief guest in the function, in his address, said 'under the UPA Government J&K was witnessing unprecedented expansion in the railway sector', adding, 'people of Valley and rest of India are eager to get connected with each other, as that will give tremendous boost to tourism and trade by facilitating the hassle free travelling and transportation'. He said J&K and Uttrakhand would be benefited by the Garib Rath Express which would promote flow of tourists to these States. He asked the Railway Minister to consider increase in the weekly frequency of the train as it was expected to draw large number of passengers. He also directed the State Tourism Department officials to install tourism promotional hoardings at Nainital in Uttrakhand. He welcomed the electrification plan of Jammu-Suchi Pind railway track, saying it was eco-friendly and non-pollution generating train unlike those driven by diesel and coal. The Chief Minister appreciated the Centre’s announcement for a survey of Jammu-Rajouri-Poonch railway line and said that it was a long standing demand of the people of these backward areas. He said with the opening of the Poonch-Rawlakote road and cross LoC movement of the people, the proposed rail link to Rajouri and Poonch would be a tourism booster. He said that he would have an official meeting with the Railway Minister tomorrow during which matters like compensation of land, railway protection force, employment in railways etc. would be thoroughly discussed. The flagging off ceremony was also attended by Minister for Health and Medical Education, Mangat Ram Sharma, Minister for State for PHE, Dr Romesh Sharma, MPs, Madan Lal Sharma, Ch Lal Singh and T S Bajwa, Legislators, Raman Bhalla, Suman Bhagat and G M Mir, Mayor JMC, Kavinder Gupta and other senior functionaries of Railway and State Government. Earlier, Shri Prasad, General Manager, Northern Railways, welcomed all the dignitaries at the function and apprised about the progress made by Railways under the leadership of Mr Yadav. He said, the train being launched today, was the 12th in Garib Rath Express series, as Centre had sanctioned a total of 10 such trains for the current year. He also presented mementos to Railway Minister, Chief Minister and all other guests.