NATIONAL

Ministry clears road project

Luv Puri

Bhaderwah: The clearing of the Rs. 67 crore Bhadarwah-Chamba road project by the Tourism Ministry has ushered in a mood of jubilation in the eastern part of Jammu and Kashmir.

The project would provide Jammu and Kashmir its first-ever direct access with Himachal Pradesh. Situated in the northeast of the State, militancy infested Bhaderwah area of Doda district adjoins Himachal Pradesh and is also close to Punjab. Keeping in mind the geographical location of the belt, two projects were started in the 1980s to connect the belt to Himachal Pradesh and Punjab thus providing alternative road links to the State with the rest of the country. At present the Pathankot-Samba route is the country's only surface link with the state of Jammu and Kashmir. Scarcity of funds and militancy delayed both projects.

Union Tourism Minister Ambika Soni on Friday announced in a public rally here that the Bhadarwah-Chamba road project will help attract tourists visiting Himachal Pradesh to Bhadarwah via the Chamba area. Besides, the road has enormous economic potential because of the rich natural resources the belt possesses, which for the last decade has been racked by militancy. For instance the rajmash growers of this belt are deprived of the Himachal and Punjab markets, which are barely a few hours from this belt. As of now, rajmash growers are dependent on the city traders of the State to take their produce to other parts of the country.

Ramzan, a rajmash grower said, "We work day and night for our produce but most of the profits are taken by the city based traders. If the roads are opened we can directly sell our produce in the neighbouring states. The opening of the road is a question of economic survival for us."

At present a 50 km. stretch of the Bhaderwah-Chamba road is traffic worthy till village Thanalla which is situated 22 km. from Bhaderwah town. Thereafter the road is closed to traffic because of landslides caused by rains. Scarcity of funds was the reason why the road has not been black topped. Till now Rs. 126.75 lakhs has already been spent on the Bhaderwah-Chamba road. Experts have pointed to the importance of opening a new road.

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