Business and trade in Kashmir, Ladakh provinces and a few districts of Jammu province remain affected due to the unreliable supply chain of the Srinagar-Jammu highway. As a consequence, retail inflation has an upward trend.
The existing industrial businesses and new start-ups are experiencing severe challenges in raw material transportation and finished products export. There are job losses as well given that the private sector continues to struggle for viability and profitability. The expansion work on the Srinagar-Jammu highway and the restrictions imposed on the movement of vehicles are not helping.
The work progress on the four-laning of the Srinagar-Jammu national highway remains dismal – resulting in a travel and transportation nightmare for about 10 million people of the state. This situation has impeded the movement of people and goods in the state, especially for the Kashmir and Ladakh provinces.
This situation has also dented Kashmir’s economy beyond measure. While the project was divided into six sub-projects, which include widening of Srinagar- Qazigund road (67.7 kms), Qazigund-Banihal road (15.25 kms), Banihal-Ramban road (36 kms), Ramban-Udhampur road (43 kms), construction of Chenani-Nashri tunnel (12 kms) and widening of Jammu-Udhampur road (65 kms), it is inconceivable that the initial deadline of 2016 for the completion of this project has been missed by a large margin.
The performance of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) in the development and maintenance of this crucial road has been questionable. The prospects of reliably connecting the Kashmir and Ladakh provinces with the rest of the country in a foreseeable future look bleak even today. J&K government’s track record in monitoring and evaluating the construction and maintenance work on this road has been no good either.
While the Jammu-Udhampur section of the highway was developed within a decent span of time, it is inconceivable how the main sections of the road that needed improvements remain in a shambles. The work on the new Srinagar-Banihal section – the gateway to Kashmir – remains deeply tardy, even disrupting traffic on the existing road.
The delayed approval for four laning of Ramban-Banihal and Udhampur-Ramban sections has impeded the prospects of integrated and timely development of this road. What is also a matter of deep concern is the performance of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) Project Beacon in the maintenance of the existing road.
It is time for the concerned agencies to take up a comprehensive review of this project and ensure there are adequate funds available for this project and that the entities responsible for this project are held accountable for the work they do.