Srinagar: Finally the government seems to be waking up to the ugly and alarming construction on both sides of the Jammu-Kashmir highway. In its latest order, the government has issued strict instructions to the administration of all districts to not allow constructions on agricultural land on either side of the highway.
A circular issued to all Deputy Commissioners says that large-scale construction is taking place on either side of the “National Highway in contravention
to Ribbon Development and Act and Land Revenue Act. Such constructions dilute the purpose of the National Highway and the present situation is quite alarming and needs immediate action by the deputy commissioners, so as to save the agricultural land from being converted into commercial/ residential utility, and also the cause and purpose of the national highway.”
“In order to stop this practice, it is enjoined upon the deputy commissioners to not allow constructions on either side of the highway,” the circular states.
With the widening of the Srinagar-Jammu highway, unregulated construction has popped up all along the road from Qazigund to Baramaulla.
People have been turning their agricultural land over to concrete commercial buildings, shops and shopping complexes. In the saffron town of Pampore, residents have even encroached upon the land used for saffron cultivation by erecting make-shift shops on both sides of the highway which cuts through the fields.
Salim Beigh, head of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Kashmir, called it quite bizarre that the government was issuing a circular in this regard. “There is a law which stops unregulated construction along the national highway,” Beigh said. “Why has the government not stopped the construction? This is the first question to be asked.”
He said that as per law, there are spaces demarcated on both sides of the highway where buildings or commercial places cannot be constructed.
“The ides of the highway is to let traffic run smoothly,” Beigh said. “But that idea is violated in case of Kashmir.”
Beigh said that the civic government had collapsed in Kashmir. “That is why construction is mushrooming along highways and roads. People do whatever they want to, without legal procedures. The government does not act. It simply allows it,” he said.
“When you do not have the will to work, things will turn chaotic. The ugly buildings and complexes along the highway is clear example of what is happening in Kashmir,” he added.