HC directs repair of ‘ditches’ on highway

Srinagar: The J&K High Court has directed authorities to take immediate steps for repairing ‘ditches’ on Srinagar-Jammu highway to make the thoroughfare, the only surface link connecting Kashmir Valley with outside world, ‘motorable’.
Hearing a Public Interest Litigation, a division bench of Justices Muzaffar Hussain Attar and Ali Mohammad Magrey also directed the authorities particularly Chief Engineer R&B to repair the ditches from Srinagar to Qazigund in the first instance along with the strategic 300 kilometer highway.
“The authorities shall also ensure that traffic jams on this road does not take place,” the bench said and directed the authorities to take all necessary steps for ensuing smooth flow of the traffic on the artery.
The court also issued notice to state government through Chief Secretary, Director General and project manager National Authority of India, New Delhi, Director General Border Roads Organization, Director General of Police as well as Managing Director and project manager Ramky Infrastructure among other respondents. They have been asked to file their reply by April 13 to the PIL filed by civil society Tral through advocate G N Shaheen.
The civil society said the highway was previously manned by R& B Department but in view of its public importance, defense and strategic reason, it was handed over to Border Roads Organization for development and maintenance.
However, it said, the BRO was in-charge of the maintenance and development of the thoroughfare till 2007.
Later, it said, NHAI in consultation with the State government decided to construct a four lane modernized expressway connecting Srinagar with rest of India.
“From Banihal to Srinagar, the construction and development of the modernized four lane expressway has been allotted Ramky Infrastructure Limited.”
However, it said, neither BRO, nor the Ramky Infrastructure Limited or the R&B Department are making the repairs of the road for past more than 6 years.
“The entire road especially from Ramban to Srinagar is in dilapidated condition in total shambles with pits and ditches all along which condition cannot be explained in words,” the civil society said.
It also claimed that the road was not maintained by any of the agencies and even the State government or the government of India at large was not taking any step for the repairs.
“The continuous ignorance and non-maintenance for smooth traffic of vehicles is resulting in damage   to the vehicles, physical and mental pain to public at large besides loss of precious lives in traffic   accidents and frequent traffic jams.”
As per traffic record, it said, 200 vehicles are passing every five minutes on the highway.
The civil society has sought directions to for repairing the National Highway from Jammu to Srinagar especially from Banlhal to Srinagar and Srinagar to   Baramulla.
It also seeks directions to macadamize the existing old NH1A to make it fit for vehicular traffic to the     minimum international and national standards level to the convenience of general public at large.
The petitioners also seek directions to the government to constitute a team of experts to have physical spot inspection and conduct survey of NH1A and other link roads of Kashmir valley to assess the gravity of dilapidated condition of the roads and submit a detailed report with complete remedial suggestions in a time bound period.
It also seeks direction for fixing liability of maintenance of the existing HH1A from Jammu to Srinagar for the purposes of maintenance and development, on war footing basis.
Authorities including the police, it said, shall be directed to take action against the residents involved in directing the flow of sewage water on the roads throughout the whole state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The petitioner’s also seeks directions to engineer R&B Kashmir and Jammu, asking them to submit a detailed report of the strength of the road guards and coolies “born on the establishment of the respondent R&B Department and explain why such employees are paid from the state exchequer when they never work practically to maintain the roads and prevent the damage to the roads.’