Court orders R&B to make Valley roads ‘motorable’

Srinagar: The J&K high court has asked the Roads and Building department to make roads in the Valley motorable and granted the government of India a week to explain what it has done to ensure smooth traffic on the Srinagar-Jammu highway, which is Kashmir’s only road link to the world.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Civil Society Tral through its counsel GN Shaheen, which had com plained that the highway was in a pathetic state and had not been repaired for the past six years.
A division bench headed by Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar passed the direction after assistant solicitor general of India SA Makroo sought a week’s time to inform the government about the steps the GoI has taken to make the damaged stretch of the highway, at least up to Qazigund, motorable.
He submitted that steps will be taken on ‘war-footing’ to restore the road to a condition which will enable the commuters to have smooth and hassle free travel on it.
Last week, the court directed authorities to take immediate steps for repairing ‘ditches’ on highway as well as ensure that traffic jams do not take place on the arterial road.
It had 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.
However, Additional Advocate General informed the bench that while Chief Engineer R&B Department was entrusted with the job of making patch work on the road, his job has now been withdrawn.
The court had 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 to file reply to the PIL.
 The society said the highway was previously manned by R& B Department but in view of its public and strategic importance,  it was handed over to BRO for development and maintenance.
However, the petitioner 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 to Ramky Infrastructure Limited.”
However, it said, neither BRO, nor the Ramky Infrastructure Limited or the R&B Department had  repaired  the road for past more than 6 years.
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 pass every five minutes on the highway.
The civil society has sought directions 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.