Shopian: It is bizarre but true: authorities in Shopian have developed and black-topped more than 200 kilometers of link roads in Zainpora area in the last three years, but not the main Shopian-Bijbahara Road to which the link roads join.
The latter is in a deplorable condition since 2017, with people in more than a hundred villages in the area facing difficulties because of it.
According to official data, what went wrong with the project was that the road was being developed under Central Road Funds (CRF), from which Rs 48 crore were sanctioned for 12 kilometers. But what the local authorities did was to start work on 25 kilometers. Once the issue reached the CRF, they stopped the funds for violating the guidelines.
Since 2017, which is five years now, the locals in the area are facing tough times due to the bad condition of the road. Locals said that the road was first bulldozed for installing pipes, building bridges, and road widening, which made the road worse for vehicular movement, and then it was left abandoned by the authorities.
Shakeel Ahmad Bhat, a local from Imam Sahib area, said that this year, dozens of union ministers visited Kashmir, including Shopian, where they inaugurated schools, hospitals and Panchayat Ghars, but they did nothing for this road which is vital to inter-district movement and highway connectivity.
“It seems like intentional punishment to the people of the area, who have least access to bureaucrats and the (lieutenant) governor’s administration,” Bhat said.
Villagers in the area said that it takes them twice the time to reach Shopian, Anantnag and Kulgam, and vice versa, due to the deplorable condition of this road. “It costs us more on oil and vehicle maintenance also,” complained Bilal Ahmad, a cab driver.
Farooq Ahmad, Executive Engineer at the Roads and Buildings department in Shopian, told Kashmir Reader that though the issue is resolved now, the central agency has still not released the pending dues. “So far, about Rs 10 crore has been released and still we have liability of about Rs 7 crore with the contracting agencies,” he said.
When asked what is the point of developing link roads when the main road is in worse condition, he said that they are not authorised to divert funds from one scheme to another.
“The decision of taking up 25 kilometers instead of 12 was in public interest, to develop the entire road with the same amount, but certain things had to be cut from the original project,” he said.
Ahmad said that they will not stop the work even if funds are not released soon. “We have taken the contractors into confidence and restarted work on the 12 kilometers which has remained languishing,” he said.