Tall claims made by political leadership as well as some top bureaucrats and concerned functionaries that the stage is set for the 4-lanning of Jammu-Akhnoor section of the National Highway No. 144A are nothing more than rhetoric and the usual claptrap to which the people are now used. Even the preliminaries of this project are nowhere in sight. This is despite the sensitivity of this road and the huge traffic jams and snarls with which hundreds of thousands of commuters have to negotiate day in and day out. National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL), a fully owned company of Government of India is the agency supposed to undertake the 4-lanning project has not started ground work. A number of activities have to be initiated which would indicate that the project is afloat. The most important activity is that of acquiring the land needed for 4-lanning. This is always a time consuming part of the project and has to be taken up as early as possible. No activity by the name of acquisition of land has been undertaken so far.
We learn that the desired land is owned by Irrigation and Forest Departments and by private land owners. Out of the total land required more than 85 per cent belongs to the Irrigation and Flood and the Forest Departments and the remaining to the private landowners. Acquisition of land from the Government departments does not pose serious problems but the acquisition of private lands is an uphill task because invariably it gets the Government involved in litigation. That is the reason for a long delayed process of land acquisition task. However, not to speak of acquiring the land even the matter has not been broached with the departments. Clearance from the Forest Advisory Committee has not been obtained so far and the cost estimates have not been firmed at all. We cannot even say that the project is in embryonic stage. It is further understood that large scale utilities have to be removed once the land is acquired and that too is a lengthy process. The general impression with observers is that the concerned Government departments are soft paddling on the project. Moreover, the cost of the project has not been firmed up so far mainly because the State Government departments have been soft-paddling on submission of estimates for shifting of their respective utilities, which are required to be incorporated in the Detailed Project Report (DPR).
Jammu-Akhnoor road is a very important strategic road in fact the life line for the western part of Jammu province. This is the main link with our border line and as such it has great strategic importance. There is heavy traffic of defence vehicles on this road also. The very important Ranbir Canal also passes through this strategic area. Keeping all these facts in mind, we see that the 4-lanning of this road is of vital importance. While we exhort the Government to expedite the building of 4-lanned road of the Jammu-Akhnoor, we would suggest the State Government to approach the Centre with the request of re-considering the rail link between Jammu and Poonch without further loss of time.