Billawar-Taggar-Bani Road still distant dream, 10-km middle patch left out

Distance between Bani-Jammu will be reduced by 53 kms

No efforts to exploit massive tourism potential

Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, Aug 13: Even after about three decades of work, the road connectivity between the most remote area of Bani with Billawar via Taggar, Duggan and Katli is still a distant dream for the population of over 60,000 souls from four most remote blocks of district Kathua, as a patch of nearly 10 kms dense forest between two ends from Billawar and Bani side, has been left out by the agencies working on this strategic road project.
If this strategic road is connected with Billawar Sub Division from Bani side, it will provide a direct link to the Dhar Road leading to Northern Command headquarters at Udhampur from Pathankote side and another from Basohli-Bani-Bhaderwah-Doda Defence road side. Not only this, the new road link between Bani and Jammu winter capital via Billawar would reduce nearly 53 kms distanace as compared to Basohli-Mahanpur route.
Official sources told the Excelsior that while the work from Billawar-Katli side started more than three decades ago, from Bani to Duggan- Taggar road it was launched during 1997-98 that too, in piece meals. The first six kms patch was taken up from Bani side by R&B but a very slow pace of work was witnessed on this patch. Over 12 years were spent by the agency to complete work on this small patch. Even ahead of that PMGSY agency’s work remained very slow during past two decades. Now, for the last few years the work has gained some momentum. The locals feel that due to poor representation, this remotest area of Kathua district, always remained most neglected in every respect.
Giving details, the sources said if this road is connected, it would open gates to the most beautiful and unexposed area like Chew, Deri Galla, Khundar in Katli and Taggar belt, having vast tourism potential. These areas are even more beautiful than Sarthal. There are large meadows with thick Deodhar forests in the surrounding besides nallas of icy cold water. A good road is vital for the tourism promotion and raising economy of that area. And if this connectivity is ensured within next 3-4 year, it would bring economic development and prosperity in remote Lohai- Malhar, Duggain, Duggan and Bani blocks of district Kathua, the sources added.
Ex-MLA Bani, Jivan Lal said this road is most vital as per defence point of view as well. He said a proposal in this regard has been submitted by him to the Government of India through Dr Jitender Singh (concerned MP). He said a new road project under CRF has been submitted for connecting the remaining portion of this road but still about seven kms road patch is left out. The matter has been projectd by him and former MLA Billawar as well. He said there is great tourism potential in Taggar and Chew areas like Sarthal on Bani-Bhaderwah road. The Government must speed up road work so that this unexplorted area is exploited for the promotion of tourism industry.
Former MLA Billawar Dr Manohar Lal Sharma said during his two tenures as MLA, he got a portion of this road sanctioned under PMGSY. He said from Billawar to Katli, this nearly 19 kms road is morotable. Ahead of that, the road is fair weather but a project under CRF has been sanctioned up to Deri Galla. He said Chew is most beautiful tourist resort with thick Deodhar forests all around. And if this road is connected with Bani, the people of Billawar will have direct acess to Bani area. Moreover, some areas of Bani constituency like Lohai Malhas and Mechhedi is though closer to Billawar but fall in Bani constituency and has no direct road access. The only road lik is via Basohli and Mahanpur which is about 150 kms away while through Taggar and Tuggan, it will be harldy 65-70 kms. He regretted very slow pace of work on this road project and appealed to the J&K UT Administration to review progress of work on this road on quarterly basis, Ex-MLA maintained.
Executive Engineer, PMGSY Billawar, JP Saraf said that from Billawar to Katli nearly 19 kms road has been completed with black topping. He said for black topping and some upgrdation work Rs 14.88 core was spent in two phases and the work was complected in June 2019. From Katli onward, the road is lying with R&B but the work is in progress on that portion up to Deri Galla. He said from Bani side also most of the road length is with PMGSY up to Taggar (26 kms) and Tamaan (31 kms), but in between nearly 10 kms area has been left out as there is no habitation. And the work will be taken up under some other sector like CRF. He said nearly 6 kms road up to Chalog is Pucca from Bani side and rest of the road is still `Kucha’ but it is metelled and motorable. The Duggan block headquarters which is nearly 16 kms from Bani is already connected but vehicle ply up to Tamaan which is about 5 kms from Taggar.
Saraf further said that while 6 kms road on Bani side is under PWD, whereas the road length of 25 kms and 400 mt from Chalog to Tamaan was under PMGSY. In two phases nearly Rs 23.50 crore money has been spent on this road. While in Stage-I an amount of Rs 5.45 crore and Rs 12.05 crore in two parts was spent while in Stage -2 the project cost is Rs 540.19 lakhs, XEn added.
Executive Engineer, R&B Division Basohli, Rajesh Sumbria said that from Billawar side, the road up to Katli is under PMGSY wing of the R&B. It is `Pucca’ and they will maintain it as per the contract agreement. He said from Katli onwards, 13 kms road project with the cost of Rs 8.45 crore was sanctioned during 2006-7 under CRF and the cutting work has been completed. This road is fair weather but motorable. Next 6 kms road project up to Deri Gala has been sanctioned under CRF with the cost of Rs 15 crores recently and the work has been started. On nearly 2 kms of patch, cutting work has been completed. Now about 7 kms patch between Taman and Deri Galla has been practically left out but a project worth Rs 25 crore has been sent to the Government for sanction. Over all 10 kms road length is still needed to be connected between both sides to make it mortable, the Executive Engineer maintained.
Sumbria said if Government sanctions project this year and forest clearance is accorded in time, Bani-Billawar can be connected within next three years. He claimed that road work has been expedited now and it is popular demand of the people from Bani, Duggan and Billawar area to provide this vital road link as early as possible as it will be shortest route for Billwar and Jammu and have direct acess for the people from Machhedi and Lohai- Malhar area to Bani constituency, which is otherwise far away from this belt.