Lack of funds leaves Pulwama bridges in lurch

Residents cross Jhelum in a boat in the absence of bridge in Pulwama. —Excelsior/Younis Khaliq
Residents cross Jhelum in a boat in the absence of bridge in Pulwama. —Excelsior/Younis Khaliq

Suhail Bhat
SRINAGAR, June 26: Over a decade has elapsed since the construction work of two vital bridges in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district began, but the work continued to drag on bringing misery for the residents of the area.
The bridges are being constructed nearly 15 kilometers away from the Pulwama Town at Dogripora and Reshipora areas of the district. Once complete, the bridges would connect nearly 30 villages of the district including Naina, Panzgam, Reshipora, Chandigam, and Hari with the National Highway -44.
The delay in the completion of work is forcing people to take long detour to reach the highway.”We have to either travel to Awantipora or board overcrowded fishing boats to cross the river to reach the highway,” Mohammad Lateef, a resident of Dogripora said, adding for last one decade people were awaiting completion of the bridge.
Announced a decade ago, the bridges are nowhere in sight with officials blaming scarcity of funds for the delay. Only two pillars have been completed on each bridge and expected the date of completion was unknown.
To worsen things for the locals, the Jammu and Kashmir Projects Construction Corporation (JKPCC), the executing agency of the project, recently suspended all the work citing nonpayment of funds. “Work was suspended due to lack of funds six months ago,” an official said.
Initially, the bridges were taken up under the State sector but funds fell short, prompting the authorities to transfer the projects to other schemes. The bridges were first transferred to CRF, then to National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD), but failed to get funds. However, the frequent changes in schemes badly dented the projects.
Now, the authorities are pursuing the government to put the bridges under languishing projects schemes. “The authorities even tried to divert the funds of Rishipora bridge to Dogripora but nothing happened,” an official said.
The bridges are presently under execution at an estimated cost of Rs 14.39 crore and Rs 10.94 crore against which, Rs 2.69 crore and Rs 1.66 crore respectively have been expended on the construction of these bridges up to last financial year.
Deputy General Manager (DGM) Pulwama, JKPCC, Masood Gangoo said the Government has decided to execute the project under the languishing project scheme but alleged authorities for lengthy paperwork. “For last 6-months we were stuck in the paperwork leading to disruption of work. The construction work will resume once the funds are released,” he said.