NHAI to set off work soon as Modi lays foundation

Sanjeev Pargal

JAMMU, Nov 6: As Prime Minister Narendra Modi will tomorrow lay foundation stone of 4-laning of Udhampur-Ramban and Ramban-Banihal sections of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway 44, work on the two stretches, which has been approved by the Government of India at an estimated cost of Rs 4305.63 crores, will start immediately as the Prime Ministers’ Office (PMO) has set November 15 as deadline for start of the work.
Official sources told the Excelsior that the Prime Minister will reach Srinagar Airport (Technical) at 10.50 am tomorrow from New Delhi and will fly to Badami Bagh Cantonment, the Headquarters of Army’s 15 Corps in the helicopter.  Governor NN Vohra, Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, MoS in PMO Dr Jitendra Singh, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh and other senior Government representatives will receive Modi at the Airport.
From Badami Bagh Cantonment, Modi will travel by road to Sher-i-Kashmir cricket stadium, where he would address first-ever historic PDP-BJP joint rally at 11.30 am along with Mufti Sayeed and other senior leaders of the two parties, which had entered into an Alliance on March 1 to form the Government in which the BJP gained power in the State for the first time.
Modi was expected to announce mega development, re-construction and rehabilitation package for Jammu and Kashmir in the rally. He was also likely to make some announcements pertaining to Kashmir Policy of the Union Government.
On return from the rally venue, the Prime Minister will reach Badami Bagh Cantonment from where he will fly to Srinagar Airport and reach Udhampur Airport of the Indian Air Force (IAF). He will have lunch on board while flying from Srinagar to Udhampur.
From Udhampur, he will fly to Baglihar helipad and travel by road to Chanderkoot in Ramban district at 2.40 pm, where he will inaugurate 450 mw Baglihar Hydro-Electric Project, Stage-II and lay foundation stone of 4-laning of Udhampur-Ramban and Ramban-Banihal sections of Jammu-Srinagar National Highway No. 44.
After inauguration of the two projects from Baglihar, the Prime Minister will address the gathering at Chanderkoot. At 3.45 pm, he will return to Baglihar helipad, fly to Udhampur Airport of the IAF and depart for New Delhi at 4.35 pm.
Sources said both the grounds—Sher-i-Kashmir cricket stadium in Srinagar and Chanderkoot ground in Ramban will remain under tight security vigil of multiple security agencies including Special Protection Group (SPG), Jammu and Kashmir Police and para-military personnel.
Ahead of Modi’s Chanderkoot rally and inauguration of two projects, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh, BJP Incharge Jammu and Kashmir Avinash Rai Khanna and Rajya Sabha member Shamsher Singh reviewed arrangements for the rally this afternoon.
Official sources said the PMO has set November 15 as deadline for the NHAI to start work on 4-laning of Udhampur-Ramban and Ramban-Banihal stretches of the National Highway for which the Union Ministry for Road and Surface Transport had already approved Rs 4305.63 crores last month.
Sources said the 4-laning work on Ramban-Banihal section could now take three and half years for completion i.e. the earlier deadline for completion of work might go up from May 2016 to May 2019 while work on Udhampur-Ramban section was likely to be completed in three years i.e. by November 2018.
Last month, the Cabinet Committee on Economic affairs headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi had approved Rs 4305.63 crores as revised cost estimates for Udhampur to Ramban and Ramban to Banihal for work on 4-laning of the highway under National Highways Development Project (NHDP), Phase-II.
Revised amount of Rs 2136.97 crores was approved for Udhampur-Ramban section of National Highway-1A (now NH-44) and Rs 2168.66 crores were approved for Ramban-Banihal section.
The CCEA had given nod to Rs 4305.63 crores following approval given by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) for development of four laning of National Highways under NHDP Phase-II on Engineering Procurement Construction (EPC) Mode.
The CCEA had approved investment/award decision for the sub-project of four laning of Udhampur-Ramban section of the National Highway on EPC mode at revised estimate cost of Rs 2136.97 crores including cost of land acquisition, R&R, pre-construction activities and centage charges. Similarly, the CCEA approved investment award decision for the sub-project of four laning of Ramban-Banihal section at revised cost estimate of Rs 2168.66 crores.
The approximate length of Udhampur-Ramban section will be 40 kilometers while that of Ramban-Banihal section will be 32 kilometers.
The 4-laning of the highway will provide all weather connectivity from Jammu to Kashmir Valley. It will also reduce the journey from Jammu to Srinagar and strategic border areas in the State.
“Moreover, implementation of the project would result in development of basic infrastructure in the region, which would lead ultimately to overall economic development of Jammu and Kashmir,” sources said.
Sources said Ramban-Banihal section of the National Highway is the major cause of concern as it gets blocked even with light rains, which trigger landslides. Once blocked, it takes lot of time for the BRO to re-open the National Highway. Ahead of Udhampur, Khairi has become another troublesome zone, which was closed quite often following rains.
The NHAI has divided the National Highway into six stretches for construction purposes including Jammu-Udhampur, Udhampur-Chenani, Chenani Tunnel-Nashri, Ramban-Banihal, Banihal-Qazigund and Qazigund-Srinagar with a view to expedite work to ensure early completion of the Highway.
The distance of 300 kilometers long Jammu-Srinagar National Highway will be reduced by 60 kilometers after completion of all six stretches of the National Highway. The reduced distance will cut the travel time to just five hours.
Presently, if the National Highway is normal, the journey takes anytime between eight to 10 hours. However, due to frequent road blockades between Ramban and Banihal and other places including Khairi near Udhampur, the people were trapped frequently in the jams and even had to spend nights on the roads to reach their destinations.
The State Government had recently asked the Union Ministry for Surface Transport to stress on the maintenance agencies to keep the highway through during the rains as it remained closed sometime for hours and on other occasions for days together causing enormous inconvenience to the commuters.


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