Patnitop Ropeway Project

More than twice in recent past have we reflected on the sad and disgusting story of the Patnitop Ropeway Project.
The project was announced way back in 2004 by the then Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Saeed. One full decade has gone by and the project is yet to take off. Its delay has not been caused by financial stringency. That stage never came. For ten long years the project remained entangled in the official labyrinth where every functionary who had small or big role in processing the case, thought that ultimate decision rested with him and he had the final word. Very few cases have such complicated history. Actually, no department and no minister took it seriously and thus the project was left to be nobody’s child.
This unconcerned and irresponsible attitude on the part of Government functionaries naturally makes people of Jammu region bitter against the Government so much so that they often attributed it to discriminatory treatment towards Jammu region. Whether actually there is discrimination or not on this count is not what interests us but the fact is that inordinate delay dampens the spirit of the people who expect development as well as employment for the youth especially the rural youth for whom employment opportunities are very limited.  We agree that various formalities need to be fulfilled and various hurdles overcome before a project of this type comes into effect. But if projects take ten years to obtain official clearance, do these serve the purpose anymore? Are we in this country made to wait endlessly for decade after decade and still be nowhere close to the completion of the project? It speaks sadly about the State of development. The State can never reach any of its destined objectives if this is the way in which projects are to be carried forward.
All mandatory clearances particularly from the State Wildlife Board, National Wildlife Board, Expert Appraisal Committee of the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and Empowered Committee of the Supreme Court have already been obtained for the project after sustained efforts of one full decade. However, the case has now got stuck up at the level of  the  State Forest Advisory Committee. The Committee was also provided with clearance reports from various agencies but it has not held its meeting for last three months. It is reported that the Committee has made the Kashmir floods the reason for not meeting so far and not issuing clearance.
But before grappling with the Forest Advisory Committee another issue has cropped up which will not only delay the beginning of the project but is likely to cast its shadow on actual commencement. The State Government has assigned the construction of the ropeway to Hyderabad based company-Nagarjuna Construction Company Ltd.  Though given the assignment of undertaking the construction of the project, the company has shown reluctance to mobilize its men and machinery required for start of work on the ropeway for want of clearance from the Forest Advisory Committee. It had categorically said that it would move in machines and men only when clearance was provided by the Patnitop Development Authority, which in turn has to obtain clearance from other departments and agencies. The firm asserts that there has been cost hype owing to long delay in obtaining final permission. It has to be noted that Hyderabad based company-Nagarjuna Construction Company Ltd is said to have worked out the escalated cost to 20 crore rupees while the original estimate was about rupees 55 crore rupees. This case needs to be studied by senior bureaucrats to find out what is wrong with our planning and execution part. After all, responsibility has to be fixed somehow and someone who is supposed to have pursued the matter vigorously at all processing stages has to be made answerable.

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