PM has asked Central Ministers to directly interact with people, address issues: Vaishnaw

Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on his arrival to Katra in a train on Monday. — Excelsior/Romesh Mengi
Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw on his arrival to Katra in a train on Monday. — Excelsior/Romesh Mengi

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Sanjeev Pargal
JAMMU, Sept 13: Railways Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said today that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has deputed Central Minister to Jammu and Kashmir as part of Public Outreach-II with clear directions to interact with people, listen to their issues and address them. He announced that work on linking Kashmir with train, which is dream of the nation, has been expedited and will be completed before 2024.

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He was speaking to reporters and addressing the people at Katra and Reasi during his visit to the district as part of Public Outreach-II by the Union Ministers.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given clear directions to the Ministers that they should go among the people, listen to their issues, assess their work requirements and address them,” Vaishnaw, who was on his first visit to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir after taking charge of the Railways Ministry from Piyush Goyal, said.
The Central Government proposed to depute around 70 Union Ministers to Jammu and Kashmir as part of Public Outreach-II during which they will visit different parts of the Union Territory, interact with people, identify their issues and get them addressed. They will also submit their reports to the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). First Public Outreach was conducted in January 2020 by 36 Ministers.
To a question whether visit of the Ministers was part of poll preparedness by the BJP, Vaishnaw said their only motive is to help the people.
“We joined politics for ‘sewa’ (helping people). Whether it’s Public Outreach, Back To Village and anything else, the idea is to directly reach out to the people, listen to their problems and solve them,” he added.
He said they are not in the power to enjoy red lights and services of PSOs but to bring smiles on the face of people, bring changes and improve their lives.
Strongly appreciating efforts of Union Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Dr Jitendra Singh, who is second-time Lok Sabha member from Udhampur-Doda constituency, Vaishnaw said he (Dr Jitendra Singh) spares no efforts for welfare of the people of his constituency.
“Dr Jitendra Singh keeps asking for new trains, improvement in facilities at Katra and other Railway Stations, running of more DMU trains besides introduction of Shatabadi, Pink City trains etc. We will shortly discuss these issues,” he said.
Reciprocating the gesture of the Railways Minister, Dr Jitendra Singh tweeted: “Thank you very much Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw Ji. Your generous support to the promotion of Railways in Jammu and Kashmir and for your kind words of encouragement during your visit to Reasi”.
“It is the dream of the nation to see the rail connectivity between Kashmir and the rest of the country. Work on the prestigious project was going on at a fast pace and would be completed soon,” the Railways Minister said but didn’t give any deadline for completion of the project.
He laid the foundation for the construction of two new railway platforms and additional facilities at Katra Railway Station, which serves as base camp for holy cave shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji.
“Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a very big vision for the railways — all the Railway Stations across the country are neat and clean, people get better facilities and the train chugs on time,” he said.
Asked about the timeframe for completion of the Jammu-Baramulla rail link, Vaishnaw said this is the dream of the nation and the work on this project is going on at a fast pace for its completion.
“The work on various bridges and other linking area was going on at a fast pace so that the rail will start plying on the (Jammu-Baramulla) track soon,” he said, adding that he “will return in one-and-a-half months’ time to review the progress on the work”.
The work on the Rs 21,653 crore Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link (USBRL) project, which is the most challenging railway infrastructure project being undertaken post-independence, was started in 1997 and has missed several deadlines amid huge cost escalations.
Out of the total 272 km USBRL project, the 161 km was commissioned in phases with the first phase of the 118-km Qazigund-Baramulla section commissioned in October 2009, followed by 18-km Banihal-Qazigund in June 2013 and 25-km Udhampur-Katra in July 2014. The under-construction 111-km Katra-Banihal section has 37 bridges (26 major and 11 minor), 35 tunnels with a length of 164 km (main 27 with 97.64 km and eight escape tunnels with 66.40 km), a railway official said.
This project is the longest railway tunnel having an overall length of 12.75 km, the highest railway bridge in the world which is higher than the iconic Eiffel tower of Paris. It is the first cable-stayed bridge which when completed, according to railway officials, would be an engineering marvel of the 21st century.
The Union Minister said the Government was working to provide world-class facilities to the commuters travelling by trains and appealed to people to consider the railway properties as their own.
“The railway is a national asset and my appeal to the people was to safeguard the railway property as their own and also not indulge in disruption of rail traffic. It is our property and this is our railway,” he said.
DC Reasi Charandeep Singh and SSP Reasi Shailendra Singh accompanied the Minister during his visit.
Meanwhile, Vaishnaw visited Jammu Railway Station and a Community Service Centre, CSC, in Janipur and took stock of the facilities being provided to the public.
Regarding Jammu-Poonch railway link, the minister assured that work on the same has been expedited and would be completed after addressing viability issues of the area.
Earlier, the Minister also inspected Jammu Railway Station and studied the upgradation plan for Jammu and Kathua railway stations. He assured that appropriate steps would be taken to facilitate pilgrims and tourists reaching Jammu and beyond through railways.