Thathri-Kilotran-Soti road in Bhallessa incomplete even after 50 years

Self speaking condition of Thathri-Kilotran road in Doda district. -Excelsior/ Rafi Choudhary

*Contract allotted in Oct 2016, blacktopping work yet to start
Gopal Sharma
JAMMU, July 10: Exposing tall claims of use of modern machinery and advanced technology in construction of roads, bridges and highways by the Government, nearly 40 kms road from Thathri to Kilotran in Bhallessa Sub Division of district Doda is still incomplete even after 50 years of work.
A population of over 97,000 souls of Bhallessa Sub Division is suffering badly due to the very slow pace of road development works initiated by the R&B and poor monitoring by the senior officers in the department and the District Administration, Doda. While locals alleged that this road has become victim of the political rivalry, the others claimed that this area has turned a `gold- mine’ for many engineers of the R&B. Bills worth lakhs are drawn on account of maintenance works and lifting of landslides/ debris and allied works, while on ground there is hardly any change.
Official sources said that the road was sanctioned by the then Prime Minister of J&K Bakshi Ghulam Mohd during 1962 but the work actually started during 1967-68. This road remained fuctional up to Kahra which is 12 kms from Thathri for long. But up to Gandoh town, it was made motorable (fair weather) during 1975. But the condition of this road remained in very bad condition and could not be blacktopped for over two decades due to alleged paucity of funds.
Then with the initiative of Ghulam Nabi Azad during 2006, project worth Rs 43.45 crore under CRF was sanctioned for the upgradation and blacktopping of this road from Thathri to Kilotran, about 6 kms ahead of Gandoh and from there Soti, the native village of Azad, which is just 4 kms ahead. Even after the utilization of this amount, the road could not be completed as happened on earlier two occasions, the sources added.
Interestingly, for the remaining pre-mixing/blacktopping of 12 kms stretch, the then R&B Special Sub Division Gandoh allotted work to an Udhampur based contractor during October 2016. The contract worth over Rs 2 crore was allotted to him by the Executive Engineer SSD Bhalessa, but surprisingly, till today the work on the road could not be started.
It is amazing to observe that neither Executive Engineer SSD Bhalessa cancelled the contract and re-allotted to another party, nor he could manage to rope in the same contractor to start the work or initiate legal proceedings against him. With the worst condition of the road, the peope of the area are the worst sufferers. But who cares about the public plight.
Chief Engineer R&B Jammu, DR Bhagat when asked about the reason behind very slow pace of work and delay in taking action against the contractor, said, he was not aware of the matter. Bhagat said he would direct the SE Doda Hem Raj Langeh to conduct probe into the matter and submit report. He, however, regretted that if the conract was allotted during Oct 2016, the concerned Xen should have taken serious note of it.
However, Executive Engineer, Special Sub Division Bhalessa, M K Vikram when contacted and asked why action against the contractor was not taken despite the fact that work was allotted to him during 2016, said, he has written to the higher authorities in the R&B for initiating action in this regard. Now, it is up to them to take decision in this regard. Absolving himself of the issue, the Xen said though work was allotted to the Udhampur based contractor but it has been learnt that he was not willing to take the work in hand.
When asked how much funds were spent on the maintenance of Thathri-Kilotran Road from 2015 onwards till date, the Xen refused to share the figures and said he will provide the same after couple of days as he was out of station. The sources however, revealed that funds worth crores have been utilized on the maintenance of this road. One of the officials at SSD said for just 12 kms stretch Rs 20 lakhs were spent during last year. From this, one can imagine how much money is being siphoned off on account of maintenance purpose of this 40 kms road stretch every year.
Tara Singh Kotwal, a noted social activist from Bhalessa area said that the then Prime Minister of J&K, Bakshi Ghulam Mohd had come to Bhaderwah during 1962. Then a deputation from Bhallessa area led by Ghulam Rasool Azad (Uncle of Ghulam Nabi Azad) met Bakshi Ghulam Mohd at Dak Bungalow Bhaderwah. He was also part of that deputation wherein only two demands of Bhallesaa area were projected there. First, construction of road from Thathri to Kilotran and upgradation of Govt Middle School Kilotran to High School level. And both the demands were accepted. The then PM sanctioned road but the work was started after nearly five years of its sanction. Kotwal said in December 1974 first vehicle/ truck loaded with CAPD foodgrains reached Gandoh town and he was the first passenger travelling in this truck. He said the Sikh driver of the said truck was accorded warm welcome at Gandoh and garlanded by Tehsildar and SHO. He was given Rs 200 as reward by the Tehsildar.
He pointed out that for giving momentum to the road works in the most backward Bhalessa area of earstwhile Doda district, the then J&K Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad had created Special Sub Division Gandoh by appointing an Executive Engineer head of SSD during 2006-07, but even after that no much progress on the road works was observed in this Sub Division. Earlier, this R&B Sub Division was under Kishtwar Division of the R&B. He said the road has also become victim to the political rivalry. Moreover, there is no proper supervision by the senior officers and District Administration. There is lack of control on the officials of this SSD and no accountability has been fixed on the officials for delays and wrong doings. Unfortunately, even after 51 years, this road is still in bad condition and could not be black-topped despite the fact that huge amount has been `shown exhausted’ on it, Kotwal regretted.