Udhampur-Katra rail connectivity

The long wait is coming to a close. Hopefully by the third week of December, rail link between Udhampur and the holy town of Katra will be established, and with it, pilgrims to the shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi from any part of the country will reach the town by direct rail connectivity. Katra, the base town for ascent to the Trikuta Hills for the pilgrimage to the shrine is poised to develop into a very vibrating and prosperous town in days to come.
Rail connectivity of this 23-kilometer long distance could not meet earlier date lines. That had caused some disappointment to the people. But actually they could not imagine the stupendous task that lay before the Construction Division. Imagine the 23-kilometer long railway track has 11 kilometres of tunnelling, 9 major bridges, 29 minor bridges, 10 railway over/under bridges with tallest bridge 85 meters tall and longest tunnel is 3.15 kilometres. It is indeed a feat of engineering and the engineers, workers and labourers who worked on this track and brought it to completion deserve to be showered with praises.
The fact of the matter is that the entire rail connectivity project for the State of Jammu and Kashmir is a unique enterprise that demanded highest proficiency and expertise. Fortunately our engineers, geologists, builders and related services were available indigenously. Konkan Railway had provided good experience to the railway engineers of how to bring rail line to a mountainous region like Kashmir. The rail link to Kashmir valley is one of the biggest achievements of post-independent India. For millennia this hilly tract of Jammu as well as the valley of Kashmir remained isolated from the rest of the world owing to inaccessibility and other physical conditions. The people of the region remained steeped in abject poverty. They had no avenues to improve their lives. The railway line from Jammu to Srinagar is passing through desolate areas and mountains of forbidding environs. But as we know, human ingenuity is such that it can convert deserts into lush green fields. Constructing the rail line through the historical Pir Panchal ranges is bound to change everything in these remote and rather inhospitable areas of the State. It will infuse new blood in the economic veins of the State. It will usher in an era of prosperity and modernity. With the coming of railway there will follow education, healthcare, tourism, trade and other services? People will find variegated avenues for progress and development. It will contribute to the cohesion of the entire people and they will wriggle out of a debilitating syndrome of isolationism.
Udhampur-Katra track is likely to be formally opened by the third week of December. Authorities think that in next two weeks the remaining work could be completed and hopefully the Prime Minister would be able to flag off the first passenger train to Katra around 17th of December. The heartening information is that the State authorities are reported to be fully alive to the huge rush of pilgrims at the final destination in Katra. The Katra railway Station has been given the alphabetical code name of SMVK which stands for Shri Mata Vaishnodevi-Katra. Taking into account the huge number of pilgrims who would be visiting the holy shrine and landing at Katra railway station, authorities of Reasi district have moved swiftly to acquire about 500 kanals of land for building a modern bus stand away from the proximities of the railway station to avoid crowding of the station. But this is not enough. Latest figure of pilgrims known to us is around 1.10 crore during last year. It will go up with the opening of the new rail link. Therefore the Government, the Shrine Board and Railway authorities should join to discuss the future planning of the peripheral location of the railway station and plan for shops, eateries, rest houses, saris, roads, parks, parking slots, health centres/first aid facilities and transportation arrangements for millions of pilgrims. It is a huge task and the three entities shall have to sit down an address the requirements.
Inauguration of the new link should be an occasion of rejoicing for the entire population of Jammu region. It should also be an occasion of felicitating our celebrated engineers, technicians and workers for a historical achievement that is bound to change the frozen destiny of a large chunk of population living in these remote heights of Trikuta Hills and the Pir Panchal. The rail link to Katra is a happy signal of economic prosperity to the entire State. We congratulate the Central and the State Government for glory and success in a major nation- building enterprise-the rail link to Shri Mata Vaishnodevi Shrine.


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