When the wheels of the Indian Railways chugged on in the picturesque Kashmir valley for the first time in October 2008 many people missed their heart beats. The passengers travelling on board witnessed the breathtaking beauty of Kashmir and its landscape from a different angle.
The aim behind maintaining a railway network was to bring Kashmir valley closer to the rest of India.
As time passed by and dependence of Kashmiri people for their daily transport grew on the Indian Railways more trains were introduced to ferry students and govt employees between different stations.
At the peak of 2010 unrest in Kashmir valley railway property suffered huge damages yet the rail authorities decided to move further after carrying out repair works. Special security hutments were proposed to secure the rail network in militancy infested areas.
The aim behind maintaining a railway network was to bring Kashmir valley closer to the rest of India. A dedicated railway line connecting Kashmir valley would have given a definite edge to the security forces in the strategically crucial region. But the poor pace of work between Katra-Banihal section and frequent alignment changes, tussle between different project executing agencies is taking a heavy toll on the national project of strategic importance.
To meet the local needs especially during peak winter season special bogies were designed and ferried to the Kashmir valley to meet the growing rush of passengers. The train bogies were equipped with snow cutters to clear the railway tracks during snow season.
To promote local tourism large number of tourists were also lured to enjoy the ride on wheels and witness the countryside beauty of Kashmir Valley along the 137 km long rail route connecting Banihal and Baramulla.
…several attempts to torch the railway buildings were foiled by the alert security personnel.
But ever since Kashmir has been hit by an unending cycle of violence in the aftermath of killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on July 9 the wheels of one the largest rail networks have been jammed.
The railway property has been destroyed and several attempts to torch the railway buildings were foiled by the alert security personnel.
According to Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Northern Railways, Neeraj Sharma, the train service on 137-kilometer long rail line is suspended since July 9 after widespread protests and violence raged across Kashmir.
He said, “the angry protesters had even targeted rail installations at several places in South Kashmir – from where deadly violence originated – and to avoid any untoward incident the service was suspended”.
“On an average, we have Rs. 3 lakh ($5,000) earning daily. That means we have suffered nearly Rs. 2.7 crores ($405,000) in the last three months,” the PRO said. The losses caused due to damage of railway property is yet to be ascertained.
According to rough estimates the Railways has been spending nearly Rs. 80 crores ($12 million) annually on operations and maintenance of 137-km rail network.
The annual Railway earning in Kashmir valley is nearly Rs 10 crores ($1.5 million), which leads to a loss of Rs. 70 ($10.5 million) crores per year.
To ensure safety of rail property a large deployment of J&K police, Railway Protection Force (RPF), Government Railway Police (GRP), paramilitary forces and Indian Army personnel is made at railway stations and other prominent establishments but till date the state govt and railway authorities have failed to motivate the railway staff to report on duty and throw open the railway tracks for routine traffic.
1. The conversion rate used in this article is 1 USD = 66.65 Rupees.