Residents of the Kashmir Valley may be cheering the train services being planned for the region, but there are already concerns about inadequate security along the route.
The train winding through the Valley completed a trial run between Budgam and Anantnag on June 4, covering a distance of 55 km in half an hour. Railway officials on the train were, however, troubled by the absence of protection; there are no security personnel guarding the tracks, and not a single police station or post along the track or at railway stations. The only security is in the form of CRPF personnel assigned to protect contractors executing the railway line work.
The train will pass through some of the most vulnerable areas in the Valley, such as Budgam, Pulwama, Srinagar and Anantnag districts, to which militants have clear and easy access in the absence of security.
As a matter of procedure, the state government is meant to send a proposal to the Centre for all security requirements.
According to sources, the railways had asked the state to do so more than six months ago, but no proposal has been sent till now. "The state cabinet has to make a formal recommendation to the Union Home Ministry for all security provisions. Nothing has been done," they said.
Rail work in Kashmir has always been dogged by hurdles. The ambitious project linking the Valley to the rest of the country is only 50 per cent complete, though its deadline was August 15, 2007. It took 22 years to build the 52-km railway line from Jammu to Udhampur.
As a result of these hur dles, dream run may turn into a nightmare.