A 100 years after it was first conceived, the dream has finally been realised.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inaugurated the country’s longest rail tunnel (11.2 km) on Wednesday that will provide a key link between the Kashmir Valley and Jammu.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was present at the event.
The 17.7 kilometer rail link from Banihal in Jammu to Quazigund (Kashmir) cost Rs. 1,672 crore and is part of the UPA’s flagship Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramullah Rail Link (USBRL) project that will eventually link Kashmir to the rest of India.
“The UPA’s agenda is to connect Kashmir with the rest of the country through rail links. The start of train services between the two regions is an outcome of stupendous effort. It is an engineering marvel and fulfills the dream envisioned by the late Maharaja Pratap Singh in 1898,” the Prime Minister said at a high-profile function to mark the event.
A 100 children rode with the PM and Sonia Gandhi on the inaugural run of the track.
The prime minister pointed out that the Centre had released Rs. 7214 crore since 2004 for 67 developmental works announced for the state. “Thirty-four of these projects have been completed and other schemes are also making good progress,” he added.
The event saw a huge political turnout with new Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge and senior Congress leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad and Ambika Soni present at the event.
Those on the podium included state chief minister Omar Abdullah and governor NN Vohra.
Later, addressing a hugely attended rally at Banihal, the UPA chairperson made a conciliatory gesture towards hardliners, while referring to Monday’s daring attack by militants in the heart of Srinagar.
“Occasionally, some incidents happen that pain us. We do understand that there are genuine concerns, but feel that issues can be resolved in a democratic manner through negotiation and dialogue.”
“The huge voter turnout in the last Panchayat elections showed that people are fed up with violence and want peace and development,” she added.