Separatist bastion and militant springboard, Sopore, in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district, on Thursday saw itself on the development map after facing the brunt of violence for more than two decades.
Chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh visited Sopore town, 55 km north of Srinagar, on Thursday and promised to revive its prosperity.
The two leaders also took stock of the construction of a bypass bridge, which has missed several deadlines in the past, to decongest traffic in the town. The bridge, which is incomplete for more than two decades, is likely to be thrown open in the first week of August.
The chief minister described horticulture as the bedrock of Sopore —also known as Apple Town. “The export-oriented industry sustained the Valley’s economy when it fell on hard times,” said Sayeed, while announcing up-gradation of Sopore Fruit Market on modern lines.
Home to worst road network, `4 crore has been earmarked to improve roads within the fruit mandi premises and on its periphery to facilitate smooth movement of fruit-laden trucks in and out of the mandi.
“Sopore town will be revived to the days when people used to call it as Chhota London,” said Sayeed.
The facilities promised to boost fruit export by the chief minister included cold stores, packaging and grading line, soil and pesticide testing labs, online trading and dedicated transport terminals.
“We have already announced market intervention scheme for Sopore and Shopian towns for quality control,” he said.
Under-construction sub-district hospital (SDH) in Sopore will also be upgraded as a model hospital with modern equipment and additional manpower.
Instructions were also issued for the beautification of the Jhelum embankments around Sopore to improve the town’s ambience.
The deputy chief minister also sanctioned `1 crore for the improvement of lanes and drains in Sopore town. “Streetlights in the town will be made functional very shortly,” he said.
The visit of the two leaders came in the backdrop of violence that Sopore witnessed in May and June, where six people were killed by unidentified gunmen.
Lashkar-Toiba and Hizbul Mujahideen, however, continue to have bases in Sopore, where pro-Syed Ali Geelani, Hurriyat chairman, sentiment runs deep because of the Jamaat-e-Islami cadre.
It remains to be seen how this unrolling of development projects plays on the political scene of Sopore, where people continue to boycott polls for more than two decades.