Even though locals and pilgrims to Katra welcomed the announcement made by railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge while presenting interim railway budget on Wednesday that rail connectivity to Katra, the base camp of Vaishno Devi shrine, is complete and passenger services will start soon, they see it just as a glimmer of hope as the project has already missed several deadlines in the past.
Reacting to the rail budget, Manohar Lal, a Katra resident, said lakhs of pilgrims and locals will be benefitted from the rail connectivity, but given the developments in the past it seems uncertain that services will be started soon. He added that it is surprising that last month all was in place for the inauguration of the Udhampur-Katra rail line but the same was postponed at the eleventh hour for the reasons better known to the authorities.
He said in order to pave way for inauguration of the section by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and subsequent start of train services, the commissioner of railway safety (CRS) had already got conducted a statutory inspection of the Udhampur-Katra section of the Udhampur-Banihal rail link last month but later its inauguration was postponed. He alleged that political interference is also behind it.
While Arjun Singh, a local sarpanch, welcomed the railway minister's announcement, he hastened to add that how can it be possible as the code of conduct for the parliamentary election will come into force by February-end? He added that it is mere eyewash.
He said the survey on the Udhampur-Katra project was conducted in 1998 but the groundwork started in 1999 and 2005 was the deadline to connect Katra with the rest of the country. However, the construction work was brought to a halt in 2006 when engineers came across a water body in the middle during the alignment of the 2.4-km tunnel number 3 (T3) and the design of the tunnel had to be changed.
In 2011, work was once again stopped when tunnel number 1 collapsed and other tunnels faced seepage problem. He added that that now despite the fact that work has been completed, the rail services are not being started for unknown reasons.
Udhampur, pilgrims to Katra, railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge, train to katra, Vaishno Devi shrine, Udhampur-Katra rail line, PM Manmohan Singh, CRS, Udhampur-Banihal rail, news, hindustantimes