Maintenance of Batote-Doda-Kishtwar highway becomes headache for R&B

The maintenance of Batote-Doda-Kishtwar National Highway 1B, which is virtually a deathtrap for the commuters, has become headache for the Roads and Buildings Department as despite orders of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) is not ready to formally takeover this artery connecting twin mountainous districts with rest of the State.
This road link for Doda and Kishtwar districts was being maintained by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) till December last but owing to repeated concerns from different quarters over slackness of this Central Government body in proper maintenance of the National Highway 1B, the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways decided to change the maintenance agency.
Accordingly, by way of a proper notification this National Highway was handed over to the Roads and Buildings (R&B) Department of the State Government with the mention that from January 2015 onwards all aspects vis-à-vis maintenance of this artery would be taken care of by the J&K Government.
However, within four months, the Union Road Transport and Highways Ministry again changed its mind and by way of a formal order transferred this highway to newly floated National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation, which is a fully owned company of the Union Ministry.
But NHIDCL didn’t formally take over this National Highway from the State Government and instead insisted that R&B Department should look after its maintenance on the ground that newly floated Corporation would take some time for having its office and other paraphernalia in the State of J&K, official sources said that.
At that time it was officially conveyed by the authorities of NHIDCL that it would pay the amount to the R&B Department to be incurred on the maintenance of Batote-Doda-Kishtwar National Highway. But this promise has not been kept till date despite the fact that R&B Department has incurred around Rs 8 crore for the maintenance of this National Highway since April this year.
“The NHIDCL has not released even a single penny despite repeated reminders from the R&B Department, which even held formal meetings with the authorities of the Corporation on the issue at the Union Capital”, sources informed, adding “since State Government has not earmarked any funds for this highway keeping in view its formal transfer to the NHIDCL and commitment of the Corporation to release funds for maintenance, liabilities of the contractors who have performed works on the directions of R&B Department, have been created”.
“Though at present the contractors are showing little reluctance in carrying out work, the situation may become grave in case NHIDCL fails to release funds in near future as nobody would continue to work without being paid”, sources said, adding “in the absence of adequate funds at its disposal the R&B Department is only carrying out some emergency nature works and routine maintenance is being carried out only in few stretches”.
Stating that R&B will continue to suffer from headache of maintaining this vital National Highway for unspecified period, sources said that in recent meetings the authorities of NHIDCL have made it clear to the R&B Department that Corporation has decided to handover maintenance of this highway to that agency which will be selected for construction of alternate National Highway namely Chenani-Marmat-Goha-Khellani.
“This process is, however, going to take very long time as following completion of survey, Detailed Project Report of alternate National Highway would be prepared and thereafter the same would be approved by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways before short listing any agency for execution of this project”, sources said.
“The prevailing situation demands that the State Government should immediately seek the intervention of Union Ministry for either early takeover of this National Highway by NHIDCL or release of sufficient funds for its maintenance by the R&B Department otherwise in the absence of committed funds the condition of this highway would become worse during the rainy season”, sources added.
When contacted, a senior officer of the R&B Department confirmed that in the absence of sufficient and committed funds maintenance of Batote-Doda-Kishtwar National Highway would not be possible.

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