• Flags off Katra-Udhampur train
• State passed through a difficult phase
• Proposes common development model for Himalayan states
Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday said Government of India (GoI) wants to win the hearts of people of Jammu and Kashmir through development and proposed common development model for Himalayan states.
PM flagged off the train linking Katra–the base camp for Mata Vaishno Devi shrine in Trikuta hills–with the rest of the India.
The train connectivity to Katra is part of the ambitious Kashmir rail link project that will connect the Valley with the rest of the country. The last link between Katra and Banihal pass, is expected to be completed by 2018.
The 25-km long Udhampur-Katra line, commissioned after prolonged delays, has been built at an estimated cost of Rs 1,132.75 crore.
Suggesting that the train be named ‘Shree Shakti Express’, Modi, who was on his maiden visit to the State assuming power, said the state has gone through many “problems and difficulties” and the country wants it to be “prosperous and peaceful”.
“Jammu and Kashmir has passed through a difficult time. Whether or not in power, it is our wish and responsibility to improve quality of life of the people, meet their aspirations, provide jobs to youth and reach the last man in the line,” he said.
PM said it is every Indians dream that J&K is happy and there is prosperity. “We have to work for this, be it in power or not in power”.
He said the new rail link will speed up the process of development in the state.
“The journey started by Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be continued. Our priority is to win the hearts of every citizen of this state through development,” Modi said.
He said the train is a gift not just for people of J and K but for the whole of India
At the function at the Katra station where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was among others present, the Prime Minister refrained from touching upon any political issue facing the state.
The Prime Minister also allayed the fears of the people of Jammu, who feel that the direct rail link to Katra will have negative impact on the development of their city, saying the “development of Jammu will not be stalled.”
Modi said the government will further enhance the rail connectivity in J and K and that the Banihal rail line will be linked to the rest of the country directly.
He said with the inauguration of the railway link and the hydel power project in Uri in the evening, “Jammu and Kashmir’s development will get both speed and energy.”
He said railways is an environment-friendly mode of transport and it will be spread in Jammu and Kashmir.
Stressing that the Himalayan states have similar problems and opportunities, he said there is a need for a “common model” of development for them.
“I accept that there is need to have a separate policy and planning for development of the Himalayan states in India. All the states located in Himalayan belt have same set of problems and also diverse opportunities in similar nature,” Modi said.
“We want to go for it, in the Himalayan states until North-East, which will benefit not only Jammu and Kashmir but also North East. We are committed to move in that direction as well,” he said.
Modi said he had come to the Mata Vasihno Devi shrine during his election campaign and “today we begin our development journey from here.”
He said six trains would be running from the Katra station to different destinations in the country and three sets of local trains would also be running from Jammu to the station.
Railwaysis considering extending Jammu Mail and Sampark Kranti Express up to Katra, besides introducing new trains, including Katra-Kalka Express, New Delhi-Katra AC Express.
There is also a possibility of launching a new train between Varanasi and Katra, a railway official said, adding the purpose is to connect two holy places by train. An estimated 10 million devotees visit the shrine every year.
Railway Protection Force (RPF) has been stationed at vulnerable locations all along the track in protected bunkers to maintain round-the-clock vigil.
Katra station is equipped with modern facilities, including tourist guide counter, cloak room, waiting hall, VIP lounge, escalators and lifts and parking spaces.
The train connectivity to Katra is part of the ambitious Kashmir rail link project marking region’s rail connectivity with the rest of the country.