The Kargil to Srinagar road is an especially important road that the government is improving. It is building the Zojila tunnel on it that will help commute. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has fast-tracked this project so that it can finish before 2024.
Gadkari reiterated that the prosperity of Jammu and Kashmir and its people lies in the road connectivity of this region.
He reviewed the construction work of the strategically important Zojila and Z-Morh tunnels on the Srinagar-Leh highway, which are being constructed at breakneck speed.
The Zojila tunnel and Z-Morh tunnels will strengthen India’s defence system & economy of J&K and Leh-Ladakh.
Zojila Pass is the strategic link connecting the Leh-Ladakh region to Srinagar and the rest of India. The region, however, does not have an all-weather connectivity, especially to Leh, the capital of the Union Territory of Ladakh.
This has heavily hit the transport sector, thereby impacting the entire economy of the region.
No wonder, the Zojila tunnel project faced myriad delays. The project was envisaged way back in 2016, with tenders being cancelled several times since 2018, after PM Modi laid its foundation stone.
Presently, the road from Srinagar to Leh is not open all year round, as it is not suitable for vehicular movement. The existing Srinagar-Ladakh highway is closed from mid-November to April, literally cutting off this entire region from the rest of the world.
This poses a big hurdle for the movement of the Army and military vehicles. The alternative routes are long-winding and time-consuming, resulting in huge expenditures. Moreover, these alternative routes are closer to the Indo-China and Indo-Pakistan borders.
It is strategically important to connect Srinagar with Kargil throughout the year. Currently, the Zojila pass has to be closed for 5 to 7 months as it is covered in snow. This tunnel will also reduce the travel time by around one and a half hours. Also, the journey will be less hectic and dangerous. The project is also important to the army as the pass is close to the Line of Control (LOC) and is vulnerable to hostile actions.
Ahead of the 2024 general elections, the Modi government is giving a big push to tourism-related infrastructure projects in Jammu & Kashmir, making access to the Himalayan region easier all year round.
The Prime Minister and his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's efforts just ahead of the polls are a clear hint of how eager to encrust the layer of trust on the Kashmiris by keeping in mind their needs.
(This story was earlier published in Jammu and Kashmir's leading weekly tabloid Jazzbaat24 on 3 October, 2021)