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June 21, 1999
J&K government plans new road to Leh
Mukhtar Ahmad in Srinagar
The Jammu and Kashmir government has decided to construct an alternate route from Jammu to Ladakh via Sanku in view of the Pakistani shelling on the Srinagar-Leh highway.
Announcing this today, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah said the new route would be safe for traffic.
The new road will avoid all the areas on the 200km Srinagar-Kargil highway that are within the range of Pakistani artillery guns.
Addressing a gathering at Kishtawar in Doda district of Jammu today, Abdullah said, "Pakistan deliberately launched the operation to cut the Srinagar-Leh national highway at various places to create problems for the people living in the region."
He said the state government is requesting the Centre for help to construct a new road between Jammu and Srinagar via Dachan, Madwa, Wadwan, to be later extended to Ladakh via Panikhar.
This road will bypass Kargil and connect Ladakh directly with Srinagar.
Sources in Srinagar, however, said the proposed road will have to pass through some tough terrain and may be available for use only a few months every year.
They said construction work on some parts of the road has already begun in Sonamarg.
Last year, the chief minister had announced that the entire township of Kargil was to be shifted to a safer place at Sanku.
The proposal was shelved following strong opposition from the people of Kargil.
The construction of the new road is also going to hurt the people of Kargil. "But there is little choice. We have to construct it at the earliest," said a senior state government officer.
He said civilians are suffering on account of the closure of the Srinagar-Kargil highway. For now, the state plans to rush supplies from Kulu Manali on the highway from Himachal Pradesh. Already some supplies have reached Ladakh through this route.
The chief minister also cautioned the people, especially Muslims, of the state to understand the double standards of Pakistan which pretended to extend the hand of friendship to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee while trying to invade Kashmir.
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