The much-hyped highway project 'National Highway 444', a 73-km four-lane road supposed to start from central Kashmir’s Budgam district and culminate with the ‘National Highway 44’ near Qazigund has been shelved by the government for the want of funds.
Soon after the devastating 2014 floods, the Government of India (GoI) had announced a Rs 80,000 crore package for the rehabilitation process of which Rs 42,611 crore were meant for roads and highway projects.
The GoI had approved eight ‘National Highways’, with a vast network of roads and improving road connectivity in Jammu Kashmir.
Among the eight highways was NH-444, a 73-km four-lane road supposed to start from central Kashmir’s Budgam district and culminate with the ‘National Highway 44’ near Qazigund.
GoI had earmarked Rs 1800 crore for this ambitious project.
Five years down the line, the project has been shrunk from the building of a four-lane road to a one-lane road and that one-lane road already exists.
Furthermore, the amount of Rs 1800 crore sanctioned for the project has been reduced to Rs 100 crore and the 73-km road stretch from Budgam to Qazigund has now been changed to 83-km stretch from Nowgam to Qazigund.
As the original Detailed Project Report (DPR) has been shelved, the administration has now decided to only strengthen the existing road.
Chief Engineer PWD (R&B) Kashmir, Showkat Jeelani said that even though the original four-lane road project had not been started yet, the strengthening of the existing one-lane road was going on in full swing.
"There is no word from the higher authorities on the four-lane project but we have received the money for strengthening the existing road," he said.
Jeelani said GoI had sanctioned the money initially for the project, but the administration had not received the money till date.
Apart from want of funds, the land acquisition at various places along the highway had been a major bottleneck in completing the project.
Last year, the government had given a go ahead to the construction of the Gadura bridge in Pulwama although the farmland on either side of the bridge was yet to be bought from the farmers, leading the under-construction bridge to nowhere.
"The issue has now been solved, and the bridge will be completed soon," Jeelani said.
The government had hired a private company, Casta at the cost of Rs 2.45 crore to prepare a survey report of the project, but that report has also now become "irrelevant" causing huge losses to the treasury.