Jammu and Kashmir: Agitated residents in Doda threaten to boycott Lok Sabha polls over delay in road construction

Bhaderwah: Irked over the inordinate delay to connect their villages with a motorable road, residents of seven villages in Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir Wednesday staged a protest and threatened to boycott the Lok Sabha polls. The villagers of Dhara, Dhaloa, Hanga, Bharwa, Chak-Katoch, Dharaan and Noori falling in three panchayats on the western hills of Bhaderwah valley assembled near the Rashtriya Rifles headquarters at Sarna and staged the protest.

The villagers said they have decided to continue with peaceful protests with the slogan ‘No Road, No Vote’ to highlight their demand for completion of the already sanctioned Gatha-Dhaloa road without any further delay. The road was supposed to connect seven villages of Sarna and Hanga panchayats with the Bhaderwah-Doda Highway. The work on the road was started by the Roads and Buildings Department in 2008 and was later transferred under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) in 2015 with a deadline of 18 months for its completion but even after four years, the work is yet to start, the protesters claimed.

When contacted, the Executive Engineer, PMGSY Doda, Ajay Kumar Raju admitted delay in the execution of the work on the road and said, “We are waiting for no objection certificate (NOC) from the Forest Department.”  “Although we changed the alignment of the road last year after forest officers raised objection, so that minimum forest comes under it but despite repeated reminders, we are still waiting for the required NOC,” he told PTI.

He assured the people that the work on the road would commence soon once the Forest Department gives its clearance. “The tenders have been floated and the work for the road already stands allotted,” Raju said. The protesters claimed that only earthwork for 900 metres of the 4.5 km road stretch has been completed in the past decade. “All the seven villages have unanimously decided to boycott the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections,” said the village head of Dhara, Thakur Yudhvir Singh.

He claimed that several precious lives were lost in the past in the absence of the proper road as in case of emergency and hostile weather, it takes several hours to reach motorable road. “We have been running from pillar to post since last 10 years. We have lost faith in electoral process and are compelled to boycott the elections,” ex-serviceman Narinder Singh Baloria said.

In absence of the road, he said the students and the working women suffer the most. “It takes four hours to climb up and down the hill through the dense forest area everyday to reach the college. The threat of wild animals always looms large and under given circumstances, how can we compete with other students, who have all the facilities at their disposal,” said Manju Baloria, a college student.

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