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Thursday,27-January-2022

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Gadkari promises 8-hr travel between Delhi and Srinagar by 2023

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Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari has promised to reduce the travel time by car between New Delhi and Srinagar from 24 hours to just 8 hours, while the drive between Jammu and Srinagar in December 2023 would be of an incredible four hours.

Addressing a public meeting at Doda after laying foundation stone for 25 surface communication projects, with aggregate length of 259 km worth Rs 11,721 crore and announcing five new highways in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, Gadkari on Wednesday said the construction of the four-lane national highway (NH-44) from Jammu to Srinagar would be completed in the next 24 months.

After completion of the ongoing road projects, the Union Minister added that Jammu and Srinagar would get three road corridors that are currently in different stages of execution. “Srinagar-Jammu national highway (NH-44) will be completed within two years and the travel journey will be reduced to just four hours,” he said. This would mean a total driving time of eight hours from Delhi to Srinagar.

Significantly, in his first meeting with the Jammu and Kashmir politicians in over two years on June 24, 2021, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had emphasised on reducing Kashmir’s distance from Delhi-Dil ki duri aur Dilli ki duri. Gadkari’s ambitious project alongside green-lighting the rail linkage between Srinagar and Delhi in the next two years would be a veritable game changer in the process of Kashmir’s physical integration with the rest of India.

The Union Minister added that the second road corridor between Jammu and Srinagar through Doda-Kishtwar (NH-244) and the third one through Akhnoor-Rajouri-Shopian (Mughal Road) would serve as alternate arteries and connect two hilly wings to the two capital cities.

Referring to the 650-km Delhi-Katra express highway, Gadkari said the work had been distributed in different packages and already started on 16 packages in Punjab and Haryana. “After the completion of the Delhi-Katra express highway, the travel time between major cities, including Delhi-Amritsar, will be four hours, Delhi-Katra six hours and Delhi-Srinagar eight hours. This is my promise and it will be fulfilled,” he said.

The Union Minister said work was also under various stages of completion on the 1350-km long Delhi-Mumbai expressway which would reduce the travel time between India’s political and financial capitals from 24 hours to just 12 hours. It is estimated to be completed within the expenditure of Rs 90,000 crore. He said that Delhi-Chandigarh, Delhi-Dehradun, Delhi-Haridwar and Delhi-Jaipur Road journeys would be covered in just two hours.

As regards the four-lane highway between Jammu and Srinagar, Gadkari added that work was going on speedily on the last two packages. While 85 per cent of work had been completed on the 95-km long Jammu-Udhampur-Nashri section (which includes a 10-km long tunnel), the 60-km section between Nashri and Banihal would be completed by December 2023.

These projects, which are strategically important for the swift movement of defence forces along with the agricultural, industrial and socio-economic progress of the region, will provide all-weather connectivity between Jammu and Kashmir.

The projects will connect all major roads leading to various district headquarters and will help in the generation of employment and self-employment opportunities.

Making a significant announcement, the Minister said the road communication projects worth Rs 1,00,000 crore-equal to the total expenditure on 1350-km long 8-lane Delhi-Mumbai Expressway-would be executed in Jammu and Kashmir in the next two years. Tunnels to the tune of Rs 50,000 crore were already under execution in the UT.

Gadkari’s yet another remarkable announcement came about a road, including a tunnel under the Sadhna Top, between Kupwara and Tangdhar (LoC) and a road, including a tunnel from Bafliaz (Rajouri) to Peer Ki Gali near Shopian, Kashmir. Once completed, these two arteries would provide 24x7x365 connectivity through the two hilly terrains.

“Four things water, power, transport and communication are imperative for the success of tourism and industrialisation, which will help in elevating poverty, creating jobs and boosting economy,” the Minister said, adding that the Centre was making all-out efforts to bring development and prosperity to Jammu and Kashmir.

Referring to the development of roads in J&K, he said when the BJP came to power in 2014, the total length of roads in Jammu and Kashmir was 1,695 km, which was expanded to 2,664 km by 2021. J&K, he said, was the only part in the country where tunnels worth over Rs 50,000 crore were currently being constructed. These include Asia’s longest road tunnel near Zojila on Srinagar-Kargil-Leh highway.

“I assure you that the infrastructure will be at par with the western European standards during the Modi government,” Gadkari said about the roads under execution and in the pipeline.

National News

R-Day: PM wears cap from Uttarakhand, Manipur stole

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday wore a cap from Uttarakhand and a stole from Manipur on the Republic Day function.

The Prime Minister wore a cap from Uttarakhand with Brahma kamal flower embossed on it. Brahma kamal is the state flower of Uttarakhand and Prime Minister Modi uses this flower whenever he does pooja at Kedarnath. Apart from white kurta with a jacket, PM Modi was seen wearing a Manipuri stole also.

Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami thanked PM Modi for representing the state’s culture and tradition in front of the world. “Today, on the occasion of 73rd Republic Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made the culture and tradition of our state proud by wearing the cap of Devbhoomi Uttarakhand, adorned with Brahma Kamal. On behalf of the 1.25 crore people of Uttarakhand, I express my heartfelt gratitude to the Prime Minister,” Dhami tweeted.

Both Manipur and Uttarakhand are going to the polls in a few weeks.

Prime Minister Modi makes a statement by wearing a dress or accessories from different states on important occasions like Republic Day, Independence Day and other occasions.

While taking Covid vaccination shot last year, he wore a gamcha. Last year on Republic Day, Modi wore a red Gujarati headgear.

Earlier, Prime Minister Modi greeted people on the occasion of Republic Day. “Wishing you all a happy Republic Day. Jai Hind!,” the Prime Minister tweeted.

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Rajpath brims over with patriotic fervour as India celebrates R-Day

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The teeth-chattering cold on Wednesday morning failed to dampen the spirits of the people coming to witness the Republic Day parade at the majestic Rajpath, here.

The people started arriving at the Rajpath as early as 5 a.m. in the morning, even as the parade begins at 10.30 a.m.

However, this year the rush compared to previous years was less, possibly owing to the fear of the latest Omicron variant of novel coronavirus. Notably this is the second time India is celebrating the Republic Day in a subdued manner.

Still almost every seat for the visitors at the Rajpath was occupied. It may be also mentioned that the seating arrangement was adhering to the Covid-induced protocol of keeping distance.

The security personnel were even checking the Covid vaccination certificates at the entrance of the Rajpath area.

People, who were standing in the queues, could be heard singing and chanting patriotic songs and slogans.

Amid chilly weather in the morning, the slogans “Bharat Mata Ki Jai” and “Vande Matram” injected the heat of patriotism in the veins of the people.

The parade was yet to start at the time of filing of this report.

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War of Words: Dhankhar slams Bengal Speaker; latter hits back

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 The ongoing row between West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar and Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee reached an unceremonious low on Tuesday when the former hammered Banerjee, alleging that the “Speaker has not only broken all the constitutional norms and protocols, but has also forgotten how to speak”.

“The Speaker thinks he has the licence to speak anything about the Governor. Has he become a law unto himself? I will not tolerate such indiscretion. The Speaker should not henceforth blackout the address of the Governor. If he does it, he will face the music,” Dhankhar said.

The Governor was referring to two previous incidents when his speech was ‘blacked out’ in the Assembly.

Dhankhar was speaking at the Assembly where he came to offer floral tributes to B.R. Ambedkar on the occasion of National Voters’ Day on Tuesday.

“The Speaker cannot be allowed to be a law unto himself. He thinks he is above the Governor. Who is the Constitutional head? Does he not know Article 168 — Governor is number one in the legislature, second in the House, and I hope good sense prevails,” Dhankhar said.

Banerjee, who was ‘shocked’ and ‘dismayed’ over the Governor’s behaviour in the Assembly, told the media, “The Governor said he would pay floral tributes. But he held a press conference. I was stunned that the Governor made critical statements on several issues related to the Assembly while paying tribute to Ambedkar. I think this is extremely uncourteous. This goes beyond any kind of protocol and decorum.”

Interestingly, while the ruling Trinamool Congress has claimed several times that the development of the state has been delayed because the Governor refused to sign many files, Dhankhar openly said that there is no file pending with the Raj Bhawan.

“No file is pending with me. I have raised questions (and sent back files to the state government). There has been no response from the government. Unless they respond to my questions, they will have a tough time. Before invoking my powers, I would want every answer well in advance,” Dhankhar said.

When asked about it, the Speaker said, “We have written several letters on this issue and every word of the letters is true. He wants specific words to be included in the Bills without which he would not sign them. He is just delaying the Bills. He is not the only Governor. We have worked with several Governors but there has been no resistance. We had cordial relations and no Governor had made such statements. I do not understand who the Governor is representing.”

Dhankhar didn’t even spare the ruling party and its Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee.

Hitting out at Banerjee and the bureaucracy, the Governor said, “For the last two years, the Chief Minister has not replied to any information sought. The bureaucracy has to be held accountable. The bureaucracy is politically committed. Are they to follow the diktat of an individual?”

Speaking on the National Voters’ Day, the Governor said, “The voters should have the right to exercise the franchise freely and fearlessly, but unfortunately enough that is not the case in West Bengal. Here people don’t have the freedom to exercise their franchise freely.”

“We have seen post-poll violence of unprecedented level, those who dared to vote according to their own volition had to pay the price with their life,” Dhankhar alleged.

Maintaining that a fact-finding committee appointed by the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, following order from the Calcutta High Court, had observed that rule of the ruler and not the law prevails in the state, the Governor said, “This is an understatement; West Bengal’s situation is so horrible and frightening that there is horror about the ruler here.”

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