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Residents up in arms against railway line expansion plans

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Srinagar: Locals in several parts of Kashmir are up in arms against the railway line expansion plans.

While villagers in south Kashmir’s Shopian district have objected to the land-marking for the railway line in the area, the residents in north Kashmir’s claim that railway authorities earmarked the ground of degree college Baramulla for the railroad track.

The Railways Ministry has approved the final location survey of five lines, all of which fall under the Kashmir division. The lines include the Baramulla-Banihal section (135.5 kilometers), Baramulla-Uri (50 kilometers), Sopore-Kupwara (33.7 kilometers), Awantipora-Shopian (27.6 kilometers), and Anantnag-Bijbehara-Pahalgam (77.5 kilometers).

The railway line expansion plan has triggered protests in Shopian, where fruit growers have appealed to the Prime Minister to divert the track. The residents are against the planned acquisition of their land, especially apple orchards, for the railway project.

“We are not opposed to the railway line, but it should not be laid through our orchards as our economy is fully dependent on this,”a fruit grower from Zainapora Shopian said. “I appeal to the PM to consider our demand and divert the railway track.”

In Baramulla, civil society members have also demanded a diversion of the railway track, which they said passes through one of the oldest college grounds in north Kashmir.

“It came to the notice that the Department of Railways authorities have earmarked the degree college ground in Baramulla for fleeting the railway track towards Uri that bisects the playground, which is the only available ground in Baramulla,” a representation by the Civil Society Baramulla to Deputy Commissioner Baramulla read.

The Baramulla administration has written to the Deputy Chief Engineer, Northern Railway Srinagar, and asked him to look into the matter and redress the grievance on merit.

The mainstream politicians, too, have demanded the shifting of these railway tracks.

“The survey conducted by the railways in the apple belt of Zainapora for railroad development has created panic among residents, who fear for their livelihoods. The survey should not be carried out recklessly, as it could impact the livelihood of locals. The concerns of apple cultivators in apple-rich villages in south Kashmir should be taken into consideration, and efforts should be made to minimize any potential losses,” CPIM leader M.Y. Tarigami said.

“These are very genuine demands and merit the government’s attention. People are not opposed to the project but are urging the authorities to safeguard their orchard land. We are requesting the J&K government to consider relocating the project by utilizing state-owned land instead,” State Spokesperson of the National Conference Imran Dar said.

On Wednesday, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) president Mehbooba Mufti urged the government to avoid the chopping of fruit orchards and the “haphazard” laying of railway lines in Kashmir.

“Our economy depends on agriculture and fruit industry, and without giving a thought, you lay a railway line through villages and chop down thousands of trees, which are our economy’s backbone. This should not be done like this, and experts should be involved. Laying a railway line is right, but cutting trees through every village and damaging the environment should be avoided,” she said.

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