Making his first visit to Jammu and Kashmir after taking office, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday inaugurated the Katra-Udhampur rail link and pledged to realize the dream of Atal Bihari Vajpayee to restore peace in the troubled state.
Addressing a public meeting after flagging off the train from Katra, at the foothills of the Mata Vaishno Devi temple, Modi said: “Jammu and Kashmir has passed through very trying times. It is every Indian’s desire to ensure that the state makes progress and youths here get employment.”
“It is our duty, and we will do it, whether we are in power in the state or not,” he added.
“I want to give a message to the people of Jammu and Kashmir that the journey started by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in the state will be taken to its logical conclusion.”
Modi’s reference was to the 2003 visit to the Kashmir Valley by the now ailing Vajpayee when he was prime minister and the “hand of friendship” he extended to Pakistan.
The prime minister, who earlier flew in to Jammu, said the 25-km Katra-Udhampur rail link had been inaugurated at a time when the Amarnath Yatra was on and during the holy month of Ramadan.
“The rail link is dedicated not only to the people of Jammu and Kashmir but also to the people of the country who come here in millions to pay obeisance at the Mata’s shrine.”
Modi underlined that his government would not discriminate between the Kashmir Valley and Jammu region.
“When progress takes place at one place, some people at other places feel neglected … as the chief minister has said about the apprehensions of the people of Jammu.
“I want to assure the people of Jammu that their interests will be protected. I do not believe anybody will come to Katra and not visit Jammu city.
“Building of infrastructure is a holistic exercise. Whenever development takes place at one place, its benefits reach all places.”
Modi said people will be able to travel on their ticket from Katra to Udhampur by train and then take a bus to Banihal town, which is linked to the Kashmir Valley by rail through the Pir Panjal mountain range.
Banihal town is located 140 km from Udhampur, which is also linked by rail to Jammu.
He said six trains would operate in the coming days to Katra from different places of India.
“I am inaugurating two important functions in the state today,” he went on.
“One is the Katra rail link and the other is a power project in the Kashmir Valley.
“I accept that the Himalayan states in the country have peculiar problems and these need to be addressed on priority.
“Katra railway station is an example of a state of art environment friendly railway station”.
Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah thanked Modi for making the dream of a rail link between Katra and the rest of India a reality.
He said his gratitude also goes out to former prime ministers Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh for taking a keen interest in the project.
The chief minister demanded that the Jammu railway station should be improved to bring it on part with the facilities available at the Vaishnoo Devi railway station.
Modi inspected the Mata Vaishnoo Devi railway station to know about the facilities provided by the railways.
Jammu and Kashmir Governor N.N. Vohra, Railway Minister Sadananda Gawda and Minister of State Jitender Singh, who represents Udhampur in the Lok Sabha, were also present at the inaugural.
Modi will later chair a high-level security review meeting at the Badami Bagh cantonment headquarters of the army’s 15th Corps in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. He will also inaugurate the 240 megawatt NHPC-owned hydro-power project near the border town of Uri.