Prime Minister Narendra Modi today declared that the Centre wants to win the hearts of people of Jammu and Kashmir through development as he flagged off the train linking Katra--the base camp for pilgrims headed to Mata Vaishno Devi shrine nestled in the Trikuta hills.
Suggesting that the train be named 'Shree Shakti Express', Modi, who is on his maiden visit to J and K after assuming power, said the state has gone through many "problems and difficulties" and the country wants it to be "prosperous and peaceful".'Shree' is one of the names of Goddess Durga. The train connectivity to Katra is part of the ambitious Kashmir rail link project that will connect the Valley with the rest of the country. The last link between Katra and Banihal pass, is expected to be completed by 2018.
The 25-km long Udhampur-Katra line, commissioned after prolonged delays, has been built at an estimated cost of Rs 1,132.75 crore. The train will traverse through seven tunnels and over 30 small and large bridges. There will be a small station - Chakrakhwal - between Udhampur and Katra.
Trains will be able to reach Katra directly as the 53-km Jammu-Udhampur rail line is already operational. This would enable lakhs of pilgrims headed to the revered Vaishno Devi shrine to travel directly to the base camp at Katra. "I congratulate the crores of devotees of Mata Vaishno Devi, who want to come here for pilgrimage from all across the country," Modi said while dedicating the train to the nation.
The Prime Minister said the new rail link will speed up the process of development in the state. "The journey started by Atal Bihari Vajpayee will be continued... Our priority is to win the hearts of every citizen of this state through development," Modi said.
Modi said the train is a gift not just for people of J&K but for the whole of India
At the function at the Katra station where Chief Minister Omar Abdullah was among others present, the Prime Minister refrained from touching upon any political issue facing the state. The Prime Minister also allayed the fears of the people of Jammu, who feel that the direct rail link to Katra will have negative impact on the development of their city, saying the "development of Jammu will not be stalled."
Modi said the government will further enhance the rail connectivity in J&K and that the Banihal rail line will be linked to the rest of the country directly. Omar also raised the need for a Banihal link in his speech and demanded an an upgrade for the railway station in Jammu city.