Train that ran on just its inaugural day
The much hyped fortnightly free train services launched by J&K government for school going children between Banihal and Baramulla district has turned out to be a reason of disappointment for the children as the service plied only once post its inauguration.
The officials in school education department said the free train service was flagged off by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on December 11 however, the next outings were marred by delays and postponement announced by J&K government for one or the other reason.
“This free railway service plied only on inaugural day. The next visit was scheduled in last week of December which got delayed due to cold weather conditions,” the officials said.
Interestingly, the J&K government announced special free train services- Watan Kie Saer, for school going children post 2016 summer uprising that resulted in closure of educational institutions for over five months in Kashmir.
The decision to start a fortnightly train service exclusively for children was taken in view of “limited outing facilities available to kids in Kashmir.”
The train services as per the government decision would ply between Banihal and Baramulla on every second and fourth Sunday of every month.
The officials said the students from five districts were taken for outing in the train on the inaugural day.
“We had fixed dates for subsequent outings for students but the same was postponed by the government,” the officials said.
The officials however said they had to purchase railway tickets for students on adult fair and no concession was provided by the railway authorities for the school children.
“The student’s visit which was planned for December 25 last year was postponed given the cold weather conditions. Later no dates were fixed during the winter months as the schools remained closed due to winter vacations,” the official said.
Besides the weather conditions, the student programme was also delayed due to security reasons.
The officials said recently, the government decided to continue free railway service for students from April 2 which however was again delayed on eve of inauguration of Nashri tunnel in Udhampur on April 02.
“The inauguration of tunnel played spoil sport for students. Given the security reasons, the scheduled railway trip for students was again deferred by the government,” officials said.
In a latest move the Chief Ministers office in an official communique to school education department has also postponed the students outing scheduled on April 23.
“The date was finalised but at the eleventh hour, we received a communique from CM’s personal section wherein it was decided to put the programme on hold,” the official said.
Interestingly, the J&K government has released an amount of Rs 6 lacs to the Department of School Education which however got lapsed in many districts as the money was released on March 30, a day before the end of financial year.
“We disbursed the equal amount to the CEOs where from students had participated in watan kie Saer programme. But most of the districts couldn’t avail it due to closure of financial year,” the official said.
Asked about the utilization of funds and its monitoring by the Department, the official said the Department on inaugural day had decorated railway stations and purchased bouquets for CM as well.
“A good amount was also charged by SRTC department for providing pick and drop facilities to the students,” the official said.
The official however said coming subsequent visits of students won’t cost the department much. “In next visits money will be spent for tickets only. There won’t be any decoration or any other formalities which were done at the inaugural day,” the official maintained.