The decades-old dream of Kashmiris will come true this Saturday when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh flags off the first train connecting Srinagar to central Kashmir during his two-day-long visit to Jammu and Kashmir.
Official sources said the prime minister will flag off the first train from Nowgam (the station for Srinagar) to Budgam on Saturday.
The prime minister will board DMU (diesel multiple unit) train from Nowgam station as a symbolic gesture, the sources said.
Though it is a short distance between the two stations, it will be for the first time that Kashmiris will see a train running in the Valley.
The inauguration of this train service on Saturday was a part of the plan to connect Baramulla (north kashmir) to Qazigund (south Kashmir). However, connecting Kashmir Valley with the rest of the country still remains a distant dream.
The commercial use of the train will take some time to start, the sources said.
The Srinagar railway station is a stunning three-storeyed building, which has beautifully carved wooden panelling and chandeliers and is surrounded by landscaped gardens.
During the function, the prime minister will be addressing people and was also likely to make some announcements regarding the Indo-Pak ties.
His visit coincides with the visit of a business delegation from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, who will be in the state from Thursday for a week to tie up with businessmen from Kashmir as well as in Jammu.
The prime minister, who will be arriving at Udhampur on Friday, will first inaugurate the 450 MW Baglihar hydroelectric project in Doda region.
This will be the second power project to be inaugurated by the Prime Minister in Jammu and Kashmir. In April this year, he inaugurated the Dul Hasti power project constructed by the National Hydro Power Corporation (NHPC).
The Baglihar project is built on the Chenab river flowing from Jammu and Kashmir into Pakistan and has been marred by controversies ever since its inception.
Pakistan had opposed the project on the ground that it will divert water away from its territory. In 2005, it had unilaterally approached the World Bank - the third party to the 1960 Indus Water Treaty between India and Pakistan.
Raymond Lafitte, a Swiss national and professor at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne, was appointed by the World Bank and he gave a go-ahead to India for the project after a few minor modifications.
The Baglihar Hydro Electric Project is very crucial to ensure the sustainable development of the economy of the people of the state.
This project was conceived in 1992, approved in 1996 and construction began in 1999. It will have installed capacity of 900 MW when complete. The project is estimated to cost one billion US dollars.