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Delhi High Court raises concern over Katra-Banihal rail link, gives one month notice to government for filing affidavit

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By NewsGram Staff Writer

Voicing concern over the safety of the allegedly faulty Katra-Banihal rail link in the Kashmir Valley, The Delhi High Court on Monday, expressed its worries about the safety of the citizens and asked the government to take a decision regarding the matter.

“The only thing that is worrying us is the safety of the citizens, as it (Katra-Banihal section) can cause a disaster. In the wake of the recent event which took place in Nepal, the government should be more serious about it”, the Delhi High Court said to PTI.

“It (the section) is unsafe. If you (government and the Railway Board) want to gamble with the life of the people then we cannot help you”, the court said, adding further that the government should take a call on it.

A panel of justices B D Ahmed and Sanjeev Sachdeva observed that even though an expert committee headed by ex-DMRC chief E Sreedharan had earlier raised concern over the existing alignment of the 124 km long section, the Railway Board had neglected the report.

The Economic Times, in a report, has stated that the bench had approved an alternate alignment, saying that “the biggest concern regarding the existing alignment is the poor survivability of the tunnels, bridges and cuttings against the threats of landslides, earthquakes, and the security risks arising out of the nearness of the line to the LOC.”

But the Railway Board rejected the panel’s suggestion stating that it was quite late to change the alignment now, as they had already spent Rs 10,000 crores on the 124 km section which has been in question for the last 13 years.

The report also cited Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, representing the Railway department, as saying that a lot of money had already been spent the rail link and it was not feasible to change the alignment at this late stage.

The Court did not want “railways to throw good money after bad”, but condemned the department for their lack of concern on safety issues.

The government has been asked to state its stand on the issue and has been given a month’s time to file an affidavit by the Court.

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Why Anyone Should Not Miss Visiting Kashmir In Spring Season?

Floating flower markets

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Why Anyone Should Not Miss Visiting Kashmir In Spring Season?
Why Anyone Should Not Miss Visiting Kashmir In Spring Season? Pixabay

Visiting Kashmir during spring-summer is like a beautiful dream come true. This is the time when all the flowers are in full bloom, making the valley look like a paradise. Tulip plants rule the roster while cherry, peach and pear trees brim with flowers, after shedding all leaves. Flowers of wild perennial trees colour the gardens with their beautiful booms. We are fortunate (after braving those wide eyed exclamations coming from some well wishers) to descend in the picturesque valley during this year’s bloom time.

Tulip Garden, Srinagar

The taxi driver who picked us from Srinagar airport gave good news that Tulip garden had just opened for tourists the day before, a week early this year. After checking in and finishing lunch at the traditional houseboat on Nigeen Lake, we headed straight to the tulip Garden.

As we entered through the gates, it was an awesome sight to witness rows and rows of tulip plants running through the garden. Were they real? They looked like sights from picture postcards. Many of the 50 varieties of attractive tubular flowers with different colours and hues had started blooming, as though to soothe the eyes before the harsh sunrays of summer. Less snow during winter had hastened temperature rise to herald early summer. Never mind global warming and change in weather, nature’s cycle was intact to offer vivid sights to locals and tourists alike. These colourful sights have made Asia’s biggest Tulip garden, a major tourist draw of Kashmir. We learnt that the floral attraction had 1.5 million visitors in April 2017, ahead of the regular tourist season that
begins in May.

Charming flower garden in Kashmir
Charming flower garden in Kashmir. Pixabay

Tulips originated in Central Asia.

The taxi driver who picked us from Srinagar airport gave good news that Tulip garden had just opened for tourists the day before, a week early this year. After checking in and finishing lunch at the traditional houseboat on Nigeen Lake, we headed straight to the tulip Garden.

As we entered through the gates, it was an awesome sight to witness rows and rows of tulip plants running through the garden. Were they real? They looked like sights from picture postcards. Many of the 50 varieties of attractive tubular flowers with different colours and hues had started blooming, as though to soothe the eyes before the harsh sunrays of summer. Less snow during winter had hastened temperature rise to herald early summer. Never mind global warming and change in weather, nature’s cycle was intact to offer vivid sights to locals and tourists alike. These colourful sights have made Asia’s biggest Tulip garden, a major tourist draw of Kashmir. We learnt that the floral attraction had 1.5 million visitors in April 2017, ahead of the regular tourist season that
begins in May.

Tulips originated in Central Asia.

Don’t we all identify tulips with Netherlands? But surprisingly, tulips are originally wildflowers growing in Central Asia. They were first cultivated by Turks as early as 1000 AD. Tulips were imported into Holland in the 16th century. Holland sure dominates in the production of tulips with 86% share of the world market. Rich and bright coloured, tulips represent largest ornamental perennial crop of the world. Conducive climates were utilised to start the Tulip Garden in Kashmir a decade ago and it was adjudged as the second best Tulip destination of the world in 2015.

Tulips obviously dominate the 18 hectare or 360 kanals garden dedicated to floriculture with 1.25 million blooms aesthetically spread on seven hectares. These are complemented with Hyacinths, Narcissus, Daffodils, Muscara and Iris. Fruit trees like Himalayan cherry, peach and plum trees in the garden also bloom during the same time to add beauty. Alternate green patches next to long rows of tulip beds were good for us to pause, click and be mesmerised with the sights.

Tending to tulips involves meticulous planning

The gardens maintained by Department of Floriculture, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, are tended by 100 gardeners through the year for that one month to 40 days of fascinating bloom. It involves hard work and meticulous planning to cultivate these bulbous plants. Once the blooms whither by end of the May, bulbs are carefully dug, packed, marked and stored in green houses at 15 degree temperature till November.

Bulbs are replanted again in winter, aesthetically with rows of contrasting colours, which bloom again by March end or early April. Tulip Garden is opened for visitors when there are at least 25% blooms.

More flower varieties

A gardener informed us that they keep adding aesthetic themes every season. Hyacinth theme garden is a new attraction here this year, along with a water channel with jet fountains that adds to beauty and cool. 20 more staff maintains fountains, water bodies and public utilities in the garden. Plans are on to create an ornamental cherry blossoms patch along tulips for future seasons.

It’s not just flowers of tulip garden that make Srinagar a paradise, but there are other beautiful springtime blooms across the valley.

The city close to Himalayan Mountains has abundance of gardens, lakes and bridges. Shalimar, Nishat, Mughal and Ceshmashahi are some of the royal gardens developed during the raj era and are beautifully maintained. A tree bearing big pink and white flowers in Shalimar garden had created a carpet of petals underneath. Countless chinar or maple trees, pines, deodars and Kashmiri willows, some of which are hundreds of years old, add green beauty to the city all along.

 It's spring in Kashmir Blooming almond trees on the way to Yusmarg from Srinagar
It’s spring in Kashmir Blooming almond trees on the way to Yusmarg from Srinagar. flickr

Flowers of fruits

On return to our houseboat on the quiet Nigeen Lake, it was a treat to sip hot kahwa (Kashmiri green tea) in the fruit orchard next to it. Houseboats are decoratively built with traditional intricacies and provide stationary accommodations on the lake. Beautiful pink peach blooms on trees lined the path leading to the garden. Thick white blooms in the corner were those of pears. Some of those will wither out and the strong ones would grow on to be juicy fruits.

A few pink, red and white tulips were in the centre of the garden, under the intriguing umbrella tree. The yellow flower lined stems of a wild plant looked very attractive against the green background. We saw them at many other places, some beautifully lining the fences and the roads leading up the hills of the valley.

Floating flower markets

A flower boat sailed towards us while we stood in the houseboat verandah, watching sunrise at the peaks beyond the other banks of the lake. The flower vendor docked his boat next to ours and asked if we would like to buy some flowers, seeds or bulbs. We later saw many such floating flower markets at the dal lake during a shikara ride.

We drove along the tulip garden for a lunch organised by the event organisers in the botanical garden next to it. The sights of the flower beds from afar showed more blooms than the day before.

We were tempted to go back to the garden again the next day to see enhanced blooms. The tulip festival was organised for 15 days during the peak bloom season, offers fun and frolic activities alongside food carts.

Also read: Jammu and Kashmir cabinet gets five fresh additions

Fact file:

  • Spring starts in early April or by end March, depending on climatic conditions Spring starts in early April or by end March, depending on climatic conditions.
  • Tulip garden is situated within the city of Srinagar, close to Dal Lake and remains open from 9 am to 7 pm during bloom time.
  • Srinagar airport is connected to many cities in India through direct and indirect flights.