Expect Kashmir among top states by 2029: Shah

New Delhi (IANS) Flagging off the second semi-high speed indigenous Vande Bharat train from the national capital to Katra in Jammu and Kashmir, Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday announced that Kashmir would be in the "list of most developed Indian states in the next decade and a beginning in that direction has already been made today by the Railways".

Shah said the hurdles in the development of Kashmir had been erased with the abrogation of Article 370 that gave the erstwhile state a special status.

"With the scrapping of Article 370, Kashmir has become a part of India like the other states," he said.

The Minister said Article 370, which was scrapped on August 5, was not only a hurdle in country's unity and integrity, but also the biggest obstacle in the development of Jammu and Kashmir, which has now been bifurcated into two Union Territories -- Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh without one.

"I have firm belief that we will gain success in complete eradication of terrorism and terrorist ideology from Kashmir after abrogation of Article 370. Our Kashmir would be mentioned in the list of most developed Indian states within 10 years," Shah said.

The Minister said the Vande Bharat train, which has been manufactured at a Chennai-based factory, was a gift to the countrymen from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"A new history is being created through Vande Bharat, which will be a great medium of tourism to Jammu and Kashmir," he added.

Vande Bharat Express will run between Delhi and Katra facilitating travel upto the Hindu shrine of Vaishno Devi. The booking for the train will start from Saturday.

The Minister said that there is great importance of religious tourism in Jammu and Kashmir for the development of the region.

Shah said that the journey to the shrine had been very difficult in the past but Vande Bharat would make it very easy.

This move is part of an initiative adopted by Narendra Modi government since it came in power in 2014, the Minister said, adding the motive was to spread a web of high speed trains across the country aimed at bringing down the journey time with safe travel in felicitating people to reach their destinations including religious.

Shah said it is true that PM Modi played a great role in adjoining Kashmir with India forever by abrogating Article 370, a move which was never expected.

Recalling Mahatma Gandhi, a day after his 150th birth anniversary, Shah said the indegenous Vande Bharat Express has fulfilled the approach of the Father of the Nation stressing to adopt "Swadeshi".

Completed winthin 18-month time frame, Vande Bharat will bring down the travel time between Delhi and Katra, the last station on the way to Vaishno Devi temple, to eight hours from the current 12 hours. The luxury all air-conditioned chair car service with 16 coaches is an engine-less self-propelled trainset which allows for faster acceleration and deceleration, therefore reducing travel time by 40 per cent.

The train will run on all days of the week except Tuesdays. Train number 22439 New Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express will depart from the New Delhi railway station at 6 am to reach Katra at 2 p.m.

On the return journey the same day, train number 22440 Katra-New Delhi Vande Bharat Express will leave from the Katra railway station at 3 p.m. to reach the New Delhi railway station at 11 p.m.

The first Vande Bharat Express was flagged off by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February. The railways is expected to manufacture 40 more such trains by 2022, according to senior officials.

Shah congratulated the whole Railway department as well as Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, who was also present on the occasion, saying Vande Bharat is a gift to the people of Jammu by them during Navratra, a Hindu festival that spans nine nights and is celebrated every year in the autumn.

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