NEW DELHI - Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Thursday Article 370 of the Constitution was a roadblock for the development of Jammu and Kashmir and the journey of progress in the region began with the launch of the Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express train.
Accompanied by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Union ministers Jitendra Singh and Harsh Vardhan, Shah flagged off the train from the New Delhi railway station.
The ministers said the twin moves of the government -- abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and launch of the Vande Bharat Express -- will bring new India to a new Jammu and Kashmir and create a new history for the region.
Flagging off the second such indigenous train, Shah said, "I believe that not only Article 370 was a roadblock for the unity of this country, but it was also the biggest roadblock for the development of Kashmir. I am sure that after the removal of this Article, we will be successful in completely eradicating terrorism and the ideas promoting terrorism in the area."
"Within the next 10 years, Jammu and Kashmir will be one of the most-developed regions of the country and the journey of development has begun with Vande Bharat Express, which is set to boost development and promote religious tourism," he added.
Minister of State in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) Jitendra Singh said the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir was a gift for the people of the region after "three decades of struggle" and the launch of the train was another gift, which would contribute in building a "new Jammu and Kashmir".
"The Vande Bharat Express will bring new India to a new Jammu and Kashmir," he said.
Remembering Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary (on October 2), Shah said Gandhi gave a philosophy to the world about how to derive simple solutions to the biggest of problems.
He expressed pride in saying that the Vande Bharat Express was totally "swadeshi" and at par with the latest rail transport technology across the world.
"The railways should document its relationship with Mahatma Gandhi as it forms a significant episode in the country's freedom struggle," Shah said.
The Vande Bharat Express will cut the travel time between Delhi and Katra to eight hours from the previous 12 hours.
The New Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express (train number 22439) will depart from the New Delhi railway station at 6 am to reach Katra at 2 pm. En route, it will halt at Ambala Cantonment, Ludhiana and Jammu Tawi for two minutes each.
On the return journey the same day, the Katra-New Delhi Vande Bharat Express (train number 22440) will leave from the Katra railway station at 3 pm to reach New Delhi at 11 pm.
The train, also known as Train 18, will ply on all days of the week barring Tuesday.
"The abrogation of Article 370 has connected the people of the country to Jammu and Kashmir and I believe that this train will become the symbol of the development and progress that this region will see in the years to come because of this brave move by the government," Goyal said.
He also promised that the railways will connect the country "from Kashmir to Kanyakumari" before August 15, 2022.
The first Vande Bharat Express that runs between Delhi and Varanasi was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February.
The New Delhi-Katra train has a bigger pantry compared to the first Train 18.
It also has windows with a special provision to protect against stone-pelting and a cattle guard in the front to prevent damage to the train or derailment in case of cattle being run over.
To avoid damage due to stray cattle, the train has been equipped with a sturdy aluminium-clad nose cover.
The Integral Coach Factory (ICF) has added a slew of modern features such as adjustable seats, improved wash basins, automatic doors and WiFi to the coaches of the train.
Navratri Gift For Vaishno Devi Devotees: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday described the launch of the Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express as a "Navratri gift" for devotees of Vaishno Devi.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday flagged off the Delhi-Katra Vande Bharat Express from the New Delhi Railway Station and said it was a "big gift" for Jammu and Kashmir's development.
"A Navratri gift for my sisters and brothers of Jammu as well as devotees of Maa Vaishno Devi! The New Vande Bharat Express from New Delhi to Maa Vaishno Devi, Katra will improve connectivity as well as spiritual tourism," the prime minister tweeted. (PTI)
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