4-yrs on, PDA fails to identify land for Pahalgam hospital

Suhail Bhat
PAHALGAM, Feb 9: It has been four years since much-needed sub- district hospital was sanctioned by Central Government to Pahalgam but failure of Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) to identify the land for its construction has dashed the hopes of thousands of residents who are awaiting a better health care in their neighborhood.
Pahalgam is believed to be one of the most favoured hill stations in Kashmir and every year lakhs of tourists irked by the scorching heat found refuge here. Apart from this, over five lakh Amarnath pilgrims use Pahalgam as a stopover (Base Camp) for annual pilgrimage to the Holy Amarnath Cave.
The pilgrims trek through the difficult mountainous terrains that claim lives of several people due to lack of timely health services which makes the proposed hospital even more important to boost religious tourism.
However, the locals from various hamlets including Dachnipora, Khovripora, Ganchippora and Yenar alleged that every year right after the commencement of the Amarnath Yatra, the doctors and paramedical staff also leaves the place thereby leaving the people to the mercy of God.
“About 3000 people are dependent on the single Primary Healthcare Centre (PHC) which is presently operating in Pahalgam. With inadequate health care facilities, more than hundred people travel to either nearby District Hospital Anantnag or other hospitals on daily basis. By this, the poor patients have to bear huge traveling costs,” Mushtaq Ahmad, a local, said.
He also said that last year Governor NN Vohra visited their place and assured them that the existing allopathic dispensary will be upgraded but apart from changing the name of the dispensary nothing really happened.
“Almost, all the necessary machinery is available in the dispensary but it lacked required staff. The x-ray Technician, for example, has to take care of four such dispensaries. During the time of Amarnath Yatra, 15-20 doctors are posted here but after that, no one cares. They feel we are not humans here,” Mushtaq added.
MLA Pahalgam, Altaf Ahmad Kaloo, said keeping in view the manifold increase in the tourist and pilgrim footfalls for last five to six years, the then Government sanctioned a Sub-District Hospital for Pahalgam in the year 2012 but PDA’s failure to identify land has dented the whole initiative.
“This is really sad that despite the passage of four years the land has not been identified. All other hospitals sanctioned by the Central Government at that time have become fully functional while the Pahalgam hospital is yet to be built. This is a sheer injustice. We cannot deny people their basic right that is access to better health care, the MLA said.
Kaloo further said that they have time and again suggested the Government to use empty building of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department Corporation’s Yatri Niwas complex situated at Circuit Road Pahalgam as it has lots of spare rooms while as the existing hospital building can be given to JKTDC in exchange.
“It is an apt location for the hospital and would save lots of time and money. The building is close to Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) thus making it convenient to dispose of waste. At other places the Government has to set up an STP to reduce the grave impacts on the environment,” he said. This is echoed by Chief Medical Officer Fazil Ali, who described it as a clear case of callousness from the authorities.
“Four years is a lot of time to identify land for a hospital building. The funds are available for the hospital but you cannot build the building on air,” he said.
Chief Executive Officer of PDA, Mushtaq Ahmad Simnani, when contacted said: “It is a human issue and it is for the benefit of all of us but the failure to draft a master plan is hampering the identification process. With no master plan in vogue, we are not sure about the permissible and no permissible land.”