Ideally a political leader should be honest and be guided by ethics as such leaders are always boon to the society. But when the honesty is overshadowed by the partisan approach and restricts the activities the leader becomes bane for the people he represents.
This is exactly the situation in Ramban constituency, which is represented by Ashok Kumar in the Legislative Assembly. Ashok Kumar, a teacher turned politician, whose destiny changed the course of his life and positioned him as MLA of the area in year 2008, is widely known as man of integrity and honesty.
Being a teacher before entering political arena, people of Ramban had great expectations from him and they were of the impression that he would work with them regardless of political affiliation to take them on the path of development. However, in public perception, with the passage of time MLA’s honesty has been overshadowed by the partisan approach in the developmental activities and confined approach.
“Our present representative has confined his activities to some selected areas. He prefers to have liaison with his own party workers and some chosen Sarpanchs and Panchs instead of visiting all parts of constituency and holding interactions with the people to ascertain their grievances”, two businessmen of Ramban town– Mohd Iqbal Zargar and Sham Singh said while interacting with this EXCELSIOR Correspondent recently during random survey.
“No doubt he carried out some developmental works but the same remained confined in few selected areas”, they said while expressing concern over the partisan approach of the MLA, adding “being MLA of the ruling party he could have carried out massive development in every nook and corner of the constituency but he failed to provide benefit to the people because of biased approach”.
Similar views were also expressed by people of Kanota, Rajgarh and Assar areas, who said, “we have never seen MLA in our areas. In such a situation what is expected from him remains a million dollar question”.
A group of youth led by Rajesh of Assar, who were sitting in a tea stall at Rajgarh said, “the developmental related problems and shortage of staff in schools were brought to the notice of MLA a number of times but what to talk of redressing our grievances he even not bothered to visit our areas to assess the situation”. “As these areas falls on Batote-Doda National Highway 1B, the MLA considers us as alien”, he remarked.
“People are demanding Lecturers of all subjects in Assar Higher Secondary School during the past quite long time and even made a number of representations to the MLA but there is no change in the situation”, rued Surat Singh, adding “it seems that MLA is only interested in distributing appointment orders to the Rehbar-e-Taleem teachers instead of assessing the shortage of staff in the schools and taking up the issue with the School Education Department, which is also headed by the Congress Minister”.
“All what the common masses need is adequate teaching staff in the schools so that our children get the proper education, adequate road connectivity so as to reach the destinations in time and adequate staff in the hospitals and health centres for timely medicare but the prevailing situation is very discouraging”, said Shami Sharma, a shopkeeper at Rajgarh on Batote-Pul Doda National Highway 1B.
The observations of the people with regard to road connectivity can be justified in the light of the fact that 20 roads were taken up under Prime Minister Gramin Sadak Yojana about five years back but till date only few of them could be completed and fate of others is hanging in balance much to the disappointment of the people, who had high hopes of this Centrally sponsored scheme providing road connectivity to their areas.
Though shortage of staff in majority of the schools and health centres, poor condition of roads and inordinate delay in construction of new roads are the general complaints of the people yet they are linking the performance of their elected representative with the supply of unfiltered water and paralytic condition of the District Hospital on the ground that he has failed to get the corrective steps initiated in this regard as both are the major issues for the common masses.
“The sanctioned strength of Assistant Surgeons for the District Hospital Ramban is 7 besides two Specialists in each faculty but majority of the posts are lying vacant”, a doctor of the District Hospital said on the condition of anonymity, adding “there is no Radiologist, no ENT Specialist, no Anesthetic and only one Gynecologist against the sanctioned posts of two”.
When asked how the ultrasound facility is being provided to the people in the absence of Radiologist, he said, “an Assistant Surgeon has been internally trained to provide this service to the people. We face problems when this particular Assistant Surgeon goes on leave. Similarly, the pregnant women face much difficulties when the lone Gynecologist avails the leave”.
The most astonishing fact which emerged during the EXCELSIOR survey was about Critical Care Ambulance provided by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. “This ambulance remains stationed in the hospital premises as there is no Anesthetic to operate the equipment installed in the ambulance”, the doctor rued.
He substantiated the general allegations that Rs 78 lakh worth ambulance is put to use only during the visit of some VVIPs in the area or in shifting those patients who cough up thousands of rupees for fuel. “Despite being aware of the fact that this ambulance contains Rs 66 lakh worth equipment including ventilator, the MLA has failed to take up the issue with the Government that too run by his own party to provide benefit of this vehicle to the common masses during referring of patients to Jammu”, Mohd Saleem, a resident of Maitra said.
“The situation of the District Hospital is notwithstanding the fact that Ramban is an accident prone area and tragic road accidents take place very frequently”, Bashir Ahmed of Chanderkote said, adding “it is a fact that MLA cannot stop the accidents but at least he can ensure that adequate number of doctors are posted for timely medicare of mishaps’ victims”.
During survey, it also came to the fore that Trauma Hospital was constructed near Ramban by spending huge amount but the same could not be put to use till date in the absence of doctors.
What to talk of health sector, the people were found critical about the performance of MLA vis-à-vis drinking water sector as it was brought to the notice of EXCELSIOR that there was no proper filtration plant at Ramban and Batote and unfiltered water is being provided to the people.
“There is ample water in the constituency but no step has been initiated to set up modern filtration plants and by consuming unfiltered water people are suffering from many water borne diseases”, a chemist shop owner at main Ramban market said, adding “in the absence of filtration plan, the people are compelled to collect water from those natural sources where the clean and comparatively pure water flows”.
When contacted, MLA Ramban, Ashok Kumar said, “I have never adopted partisan approach and tried to visit each and every area of my constituency”, adding “it was my policy to visit each area twice and I translated this into reality”. He, however, said that it was not practically possible to frequently visit all the areas.
Admitting shortage of staff in health centres and schools, he said, “the situation has improved in the constituency due to my efforts”, adding “I am continuously trying to get the vacant posts filled up but for the same I need cooperation of the concerned departments”.
About those parts of his constituency, which are situated along the Batote-Doda National Highway 1B, Ashok Kumar said, “there was no road in Rajgarh and it is only due to my initiative that proper road connectivity has been provided to the area”, adding “majority of the PMGSY roads have been made traffic worthy for small vehicles albeit during the fair weather only”.
He admitted shortage of staff in District Hospital Ramban and inordinate delay in start of Trauma Hospital, adding “I have been raising these issues in Assembly but it is a fact that no perceptible change in the situation could be brought mainly due to lack of cooperation from the concerned department”.
“Unfiltered water is my concern also but it is the PHE Department, which has to consider our demand, which was highlighted before the Minister concerned a number of times”, he further said.