Despite tall claims of MLA, Samba remains neglected

Avtar Bhat
The residents of reserved Assembly Constituency of Samba, some area of which is situated on Indo-Pak border have divergent views about their MLA, Yash Paul Kundal’s performance.
The two -time MLA who won the elections both in 2002 and 2008, is equally lauded as well as criticized by his electorate.
While some people are fully satisfied with his performance, others expressed their resentment against him saying he is non- performer and has failed to come up to their expectations.
Mr Kundal is among quite a few MLAs of Jammu who despite the Amarnath land row agitation managed to turn the tide in his favour during the 2008 Assembly poll by retaining the seat for himself as well as his Party.
The Samba Assembly segment which is linked to Hiranagar in South East, Billawar in East, Vijaypur in North, Pakistan in West and Nagrota in North West is politically a fertile constituency.
Spread over a vast area, the residents of Samba Assembly segment give their MLA credit for getting district status to it which was a long pending demand of the people. However, many people have grievances against him as well saying that his performance was not upto the mark.
One of the main allegations against the MLA is that he discriminates with the people and gives preference to his partymen while ignoring others.
Ashok Kumar of Sapwal Samba has many grievances against his MLA saying he discriminates on basis of caste. Alleging that no development work took place in their area, he says Mr Kundal never took an initiative to develop the village.
However, the views of Mukhtiar Chand of Daryie Samba were quite different saying that the people of his village are fully satisfied with the performance of Mr Kundal as a lot of work was done in his village and he be repeated as their representative on the basis of his performance.
Same were the views of Darshan of Sapwal, a contractor saying people of his village are satisfied with the MLA and prefer him to candidates of other parties.
Contradicting them, Ram Lal of village Mandera says that he was not satisfied with the performance of the MLA as he (MLA) has not done any remarkable work in their area.
However, Suresh Singh Jasrotia an ex-serviceman of Samba said that they will definitely vote for change this time and not for those parties which divide the vote.
Criticizing the MLA, Tirath Ram of Sargal in Samba said that he has failed to attend peoples’ problems. Narrating the tale of woes, he says a tube well in his village is defunct for last three years and the MLA failed to make it functional. The people have to take contaminated water which carries insects and bacteria but it does not bother their representative.
He says even in his own village Motliyan, the people are not satisfied with his performance.
The residents of Purmandal and Utterbahni block comprising of many villages have many grievances against their MLA. Accusing Mr Kundal of not taking any initiative being a public representative in motivating the people from different parts of Jammu visiting Purmandal to cremate the dead in newly constructed cremation ground instead of at the middle of Devika, they say the MLA never took a keen interest in this regard.
Though this was a common demand of the people, the MLA showed no interest in resolving the issue despite repeated pleas says J L Baru, a prominent citizen of the area.
The Purmandal –Utterbahni is the most neglected area of Samba Assembly Segment. Despite being a great pilgrimage centre the importance of which is no less than Haridwar, it does not have basic facilities. Thousands of pilgrims converge here every year at Devak to perform religious rites of their dead and pay obeisance at Lord Shiva and other gods and goddesses there. But the area has not been developed to the extent it deserves, says Raju Bharti, a social activist of the area.
He says the road from Kaluchak to Purmandal is in dilapidated condition and no efforts have been made to develop it despite the repeated pleas of the people to Government and the MLA. Knowing fully that Purmandal and Utterbahni are two famous pilgrimage centers, the MLA never took keen interest for its development nor raised this issue in the Assembly, he adds.
Development of Purmandal as a pilgrimage centre would have helped in attracting more and more pilgrims not only from J&K but also from Northern India, and boosted the economy of the people living in this backward area. Had the MLA taken a stand in this regard during last 12 years of his tenure, thing would have improved says Baru.
He says the road leading to Purmandal via Kaluchak is in worst condition. It has deep ditches. After every one meter and during the rainy season there are cesspools of water on it making it difficult for traffic to ply on this road.
The people also face the problem of electricity and there is power cut for more than 12 hours daily, he says, adding that same is the condition of drinking water and notwithstanding the claims of the Government people of the area in this modern age still drink the Bouli water.
The bridge on Devika at Purmandal has not been completed till date and the MLA has failed in its speedy construction knowing fully that the bridge links various areas of Purmandal block to rest of Jammu region, says Maheshwar Prasad a trade unionist and resident of the area.
The authorities have also failed to reconstruct the Utterbahni bridge at Devika river, which was damaged in 2011 floods. Despite the announcement of the Chief Minister that the bridge will be reconstructed no headway has been made in this regard due to the failure of the MLA to take up the issue with Government forcefully. The pilgrims visiting the famous religious places of Utterbahni face problems due to damaged bridge as no heavy vehicle can pass over it. Moreover, after the damage to the bridge, the distance between Utterbahni and Jammu has increased.
Though being an old block of 1955 Purmandal was ignored in granting the status of a tehsil by the Government despite repeated pleas by the resident, the area, says Narayan Dutt Khajuria of Purmandal.
The block office which was supposed to function at Purmandal is functioning at Bari Brahmana while ZEO, BMO and other offices too are functioning outside Purmandal, he adds.
The people are also demanding constitution of Shrine Board for Purmandal and the demand has not been fulfilled till date, says Khajuria.
Under SRO 211 of 2006 the Tourism and Floriculture Department constituted Surinsar Mansar Development Authority with the sole objective of developing the area, says Raju Tuli. The Purmandal and Utterbahni shrines were also brought under the ambit of this Authority. Projects like protection of heritage buildings, construction of footpaths on both sides of river Devika as well as construction of over head bridge were to be undertaken but nothing has been done except construction of overhead bridge, he adds.
The road from Purmandal to Mansar has not been constructed till date despite promises, says Tuli.
The road from Mansar Morh to Mansar is also in bad condition. The people held protests recently and blocked the movement of vehicular traffic besides downing shutters of their business establishments protesting against the failure of authorities to repair the road which has led to many accidents in the past, says Gautam Sing, a local resident.
There is no one to look into the problem and the MLA is looking to this all as a mute spectator, he adds.
Residents of Satah, a Kandi village, 400 meters away from National Highway say that their area is without any development and the condition of the village is worst. No lanes and by lanes have been constructed. The MLA never took any initiative to construct lanes and by lanes in the village while the people reel under power cuts of 12 to 14 hours daily says Sansar Singh Panch.
The people of Sumb another village in Kandi belt of Samba have a woeful tale to tell. The village is 8 km away from Samba township and it lacks basic facilities with Government not taking any interest to ameliorate the lot of the villagers, says Narinder Singh Dalot a local resident. He says the village gets de-linked during rains as the road leading to the area is closed due to overflowing of nallahs on which the Government has failed to construct culverts so far despite repeated pleas of the people. The road remain closed for days together due to incessant rains and people are facing hardships to visit Samba and other townships in the event of emergencies, he adds.
He says a Chakdam was constructed in the area but two months back it collapsed killing a youth. This is the story of development works being executed by the authorities, he adds.
The people even face blackout for days together in case there is a hailstorm, he says, adding work on bridge over Sumb Nallah was started a long back and it is still incomplete.
However, when contacted, Yash Paul Kundal says that he deserves credit for granting the district status to Samba, construction of Degree College , a polytechnic and making Samba an industrial hub of Jammu where about 10,000 youth have been absorbed.
He says there were only two higher secondary schools in his Constituency and the students had to travel a long distance on foot. During his tenure four high schools were upgraded as higher secondary schools with his efforts besides over a score middle schools were upgraded as high schools.
He said being the kandi area which was neglected in the development sphere in the past, he took initiative in the development of the Assembly segment by constructing roads and bridges.
He said the road connectivity was only 15 to 20 percent in Samba before he was elected as MLA in 2002 and barring 15 to 20 villages it is hundred percent now.
Mr Kundal said scores of bridges were constructed in his constituency during his tenure. Linking the secluded villages of his Constituency to other parts of the Samba district and Jammu region.
He says the work on some bridges is still under construction.