Doda district is not only hilly but also backward. Chandrabhaga or better known as Chenab River flows through it. As a mountainous region, there are innumerable nullahs and streams rushing down the steep gorges finally merging with Chenab and making it a mighty river, a roaring ocean during the rainy season. The district has very little land that is plain and the population is scattered over hills and hillocks. Evidently, connectivity is difficult and hazardous and we have motor accidents day in and day out. As such, development of the entire area is subject to dependable road connectivity. This means that a large number of bridges, small and big, have to be built to ensure connectivity. Movement of men and material is possible only when there are bridges over the nullahs and the river. With this necessity in mind, the Government planned as many as five important bridges in the region which would serve over 3.5 lakh people of various localities. Bridges proposed are Assar, Marsoo, Pul Doda, Shiva Dal and Thathri. Total amount estimated to be spent on their construction is close to 70 crore rupees.
Reports coming from reliable media sources are not very encouraging in regard to the completion of these vital bridges. In fact construction of none of the bridges has been brought to completion though work was started as early as 2005 on some of them. After a lapse of nearly six years and spending good deal of money, not one of the aforementioned bridges is functional. R&B Department is with the Chief Minister, and he has issued explicit instructions in the meetings of JKPCC that the task of bringing the construction to completion should be speeded up. It appears as if he too has become helpless in the face of lackadaisical attitude of functionaries at the helm of affairs. This is not at all satisfying. One fails to understand why such long delays happen in the construction of bridges when money and expertise are not lacking. Perhaps there is the lack of will to do or insensitivity towards the public good. It is inexplicable.
The most common reason given by responsible functionaries is that the contractor has failed to deliver and they bring all onuses to the doorsteps of the contractors. This is not acceptable. A contractor’s antecedents are fully scrutinized before the contract is signed. If the Government is not satisfied with the antecedents, no contract is to be signed. Does it mean that there has been favouritism at work meaning a contract is given to a company which does not have the technical proficiency and expertise but being a favoured one grabs the contract and after swindling a few crores of rupees leaves the work half way and is no more traceable. Normally this is the situation. It points to serious lapses on the part of the department concerned. The first and foremost thing to be scrutinized is the feasibility of the site and of the company which will undertake the project. If a certain company has failed to bring the project to completion, it should be dealt with according to rules; it has to be black listed. Nobody knows whether the department has ever thought of imposing punitive punishment on defaulting companies or not. An ordinary person will say that there has been a nexus between various agencies to swindle the money and leave the Government in lurch. The accusation may not be true but the Government should ensure not to give opportunity to observers to jump to the conclusion.
Bridges are of extraordinary importance to this hilly and backward region. If we want to improve the life of the people, connectivity is the first necessity. If a popular government is not able to provide connectivity to the backward region, it should not expect the people to be receptive to their approaches when votes are asked for. And that is the beauty of a democratic dispensation. People adjudge the governments and the parties by their performance and their assessment depends on what practical benefit has accrued to the masses during the tenure of a particular government. The Chief Minister himself is in charge of the department whose responsibility is to bring these bridges to completion. We know how serious he is and how sincerely he wants the development of the state but then there are bottlenecks. We want him to deal strongly and firmly with this recurring problem.
It is the 6th day of curfew in Rajouri where communal tension flared up after a Bhairav procession brought out by the minority community was assaulted. There are accusations that a religious leader had whipped up communal passion in the course of his speech earlier. Whatever the background, the immediate thing to be done is to do all to bring the situation to normalcy. One fails to understand why the directive from the Speaker of LA of sending a ministerial team to Rajouri has not materialized so far. What ground situation do these ministers expect to be created to enable them to come to Rajouri? They are not going as royal visitors to play golf and want a hero’s reception. Rajouri is burning and they have to go there to doze off the flames. This State cannot afford communal disharmony. We have seen lot of bad days in last two decades and have suffered in more than one way. Thousands of families are put to great suffering and hundreds of thousands of youth are unemployed craving for two square meals. We have problems of economy, healthcare, education, and poverty. We are all geared to fight the evils of poverty, backwardness and deprivation. How on earth can we afford to forget all this and allow brute instincts within us to have the better part of us? The saner elements of Rajouri from both communities should meet forthwith and give a proof that they can rise above the conflict and tension and restore normal life. They should refuse the intervention of the ministerial team because the team has proved insensitive. They should resolve to keep the initiative in their hands and guide their respective communities. There is absolutely no alternative to living in peaceful coexistence. This is the motherland of us all to whatever faith, culture, and ethnicity we belong.