Handwara gets multi-crore projects, basic issues remain unaddressed 

Suhail Bhat
HANDWARA: Handwara constituency in North Kashmir’s Kupwara district has got many new projects under former MLA Sajjad Lone but the basic facilities like proper healthcare, drinking water and road connectivity are major issues faced by the people of area.
In 2014 Assembly Elections, Sajjad Gani Lone of People’s Conference won the elections by defeating NC’s Chowdary Mohammad Ramzan by a margin of 5423 votes. Ramzan polled 23932 against Sajjad’s 29355 votes.
The residents across the constituency hailed the former MLA for getting major developmental projects including a multistory hospital building, state of art Biotech Park and a long pending Bangus road. However, there are mixed reactions from the residents regarding the improvement of basic facilities.
The main Township of Handwara witnessed some development, but the quality of amenities is low in many pockets. The main roads leading to the constituency are strewn with ditches and potholes and interior localities crave for attention.
The residents across the constituency complained about the lack of pure drinking water. They said the healthcare services on the fringes are far from satisfactory.
The healthcare is suffering with all the healthcare centres grappling with a shortage of staff. At times, a dentist, Pharmacist or a single nurse is available to treat patients, prescribe medicine, handle patients with chronic needs and make referrals. The Sub-District Hospital Handwara, which is the nodal Centre for treatment, is understaffed and lacked space.
The residents said that littering of local streams and ineffective disposal of the commercial and domestic waste presents a shabby picture of the constituency. The unattended garbage can be seen lying on the banks of streams and busy squares. The traffic problem remains unsolved and the lack of parking space continues to haunt the busy commercial place.
The residents said several villages lacked basic facilities including proper health care, drinking water and has dilapidated roads, causing immense hardships to the people. They said that the villages including Lachipora, Rainawari and Krumhura san clean drinking water, proper health care facilities and macadamized roads.
Mohammad Sultan Bhat, a resident of Rainawari village said the condition of the road from Lachipora to Krumhura is bad. The road stretch, which is at least 10 kilometres long, is full of potholes and bumps due to which the commuters are facing tremendous inconvenience,” he said.
He said it has not been repaired and macadamized despite repeated pleas by locals. “Several people including the children have developed respiratory problems due to dust emanating from the road,” he said.
Ghulam Qadir, another resident said that they are facing drinking water crisis. He said the PHE has failed to provide drinking water despite water pipes being laid in the villages.
The villagers also alleged that the area sans health care facilities as they are provided with one health Sub Centre in Krumhura village which too is in shambles. “A health Sub Centre was provided that too is operating from a rented room and without basic facilites,” Bashir Ahmad, a resident of Krumhura said.
“We were assured that the facilities will be provided at the health Centre but noting changed”, said Abdul Jabbar, another resident.
Satkoochi which is the far-flung area and home to thousands of people spread across three hamlets of Khanpora, Dhardaji and Brinal lacked basic facilities.
The village has a motorable road that snakes through the highland. Residents whose houses are perched on hills have inadeqaute healthcare facilities. Being the remotest area, residents’ main occupation is maize farming and collecting forest wood. The residents usually get injured during cutting of wood and have nowhere to get treated because the health center faces shortage of dressing or bandage.
A primary health center has been built in Behnipora for more than 20, 000 people who are living in villages of Dardhaji, Khanpora, Brinal, Rehnezeb, Budhsini, Behnipora, Golipora, Lachpora, Sarij, Ahgam, Rajpora, Nichama and Hamle. It has acute shortage of doctors, and paramedical staff. No surgeons have been posted here to take care of the pregnant women.
Healthcare is not the only problems faced by people but they also grapple with dilapidated roads, shortage of drinking water and electricity.  They said that they are supplied water from a local stream, Mawre, and it is being supplied to Unsoo, Kahnpora, Waripora, Waskora and adjacent villages. Road connectivity to these villages is very poor.
Similarly residents in Ramhal, Rajpora, Vilgam, Warpora, Wadipora, Budkoot, Machipora, Sodal, Devaspora, Geripora, Sheilal, Bakiekar and Hardanpora complained shortage of drinking water and electricity.
Residents complained that the land that was taken for the construction of Bangus road has not been compensated so far. “We have not been paid anything, despite fixing of rates. We were promised  one time compensation, but nothing has happened so far,” a local said.
The Government Middle School Krumhura, 18 kilometers from main town which caters to over a dozen villages of the area. It has only four shabby rooms for about 250 students. The middle school has been clubbed with two Primary schools of nearby areas leading to space crunch and difficulties in holding classes.
The locals said that the school lacked proper infrastructure and teaching staff. “The students have to go in open for the toilet as there is no washroom available. Despite a reservoir of PHE department nearby, the school lacks drinking water,” Ghulam Mohammad sheikh, a local said.
A teacher at the school said that the two primary Schools which are being clubbed to the middle school do not have their own buildings. “Primary School Rainawari was shifted as there was a scuffle in their own school building between the authorities and the Land owner. The other Primary school of Bhat mohalla has no building,” he said.
Locals also said that the school lacks other facilities including proper matting, hygienic kitchen for mid-day meals, proper fencing, electricity supply and tidy classrooms etc.
People in the hilly town blamed the PHE of becoming a hub of “corrupt practices and vested interests” who loot public exchequer without bothering for the miseries of public who face drinking water crisis. “We requested the former MLA but nothing changed”, they said.
Residents of several villages are up in arms over illegal stone and sand extraction from Tulari, Lalkohal and Mawar streams. Despite ban on illegal extraction of stones, boulders and sand, the illegal practice is on and is destroys fish habitat and leads to water crisis for agriculture.
“The unabated use of stone crushers has caused environmental pollution in the area making us prone to ailments”, they said. They blame Department of Mining for being hand in glove with stone crusher owners and sand miners.
Former MLA, Sajad Gani Lone said he has done things that were pending for last 70 years. He said during the last three years he has managed to bring multicore projects for his constituency, but maintained that projects of such magnitude would take time to the executive. “They are all approved by the central government and money is lying with the departments concerned. What others haven’t done in the last 50 years, I have made it possible in three years,” he added.
On the issue of health centres, Lone said: “I focused on a single institution so that people are not forced to travel to Srinagar for treatment. The hospital will eventually go up to Rs 100 crores.  However, it will take time to create the infrastructure of such quality. It is an 8-story model hospital. Besides, one more building will be converted into a Medical College,” he said.
“My focus was on the long term projects such as a State of the art Biotechnology park and a garden of herbal and medicinal plants”, he said.
Lone said construction of Bangus road project was a 70-year old dream. “It was pending for last 70 years and I made it possible. It is not only a road but a tourist corridor,”  he said.
On the improvement of electricity infrastructure, he said for last three decades there were 700 in the constituency and now there are 1150.
He said besides, two receiving stations at Tarathpora and Changimullah were constructed and receiving station Dolipora was also upgraded. “In addition, nearly 1900 solar lights were provided across the constituency”, Lone said.
“Nearly Rs 300 crore were spent on the creation of new infrastructure for Higher Secondary Schools at  Wadipora, Kukroosa, Warpora and Magam. A Tehsil library at Handwara and a new building for Degree College was also built,” he said.
All the sectors including R&B, PMGSY and NABARD, the constituency has done well in last few years “We have macadamized around 250 Kilometers of road and projects worth Rs 100 crores were implementing under PMGSY. Nearly Rs 22 crore were also spent under NABARD”, Lone said.
“Other works that were done under included Indoor stadium Handwara, four mini-hydel projects, Tehsil building at Villgam and Football ground at Barkihaker. Nearly Rs 60 crores were spent under PHE,” he said.
He admitted certain areas needed to be improved. “Yes, there are some grey areas but one has to see wherefrom I started. The area was completely neglected by earlier legislators,” Lone said.