Inhabitants of many areas of Banihal feel neglected, still crying for basic amenities

Ex-MLA claims ‘revolutionary’ steps taken in last 9 years

Mohinder Verma
JAMMU: Even more than one decade after becoming part of a new district, major parts of the Banihal Assembly Constituency, which is situated at the extreme end of the Jammu province towards Kashmir valley, are facing development deficit and now people of these areas have starting convincing themselves that they have no option but to embrace the difficulties and move on in their lives.
What to talk of tasting the fruits of major development plans of the Central and State Governments, the inhabitants of several parts of this Assembly segment have even been deprived of the basic amenities like proper healthcare, adequate drinking water and sufficient power supply. Moreover, several areas have yet not come on the road connectivity map of the State.
Imagine a scene of people carrying ailing persons either on their shoulders or on the traditionally woven beds to shift them to the nearest possible road and then to the hospital. Such a scene becomes more horrifying when the patient is a pregnant woman. But these difficulties failed to invite seriousness of those who are supposed to address the concerns of the people.
The depressing scenario vis-à-vis developmental activities in many areas of this Assembly constituency spread over difficult and rugged terrain is a clear reflection on the performance of Congress leader Vikar Rasool, who represented the area in the Legislative Assembly twice—-first for full six years term and then almost three years due to sudden dissolution of Assembly by the Governor in the month of June this year.
The shocking aspect is that several areas, which are hardly around 20 kilometers away from the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, were allegedly not frequently visited by Vikar Rasool when he was MLA despite the fact that there is hardly any sector where inhabitants are not facing any difficulty. The inhabitants of many areas have a common complaint that Vikar Rasool focused only on some selected areas from where he received maximum votes during last two elections while as other areas never received his due attention during the past over nine years.
All this has come to the fore during a random survey conducted by EXCELSIOR recently in different parts of Banihal Assembly segment to ascertain the performance of the MLA of the dissolved Assembly. People of several areas are of the saying that major developmental projects initiated by the Government of India like railway line and widening of highway have no importance for them especially when they don’t have basic amenities of the life at their respective doorsteps.
“Such projects, no doubt, are of much importance for the overall development of the State but the same carries little significance for us as we are still living in stone-age”, said a group of people from different villages of Magarkote while complaining that Vikar Rasool has done nothing for them despite making numerous promises during last two elections.
Mohd Ashraf, an inhabitant of Sujmatna Panchayat said, “there are no proper drinking water and healthcare facilities in numerous areas like Dardai, Brodgali, Deng Mohalla and Seripora”, adding “the people of dozens of hamlets have no option but to carry everything on their head or shoulders for to and fro journey from their hamlets as road connectivity is still a distant dream”.
An elderly person of Magerkote Mohd Iqbal said, “Vikar Rasool also remained Minister of State for Power in National Conference-Congress Coalition Government but he failed to utilize his position to provide electricity to all the areas of the Banihal Assembly segment”, adding “though there are several hamlets which are still crying for power supply yet majority of the people have been provided this facility only during the Governor’s Rule which much needed thrust was laid on the implementation of the Centrally Sponsored Schemes in the power sector”.
“Merely installation of poles and stringing of electricity wires is not going to serve the purpose if the electricity is not to be provided regularly and uninterruptedly”, said a group of people who had covered long distance on foot to reach Magerkote for boarding bus to reach Ramban district headquarters, adding “though officially our villages have been electrified but electricity is provided occasionally”.
It also came to the notice of visiting EXCELSIOR team that in several villages of Banihal constituency people were not aware of several Centrally Sponsored Schemes aimed at ameliorating the lot of poor sections of the society thereby establishing that even this vital aspect too failed to receive due attention of the people’s elected representative.
What to talk of other schemes the womenfolk in several villages of Banihal Assembly segment were found completely unaware of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) where under free LPG connections are provided and using firewood in the kitchen is still a routine for them.
While people of several villages of Magerkote expressed concern over non-availability of road connectivity and healthcare facilities, the inhabitants of Ukhral, a home town of former Chief Justice of India Justice Tirath Singh Thakur, have motorable road and even Primary Health Centre but still they are facing several problems. This is because their representative in the Assembly during the past nine years never took the issue of acute shortage of doctors vigorously with the Health Department.
“Had our representative been serious on this vital aspect, he could have managed adequate number of doctors and para-medical staff”, people of Ukhral said, adding “though PHC has been provided with Ultrasound and X-Ray machines but for their smooth functioning neither trained manpower nor dedicated power supply has been ensured as a result of which these machines rarely provide benefit to the people”.
They also highlighted the issue of non-functioning of the dental section in PHC and negligible facilities for the pregnant women. “Only normal deliveries are conducted in the PHC and for all other procedures the patients are referred to Banihal”, they further said.
Shortage of manpower in Ramsoo PHC also came to the fore during the visit as a result of which this centre has failed to come up to the expectations of the people. Lack of proper road connectivity to vast areas, dismal health scenario and shortage of teachers in the schools were the common problems of almost all the areas of the Banihal Assembly constituency, which were visited by EXCELSIOR team.
“What else an MLA can do if he fails to ensure uninterrupted power supply, good healthcare facilities, better road connectivity and other basic amenities”? people asked.
When contacted, Vikar Rasool claimed that revolutionary steps have been taken in the constituency during the past nine years. “Several areas like Pogal Paristan, Neel, Mohu Mangat and Khari were electrified and even three new receiving stations were constructed due to my direct intervention”, he said, adding “even a transformer repair workshop is coming up in the constituency so that damaged transformers are replaced in shortest possible time”.
About road connectivity, the former MLA said, “road link has been provided to several villages and only few PMGSY projects are pending that too for want of clearance from the Forest Department”, adding “it is only during the last over 9 years that constituency has witnessed massive development”.
When his attention was drawn towards the poor healthcare facilities, the former MLA put the ball in the court of successive State Governments. He, however, said, “the development deficit, wherever existing, is because representative of this constituency never received representation in the State Cabinet”.