KATHUA: The last Assembly segment of Jammu region bordering with neighboring Punjab, Kathua is among the oldest townships of this region. It is bordering Punjab in South, International Border (IB) in West, Basohli and Billawar Assembly segments in East and Hiranagar Constituency in North.
Like Hiranagar and Samba constituencies, Kathua Assembly segment is also partly fertile and partly Kandi. The area has lot of barren land which could not be cultivated due to lack of irrigation facilities. The lack of attention from successive Governments towards this issue has been a greatest cause that the farmers of Kandi belt could not produce the crop to the desired level and compete with the farmers of RS Pura and Bishnah tehsils which are known as rice bowel of Jammu.
People, while giving due credit to former MLA, Rajiv Jasrotia and local MP, Dr Jitendra Singh for their initiative on Shahpur Kandi Project, however, said that there were various other problems which could not get the attention of the former MLA. Gareeb Dass of Maha, Kathua said that no initiative was taken to provide money to poor people under the houses for all as some people living under Below Poverty Line (BPL) still live in dingy mud houses.
Manohar Lal, another resident of the village said even the BPL and APL cards were not framed after proper verification and some BPL and deserving families were not considered for the same while APLs were given BPL cards at various places. He said ration was given for six months a year only and not for the entire year. Moreover, instead of five liters of Kerosene Oil, only two liters are given to consumers, he added.
He said it is a pity that in most areas the deserving BPL families were ignored and they are running from pillar to post but to no avail.
The drinking water scarcity and power crisis are also another problems being faced by the people in various parts of Kathua Constituency. Palvi a student of BA Part final of Maha, Kathua said that they faced seven to eight hour power cut daily and no attention has been paid to solve this problem. Moreover, monkey menace also continues to haunt the people in the Kandi belt as they damage entire Rabi as well as Kharif crops. No proper way out is being found to overcome this problem by the Government and MLA too could not take any initiative in this regard.
She said the students in the area are worst sufferers of power cuts as they can’t properly study during evening or early morning hours due to long duration power cuts.
Buta Ram a resident of Kathua town said many roads and bridges were constructed by Jasrotia during his tenure as MLA in the areas which were neglected by the previous regimes.
However, the problem of drinking water which the constituency is facing almost both in Kandi belt as well as plain areas has not been solved by any one including the ex MLA too could not make any headway in this regard. This is also the general opinion in Kathua.
Former MLA has taken keen interest in construction of roads and bridges with black topping of the roads which were in shambles but he failed to settle the drinking water problem, said Rajesh Jamwal of Ghatti Kathua.
Though people are satisfied with the developmental process in the Constituency saying that roads, lanes and bridges were constructed by him, however, the MLA faced flak every where for his failure in getting the water crisis solved which is the main problem being faced by people almost in every area of Kathua constituency.
In some areas of the constituency people said that they are not getting water for days together or have to fetch the same after traveling a distance of one km or so. This is the main problem which, they said, could not be solved by outgoing MLA. Otherwise his performance on other fronts was good.
However, there is also a grievance among some parts of the Constituency regarding continuation of illegal mining especially in river Rawi and other nullahs. Though the administration has ordered ban and seized some of the crushers in the district but still the illegal mining continues in Ravi river and other nullahs of Constituency which are posing a threat to environment besides depletion of under ground water level, said Manoj Kumar a social activist of Kathua.
Another problem which worried the people of Kathua is increasing drug menace and smuggling of drugs from neighboring Punjab and across the border, said Kamal, a student of Ghati. This has ruined the career of some youth and to arrest this trend no serious campaign was launched in Kathua and MLA too did not pay proper attention to launch the drug de-addiction campaign or force the administration to weed out this increasing menace from the town, he added.
He said the drug addiction has influenced entire Kathua district and being a public representative the former MLA too could have taken a stand in forcing the administration to take drastic measures against the drug mafia active in Kathua who have deep links with drug mafia in Punjab and other areas.
New projects were brought in Kathua, which no one can ignore and in coming times Kathua town will be one of the developed townships of Jammu if the pace of development will remain same. But the water crisis which the people face in majority of the areas of the district need attention as the outgoing MLA also could not do much in settling this issue, said Vinod Kumar another resident of Ghatti.
He said during last five years after the Modi Government came to power at Delhi historic projects were brought for Kathua district which included construction of over Rs 150 crore and 1.25 km length Keerian Gandyal bridge over river Ravi connecting two secluded Panchayats with 30 villages to Kathua for the first time after the independence of the country. The January 22 this year was a historic movement for the people of these villages when the bridge was inaugurated by Union Minister, Nitin Gadkari, Governor, S P Malik and Union Minister, Dr Jitendra Singh who represents the constituency in Parliament also. Though the bridge was sanctioned by Union Government but the local MLA also deserves the credit for this great work, he added.
He said the construction of Medical College, Engineering College, Dream Land Park renovation, construction of Bio Tech Park Kathua which is the first of such park in entire North India are other achievements of present dispensation to which ex MLA was a part.
Moreover, the MLA deserved credit along with local MP for construction of other bridges over different nallahs in the area which were creating havoc during rainy season. A good network of roads has also been constructed in the district as well as Kathua constituency both under CRF and PMGSY roads and this was not possible had the MLA not pleaded the case before the concerned agencies, said Ram Kumar, a social activist from Gandiyal.
Ram, who has no grievances with MLA said the water scarcity problem in the entire district will be solved after the Shahpurkandi and Ujh Barrage are commissioned. The first ever Seed Processing Plant of the State is being constructed in the district and with construction of all these projects the fate of people will certainly change, he added.
He said which Government has taken such an interest in developing this area in past 70 years and how can one ignore the contribution of ex MLA in this regard. The ex MLA could not get the full time of six years to serve his constituency otherwise there could be much more results.
The delay in construction of Shahpur Kandi Barage for about 40 years has been one of the main causes of the plight of the farmers especially living in Kandi belt of Kathua Assembly segment, said Prem Nath a social activist.
He said had the initiative of settling the Shahpur Kandi Project been taken well in time, the irrigation and drinking water problems faced by people in entire Kathua district would have been solved and the district could have competed in Punjab in green revolution also.
He said, however, with the initiative taken by present Government a new hope has emerged among the farming community and it is expected that good days have come for the farmers of Kandi belt in Kathua and they too can produce the three crops in a year like the framers in neighboring Punjab and other plain areas of Jammu.
With the construction of this project the State would get the plenty of water and electricity. This would not only help in irrigation of barren land but also improvement in power supply due to which the State can meet its shortage and boost industrial production as well as lift irrigation facilities, said Buta Ram of Nagri Kathua.
He said a new hope has emerged for the farming community whose crops often dry up due to lack of irrigation or less Monsoon rains. But once the project is constructed the area will get plenty of water for irrigating the land and increase production of agriculture, horticulture and floriculture.
This is the positive sign for which people give credit to their Lok Sabha member, Dr Jitendra Singh as well as the ex MLA, Rajeev Jasrotia. Though Dr Jitendra Singh took personnel interest in resolving the impasse with Punjab Government through the intervention of Prime Minister, the MLA also raised this issue in various foras as well as with the Union Minister in PMO, he said.
However, the MLA was not available for his comments on various problems being faced by the people in his area. Though this correspondent tried to contact him at many occasions but he did not respond to the phone calls.