Kangan residents feel disappointed, ex-MLA failed to live up to expectations

Suhail Bhat
Kangan: The spiritual attachment of the voters has decided the political fortunes of the candidates in Kangan constituency with the Mian family dominating the scene for the last three decades. Continuing the winning legacy, National Conference’s former MLA, Mian Altaf Ahmad, won the seat in 2014 for the fourth time since 1987.
The family has been holding the seat ever since Mian Nizam-Ud-Din, former MLA’s grandfather, a highly revered spiritual guide and religious personality jumped into politics. Although the constituency remained neglected on the developmental front, people have never criticized their leaders due to their spiritual and religious beliefs.
The constituency has been the strong hold of National Conference with party winning elections from 1996. In 1967 and 1972, Mian Bashir Ahmad, father of Mian Altaf, had successfully won Kangan seat on Congress ticket. After that, his son, Mian Altaf Ahmad, has been able to retain the seat four times in a row. In 2014 Assembly elections, he defeated PDP’s Bashir Ahmad by a majority of 1432 votes. Altaf got 25812 votes while as his opponent, Bashir, received 24380 votes.
With a voter population of little over 60, 000, the constituency is battling with ailing health care and poor drinking water facilities. Littering Sind River and ineffective disposal of the commercial and domestic waste makse the constituency particularly the Kanaga Township, untidy. The unattended garbage can be seen lying on the banks of river Sind and busy squares. The healthcare is suffering crisis with all health centers grappling with the shortage of staff.
The constituency is predominately divided into two ethnicities- Gujjars and Kashmiris- both having different political stances. According to estimates, there are around 16000 Gujjar votes in Kangan out of the total electorate of 67000 approximately. Mian, who belongs to the Gujjar community himself, receives the majority of the votes from his community.
Known for its scenic beauty, lakes and glaciers, the constituency stretches from the Ganderbal up to the picturesque Sonamarg. The constituency lies on Srinagar Leh highway which connects Kashmir with Ladakh and thousands of tourists visiting the area every year including the Amarnath pilgrims. However, after the end of Amarnath season, people, particularly, youth have nothing to do due to lack of employment avenues.
The resentment against the leader is pretty obvious across the constituency as the residents feel disappointed. “He did not live up to the expectations. Despite repeatedly voting him to power the area is underdeveloped,” Atta Mohammad, a local said, adding that the Gujjar community, who are emotionally connected with the former MLA, has also been let down.
The residents said there has been no development in terms of roads, health and education sector during former MLA’s tenure. Unemployment and inadequate healthcare are worrying the residents and provision of these facilities are in demand across the constituency.
Locals also complained that NC is selectively supporting some contractors and businessmen in Kangan who in turn, exploit common people. “People who are close to the former MLA receive all contracts of the development works of the constituency and rest are sidelined,” a local said.
Apart from the main highway, roads leading to interiors of the constituency are in bad shape. In some places, there are no bridges at all, locals said.
Delay in the completion of two pivotal bridges over Sind River is troubling the residents of more than six villages as the areas lack all-weather connectivity. The bridges were to connect two far-flung neighborhoods of Kangan- Akal, and Tangchater- to the Tehsil headquarters. Besides, the bridges would connect these villages to the Leh- Srinagar Highway. “The failure to complete the project has dashed the hopes of nearly 5000 people living across the river Sindh”, residents said.
They lamented that in absence of the “much needed” connecting links they have to use dangerous makeshift bridges to reach the other side as the area sans an alternative route. “Everyone here is scared to walk across the damaged bridge, but they have no other option. The bridge is particularly dangerous in rainy season as the river swells to its full length. The wet surface makes it slippery and a person can fall into the gushing waters of the river,” Mohammad Adil, a local said, adding that the rickety bridges are a death trap and everyday people here have to defy death to cross the river.
The residents lamented about the slow pace of work on the maternity-cum-childcare Hospital in the area. They said that four years have passed since the construction work was started but the facility remains incomplete. “The facility would have provided best maternity care to the patients and they would not have to move to another area for treatment,” Bilal Khan, a local said. The patients with complications have to travel miles to reach Lal Ded Maternity hospital in Srinagar which sometimes proves fatal. “It would have provided great relief to expectant mothers,” another local said.
As per locals, nearly 200-300 patients visit the OPD department of the hospital every day and an equal number of patients are referred to the hospital form the community health centers of the nearby villages, “because of the limited staff the hospital fails to serve a purpose”.
The residents complained about the lack of quality education in the constituency. They said although the education infrastructure has seen improvement over the years, the shortage of quality staff is denting the education sector badly.
The students studying at Degree College Kangan complained about lack of proper infrastructure. “Students have to take classes in an ITI College, which affects the studies of both the colleges,” a student said.
Residents of Gund Tehsil said that they have been demanding the opening of a degree college in their area but unwillingness from the authorities have pushed their area into educational backwardness. The residents said that the area has a population of over 45000 souls and spread over 20 villages including the remotest villages of the constituency. They complained that the students have to travel to far off places after completing undergraduate studies, forcing many to drop out. “This has forced students especially girls to drop out of schools,” Ghulam Ahmad, a resident said.
The residents of several areas said that the lack of fencing on the power canals of the area has turned it into a death trap. “There is no fencing or safety barriers which would prevent people from falling into it,” a local said.
The former MLA, Mian Altaf said that nearly 98 percent of the roads in the constituency are in good shape and renovation of the remaining roads is in pipeline.
The major achievement, he said, were Trauma Hospital Kangan, Degree College Kangan, ITI and Paramedical College. He said that nearly all the Primary Health Centres have good infrastructure and are equipped with the latest diagnostic facilities. “Moreover, all the health centers have been provided with ambulances”, he said. He added that all the villages have been provided with portable water.