Mixed reaction of people over development in Bijbehara

Suhail Bhat
Bijbehara : Bijbehara is the stronghold of the PDP and ancestral home of Muftis. Late former Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed won the Assembly election from here uncontested in 1967 on Congress ticket. Former Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti, won the election from here in 1996 on Congress ticket.
Adbul Rehman Veeri won the Assembly by-elections in 1999 to become the first PDP legislator. Despite winning last four Assembly elections from the constituency, the area has not witnessed much development.
In 2014 election, Veeri won election from here fourth time by defeating NC’s Bashir Ahmad Shah with a majority of 2868 votes. Rahman got 23581 votes while as 20713 were polled by Bashir.
After the PDP-led Coalition Government took over in 2014; locals hoped that the projects would be completed on a fast track basis, but that did not happen. The former MLA has made a slew promises and initiated several developmental projects, but people have issues with their execution.
The major developmental projects of the constituency remain incomplete due to slow pace of work or lack of funds. From the establishment of the Fruit Market to the construction of a Mini-Secretariat, setting up of the waste treatment plant and construction of Trauma Hospital- none of the projects have been completed and some are yet to take off.
The health centers across the constituency are craving for adequate infrastructure and staff. The construction work on the Trauma Centre in Bijbehara Town is incomplete even after five years of approval.
Keeping in view the casualties in road accidents in mind, the trauma Center was sanctioned along the Jammu and Kashmir National Highway. The residents said that they were expecting speedy work on it but that didn’t happen.
Another healthcare facility, the sub-district Hospital Bijbehara runs from an unsafe building, putting the lives of patients and staff at risk. The residents said the building suffered serious damages during the devastating floods of 2014 and was also declared unsafe by the departments concerned. They said despite an adverse report, the building has not been repaired. “Cracks have appeared on the walls of some blocks on the ground floor. At the inpatient, ward flooring has sunken. The damaged building is putting the lives of both patients and staff at risk,” Saqib Rasheed, a resident said.
The residents are angry over trading facilities for apple crop which is the mainstay of the economy. Five years ago, the foundation stone was laid for the fruit market in Jablipora area of Bijbehara, but the work has not been completed. Spread over 440 kanals of land and estimated to be constructed at Rs 35 crore, the market is being set up to generate economic activities for the locals, particularly the fruit traders. The market will have 600 shops, market yards, weighing bridge, administrative block, bank, post office, cold storage, and other facilities. The fruit traders were expecting the market would have been made functional by now, but there is no forward movement on this.
With an aim to link, the horticulture with the tourism Government decided to develop Chinewuder as the Apple Valley but the project is incomplete. With a production of almost 40500 metric tons, Apple Valley is spread over eight kilometers from Sirgufwara to Budroo and covers four villages-Hugam, Kanenwan, Kreeri, and Chandipora. The project is not only incomplete but commercial structures around it have mushroomed. The sprawling 160 hectare Apple Valley, which is famous for Red and royal delicious apple and potential tourist attraction, has been ravaged by the wanton illegal construction.
At Bijbehara and Mattan towns, which are considered as the business hubs of the constituency, people face issue of waste disposal as it is not disposed on scientific lines which is posing a serious health threat to the people. “Besides the number of stray dogs has also shot up in the area as the entire town is strewn with piles of unattended garbage”, said Abdul Hameed, a local. He added that in absence of a proper dumping site roadsides and stream banks are covered with litter piles which besides posing threat to environment invites diseases.
The residents also complained that the famous Lidder stream that runs through the constituency has been ravaged by the discharge of waste, illegal bolder excavation, and encroachments. “The waters of the stream have turned murky due to the relentless dumping of the waste on its banks. As the stream swells during rainfall the waste gets into it,” a local said, adding people have raised illegal structures on the banks of the stream. The Municipal Committee Bijbehara (MCB) dumps the garbage in open, on the outskirts of the town, right next to the local Government Degree College. The residents said that the big dumping bins wherein the garbage can be temporarily kept for subsequent dumping are nowhere to be seen in the town. Similarly, the garbage from the Mattan is being dumped on the banks of the Lidder near Akoora village.
Apart from Veer village, which is the native village of former two MLAs, all the villages of the constituency are grappling for basic facilities like drinking water, poor road connectivity and dismal health care.
Few years back, people were elated when it was decided to develop Akoora as a model village. However, apart from the nomenclature, nothing changed. “No additional facility was provided to us. Even the board which would announce the status of the village was denied. From street lights to healthcare nothing has changed,” Nissar Ahmad, a resident, said.
Nissar said that the building wherefrom primary health center also houses the Veterinary hospital. “The humans and animals are treated under a single roof. The condition of the PHC has been going on for years now,” he said.
The constituency was badly affected by the devastating floods of 2014 in which several houses and shops suffered huge losses. In order to mitigate the losses, compensation was announced for the affected shopkeepers and houses. However, locals alleged that the money was distributed among the political workers and influential people.
They said that MLA promised that the embankments from Seer village- Sangam will be raised to prevent future floods but nothing was done.
The electric supply in the area, residents complained, is erratic and people are fed up with unscheduled power cuts. “There is no proper schedule for electricity supply and at the most, we get only a few hours of electricity a day while at times the villages reel under darkness for days altogether,” the residents said. At some places, they said, the electric supply lines are fraught with danger and can lead to a mishap as they are passing through windows and rooftops of the houses in absence of erected electric poles at many villages.
The residents have also complained that some areas remain plunged into darkness as they are without an electric transformer.
Residents of villages Gur, Arder, Veer, Laribal, Krendgam, Nanil, Akoora, Khiram, Sirhama, Mirhama, Wagama, Chandpora, Banderpora, Aswara, Chinigund and other dozens of villages, said they have been battling with daily issues like pure water, sanitation, ration supply, electricity, health care and education.
The residents of Gur, Aadar, Nowbugh, Kandipora, Kreer Zaal, Veer and Naanil also complained that passengers and commuters were facing tremendous inconvenience due to the dilapidated condition of roads.
Former Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA), Abdul Rehman Veeri, told Excelsior that his major achievements was to improve the irrigation facilities of the constituency. “All major canals were modernized including all major Dada, Mahind, Awantipora, Darchipora kandi , Katu and Narche canal,” he said. Besides seven new lift irrigation schemes were constructed which helped in meeting the irrigation deficit of the upper belt.
For the lower belt, he said, several new schemes were built including Dagjipora, Durpora, Khudpora, Sirhama, Wopzan, Daliyaar, etc. “With these irrigation schemes we have been able to revolutionalize the horticulture sector in the area,” he said.
He said to improve the road connectivity, the widening and renovation work worth Rs 200 crores is underway in the constituency. Under Central Roads Funds the construction work on the roads like Sangam-Sirgafara ( Maharaji Road) is underway besides work is on several roads Under PMGSY. The roads include Cheskoot- Mattan via Waghama Mirhama, Bijbehara-Wapzen-Sirhama road, Thajivara-Veeri-Guri- National highway, Wapzan Sheetipora- Shargam, Akoora – Lazbal, Sirgufwara- Akoora- Mattan. Apart from that, nearly 100-kilometer road surface have been macadamized.
Other projects that he was proud of include construction of Mini Secretariat in Bijbehara, Tehsil Cum mini Secretariat at Mattan, and creation of Subdivision at Bijbehara Town.
On the issue of SDH Bijbehara, he said that foundation stone for the new building has already been laid and work will start soon. “The Trauma Hospital would be completed this year”, he said.
The Terminal fruit market which has been pending for a long time, he said , would be completed by the end of this year. “It will be developed like a Sopore fruit market,” Veeri said.
On the issue of garbage dumping, he said a waste treatment is coming up for three Municipalities- Bijbehara, Mattan and Anantnag- and the foundation stone has also laid last year.
He said Apple resort at Chinwudar is being developed and it is almost complete and will be functional this year.
The concept of Apple village in the constituency at Khiram Sirhama is the first apple village of the Valley. “The facilities like cold storage, grading and packing will be available there. Within 3-4 years this concept will revolutionize the industry as more such villages will be created,” he said.
He said the biggest achievement is the establishment of Degree College in the constituency. “Infrastructure is being created for the College. One building is complete and the work on the second building is underway. The third building will be completed with the help of the world bank,” he said.
Besides, Veeri said, the number of higher secondary schools and high schools have also increased in his tenure.
He said that nearly 90 percent of the population receives drinking water as several new water supply schemes have been constructed in the area.