No headway in promoting world famous Basohli art

Ex-MLAs’ Report Card Constituency: Basohli
Ex-MLAs’ Report Card Constituency: Basohli

Govt fails to bring constituency on tourism map
Avtar Bhat
BASOHLI : Basohli Assem-bly segment is in no way different in topography from its sister constituencies of Bani and Billawar forming the part of Kathua district. The constituency is mostly Kandi belt. It is linked to Himachal Pradesh (HP) in South East and Punjab in South. In West it is linked to Kathua constituency while Bani Assembly segment is in its East and Billawar in North.
As the topography of these three constituencies to some extent is similar hence the problems faced by the people in all the three Assembly segments are also to some extent same.
The constituency is separated from Punjab and HP by mighty Ravi river, which flows along this constituency right from Hut Mashika to Lakhanpur. However, two bridges constructed on the river one at Basohli town called Atal Sethu and another at Hut Mashika links it with both Punjab and HP States and the distance from Basohli to neighboring States was reduced to a great extent with the construction of these two bridges.
The constituency was represented in the dissolved Assembly by BJP leader Ch Lal Singh. He also represented the Assembly segment right from 1996 to 2004. Firstly he was elected from year 1996 to 2002 and later from year 2002 to 2004 as a Congress candidate. But in 2004 he had to quit as MLA to contest the Lok Sabha elections from Kathua -Doda Parliamentary constituency and his wife Kanta Andotra was elected from this constituency for remaining four years.
This clearly indicated that Ch Lal Singh who also remained Minister in Mufti Cabinet from 2002 to 2004 and later again in Mufti and Mehbooba Mufti Governments from 2015 to 2018, is closely linked to Basohli Assembly segment and people of the constituency.
Despite having a proximity to inhabitants of Basohli Assembly segment, people have very high expectations from him also. However satisfying ever one is not humanly possible and some sections of people have grievances against former MLA saying that though they remained solidly behind him but some of their problems have not been solved as yet.
The main issue raised by the cross section of people in this Assembly segment is that though Basohli is known world over for its Pashmina Shawls and painting from centuries together, no headway has been made till date for the promotion of the same. Despite construction of Atal Sethu after which the distance of the area was decreased to neighboring States, the Basohli handicrafts and painting failed to get the boost and attention the level it deserved. This is the general complaint of the people of the town and adjoining areas.
Even the artists from the area and artisans who are dealing in the world famous Basohli Pashmina also decry the role of the successive Governments for their failure in boosting the Basohli Pashmina trade and paintings. The artists said that they had lot of expectations from the previous Government but it too could not come to their expectations the level they desired.
This art is completely dying now as no one takes interest in boosting and encouraging the younger generation to continue the tradition. The former MLA tried his level best to get due place for the Basohli art and paintings but he could not get the support from the Government which did not show any interest for the same.
Sohan Singh Baloria, a well known artist from Basohli said that the Basohli shawl and paintings are surviving till date with the efforts of artists and artisans as well as some NGOs otherwise it would have completely vanished.
The Government had made many promises but could not do any thing in this regard, he said. They had promised to promote the Basohli art and paintings to give due place to it in the world but nothing concrete was done in this regard till date, he added.
Lal Singh represented the constituency thrice as MLA and twice as MP and he too could not do any worthwhile for promotion of Basohli art and paintings in the national and international markets due to lack of support at Government level, he said.
Baloria said during elections the contesting candidates make promises and later fail to deliver on ground. Except befooling the people they do nothing for their betterment and development of area.
The area has a lot of potential for tourism as well and its chances increased after the construction of Ranjit Sagar Dam at Basohli some years back. But failure of Government to boost the tourism trade in the area has also led to pessimism among the people of the constituency.
Had the Government paid attention towards this problem and the local representatives been able to take up the issue forcefully before the Government, the Basohli would have been far advance and developed township of Jammu region, said Darshan Lal a resident of Basohli town.
He said no training school was opened in Basohli for imparting training to youth in weaving of Basohli Pashmina Shawl and promotion of paintings though it was a long pending demand of the people of the area.
Though people also admitted that this time the MLA did not get the much time to solve the burning issues as Government fell before completion of even three years, but during previous years no effective steps were taken in this regard also.
Inderjit Singh of Plahi village, which is two kms away from Basohli said that had it been Kashmir ,Basohli would have been on top of tourist map and fully developed but here no proper infrastructure has been created for tourists.
He said that 800 people of the area who were given jobs as per the agreement while construction of Thane Dam as their land was acquired by the Project are still running from pillar to post for the same as no body listens to them. The public representative also could not take up this issue forcefully to grant justice to them. Moreover, many families are without compensation of the land which was taken by the project, he added.
Even nothing was done to boost the morale of artists participating in 110 year old Basohli Ramleela for its revival which has its unique place in the Jammu region, Singh added.
Eight MW Hut Mashika Micro Hydel Power project is defunct for over a decade now and no steps were taken to restore it, said Inderjit Singh.
He said Hatmakshika road remained closed in Monsoons as water overflows road. There are also no proper transport facilities in the area.
He said Jano-Sailaf road has not been constructed while the work is going at snail’s pace on Dhar Mahanpur road.
The Basohli could have been converted to mini Goa after construction of dam but no attention has been paid to it.
Sumesh Kumar, a resident of Basohli said that Government failed to fulfill the norms for declaring Basohli a heritage town and no attention was paid to soil wastage management of the town. Moreover Rs one crore was sanctioned for Solid Waste Management project but no body knows where it was spent.
He said Basohli Development Authority was created and Rs 400 crore allocated to it. The name plate was also installed and Rs 100 crore for the same was released by the Government but no one knows where the same was utilized.
Moreover, SDM Basohli was shifted and ADC post was created but he is without powers and without staff. “What was the fun of creating the post without powers and staff? The people are suffering on account of the same”, he said.
Kalu Ram of Nagrota Preta said a proposal was mooted to run boats in the dam to promote tourism. Four boats were purchased and among them three were big to carry 25 passengers each while one was small. Tenders were invited but no headway was made in it and all boats are lying idle. This is total wastage of public exchequer’s money, he added.
Even the people of Lakhanpur too have many grievances. Jeet Raj, a local resident said, that underground drain as demanded by the shopkeepers and people has not been constructed and no work is being done by Municipal Committee Lakhanpur as well. Vijay Kumar of Jandor, Basohli while acknowledging the work of MLA said he has no grievances against him as some developmental works had taken place in the area. However he said people resent the failure of Government to accept their demand to have small station of train in the area and construction of flyover on railway track was not conceded as people have to wait for long time when train crosses the track and this way their time gets wasted.
The residents of Karoh Basohli too have many grievances. According to Karnail Singh, Lambardar the plates were laid for MGNREGA works but not executed later. The people also faced water scarcity and no attention has been paid to solve the problem in the area and surrounding villages.
However, same are not views of people every where Ram Kumar of Haripur showered all praises for the ex-MLA saying he is dynamic and bold leader. He is true to his words and has brought many projects in the constituency. There is better road link now and for tourism promotion, many steps were taken by him.
Basohli got a new Hospital building besides steps are afoot to bring the Basohli on tourism map. The ex-MLA has taken many steps in this regard also, he said.
Ismail Gujjar of Basohli said that he as well his fellow community members in the area are satisfied with the functioning of Lal Singh. He is a pro poor leader and true to his words. Every body has access to him and he listens their problems keenly.
He constructed classrooms in schools, roads in various areas and ensured good quality of work. He was prompt in checking the attendance of officials in Government offices and no body dared to remain absent during his tenure as MLA or create problems to people visiting the Government offices for any work.
The ex-MLA had such a reputation that if a client in any Government office tells that he has been asked by Lal Singh to meet the officer, he would not take five minutes in settling the case, said Ismail.
People in Mahanpur area too lavished praises on the ex-MLA saying that they are satisfied with his performance in short span of time. The good road net work in the constituency speaks his performance for which he deserves all praises, said Ramesh Kumar a local shopkeeper.
Raman Singh also of Mahanpur said that the ex-MLA took keen interest in development of the constituency and deserves credit for bringing the solar light project to Basohli.
However, when contacted for his comments on his three years performance as MLA, Choudhary Lal Singh said that the area of his responsibilities has increased tremendously now and he has come out of a constituency to safeguard the rights of the people in entire Jammu region which faced constant neglected and discrimination over the years.
He said he has started a mission to end this discrimination and his responsibilities have been shifted from a particular Assembly segment to entire Jammu region now.
The former Minister said he is awfully busy these days and just now he has attended a meeting to devise the strategy for future course of action regarding his new mission.