Sanjeev K. Sharma
AKHNOOR: Situated on the bank of river Chenab, Akhnoor constituency comprised the entire of Akhnoor town and also Garkhal village at Jammu side of the river while boundaries of this constituency extends up to Sunderbani in district Rajouri and Bhambala in district Reasi.
The constituency also has seven km long Indo-Pak border at Garkhal.
Historic Jia Pota, where coronation of the first ruler of Dogra Empire, Maharaja Ghulab Singh was held and the Ambaran site of excavated Buddhist monasteries are also parts of this constituency.
Kufi temple-where Pandavas spend Agyatwas is also in this constituency where rare Arjun trees beautify this place while the rare fruit ‘Sita Fal’ also grows in some areas of this Akhnoor.
Big mountains, dense forests with fruitful mango and other trees and animals like monkeys, vicious snakes, rabbits, peacocks, tigers etc are other features of Akhnoor Assembly Constituency.
On specific queries about the former MLA, Rajiv Sharma (popularly in the constituency as ‘Gullu’) of the recently dissolved Legislative Assembly, the public at large hailed his performance but a few pockets of the constituency raised the common issue like water scarcity, poor lanes and drains etc which are almost common in the entire of J&K State.
Deepak Kumar, 19 of Tanda, a student had all praises for the former MLA.
“Sir, all is well in our area and Gullu frequently visits our village to listen our problems. He has even fulfilled all our demands during his short tenure as MLA,” said Deepak adding that his hamlet now enjoys proper water and power supply apart from many other facilities.
Ronak Kumar, 40 also from Tanda works as a daily wager and he too held similar views.
He said that Gullu has worked honestly to develop Tanda and other villages of the constituency.
Ronak further said that the former MLA is a good listener during public meetings and he patiently listens to public problems in a responsible manner.
At border village Garkhal, Ganga Ram Chib, 66, a retired BSF man said that former MLA has accomplished many developmental works in Garkhal but he felt disappointment over poor lanes and drains in some pockets of his village where there is no exit for waste water.
A housewife, Sonia, 35 at the same village Garkhal said being the residents of Pakistan firing and shelling hit village, they need special care and concessions which is still awaited.
She expressed dismay over the poor condition of the road at her village and said that all the contesting leaders are in a bad habit of breaking political promises after winning.
Kuldeep, 47, at Ward Number 9, Akhnoor expressed dismay over poor lanes and drains in his locality even as the former MLA assured solution for that many times.
Pishori, 72, a retired municipality employee too held similar views.
However, Pishori said that there are now better roads in the town and much has been improved from the previous years.
At Kandi village Dhok Jagir Soal, S. Gurdeep Singh, 56, a retired army man, said though good road and all other facilities have visited his village during the tenure of Gullu, yet, the water supply in his village was not proper and very little results of improvements have emerged in this direction so far.
Bodh Raj, 50 a labourer at another Kandi village Gurah Jagir said the former MLA Rajiv Sharma had really worked hard for Gurah Jagir yet they await proper water supply in the village.
When contacted, former MLA Rajiv Sharma in an interaction with EXCELSIOR said he was contended that he honestly worked hard for the welfare of his Constituency during his short stint as an MLA.
“I started after proper planning to work for the development of my constituency and never discriminated anyone on the basis of religion, caste, political affiliations etc,” he said, adding that he felt lucky that God had chosen him to serve his people.
On performance, the former MLA said that at present the entire constituency is having at least 22 hour regular power supply if not for 24 hours.
“Over 18 hamlets in my Constituency like Panjgrain, Jhajhar, Bala Sathar, Mera Sathar, Kala Damala, Mansu, Jamotia, Kotla etc which had not seen electricity earlier now shine as every household there is now having an electricity connection,” Gullu told this reporter.
He further said: “There are proper roads and link roads in the Constituency at present where anyone can drive or walk with an ease while earlier same roads were in dilapidated conditions.”
The former MLA mentioned about a bridge over river Chenab the foundation for which was recently laid by the PM Modi.
Gullu said: “The bridge was sanctioned in the year 2016 but was about to be de-sanctioned due to the lackadaisical attitude of J&K Projects Construction Company (JKPCC).
“This was protested tooth and nail where we locked JKPCC office for three days and staged a sit-in protest there when the then minister concerned visited us and assured that the bridge construction work will start soon,” Sharma informed adding that now the work is underway for the 1650 meter long bridge on Chenab at the rate of Rs 206 crore from Jourian to Pargwal.
“I protested in Legislative Assembly against the registration of FIR against Major Gogoi when the Army officer had tied a stone pelter with bonnet of his jeep in Kashmir to rescue some men on duty from a violent mob,” he said adding that people of his constituency now have a reason to feel proud of their elected representative for being a staunch nationalist and supporter of mighty Indian army.
The former MLA further said that he also protested proposal by the then CM Mehbooba Mufti to give Rs 5 lakh to stone pelters in Kashmir who were injured in pellet gun firing.
“I boycotted Jammu District Development Board meetings twice as meagre additionalities were given to district Jammu which ultimately reduced to Rs 17 lakh per constituency-not more than peanuts. These boycotts resulted in positive outcome as now each of Jammu district’s constituency gets Rs 3.5 to 4 crore as additionality,” Sharma maintained.
He informed that this was not a cake walk for him as these protests triggered resentment against him even within his own party what to say of the then government.
“For the safety of border residents I got 126 bunkers sanctioned of which tendering for 110 have been done while some bunkers under Border Area Development Project are ready,” Sharma claimed.
“Earlier much of the agricultural lands on the bank of river Chenab used to get eroded in landslides during floods and to fill papers sub-standard works were done in haste but I avoided all such works amidst floods and started things much earlier,” the former MLA said.
Sharma further claimed that he got Rs 60 crore spent for flood control purposes in the last three years wherein river bank was dug 10 feet deep to fix stone crates for making hedge so that no more land erosion takes place during floods.
“A protection wall 400 meter long, 4 meter high and 3.5 wide has also been raised on bank of the river Chenab,” he further informed.
He claimed that after all these developments the flood has so far not eroded any land in his Constituency while earlier kanals of land used to get washed away every year.
On water problem in Kandi belt he said that within one and half year of becoming MLA he used many schemes and got approved many Water Supply Schemes (WSS) for his Constituency where 22 bore wells were already dug.
“About Rs 40 crore funding was done for these WSS with a minimum funding of Rs 1 Cr 90 lakh for some projects and maximum of Rs 7 Cr 88 lakh for others,” Gullu said.
“Apart from this tendering has been done for construction of some tanks and over head tanks, works on many of which is presently underway at some places in Kandi areas while for Jorian like areas shallow pumps have been given,” former MLA said.
He claimed that with his efforts he got a Mango Village at Sungal Sumah which is almost nearing completion.
“I got personally involved and got checked this and presently there are 27,000 BPL families getting subsidized ration under National Food Security Act in my Constituency,” he further said.
Sanjeev K. Sharma