Several new projects remain a non-starter

Civic woes, underdevelopment mar picturesque Tral

Suhail Bhat

TRAL: Although Tral has been in the spotlight for its development with several new projects announced to improve the basic infrastructure, but behind the facade lies official apathy to translate words into action and failure to provide relief to the people as they continue to battle with civic woes – poor health care, irregular power supply and inadequate irrigation facilities.
Situated in the lap of Vastoorvun mountains, Tral constituency in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district spread over hundred villages with nearly 85, 000 voters. The constituency has been represented twice by People’s Democratic Party (PDP) former MLA, Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, who defeated National Conference candidate in 2008 and 2014 Assembly elections. For the last two terms, the MLA has not had a much impact on the development of the region and the lawmaker blames unrests (2008, 2010 and 2016) and floods for it.
Although the main township of Tral has witnessed some development but there are many pockets where quality of amenities is low. The main roads leading to Tral have been recently macadamized but many interior localities lacked proper connectivity. The residents were not happy with the quality of drinking water and the quality of services provided by health centers on the fringes was far from satisfactory. Besides, they said the ambitious projects like construction of Mini-Secretariat, new Hospital, Tral- Pahalgam road and construction of sports stadium are nowhere in sight.
Major roads, Tral-Navdal and Tral-Dadsara, that connect the region to the rest of the Valley have been recently black topped with a few leftover patches causing inconvenience to the commuters. But, a huge chunk of the population that lives in the upper reaches of the region lacks all-weather road connectivity.
The roads like Tral-Aripal, Laam-Zeezbal, Batnoor-Busme, Tral-Satoora that connects several adjoining villages to the District headquarters of the Tral town are strewn with ditches and potholes. The locals of these areas blame the callous approach of the Government for their problems. “For last 12 years we have been waiting for the construction of the road but the repeated interruption on the construction work has only added to our woes,” Mohammad Ismail, a local from Aripal area of Tral said, adding that they were hopeful that the Government would improve the condition of roads but nothing substantial happened.
In absence of bridges over a local stream in Bangidara and Kanli Mohalla, the tribal areas remain cut off from the rest of the Valley during rains as they lack all-weather road connectivity. The villagers lamented that during rains they have to risk their lives to reach the nearest market and to get other basic amenities. “We have to walk over makeshift bridges constructed out of logs. The stream swells during the rainy season and the gushing water can anytime wash us away but we have no other option,” Wazira, a local said, adding the only wish of the people here is better connectivity. Another bridge, Chankatar is also awaiting completion for last several years.
The nomadic population which migrates to upper reaches in summers along with their cattle has no mobile schools for their children. “We brought this issue to the concerned authorities but to no avail”, locals at Lenard said.
The locals said the Government was not serious about imparting the technical education and lacks the will to introduce job-oriented courses in the educational institutions of Tral area. “At Degree College Tral, the courses in Business Administration, Biotechnology and Information Technology have not been introduced yet despite being among the oldest colleges in the Valley. Science and Commerce streams were recently introduced and there is lack necessary staff and infrastructure,” Rashid Ahmad, a student said, adding “the situation of other institutions is same.”
At the Industrial Training Institute (ITI) Tral, the students alleged that the college lacked proper electricity, internet and has a dearth of computers. The Institute offers various job oriented courses such as Data Entry Operators, Stenography, Computer Operator and Programming Assistant etcetera. “Students from poor families come here but they are often seen out of classrooms due to poor electricity,” a student said, adding the alternative arrangements that have been kept for their disposal were never used.
The youth of several areas complained that the Government has failed to provide a playing field despite availability of land. “Three decades ago the land was nearly 120 kanals of land to the sports department but the authorities are yet to put the space to use, leaving the youth with no place to play,” Arif Bashir, a local said. “Nearly 2600 youth from around 122 villages would have used the space. The present field is uneven and unfit for play”, he said.
The hospitals in the constituency are understaffed. At times, the dentists, pharmacist or a single nurse is available. They treat patients with all medical problems, prescribe medicine, lab tests, handle patients with chronic diseases and make referrals.
The Sub District Hospital Tral, which is the town’s nodal Centre for treatment, is also understaffed and has not been designated as the Sub-District Hospital. “Twenty years have passed but the hospital has not been given a status of the Sub District Hospital and that is the reason for dearth of staff,” an official at the District Hospital said.
Despite making tall claims the Government has failed to bring several virgin places like Narastan, Nagbaren, Poshwather, Aripaland Shikargah- of the Tral on the Tourism map. The locals lamented that all the promises to put Tral on tourism map proved hollow. “Government made several promises to put places like Shikargah on the map of tourism but no headways have been made in this regard,” a local said, adding the Government has also failed to connect Tral to famed tourist destination Pahalgam through a trekking route.
He added that the road would have made it a part of bigger circuit and given a boost to the economy, “The Government opened the place for public but failed to promote it,” he said.
With an aim to revive the old Mughal route along the foothills of picturesque Vastoorvun mountains, a road from Pastuna Tral to Shar was proposed but nearly four years have passed the road is nowhere near completion. “The road beside promoting tourism would have cut the distance by 60 kilometers. Government left the project in midway,” Firdous Ahmad, a local from Pastuna area of Tral said.
Apart from these places, the people wanted the Government to develop Nagbern, a vast meadow, and twin lakes in the deep forest Tarsar and Marsar, in the area, as tourist destinations.” By doing so destiny of the whole area can be changed,” Javeed Ahmad, a local said.
There are nearly 25 un-electrified habitations including Sojan, Dodkulan and Meder Top in the constituency and rest of the areas are also battling with erratic power supply. “The PDD do not adhere to the electricity schedule issued by the Government and they have repeatedly raised the issue with the former lawmaker but to no avail. Frequent power cuts have badly dented the business besides, students who are unable o continue studies during late hours”, Farooq Ahmad, a local said.
At Wuzul Kulnar, the villagers said they use solar lamps and traditional wood for lighting. In this modern world, the village continues to live in darkness. Residents said they have to pay Rs 10-15 to charge the batteries of their mobile phones. “We have made several representations to the concerned departments but none paid any heed to their problems”, Nazir Ahmad, a local said.
The locals also alleged that they smell a rat in the allocation of MGNEREGA works and accused Government of diverting the works to influential people, leaving the needy areas. “The lapses in the development would have been plugged if the MGNEREGA works were implemented with transparency,” the villager said, adding: “Places were works such as the construction of drains and streets or even roads were constructed with substandard material.”
The former People’s Democratic Party MLA, Mushtaq Ahmad Shah, lists a series of projects that, he said, were only possible due to his efforts. He said that the residents had been demanding the construction of two major roads- Tral -Dadsara and Tral- Awantipora road. He said that he got the DPRs prepared for the conversion of Shikargah into a Wildlife Sanctuary which would, in turn, help the economy of the region. The number of new Type Primary Health Centers rose from 2-20 thereby taking care of tertiary care and the Government has accepted to designate the Sub-District Hospital.
He said that the constituency was left underdeveloped since beginning but with his efforts there has been improvement in various sectors. “We have done work in all sectors such as PMGSY, R&B, and Agriculture and were even applauded for our commendable job,” he said adding, “the main achievement was to bring Tral on the map of development which has not happened during last several decades”.
He added he has also requested Government for the Tourism Development Authority for Tral. “It will help in the growth of Tral as independent tourist spot,” he said. He added that the work on the indoor stadium has already started.
Since a majority of population of the area is associated with the agriculture, he said that with his efforts the work on the third phase of lift irrigation system that was stalled three decades was started. “Once completed, it will irrigate the entire region,” he said.