Shangus most backward segment in S Kashmir

Suhail Bhat
SHANGUS: Considered as the most backward constituency in South Kashmir, Shangus is marred by civic problems that remain unaddressed by the successive Governments for the past many years.
The residents hold “political apathy” responsible for their plight as they continue to suffer from lack of basic amenities including healthcare, drinking water, electricity, education and road connectivity.
The constituency is spread over 100 villages with a voter base of around 86, 000. The constituency is a part of South Kashmir’s Anantnag district and has a literacy rate of over 60 percent. In 2014 assembly elections the Indian National Congress’ candidate Gulzar Ahmad Wani won by defeating People’s Democratic Party’s Peerzada Mansoor Hussain with a margin of 2789 votes. Wani polled 21685 votes and Hussain 18896.
The constituency is situated on the banks of Nallah Arapath which dissects it into two unequal parts. One is mountainous on the upper side and the other is plains on the lower side. People are dependent on Government jobs, but agriculture is mainstay. Although the area has abundance of fresh water springs, the Government has failed to provide irrigation facilities, affecting both the quality and yield of the crop.
As half of the agriculture fields are on the hilly terrain the only source of irrigation is rain and snow.
The inhabitants said that the erratic weather condition has inflicted huge losses on the farmers over the years and blamed the successive Governments for ignoring their demands. They said for the last several years they have been demanding the construction of an irrigation canal from Deetho to Nowgam but to no avail. “It is a long pending demand but none has fulfilled it. It would have provided irrigation facilities to paddy lands of at least 75 villages,” Ghulam Mohammad, a local said, adding lack of irrigation facilities has rendered swatches of land barren.
The main roads leading to the constituency hasn’t been macadamized for last one decade and many interior localities also lack proper connectivity. The residents are angry over the non-availability of adequate potable water. The locals also complained that the health care facilities on the fringes are far from satisfactory.
The health centers of the constituency are grappling with the shortage of staff. At times, the dentists, pharmacist or a single nurse is available to treat patients. The residents lamented that the healthcare facilities in several areas are dismal which forces people to travel long distances for treatment. The residents alleged that funds sanctioned under various Centrally Sponsored Schemes have either been embezzled or not utilized properly.
Recently, the health centre at Achhabal, which is the nodal centre for treatment was upgraded to Sub-district Hospital. However, locals said, there was no improvement in the healthcare services owing to lack of required staff. ” Apart from the nomenclature nothing changed and despite being upgraded as the SDH the staff and equipment have not been provided to it,” Ghulam Mohammad, a local said.
Major roads like Brakpora- Chogul that connects the region to the rest of the Valley was taken up for execution few years back but only half of the work has been completed, causing inconvenience to the commuters. Construction work on Mattan- Achhabal and Hyground- Shangus road is also going on snail’s pace.
A huge chunk of the population that lives in the upper reaches of the region lacks all-weather road connectivity. Moreover, people who live in the lower belt suffer equally due to bad roads.
The roads like Bulbul Nowgam, Yamu- Sheripora and Kotbal, Tral- that connects several adjoining villages to the district headquarters are strewn with ditches and potholes. The locals of these areas blame the callous approach of the Government for their problems. “For the last several years we are waiting for the construction of the road but the Government has failed to provide us roads,” Mohammad Ismail, a local said, adding that they were hopeful that the present Government would improve the condition of roads but nothing substantial has happened.
The failure of authorities to complete the bridges that were washed away in the devastating floods of 2014 floods has irked the residents of several villages.
In absence of bridges at Telwani, Wnagan, Cherpora and Kradth people face immense hardships. 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 or take longer routes to get essential commodities,” a local said.
Despite making several boastful claims the Government has failed to bring several virgin places like Chatpaul, Dupnor, Shakernag and Chatpal on the tourism map. The locals lamented that all the promises to put Shangus on tourism map proved to be hollow. “Shangus constituency has been neglected on tourism front despite having top natural spots like Chattapal, which could have proved economic boon for inhabitants of this constituency, “Farooq Ahmad, a youth said.
The inhabitants said they have appealed their leaders for taking these important issues with the Government, but nothing has been done. He added that their area could be developed like Pahalgam and Kokernag. ” It could have not only generated the revenue for the State but also provided employment opportunities to the youth here,” he said.
At least 40% of the population belongs to the scheduled caste category and the underprivileged youth blame politicians for failing to change their fortunes. They alleged that politicians failed to adopt welfare schemes that were meant for their upliftment. Youth of several areas lamented lack of quality education and skill development training in their area .”We have meager employment opportunities here and skill development institutes would help us to acquire necessary job skills,” Bilal Sheikh, a youth said.
The residents said that education has not been the focus of the successive Governments here and students suffered in terms of inadequate infrastructure and teaching staff. Residents of Achhabal said that they have been demanding a Degree College in their area but the Government has ignored their demand. “Students from this area have to travel to some 15 kilometers for college education and it forced them to drop out,” Ghulam Mohammad, a local said.
Former Member of Legislative Assembly Shangus, Gulzar Ahmad Wani, listed a series of projects that, he said, were only possible due to his efforts. These include construction of two major roads- Brakpora Chorgul and Mattan Achhabal road- that people have been demanding for a long time and Construction work on the other roads like Hyground- Shangus via Gopalpura and Gopalpur. He said roads like Brenti- Achhabal, Brakpora-Shangus, Brakpora- Gopalpora were macadamized in last three years.
The number of new types Primary Health Centers rose in the last three years thereby taking care of tertiary care. The buildings for Deathi, Telwani and Konpura has also been constructed. Besides, the Primary Health Centre Shangus has been upgraded to Sub District Hospital.
He said what had not happened for last six years he has made those things possible. “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 take electricity to the unelectrified areas.
He said in order to bring the constituency on the tourism map certain new places have been developed. The developmental works have been carried at Chatpal, Dupnor and Shakernag to attract tourists.
He said the restoration work on all the damaged water supply schemes is going on. “All the Water Supply Schemes that were damaged in 2014 floods are being restored,” he said.