Sonawari faces neglect, residents allege disparity

Mir Iqbal
The Sonawari constituency in North Kashmir’s Bandipora district is one of the neglected areas and residents allege that their representative has developed certain areas that are his favourite while ignored other areas.
The constituency is represented by National Conference leader Mohammad Akbar Lone since 2002. Lone defeated independent candidate Abid Hussain Ansari by a margin of over 18, 000 votes in 2008 Assembly elections. Lone polled 20, 108 votes and Ansari 7951.
The people of the constituency in general said their area has witnessed no perceptible change on developmental front for last more than five and a half years.
Some parts of the constituency witnessed some sort of development like construction of drains, pavements and health centre buildings, but people in general said that they continue to suffer due to absence of basic amenities.
The inhabitants said the demands of the people vis-a-vis healthcare, drinking water, electricity, education and road connectivity have not been addressed.
“Sonawari Assembly constituency has been discriminated by the successive Governments on every front and the assurances of all the political party members that once voted to power all the genuine issues would be solved proved hoax time and again,” the inhabitants said.
Inhabitants of village Naidkhai, the native village of MLA, said that apart from construction of main road and some departmental buildings, the MLA has disappointed the general public of his village. “Some Government buildings and roads were repaired recently,” the villagers said, adding, no major initiative was launched in the area which could have benefitted general public in the long run.
Residents said the developmental activity was carried out in some selected areas of the constituency. “We protested against MLA and Roads and Buildings (R&B) Department for macadamising some selected lanes and link roads, while neglecting vital link roads in the village,” said a shopkeeper in Naidkhai town.
The shopkeeper said after protests and shutdown, few other link roads were macadamized, while as roads in few Mohallas in the village are yet to be macadamized.
The inhabitants accused their MLA of misusing police machinery. They said local police has admitted that it is political pressure that forces them to harass or detain people on small issues. They said this has led to the polarization in constituency.
Fayaz Ahmad, a local said that works done under MGNREGA program some influential people and contractors are benefitted, while as deserving areas were left out. The villagers said that substandard material has been used for construction of drains, streets and bunds under MGNREGA scheme.
The inhabitants of village Pushwari, Gulwari, Bathipora, Tangpora and Kanipora expressed the same views about their representative. Residents said that the area reels under darkness most of the times due to frequent and unscheduled power cuts.
Since maximum population deals in agriculture and its allied sectors, they blamed the MLA for his failure to address their “genuine” demands for providing facilities aimed at boosting milk production, poultry and sheep breeding.
The farmers said that the agriculture sector is passing through a worst phase due to the absence of proper irrigation facilities in the area.  “We fear that this season paddy and other crops may yield lesser yield due to the scarcity of water in the area,” they said.
The farmers of Naidkhai village said since water is being supplied to their fields from Ashm near Sumbal which is too far, with the result water supply doesn’t reach to the fields. “We approached MLA several times to help us to save horticulture from drought like situation by sanctioning an irrigation project, but he didn’t pay any heed,” they said.
Inhabitants of Hajan town and its adjoining villages told Excelsior that the area has been neglected for last six-years due to which their grievances has compounded manifold.
Traders Federation Hajan said that not only small settlements and hamlets were neglected, but main town Hajan also faced the wrath of present coalition Government.
They said since the time of the then Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammed, no major project was taken in the area. “We have same roads, water supply pipes, electric poles and other important infrastructure established in Bakshi Sahib’s rule,” they said.
Haji Abdul Sattar, an elderly resident said the main road was macadamized in 1977-78 and since then only patch work is being done. “We are losing roads constructed during Bakshi Sahib’s tenure to encroachers. Sumbal to Markundal road was reduced from 18 meters to 12 meters only”, he added.
The traders said during rains, their shops and houses submerge under water in absence of drainage system in the town.
The inhabitants said that contaminated water is supplied to the people as the Government has failed to complete the filtration plant at Hajan. “We approached many a times to the MLA, but our pleas fell to his deaf ears,” they said.
The residents said that a Community Health Centre (CHC) has no sufficient infrastructure and patients are referred to tertiary hospitals for minor complications. “A BUMS doctor visits CHC that too only twice a week and no investigations are done at the centre,” they said.
The inhabitants of Hajan which has more than 8, 000 voters said that the politico-mafia nexus was ruling the roost in the area and whosoever raised genuine voice against them have been labeled as anti-social elements and then harassed on one or the other pretext.
“Former Union Health Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad sanctioned 250 bedded capacity Sub District Hospital to the area in 2013, but MLA put hindrance in its implementation,” Khurshid Ahmad,a local said.
The locals also alleged that some 350 employees were illegally appointed in Town Hall Hajan. They have no work but are sitting idle throughout the day putting burden of State exchequer.
Hakbara, Saderkoot, Sadunara, Madhuwon, Boniyar, Mukdamyari, Shahgund, Boon, Gund-Jahangir, Vijpora, Katpora, Khombina, Baharabad, Markundal, Poshwari and Ashm villages face water scarcity, lack of irrigation facilities, erratic power supply and poor health services.
The locals said that the MLA has failed to replace decade old wooden electric poles and damaged wires in majority of the villages. “At many places electric wires are tied to trees and as wind blows electricity remain cutoff for days together,” scores of the residents told Excelsior.
The inhabitants of Sumbal also accused the MLA for neglecting them from last six years. The inhabitants said that the town was declared as Municipal area in 1983, since then no developmental activity was carried.
President Traders Federation Sumbal, Jaan Mohammad told Excelsior that the town suffers due to the lack of drainage system, play ground, Public Park, Public toilet, passenger shed, town hall and banking system. He accused the MLA of benefitting only NC and his own workers.
The locals said that Sub District Hospital, apart from attractive buildings, has nothing special for the patients of Sumbal and its neighbouring villages.
“Electricity plays hide and seek in the town,” the locals said, adding, they approached dozens of times to the MLA, but only promised a separate receiving station for Sumbal.
Aunderkoot, Wangipora, Shulwat, Shadipora, Ganasthan, Nowgam, Ashm, Nisbal, Naninara and Tengpora villagers have similar problems.
The MLA has deliberately sidelined Sumbal area on developmental front, they said, adding, to show his political influence, he (the MLA) got the J&K Bank shifted from Sumbal town to Wangipora, 2 kilometers away from town.
The inhabitants of Safapora said the area has been neglected on developmental front. They said the area is provided unfiltered water as the Manasbal filtration plant is still incomplete.
The locals said that PHC Safapora lacks facilities. “Had there not been Wular Manasbal Development Authority, people would have suffered immensely in this area,” the locals said.
They said present MLA has failed on every front to mitigate the problems of locals. The villagers of Trisa, Pahlipora, Chewa, Chindergeer, Ziripora, Gratabal, Gulabagh and Chesma Manasbal said that they have been neglected.
The residents of Gulab Bagh said that Government Primary School established in 1960’s has not been upgraded since then despite frequent reminders to the MLA.
They said the village has no health facility. Electric poles and wires are outdated. MGNREGA is a source of corruption and works are done on papers only under it.
MLA Mohammad Akbar Lone said that he has worked day and night with full enthusiasm for the development of his constituency.
“To provide tape water all the villages in Sonawari Constituency, about 26 over-head tanks have been constructed during my tenure at Madvan, Mukdamyari, Banyari, Bakshibal, Sadonara, Hakbara, Asham, Hajan, Baharabad, Khuminah, Shahgund, Gundboon, Poshwari, Gundjehangir, Saadatpora, Naidkhai, Nowgam, Sunbara, Zalpora, Rakh Shilwat, Shilwat, Shadipora, Tregam, Ganastan, Kowpora, Pehlipora and  Safapora”, said Lone. “Apart from these near about 60 bore wells have been dug in the area”, he said.
The MLA said: “To improve healthcare facilities in the area, one 100 bed Sub District Hospital (SDH) is under construction, which is expected to complete by the end of this year. Two Primary Health Centers (PHE) are functional and another is under construction. Sub Centers have also been constructed at Mukdamyari, Ganastan and Gund Khalil.” He said that infrastructure has been improved in these years by providing service of medicos, technical and non-technical staff.
For improving education in the area, Lone who is Minister for Higher Education said that one Government College at Sumbal, another at to Hajan was sanctioned and besides one ITI.
“Apart from this, four High Schools have been upgraded to Higher Secondary Schools at Naidkhai, Gund Khalil and Hajan. Nine Middle Schools and 112 Primary Schools were upgraded in my tenure here,” Lone said, adding, 110 new Primary Schools have been established during these years.
He said that almost 99 percent roads of Sonawari Constituency have been macadamized including some major roads like Khanpeth Nowgam to Sumbal, Khanpeth Nowgam to Shelwat and Tregam, Sumbal to Saderkot Saderkot to Hajan via Sudnera, Sumbal to Hajan, Hajan to Mukdamyari, Banyari, Malikpora, Sumbal to Naidkhai and Tarzoo to Naidkhai.
Lone said: “Interior link roads of some 40 villages were first time macadamized on which hundreds of crores of rupees were spent during my tenure.”
At least three new Power receiving stations at Madav, Naidkhai and Safapora have been constructed. “At least 200 new transformers were sanctioned to the people in the area and many old transformers were replaced with new ones,” Lone said, adding, except few villages’ electric wires and poles were replaced with new ones.
The MLA said: “Dozens of Irrigation schemes got sanctioned to irrigate lakhs of kanals of paddy land in the constituency.”
Lone also said that one Sub-District, a Niabats, four Blocks and eight Niabats have been created recently for the convenience of people. “All the Centrally sponsored schemes were fully monitored and implemented in the area,” Lone added.


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