SRINAGAR: Chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on Saturday mooted separate ‘Development Plans’ for Srinagar and Jammu districts, keeping in view the requirement for additional funds to create durable assets and ensure effective social sector spending.
She described Srinagar as Valley’s heart and assured time-bound development of the summer capital, which received a major setback in the colossal floods of 2014. “There is a need to shift to Capital City Plans as funding under District Plans has largely been incommensurate with the rapidly-expanding boundaries of Srinagar and Jammu cities,” she observed.
She said this while chairing the District Development Board (DDB) meeting of Srinagar, here at SKICC today.
After deliberating for nearly six hours, the DDB headed by the Chief Minister, approved an Annual CAPEX Budget of Rs.100.29 crore for the year 2016-17.
In her maiden address as Chairman of DDB Srinagar, she said the capital will continue to receive focused attention vis-à-vis proper sewerage and drainage network, restoration of encroached public spaces to de-congest city centre, improving connectivity by way of upgradation of roads, fortifying embankments and dredging of river Jhelum so that the destruction inflicted by 2014 floods is not repeated.
Asking the Legislators to approach her in case of any delay in completion of projects, the Chief Minister said she is carrying forward the roadmap which her father had sketched for development of Srinagar city. “Mufti Saab’s last assignment as Chief Minister was his tour of Srinagar on December 22 last year during which he visited several places and promised to restore its pristine glory. I am here to fulfill his vision and promises which he had made with the people,” she added.
Referring to the rising population of capital cities and the corresponding requirement of better amenities, the Chief Minister said de-linking Srinagar and Jammu from District Plan funding pattern will go a long way in addressing the concerns of the people. She directed the Finance Minister to devise a mechanism for conceiving separate Development Plans by taking into consideration the specific needs and demands of both the capital cities.
During the board meeting, Legislators, cutting across party lines, had unanimously raised the issue of much-lower CAPEX Budget allocation for a big district like Srinagar, as compared to most of the other districts in the state who have a far greater allocation.
Calling for complete synergy between various departments involved in infrastructure building and implementation of various welfare schemes, Mehbooba said she has ordered strict adherence to timelines for completion of all ongoing projects so that its benefits accrue to the people. She referred to her several review meetings and tours during the last one month during which she took firsthand appraisal of various projects and expenditure booked under centrally-Sponsored Schemes (CSSs). “A number of prestigious projects in R&B, Tourism, Health, Education, PHE and I&FC sectors have been taken up which will help in restoration of basic services to the people,” she said, while assuring to transform the urban landscape of the summer capital.
The Chief Minister observed that in view of the limited working season in Kashmir valley, work in night shifts on ongoing projects where adequate funding is available should be explored by the concerned executing agencies.
Referring to the decision to hold all DDB meetings ahead of the Annual Budget Session, Mehbooba Mufti said this will enable the government to allocate funds for some of the genuine demands raised by the legislators. She said the state fortunately has efficient administrators who are capable enough to accomplish the tasks assigned to them.
The Chief Minister described relocation of the vendors and street hawkers to various identified spots within the city centre as a step towards enabling them to earn their livelihood with dignity and honour. “This will also facilitate smooth movement of traffic and restore pedestrian walkways, thus bringing huge relief to the people,” she added.
The Chief Minister also directed DC Srinagar to fast-track all land acquisition cases so that bottlenecks in widening of roads in the city are removed. She also suggested shifting of some government buildings to city outskirts, thereby allowing the government to create much-needed space for creation of public utility infrastructure.
While obtaining status of Achan Landfill site at Srinagar, H&UDD Secretary informed the Chief Minister that a mechanical segregator has been ordered and will be installed within the next two months. This, he assured will go a long way in scientific disposal of waste and removal of stink, which has created enormous problems for people residing in the vicinity of the dumping site. “Meanwhile, J&K ERA is working on a third cell at the site to address the issue of garbage disposal from the city,” he added.
The Chief Minister directed H&UDD Secretary to also explore the possibility of creating green spaces, preferably by developing a park, for the people residing in the localities near the landfill site.
Drawing attention of the participants towards the heritage treasure trove, Mehbooba Mufti asked the Culture Department to conceptualize a plan for conservation of historic Maharaja Bazaar, Khanqah-e-Moula, Budshah locality and the walled downtown city, which can become a huge attraction for tourists.
Raising concern over rising urban poverty, the Chief Minister suggested promotion of environment-friendly vocational activities for women like making of jute bags, which she said can be an ideal alternative to the banned polythene bags. She also emphasized upon skill development centres, especially in Shahr-e-Khaas, for promotion of handicrafts as well as artisans, whose nimble hands make the finest of products.
Asking I&FC Department to expedite dredging and de-silting of river Jhelum right from Anantnag, Srinagar to Baramulla, the Chief Minister said she will personally monitor the pace of work so that we are better prepared to face the vagaries of weather. She also stressed upon revival of water transport by starting river cruises on Anantnag-Srinagar, Srinagar-Sopore and Srinagar-Baramulla routes, which can become a huge attraction for the visitors.
On the issue of effective implementation of R-APDRP in Srinagar city, Mehbooba Mufti directed PDD Secretary to immediately remove bottlenecks within the next one week so that available resources under the Centrally-sponsored schemes are utilised without any further delay. She also passed instructions to PDD Secretary to consider the demand of SMC Commissioner for providing adequate technical manpower for maintenance of nearly 36000 streetlights in the city. “Meanwhile, PDD and SMC must repair all defunct streetlights well before the fasting month of Ramadhan begins,” she added.
She also issued directions to the PDD for providing uninterrupted power supply during Sehri and Iftaar time during Ramadhan so that people do not face any hardships.
In his address, Dr. Drabu said the new pattern of funding has brought a systemic change in the utilization of funds allocated under District Plans. He said an effort has been made to promote criteria-based funding, which fully empowers the people and helps in creation of durable assets. “Unlike in the past, the funds are now being allocated only for development works,” he said, adding previous year has also shown better results in terms of utilization of fund kitty allocated under CSSs.
While projecting demands of their respective constituencies, the Legislators raised several issues pertaining to basic services like up-gradation of power, education and health infrastructure, strengthening of PHE distribution network, promotion of handicrafts sector, new housing colonies for urban poor and effective dissemination of municipal functions.
Presenting a detailed overview of the Annual Plan 2015-16, DDC Srinagar highlighted the thrust areas of Annual Plan 2016-17 which include dredging and de-silting of river Jhelum and its spill-over channels, improving connectivity by macadamising 500-km road length, early completion of Jahangir Chowk-Rambagh Expressway Corridor, widening of roads and construction of additional grade separators, completion of 11 under-construction bridges, de-congesting city for better traffic management, setting up housing colonies and community halls, laying of environment-friendly sewerage and drainage network for greater Srinagar city and ensuring that benefits of CSSs percolate to the intended beneficiaries.
Some of the notable achievements of the previous Annual Plan 2015-16 include reimbursement of Rs.17 crore for acquisition of structures at various places for widening of roads, completion of 11 Community Halls at a cost of Rs.16.45 crore, upgradation of Gani Memorial and Radpora stadia, besides providing add-on facilities in high/higher secondary schools and associated hospitals.