Gurez: For a region that remains cut off for at least six months in a year, Gurez valley, situated 130 kilometers from Srinagar, should have been an area of administrative concern. However, the administrative set-up in the forlorn area is plagued with inertia rather than any dynamism.
Officials posted in Gurez show no qualms in admitting lapses on part of the government though they concede the terrain and the climatic conditions play their part. “The work season starts in May and ends in November,” said one official. “There is complete shutdown o work front during winter months even as the employees are supposed to remain present, which rarely happens,” he said.
At routine meetings with the people engaged in developmental works, the local legislator Nazir Gurezi who is also holds the deputy speaker’s chair in legislative assembly, had to listen to many complaints pertaining to lack of staff. “Employees posted here by government don’t turn up,” said an official who was transferred to Gurez early this year. “They get themselves transferred, sometimes even before joining at their places of posting.”
“It is a major issue as work culture is mostly affected,” said a contractor. “Against 7 positions of junior engineers (JEs), only two are working here. Our bills are pending and new works are not being allotted.”
Gurezi issued directions to the sub-district magistrate to give additional charge of the entire region to incumbent JEs. “The area is far-flung and it is impossible that two JEs can supervise the work,” an official told Kashmir Reader.
In the education sector, the government has formulated a separate policy where teachers are supposed to spend only one year in Gurez before their transfer back to their native places.
The official revealed that funds allotted for development of Gurez usually lapse. “Despite knowing well that the time of work is meager in Gurez, the funds are released in October when they should have been released in May, when the work starts,” he said. “No funds lapse in Ladakh. There is a separate system which should have been copied here.”
Besides these issues, sources said that the rates for works differ in Gurez and other regions. “Ironically, under central funds like CRF and RMSA, one rate per sq ft is allotted across India. It is impossible that a truck of bricks will have the same rate in Srinagar and Gurez,” an official working in Gurez for the past few years said.
He said that the cost of work also goes high depending on the weather and terrain. “Structures which are used in Jammu cannot fit here,” he said.
An official of the Public Works Department informed that work on 18 bridges is currently underway in Gurez. “But there is dearth of funds,” he said. “Instead of going for many projects, government should have taken up only such works where funds were available.”
“The progress is not up to the mark,” he accepted.
All the 18 bridges connect peripheral villages to administrative headquarters in Gurez. “We are getting almost Rs 10 crore under CRF for (construction of) roads to different habitations,” the official said.
Being a hilly area situated along the Line of Control (LoC), officials said that the major roads are being maintained by BRO’s project BEACON. “Internal roads – lanes and drains – are being constructed and maintained by PWD,” they said.
Further, they said, the JKPCC is yet to complete work on the Government Degree College. Besides, work is going on a 100-bed girls’ hostel, ITI complex, IPD block of sub-district hospital, Munsif court complex and some schools under RMSA.
Another official referred to the sub-district hospital in which a central heating system has been installed but “no operational money is available”. “It is the irony of our policies,” he said.
Besides, he said, the J&K Housing Board Corporation got an allotment to construct a 10–bedded health facility. “The work is yet to start, despite two years since the allotment of the project,” he said.
The Gurez MLA informed the locals at the meeting that doctors as well as para-medical staff were lacking in his region. However, Minister of state for health, Asiya Naqash, told Kashmir Reader, “I have restored duties of 18 para-medical staff who were attached with the (health) directorate.”
One of major disappointments expressed by the officials shifted from Kashmir Valley to Gurez is about phone and internet connectivity. “Only landline or BSNL phones work,” said a group of officials. Not everyone has a landline connection and BSNL phones, too, work only at designated places.
“At a time when you have dearth of staff, work-load is enhanced,” said a supervisor. “What will an engineer do? Will he supervise sites or make bills or estimates? Internet facility would have helped in at least paper work for developmental works.”
During winters, when people travel to and from Gurez, chopper services are used. But officials said that the facility is not dependable. “The pilot won’t fly the helicopter until it has ten bookings in hand – five from both sides – and that rarely happens. I booked tickets five times and each time I returned disheartened as the chopper did not arrive,” an official said.
Gurezi, who is representing the constituency since 1996, also seems helpless. “What can I do instead of suspending an employee who does not want to work?” he told the gathering of contractors.