Eight years on villagers say no improvement in amenities
BUDGAM: Eight years after Rathsun village in central Kashmir’s Budgam district was taken up for development as a Model Village under the Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Programme in 2009, the villagers are wondering where the “promised change” is.
“Apart from a neglected community hall that only provides space to drunkards and gamblers, nothing has changed here since 2009,” said Javaid Ahmad Gojre, a shawl weaver from the village.
With around 1300 households, Rathsun is one of the biggest village in Beerwah sub division of Budgam.
“It spreads on around 1400 kanals with most of the people working as labourers,” says Waseem Akber, a first year student.
He said when the villagers time heard about “model village” for the first time, they thought their “destiny” might change, “but seven years down the line nothing has changed”.
“Our village was better off without the Model Village tag,” he remarks.
As one walks through the lanes it is hard to find any streetlight installed in the village.
“The drains either do not exist or are defunct. The electric poles are deteriorated, and the piles of garbage mock at Swachh Bharat Mission hoardings.”
“Yes, ours is a model village,” he adds sarcastically. “With no basic amenity like water, electricity, roads, school infrastructure, and health care, ours is really a model village”.
Nawaz Zargar, a university student from the village said that initially, in 2009, there was some visible change in the village.
“New roads were laid. Graveyards were fenced. Many other works were taken into execution but then nobody bothered to maintain them and they have now turned useless,” said Zargar.
Ghulam Rasool Dar, Numberdar of the village said that in 2009 when more than 119 villages were chosen as Model Villages, thousands participated in the inauguration ceremony in Rathsun, “as they expected it as first step towards the development of their forgotten village”.
Under Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Programme, one village in each recognized CD Block was taken up for development as a Model Village. “In this village till now, not much has changed actually,” said Tashif, another resident.
The government has earmarked a sum of Rs. 1.20 crore for the development of each model village. An amount of Rs 1 crore was sanctioned for the overall development of Rathsun under the project but the locals allege that most of it was wasted because of mismanagement.
“Funds sanctioned for the development of our village were not utilized in a proper, transparent manner,” Zargar said. “They had no idea what they were doing. First they made roads and then dug them up to make drains. And then left the entire mess behind.”
The locals blame the government for neglecting the village. The drain swells in rainy season and causes inconveniences.
“They could have embanked the drains if they were really concerned about our safety,” Zargar said.
People urinate in open or use the traditional toilets and the women folk still use traditional Chullah to cook the daily meals for their families.
“The authorities did not even provide us the facilities under SBM, Ujjwala gas scheme or the basic needs like clean drinking water and proper health care system. This Model Village does not even have a well established school infrastructure,” he said.
In the absence of a proper infrastructure the local school, villagers said, that the dropout rate has reached 80 percent in the village.
“People from nearby villages have high hopes from us and call us model village now. But we are equally helpless when it comes to getting things done,” says Nazir Ahmad, a local employee.
Headmaster of the local school Nazir Ahmad Nazir said that they were facing hardships in the absence of proper infrastructure.
“We have 170 students on roll but have only four rooms to accommodate them. The school has a playground but without a compound wall,” Nazir said.
In addition to this, he said, “the library, science laboratory and computer lab stand nowhere”.
There are a few other government institutions in the village but all are in shambles.
Villagers rued that they approached successive legislators several times, but to no avail.
“This time we had hope on former chief minister but unfortunately he is no more different than other political leaders. All betrayed us,” another villager remarked.