Sopore: Hundreds of street lights in Sopore town have been defunct for a decade now, but the administration has shown no interest in addressing the long-lingering issue. Instead, soon after sundown each day, the town plunges into complete darkness due to its lack of street illumination.
“The month of Ramadan is coming in a few days and people in other parts usually stay out till late for prayers, but in Sopore town, the story is the opposite as the non-functional street lights at every nook and corner make people in Sopore stay indoors even in the Ramadan days as darkness falls in our town,” lamented Molvi Hafeez Ahmad, a Molvi at a local mosque.
“It is extremely scary and dangerous to walk in the evenings in Sopore. The shopkeepers shut early because there is no light, and dogs are the only ones left to roam the streets,” a shopkeeper in the town’s main chowk told Kashmir Reader.
“It appears that Sopore town has been deliberately left off the development map of successive governments due to its people’s pro-freedom stance,” another shopkeeper said.
“The top officials, including ministers, never visit the main town. They always visit the adjoining villages for developmental works,” he said.
In June 2016, the Legislative Assembly was informed by MLA Haji Abdul Rashid Dar that 83 percent of the total 299 streets lights installed in Sopore town were lying defunct. To this, the Minster of Housing and Urban Development, Dr Nirmal Singh, said in a written reply at the time that efforts were being made to restore the defunct lights during the then fiscal. Mention was also made in 2016 of a proposed addition of 105 LED lights at a cost of Rs 6.16 lakhs, but till this day not even one percent of this has been implemented on the ground.
According to data provided by the town’s municipal committee, 44 street lights were first erected in Sopore town in 2010. There are presently 520 street lights, 46 sodium vapour lights, 213 Halogen lights, 117 LED lights and 150 bulbs. Out of these, 444 are non-functional, says the government data, but Dar’s report of two years ago has different information to show, which is that only 53 street lights are functional in Sopore town out of 900 installed.
An official at a Sopore municipal department blamed stone-pelting incidents for the dismal state of affairs. “Many lights were destroyed because of stone pelting. The department does not have resources to fix them,” he said. He said the issue was discussed in every district administration meeting but to no avail. “Two years ago, we requested the administration to release Rs 13 lakhs for the installation of new lights and repair of old ones, but till date, no amount has been released.” An executive officer of the department, Imtiyaz-Ul-Haq, was not in his office for comment.
According to the president of a Sopore traders’ federation, Haji Mohammad Ashraf, the street lights project had been handed over to the Sopore power department after the lights were first installed. The municipal department was supposed to look after the lights subsequently but they left the project unattended.
The main lights in the markets, roads and other public places have been dysfunctional for a decade now, Haji Mohammad Ashraf said.
The Additional District Commissioner of Sopore town, Mohammad Ashiq Hussain, accepted that the defunct streets lights are a major issue and said, “As I have joined recently, I will have a special meeting with EO on Monday and will try to address this issue in a short span of time, so that locals will not have to face more hardships.”