SRINAGAR: In congested Zaina Kadal in downtown Srinagar, the construction of a community centre-cum-marriage hall at Malikpora-Gadyar, supposed to begin in 2002, is yet to commence. The construction of similar facilities in the nearby areas of Safa Kadal and Noorbagh, started many years ago, is yet to be completed.
The community centre at Zaina Kadal was expected to provide a much-needed venue for hosting wedding and other functions for people living in Malilpora, Zaina Kadal, Gadabazar, Zarabkhan, Gadayar, Saraf Kadal, and other adjoining areas.
According to residents of Zaina Kadal, the project to build the community centre was taken up in 2002 on the instructions of MLA Khanyar, Ali Mohammad Sagar, after the high school located at the place was dismantled. After demolishing a couple of structures of the school building, the work was stopped.
The residents said that since then they have approached the authorities several times, but the construction work remained suspended. The demolished debris at the site still lies there and the place has turned into a resting place for stray dogs. Locals complained that the place has turned into a “hub of immoral and illegal activities”.
“Due to unavailability of a community centre in our area, we are compelled to install tents on roads to hold functions. We have no alternative place in this congested city. The putting up of tents damages the road surface and disrupts movement of both pedestrians and traffic,” said Abdul Majeed, president of the Mohallah Committee Zaina Kadal.
“It has been fifteen years now since the project was started, and yet we still have no place where we could celebrate or mourn without inconvenience,” he added.
In 2008, a District Development Board meeting was held under the chairmanship of the Deputy Chief Minister in which the District Development Commissioner was instructed to take necessary action in this regard.
“The Chief Engineer of PWD (R&B) shall visit Malikpora Zaina Kadal to assess the feasibility of removal of (two or three dilapidated) structures for exploring the possibility of construction of a community hall,” read the minutes of that meeting, a copy of which is with Kashmir Reader.
A couple of months ago, local residents again approached Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahamad Khan, accompanied by Ali Mohammed Sagar. The commissioner directed R&B engineers to visit the spot and do the “needful”, but even after the engineers’ visit the work has not been started.
Executive Engineer R&B Nayeem Ahmad Khan told Kashmir Reader that they had visited the spot earlier as well. “It is a long pending issue,” he said. “We have already acquired half the portion of the land. But for the rest, we are facing acquisition problems.”
Chief Engineer R&B Sami Arif told Kashmir Reader that there exists a community centre near Zaina Kadal which is functional and can be used by Zaina Kadal’s residents.
“We will see about the bottlenecks in the construction of the community centre in question, but there is a community hall available nearby which is functional,” Arif said.
To this, Zaina Kadal residents said that the community centre referred to by the Chief Engineer is not accessible easily, because it “does not have a motorable road” and can be only approached through “narrow lanes”.
Some two kilometres away, at Gasi Mohalla in Safa Kadal area, work on another community hall is going on at snail’s pace, much to the dismay of locals.
The foundation stone was laid five years ago by the then state assembly Speaker, Mubarak Gul. The demand for a community hall, residents said, was met only after a long time. Initially the construction work appeared promising but after the floods it slowed down. They said that the municipal department (in SMC) had “neglected” their area.
Similarly, three kilometres away from the Safa Kadal community centre, one other community centre-cum-marriage hall at Baghwanpora-Noorbagh is still under construction. Locals said that the centre was inaugurated in 2005 and was used for functions till 2013. But the structure was razed by the municipality on the grounds that it was “not safe”.
Five years later, a new community hall is still under construction. Locals said the construction was “supposed to be completed in a year”.
Parvaiz Ahmad Qadeemi, Joint Commissioner (Works) for Srinagar district, said that he was not aware of the status of the work, as he had not been in office for a month.
“I have not been in office for one month, as I am busy with elections. I cannot mislead you or others,” Parvaiz said when asked for his comments.
Other officials of the department said that the first phase of the work on the Zana Kadal centre was complete and the rest would be completed within this year.