Anantnag: More than nine years after a Sub-District Hospital was sanctioned for Pahalgam town in Anantnag district, more than 3000 inhabitants of the town and adjoining villages continue to remain devoid of proper health care.
The Sub-district hospital is still non-existent, while the only healthcare facility is a Primary Health Centre (PHC) that lacks even the most basic of the facilities.
The National Conference (NC)-Congress government of the erstwhile state sanctioned a 50-bedded sub-district hospital in this popular tourist destination in Kashmir.
Following the sanction of the hospital, the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) was handed over the task of identifying a piece of land where the hospital could be built.
“People thought that this was an end to their woes and the beginning of better healthcare facilities for them. It was not to be, however,” a source in the PDA told Kashmir Reader, adding that the PDA took years to get the land identified.
The PDA, the source told Kashmir Reader, could not identify the land because the new master plan was yet to be implemented in Pahalgam, which would demarcate the use of land.
“However, the PDA had suggested that an empty Yatri Niwas of the JKTDC – located on the Circuit Road – could have been used for the purpose of creating an SDH, while the existing hospital building could have been turned into the Yatri Niwas,” the source said, adding that the proposal was never accepted by the government.
As the struggle to identify the land continues, people in Pahalgam remain dependent on far-off hospitals for their healthcare needs. “We either go to the SDH in Seer Hamdan, more than 30 kilometres from here or the district hospital in Anantnag, which is around 45 kilometres from Pahalgam,” residents of the town told Kashmir Reader.
They alleged that the only time they see betterment in healthcare set up in Pahalgam, is when the annual Amarnath Yatra is conducted. “During the two month long Yatra, more than 15 doctors remain stationed here and after the Yatra, they vanish in thin air, as if we were not even humans who deserve healthcare like Yatris do,” the residents allege.
The annual Yatra – wherein lakhs of devotees from parts of India visit Pahalgam – has not been conducted in the last two years now due to Covid pandemic. And expectedly, the healthcare facilities in Pahalgam have gone from bad to worse, with no one even taking any pains to mend things. “The existing PHC is a mess, and despite repeated promises the facilities have not been upgraded there,” the locals said.
With apparently no headway on the new SDH, and no up gradation of the PHC in sight, people in the area continue to suffer especially in harsh winters as it snows a lot more in Pahalgam, than it does in other areas of the valley.
“Imagine someone falling sick while Pahalgam is under 5 feet of snow. Isn’t it scary? We live through such scenarios year after year,” a resident told this reporter.
Kashmir Reader talked to Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Anantnag, Dr Mukhtar Ahmad Shah, who said that the land has been finally identified.
“3 Kanalas of land have been identified right in front of the existing PHC. An old building in the land has been demolished and work has been taken up,” Shah told Kashmir Reader.
He said that a foundation stone has also been laid down by a visiting central minister recently.