Union Minister’s native village sans basic amenities
By:Tahir Nadeem Khan Yusafzai & Mansoor Qadir
Kalhota(Doda) January 20: A village, just 10 kilometres away from Batote – Kishtawar National Highway lives in Dark Age but pays electricity bills, face water scarcity and is without potable water supply but pays for this as well, no health care facility and lack overall development.
This is not an ordinary village but Kalhota which consists of 13 small hamlets scattered on slopes of a hill in Goha tehsil of district Doda is the native village of high profile Union Minister Dr Jatinder Singh Rana.
One can find women folk assembled at single water point (a hand pump) in the village, installed at a distance of 1.5km from any population along road side here waiting in long queues to fill buckets. The situation depicts the failure of Public Health Engineering (PHE) department in providing door to door water supply to the households residing in the village.
Kalhota village is located in Udampur-Doda parliamentary Constituency represented by Dr Jatinder Singh.
The village has remained the victim of official apathy in terms of development.
The village has a population of around 3,000 that includes more than, 300 families.
The village, according to locals, is being neglected by authorities for past many decades. The area has not seen much development since the independence.
“The surroundings of our village are same as it was five decades ago. The area was never given preference in power corridors and we lack even the basic amenities like water, electricity, health care, school,” says Kamal Singh Kalyan first cousin of Union Minister and a panchayat member of Kalhota village.
He was elated after the induction of his brother in Union ministry and was quite optimistic that finally his village will witness the development, However, he is now disappointed with the indifferent behavior of the government towards his village. “We feel ashamed when people ask what your brother has done after six months of him being in the corridors of power and we have no answer for their queries.”
“we don’t have any dispensary or primary health center at Kalhota or any nearby village and have no other option but first to trek 10 km then board a bus to reach Doda even for an injection or dressing. Every year several patients die in the absence of any health care facility in the village requiring emergency treatment,” said Dalip Singh Kalyan another family member of Dr. Jatinder Singh adding that they have heard about NRHM and scores of other centrally sponsored Medicare schemes especially meant for rural areas but ironically none of them is implemented here.
“Although several months have passed and our village is yet to see any changes but we are optimistic that Dr. Jatinder Singh will definitely consider his own village and will make us proud by mitigating the problems we are facing since decades and bringing it on the map of development,” added Dalip Singh.
It is pertinent to mention that Union Minister has not visited his village after winning the election. Ironically the villagers are disheartened as they thought that government machinery will finally move after Jatinder Singh’s induction in the union ministry and after six decades of neglect, at least they will have access to the basic amenities but with the passing of time hope is fast turning into despair, as all the promises are turning to be hollow.
“We don’t have any say in government offices. Officers give deaf ears to our grievances,” said Shakeel Ahmed a resident of village Kalhota and block president Muslim Morcha, adding that they never knock the doors of the government with their personal issues, but public grievances. But have to be content only with the hollow promises even after our native villager assuming the charge of Union Ministery.
“We are in the 21st century and despite many centrally sponsored schemes to create new schools and upgrade the existing infrastructure to increase literacy rate especially in the rural areas. Our village is still living in pre-freedom Era, as the only school which came into existence in 1935 have not been upgraded beyond middle standard,” said an elderly villager Hem Raj (85) adding that Rana Gopal Singh and Rajinder Singh Rana, grandfather and father of Dr. Jatinder Singh had their primary education in the same school and now it is the duty of the son of the soil to upgrade it at least for the sake of his ancestors.
It is pertinent to mention here that students of this village have to trek 10km in the jungle, either to go to Goha or Malhori to continue their studies beyond 8th standard and sometimes this adventure turns to be fatal as this year only, two students have lost their lives in bear attack.
Another,social worker, Suresh Kumar who has been actively working for getting all the public issues addressed by the concerned government authorities, is now down-casted with the callous attitude of the field staff of every government department working in their area.
“No doubt this village is proud to have a union Ministers and his younger brother Devinder Singh Rana as MLA, but it seems their directions are not implemented on grounds,” says Suresh. Expressing his dismay with the government offices, particularly Power Development Department (PDD), RDD and PHE department. Suresh says officials here pass the buck when it comes to any development works in the area. “They adapt and adopt dilly-dallying tactics to address public grievances. They don’t work properly despite the directions from the MLA and Ministers.”
Moreover, daily free water supply is a distant dream for the villagers here despite the fact they pay yearly rental to the PHE department.
“It is unfortunate that in 21st century, we have to visit the concerned authorities with our complaints regarding the unhygienic rustic water we get from the only hand pump of the village, where women folk have to wait hours for their turn,” said another villager Yog Raj while showing the bottle filled with rustic pale water fetched from the hand pump adding that ironically our pleas are trashed by the concerned officials. At a time when the villagers don’t receive hassle free electricity and potable tap water, people belonging to below poverty line category still pay their dues.
Shockingly, bills are dropped to the households who don’t have any agreement with PDD or PHE.
“Almost Six months have already passed and we have yet to witness any change. We were quite hopeful that after assuming the charge as Union minister at least we will have proper drinking water, a school bus and regular power supply but we are Still here at the hand pump to fetch the unhygienic water that too after walking a long distance and waiting in queue for hours which is badly affecting our studies,” said a student Simran, who was waiting for her turn to fetch the water.
But despite being the native village of Union minister and a high profile MLA, the authorities as of now seem to be unmoved and least bothered to resolve these basic problems.