In 1975, when Sheikh M Abdullah bounced back to power with the help of Congress after 22 years, one major initiative was to give an identity to the district development boards.
Usually it was a major event when the entire cabinet and most of the bureaucracy would drive to different peripheral district headquarters. Then it was a two day affair. First day the political executives would meet the locals and have a strong feedback. Next day they would sit with the local administration and ask uncomfortable questions and fix the priorities.
Last week, Omar Abdullah opted for a long drive to Karnah, 184 kms from Srinagar, along with some of his cabinet colleagues and top officers. It was aimed at reviving the tradition. The backward border belt which suffered immensely in 2005 earthquake has been on the other side of the political executives’ priorities. He visited Teetwal, the last habitation on banks of Kishanganga in Neelum Valley.
The belt separated from the valley plains by the intimidating Sadhna Pass remains inaccessible for almost half of the year. Being literally on border, the life was visible in the belt only after the rival armies ceased fire in 2003. Part of Kupwara district, Karnah is a tehsil comprising two blocks of Teetwal and Tangdar with around 60000 souls scattered in 42 mountainous villages under 31 Panchayats. It has 62 km long LoC bordering it ith the Neelum Valley of PaK. Omar gave one crore rupees each for school buildings destroyed by the earthquake and for fast tracking the local sub-district hospital. For housing the government officials he ordered immediate construction of flats.
His visit to Tangdar will neutralize part of the criticism that Omar faced for bringing in administration from districts to Srinagar and Jammu and preside over the meetings in cozy conference halls in civil secretariat and the SKICC.
Officials who attended the meeting said the developmental activities are taking place. Right now 53 road schemes involving Rs 36 crore are under execution as 126 kms stand constructed, upgraded and macadamized. Six water supply schemes worth Rs 4.71 crore are at advanced stages of implementation. As many as 221 schools – 116 primary, 90 middle, 9 high and 4 higher secondary schools, are functional. A new building for the sub district hospital is coming up at seven crore rupees and Rs 5.72 crore stands spent already. After chairing the cabinet meeting, Omar drove the 16 kms border road to reach Teetwal, interacted with the people and inspected some of the developmental works. The road currently under the Border Roads Organization is being upgraded, Omar, himself a dirt-biker, assured the people.