With Local bodies election just weeks away and debates about significance of Panchayati Raj (Governance at gross root level) in development of rural areas rife, the inhabitants of benighted Chak Dargund area of South Kashmir’s Pulwama District demand that this neighbourhood be allocated a separate revenue village with its own Sarpanch and Panch.
Sandwiched between two model villages, Chak Dargund is a pastoral neighbourhood of about thirty households. The inhabitants of these households live under state of constant confusion “with regard to their address”.
“At some instance, we feel part of Sheikharra due to social connections and at times we consider ourselves as residents of Below village,” locals of the village said.
The neighbourhood is demarcated from the two villages by dense apple orchards which gives it a separate topographical identity.
Adding to miseries due to confusions about address and identity, the village is devoid of all the facilities that a habitation has to have in the present age.
Barely five kilometers away from the district headquarter, the place lacks even a primary school. “The government is yet to set up a primary school in our village, in spite of all our requests and complaints,” says Mohammad Imran, a resident of this village.
Sheeraz Ahmad, one of the few graduate youths of this village said, “I completed my graduation back in 2007 with the hope that education department will set a primary school in this village and would appoint me as a teacher helping me to earn me my livelihood and also help educate the children of my area, but nothing has been done so far.”
Kids in this village have to walk miles to towns or neighbouring villages to attend school. “Covering the distance everyday has been a de-motivator for children and a main reason for less literacy in the area,” said Sheeraz.
The place has no Anganwadi centre to cater to the health and development of the children. “We have never received a gram of pulses for our children whereas we often hear children of other villages having access to quality free food at Anganwadi centres,” alleges Maimoona, a young mother of three.
“My children have to walk miles every day to attend school and it becomes cumbersome during the rainy season,” says Abdul Rashid a parent of three school going children.
The situation is prevalent at a time when Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), a flagship programme initiated by Government of India in 2001, is currently active in the state and claims to achieve universalization of elementary education.
One of the key reasons of running SSA in any state is to open schools in places which are devoid of such institutions and Dargund Chak is a perfect example.
“District education department, Pulwama has repeatedly side lined our village when it comes to setting up even an SSA school,” alleged another resident of the area.
In the event of any medical need, the villagers don’t have a dispensary to get first aid. In some cases they use traditional home remedies to cure ailments.
Locals claim that political bickering is one of the major reasons of keeping the village devoid of facilities like education and proper road connectivity and health care. “The former PDP MLA Sayed Bashir who hails from neighbouring Sheikhara side lined the development of place,” inhabitants alleged.
The Anganwadi centre that was allocated for Chak is situated in Sheikhara and villagers accuse Sayed Bashir of “abusing” power. “He has turned his own village into a model village, whereas we were sent to Stone Age,” said a resident.
“We want the government to elevate this neighbourhood as a village with its own Sarpanch and Panch so that we can become part of the process of development of village as participatory approach is the global trend in the rural development of villages in all developing countries across world and this approach has seen huge success,” adds Sheeraz.
(Arsheed Ahmad is citizen journalist from Pulwama.)
Reacting to the news story, former lawmaker, Syed Bashir told Kashmir Life that it were the local residents of Chak-Bellow-Dargund who refused to be part of revenue village of Sheikhaar.
Chak-Bellow-Dargund is half a kilometre away from Bellow main village, he said.
“They drove away revenue authorities when they went there for settlement,” he said.
Bashir said that he would be happy to help the locals in getting their demands met. “But, these are baseless allegations against me; they are just five odd families.”