Back To Village: Budgam Locals Say Programme A Damp Squib

by Syed Abul Aala Bukhari

BUDGAM: The residents of central Kashmir’s Budgam district are questioning the Back to Village initiative’s fourth round as their demands and grievances from the earlier years are still unaddressed and pending.

Launched in 2019, the Back to Village (B2V) programme was aimed at ensuring the functionality of panchayats, improving the coverage of beneficiary-oriented schemes and doubling the income of the rural population.

As part of the programme, senior officers of the Jammu and Kashmir administration were ordered to reach out to each panchayat to interact with the people and obtain feedback so that the delivery of village-specific services can be made better.

In phase IV of Back to Village, the visiting officers distributed recreational items, land passbooks, baby kits, soil health cards, and mini kits of oilseeds among the beneficiaries.

However, in stark contrast to the government’s claims, the people of Budgam district are complaining that they are yet to witness any benefit of the programme.

Abdul Latief, a resident of Daharmuna village of Budgam, said that during the current phase they raised the same issues which weren’t addressed in the earlier three phases. “People across the board had raised some issues which were never addressed. We raised them again.”

He said that in the past three phases the locals had demanded the shifting of the Government Girls’ High School to a new building with adequate space but it continues to be in the same building of Govt Middle School from which it was upgraded in 2016.

Locals said even after repeated requests for the construction of a new school building, the government has done nothing.

“Land was identified and donated in 2019 for the school but still the government didn’t construct it,” the locals said.

Latief opines that their initiative hasn’t borne any fruit. “I think it is a waste of time to even mention our problems now because nothing happens.”

Ayaz Ahmad, another resident, said that the development works currently underway should have been the priority but weren’t completed even after three phases of the Back to Village.

“After the funds were released, the contractors, who had influence in the local district administration, took up the projects to earn profits but did no work,” Ahmad said.

He said that in the last three phases, a large number of people had participated in anticipation that their issues would be resolved but in the current phase there was just the local Sarpanch and his coterie who participated and put forward their grievances.

“The priority of our area was to get a road constructed along the bund between Soibugh and Narbal. This bund road would become the nearest connective route to our village,” he added.

He further another priority issue of the area was proper drainage facilities which haven’t been paid any heed. “Third priority was to get the High Voltage poles renovated while getting a net cover for the HT service line. We also wanted Veterinary Sub-centre in the village.”

Meanwhile, Programme Officer Syed Irshad Hussain said that the pending demands will be resolved soon when the tenders of the project works would be issued through the Panchayat Body.

“The land for the school building was disputed because someone had put an application that the land should be developed into a playground,” Hussain said.

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