Pampore families fund a work that falls in Swachh Bharat Abhiyan

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Umar Khurshid

Srinagar

It is perhaps the best story that explains the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and the MNAREGA developments. A cluster of residents in Pampore were going to everybody who mattered with one request: “Please construct a drain that is almost 350 ft long”.

The absence of this drain was a festering crisis for this cluster of homes in Kadlabal Mohalla. They went to the local municipal set-up. Then they went to the local lawmaker who is also a minister. They petitioned almost all the revenue officials whom they believed can intervene to manage the crisis that had made their basic life almost a hell.

Dejected, they finally put together their heads and decided to do it on their own. They involved some engineer who gave them a tentative cost analysis which they decided to share within the group of families that was desperate to have the drain.

Credit goes to the authorities that they had constructed a drain earlier. In 2007, one affected resident said, the authorities constructed this drain. “But due to the use of substandard materials the drain didn’t run for even a decade,” the resident said. “This created a mess for us and it would stink like hell.”

Ultimately, said Ghulam Qadir Mir, another affected resident, “We found no option other than paying for the follies of the government.”

“There were 12 families affected by the drain crisis,” Mir said. “Every one of us paid Rs 20,000 and once the money was pooled, the work started on Tuesday.”

By now, the drain is ready.But the larger question remains: why the drain collapsed within less than a decade? And when the residents were so desperate about the drain, why was not even their own lawmaker interested in helping them?

The only positive aspect of the development is that it has revived the traditional Hal-Shree (joint voluntarily exercise) culture. When the state government had not much in its coffers and people were desperate for the basics like roads or clearing the snow from the roads during winter, people would assembly and do it themselves. The process was part of the local culture till state coffers became rich. Initially, the people would work voluntarily and the official would stake claim and the costs. As the crisis became a phenomenon, the voluntary system died.

Now, it is getting revived. However the question remains: will the concerned authorities fund the exercise that the 12 family have sponsored or will they encourage the voluntary system to die again.

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