Ten years after Kilam was taken up by the state government to change the economic and societal landscape of the village, many facilities mandated under the Model Village project don’t even exist on the ground. ARIFA GANI reports
A green, magnificent entry gate with ‘Model Village Kelam’ written in shades of black over it gives an impression of a vibrant housing lying beyond the splendor of the gate. Way back in 2002, when People’s Democratic Party accorded Kelam, a village in Devsar block of north Kashmir’s Kulgam, the status of a model village, the joy of the residents knew no bounds. The villagers were hopeful that the development was going to transform their village and their lives as well.
However, even after 10 years, things don’t seem to have changed much. The announcement for building the model village was made amid much fanfare and work started in full swing. However, the enthusiasm got deflated midway.
To this day, the model village is no better than any backward village of Kashmir. As one enters the huge gate of the village, the Children’s Park built over few kanals of land tells a different story. The park was supposed to have recreational facilities for the children. But the attractions such as see-saws and swings which are commonly found in children’s parks are missing. In fact, the villagers have been using the open land of the park to dry grass for their cattle.
The government had promised a pampered list of developmental projects for more than 1800 households to enhance their living standards. The project was touted to stop urbanization and set an example that development and modernity can go hand-in-hand minus urbanization. However, the village has become a perfect example of incompetent governance in Kashmir; its inhabitants don’t even remember what was promised to them. “It isn’t something new. We are used to such hollow promises. Our politicians are famous for that. They visit us, promise a lot of development and, at the end of the day, nothing changes”, says Aisha Bano, a resident of the village.
Few miles away from the foundation stone of the ‘model’ village which was laid by Sartaj Madni, a local MLA and deputy speaker of J&K’s legislative assembly, is situated Ghulam Mustafa Nazim Memorial Hospital. An ambulance is parked in its desolate premises. The hospital was built to provide better health care facilities for the villagers. However, the elegance with which the building greets visitors fades away once one gets inside.
“There is just one doctor and few nurses who run this hospital. The patients are mostly referred to Anantnag District hospital since medicines and medical equipments are not available at the hospital. We avoid visiting it since we know the doctors will shift our case to Anantnag. It is a waste of time,” says Parveez Ahmad, another resident of the village. There is a single medical shop located on near the hospital but few people are visible in its vicinity. The staffers of the hospital are lazing around.
=The J&K government had also announced a degree college for students of the village who had to travel several kilometers to another district to receive higher education. Some students have quit their studies to improve the economic status of their families. But with a college in the village, it was expected that the students will have an opportunity to work and study together. Although the building for the college has been constructed, there is a dearth of teachers and unavailability of specific course which has not made things any easier for the students.
Besides the college, there are few primary schools and a higher secondary school in the village. People of Kelam are educated but most work on their farms. The government had also installed solar system to light up the village which were stolen. The only saving grace of the ‘model village’ is its proper drains and lanes.
The report tabled in the state assembly states that the village has been completed. An on-the-ground survey by this correspondent revealed that there is no Information Centre or a Common Facility Centre. The playground and a shopping centre which too were mandated to be made in Model Villages don’t exist. A water reservoir exists in the village but it usually provides dirty water at brief intervals in the day. Electric poles and wires are spread out neatly in Kelam but the residents allege that the electricity lights up their houses only for few hours in a day.