The Damhal Aberration

Damhal is the only village in Kashmir region where the developmental projects mandated to be undertaken under Model Village project of the government has changed the lives of villagers for good, ARIFA GANI reports

Situated at a distance of three kms from the picturesque tourist destination, Achabal, Damhal village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag was accorded the status of model village few years back. The distinct features of this village are its tall, magnificent, concrete and colorful buildings. A green gate with ‘Model Village Damhal’ painted over it welcomes the visitors and separates the village from others areas in Achabal block. The foundation stone of the village was laid by Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed, J&K’s education minister.

The village has 1400 households and its inhabitants are relatively well-off. While some are government employees, others have their own businesses. There are farmers in the village too but more than 65 per cent of Damhal’s population is literate.  Compared with Model village Kelam, Damhal model village fares better.  A concrete, extended building which will house Rural Information Centre is on the verge of completion. The administration has purchased computers for the centre which will be used by local people.

A complex has been built by the administration which houses 20-30 shops, providing the villagers the much needed relief from travelling extra miles to reach the nearest town where they used to shop earlier. Concrete lanes and drains give an entirely different look to the present day Damhal. A Common Facility Centre adds to the development that has occurred since the village was accorded the Model Village status.

Damhal is connected to the district centre, Anantnag, by two roads. One route, which passes through Achabal, is full of potholes with an errant transport facility. However, the other road, though narrow, offers some respite since it has been properly macadamized. The recently laid concrete lanes and bylanes in Damhal, which connect a number of mohallas in the village, have also opened up, giving way to mounds of ugly pebbles and disintegrated concrete.

Thanks to the water springs in Kokernag and Achabal, Damhal has a 24-hour water supply. But the residents aren’t as lucky when it comes to the supply of electricity. “Electricity supply is disconnected for days, especially when it starts raining or slight winds blow up. Proper electric poles and wires are laid in every corner and street of the village but shortage of electricity is still there.” The solar lights installed in Damhal were used to light up the mosques and streets, till they were stolen.

Although the village has seen some developmental activities over the years, it is still far from a acquiring the status of a Model Village. Many projects listed by the government are yet to take off. For example, a degree college which was touted as the biggest achievement for the village is missing. After completing their higher secondary education, the students have to travel to Anantnag town for higher education. The government had also promised to develop a playground for the youth and a Children’s Park for which the land has been bought which are yet to be made operational.

This was the only village surveyed by Kashmir Life where the development projects had taken off and the life of the villagers had changed for good. But certain projects mandated to be developed under the Model Village project were nonexistent in Damhal too. For example, the authorities have not built a playground. Absence of police station and fire station in Damhal has become a concern for the inhabitants who have to travel to Achabal to get their complaints recorded. However a hospital which provides proper health care and free of cost medicines with a good number of doctors and other paramedical staff makes villagers happy and grateful.

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