A barren Information Centre, a hastily constructed community hall and a fenced graveyard is all that stands in “Model Village Ratnipora,” SHAMS IRFAN reports.
However, apart from a hastily constructed community hall that now stands neglected on the southern corner of the village and a big, ugly gate that welcomes updates about Ratnipora’s special status, nothing has changed here since 2009 when Ratnipora was formally declared a Model Village by the Minister for Rural Development, Panchayat Raj and Law and Parliamentary Affairs, Ali Mohammad Sagar.
The villagers participated in large numbers in the ceremony commemorated to announce the transformation of Ratnipora since they expected that this would be the first step towards the development of their forgotten area. Bashir Ahmad Mir, 48, Sarpanch of the village, told Kashmir Life that after formally announcing transformation of Ratnipora as a Model Village, Ali Mohammad Sagar told him that this was not what he had envisioned for the village. “Even a minister cannot help but express his displeasure over half-hearted development work that was done here,” says Mir.
Under Prime Minister’s Reconstruction Programme, one village in each recognized CD Block was taken up for development as a Model Village. In all, 62 villages in Kashmir Division were identified for development as under the programme. “Till now, not much has changed actually,” said Mir. “Our village was better off without the Model Village tag,” he adds thoughtfully.
The government has earmarked a sum of Rs. 120 lakh for the development of each model village. An amount of Rs 1 crore was sanctioned for the overall development of Ratnipora under the project but the locals allege that most of it was wasted because of mismanagement. “Funds sanctioned for the development of our village were not utilized in a proper, transparent manner,” Mir says. “They had no idea what they were doing. First they laid roads and then dug them up to make drains. And then left the entire mess behind,” alleges Mir.
However, eight years since the work began in Ratnipora to transform the village into a Model Village, no such facility has been provided so far. The Information Centre which was inaugurated under full media glare and much fanfare in 2009 remains closed so far. “Everything the government promised was done half-heartedly,” said Mohammad Afzal Mir, 65, who owns a small grocery shop in the village.
As one walks through the cemented lanes of Ratnipora, it is hard to miss tall streetlights installed in almost every corner of the village. “In 2004, there was visible change in our village. New roads were laid and existing ones concretized. Streetlights and solar lights were installed. Graveyards were fenced. But then nobody bothered to maintain them and they have turned useless,” said Mudassir Ahmad Mir, a resident of Ratnipora who is currently pursuing his MPhil degree from Gwalior. “Streetlights stopped functioning after two months of installation. When we complained, we were told by the authorities to get them fixed on our own,” says Mir.
The locals blame the government for neglecting the two-kilometre Gadhim Nallah, which cuts through the village. The drain swells in rainy season and causes floods. “They could have embanked the Nallah if they were really concerned about our livelihood,” said Khursheed Ahmad, a resident of village who lives on the banks of Gadim Nallah.
In a rush to add one more village to the list of completed Model villages, the authorities seem to have neglected very the basic needs of the villagers like clean drinking water and proper waste management system. “This Model Village does not even have a proper primary health centre. The nearest hospital is in Pampore, some 12 kilometres away,” adds Mudassir.
With almost cent per cent literacy rate, the adjoining villages of Ratnipora look upon them as a role model. “People from nearby villages have high hopes from us. But we are equally helpless when it comes to getting things done,” says Mir sadly. The plan was to undertake key activities under Model Villages programme based on guidelines mentioned under Prime Ministers Reconstruction Programme. The main objectives for development of Model Villages was to minimize the Rural – Urban divide, check the migration of population, improve the quality of rural life, demonstration of latest technology, integrated development of area based on local resources and optimum utilization of resources available under various schemes. But in a bid to add numbers to the record books, the authorities seem to have forgotten the very people whose lives they were intending to improve.