The creation of hill councils will give a fillip to the development of the region. “There are number of disadvantages of being with Jammu division,” said Abdul Salam, a teacher in Doda. “Our region is like Kashmir valley and receives snowfall during winters. But our schools are entitled to summer vacation and not winter vacation, because we have been kept part of Jammu region.”

People feel that ignorant Jammu administration knows all districts have same climate as that of Jammu district. Hashmi quotes the example of Doda. “Here, the altitude variation is very steep and with it, entire flora and fauna continuously remains changing,” says Hashmi. “The babus at Jammu cannot understand this fact and they cannot meet our demands keeping in mind these nitty gritties.”

Hashmi says that the final solution to such problems is the devolution of powers to the people itself for which the creation of hill councils is the best way forward.

People of this region feel that having a different cultural, linguistic and socio-economic condition as compared to Jammu region, often leads to non-seriousness of the administration, which results in their underdevelopment. “About 70 percent of the area is still un-electrified, 50 percent is without proper drinking water facility, medicare is negligible, the educational system is worse and most of the area is without road connectivity,” says PDP leader Chowdhary Zulfikar Ali from Darhal. “If we are asking for the treatment of such ailments by way of creation of Hill Development Council, is it a crime?”

Ali had also brought in a bill for the creation of separate HDC during the winter session of assembly at Jammu. “Every leader from PDP, NC and Congress supported it but then still nothing happens. The situation becomes frustrating.”

MLA Doda Abdul Majid too had brought private member’s bill in the Assembly for the Hill Development Council for Doda, which also met the same fate.

According to these leaders, the people of this region have the same problems which the people of Leh and Kargil are facing. “If they can get the HDC, why can’t we be granted the same,” says Hashmi.

Central university

Regarding the current controversy of location of central university, Suharwardy says that Chenab region lies at the centre of the state and it is almost equidistant from Srinagar and Jammu. “It should be established in our region and nobody will complain,” said Suharwardy.

A senior bureaucrat told Kashmir life, “The central university can be established at Mantalai near Chenani in Doda as the state has huge availability of land and a complex, which can house the university comfortably.”

The people of Rajouri and Poonch have also given support for the move in case central university is established in Chenab valley region. “They too are in favour of establishing the university in Doda on parity,” said Hashmi. “Doda will be centrally located and not near to the Punjab border where the Jammu district based leaders are planning to set up the university,” he further said while referring to Samba as the choice of Central University.

Ignored Valleys

Chenab Valley comprises of three districts of Ramban, Doda and Kishtwar on either side of the river Chenab. The name was floated by Moulana Attaullah Suhrawardy in mid nineties. According to the 2009 estimates of Census of India, the region has a population of 8,95,511 souls spread over an area of 12068 sq kms. Kishtwar is the largest district with an area of 7737 sq kms followed by Doda with 2985 sq kms and Ramban with 1346 sq kms.

The Pir Panchal region lies in western side of Jammu and Kashmir comprising of Rajauri, Poonch and parts of Reasi district, mainly the Gool Gulabgarh area. The total area coming under the proposed Peer Panchal Hill Development Council comes out to be around 5304 sq kms. According to census of India estimates for 2009, the population of this region is 13,61,184 and around 12,50,000 will be included in the PPHDC.

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