Jammu and Kashmir government's Back to Village second edition a flop show
In June this year, the government administration for the first time launched the first edition of Back to Village programme. Government officials visited the Gram Panchayats across the state and took note of the grievances of the people on various counts. More than 4 months down the line, the people, however, say that most of the issues they brought to the notice of the officials remain unaddressed.
For the past many days the newspapers in the Valley have been plastered with government advertisements, announcing the second edition of "Back to Village" programme ( B2V2).
Under this 5-day-long programme, rolled out on November 25, the officials are supposed to visit the villages to assess the progress of the decisions taken during Back to Village 1 ( B2V1) and spend two days and a night in the Gram Panchayats.
In June this year, the government administration for the first time launched the first edition of Back to Village programme. Government officials visited the Gram Panchayats across the state and took note of the grievances of the people on various counts.
More than 4 months down the line, the people, however, say that most of the issues they brought to the notice of the officials remain unaddressed.
Many residents in north Kashmir's Bandipora district say that the programme came a cropper as none of their problems were addressed.
"The roads in our village are rather battered and the entire area has been reeling under severe shortage of safe drinking water. Both these issues were taken up with the officials during the B2V1 programme but to no avail", says Tariq Ahmad, Sarpanch of Maqdamyari, a quaint village some 25 km from Bandipora town.
Abdul Basit, a resident of Imamshab village of south Kashmir's Shopian district says that during their visit the officials took note of many issues their village has been facing since years, but nothing has happened thus far.
Basit says the government failed to provide their village even a few electric poles. “This was an exercise in futility", he adds.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Modi dedicated about two minutes to the programme in his monthly radio broadcast in July this year. This was after, the PM said, he received a message from a local resident of the area, hailing the programme.
For a host of reasons, the people this time around are largely staying clear of the programme. While the unfulfilled promises of the previous programme is one of the reasons, the abrogation of the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its division into two union territories is a dominant factor now.
"This government has taken away all we already had. We don't trust it any more. It has nothing to offer us", said Javed Ahmad, a resident of Anantnag.
Javed says that there is anger among the people and the government should first address that.
In Pulwama's Machpona village, only a few local men showed up on Monday at a government school where the programme was held. "They did not deliver on the promises they made previously. How do you expect a good participation of residents in such programmes" said Zeeshan Ahmad, a resident.
On Wednesday, militants mounted an attack during the programme, killing a Sarpanch associated with the Congress Party and a government official in Hakoora village of Anantnag district. The attack has also stymied the programme.
Many in the Valley believe that the programme has been aimed at creating an impression that things are hunky-dory in Kashmir. "The real intention of the government is not to give an ear to the grievances of the people at the grassroots, as they claim, but to show that normality has returned here", said Mohammad Amin Bhat, a resident of Srinagar.
Bhat said that the government is trying to distract attention from the growing debate over the current unrest in Kashmir.
A District Panchayat Officer from northern Kashmir, who declined to be quoted in this report, conceded that this time they were not getting a great response from the people. However, he added that the long-drawn-out lockdown in Kashmir and lack of sufficient funds were the key reasons that hampered the various developmental projects in different areas across the Valley.