On the eve of Eid ul Adha, while I was coming back from my relative’s house after distributing sacrificial meat (qurbani) , I could not resist myself after looking at the pathetic condition of Chadoora-Surasyar road. I spent almost an hour with the villagers of Hanjura and Zuhama in Chadoora sub division interviewing them as they have been requesting me off and on during the last one month to highlight the issue related to the worst road condition. In-fact I have been raising this issue for more than a year now but it seems Govt authorities are least bothered to prioritise public issues and address them. Between 2017-2019 a drinking water pipeline was laid by the Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) from Nowhar Doodh Ganga to Kralpora water filtration plant. Crores of rupees were spent on this project but this pipeline is leaking at various places on the 15 kms road stretch. In the last 5 years there have been at least two dozen ERA pipeline leaking incidents which is not only causing traffic mess but has damaged the road surface as well several times. For the last 1 year PHE Jal Shakti department is now busy laying drinking water pipeline & entire road stretch from Chadoora to Sursyar has been opened up on both sides by JCB cranes. At many places the water pipeline can be seen opening out which can get damaged by any loaded truck. The entire bitumen layers around Sogam, Gund , Zuhama and Hanjura have been damaged and nobody is bothered to get it fixed.
Jal Jeevan Mission
With an aim of providing clean drinking water to every household in India, the Government of India launched Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) around 4 years back. This centrally sponsored scheme was formally launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 15th August 2019. The aim of JJM is to provide ‘Functional Household Tap Connections’ (FHTC) to every rural household in India by 2024. The Jal Jeevan Mission -JJM is aimed at creating a people’s movement — Jan Andolan for water. Pertinently in Jammu & Kashmir a major chunk of this year’s annual budget has gone to the water sector. More than Rs 5000 crores (Rs 50 Billion) have been allocated by Government of India to J&K under Jal Jeevan Mission and we can see a large number of works being executed by PHE-Jal Shakti Department across the nook and corner of J&K. At a time when massive works are being executed under this national flagship programme we see our roads being damaged in many areas to lay the drinking water pipelines. In fact the damage being caused to roads to lay water pipelines is not a new thing which can be attributed to JJM, but this has been prevalent in the past also due to lack of governance and proper coordination. It is quite evident that there is hardly any coordination between the Public Works Department - (PWD-R&B), PM Gram Sadak Yojna - PMGSY & PHE Jal Shakti Departments. Roads which were metalled, blacktopped have been dug up by the contractors using JCB cranes within months and nobody knows will these roads be ever repaired back? This author has personally seen many such roads which were plundered within months after being macadamized. In fact I tried to highlight this on social media as well but it seems the Govt is more serious about utilizing Rs 5000 crores rather than asking contractors to get the damaged roads repaired or asking engineering departments like PHE Jal Shakti and PWD -R&B , PMGSY to have better coordination.
Nowhar Changund Road
After repeated requests the work on Nowhar Chanagund road in Charari Sharief Budgam was taken up by PWD (R&B) last summer. As the road was in bad shape I had made a small video of the same in August 2022 and uploaded it on social media. I sent the link to Principal Secretary Public Works Department-PWD Mr Shailender Kumar as well. He assured me to get the road fixed and in fact the 2 kms road stretch was blacktopped by September 2022. All of a sudden in January 2023, the road surface was opened up using JCB cranes to lay water-pipelines by PHE Jal Shakti contractors under the Jal Jeevan Mission. I raised this issue again and uploaded a video on Facebook & Twitter. I sought answers from Govt, PHE Jal Shakti and PWD (R&B), but nobody responded? As our legislative assembly is also in a state of suspended animation, these issues can not even raised on the floor of the house. The institution of District Development Council -DDC is yet to get evolved and most of these members are not taken seriously by our bureaucracy. If PWD R&B had plans to repair this 2 kms link road wasn’t it the duty of the then local Executive Engineer PWD -R&B to have a meeting with his PHE Jal Shakti counterpart? Had the R & B Executive Engineer waited for two more months, the road would not have been damaged and drinking water pipeline would have been laid and the road would also have been repaired and macadamised. Now this road surface is again in shambles and till date the road has not been repaired. After that incident I saw at least one dozen road surfaces having been damaged between January this year to June. Not even a single statement has been issued by the Govt about this.
Jal Jeevan Mission in J&K
The substantial increase in Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) budget every year in J&K makes it evident that Govt of India is concerned about addressing drinking water issues in Jammu & Kashmir and towards materializing its commitment of providing tap water connections to every household plus capacity building of Water Quality Management through testing, monitoring and surveillance. The J&K contemplates to become ‘HAR GHAR JAL’ Union Territory by the financial year 2022-23 and to achieve this target the Govt officials don’t even care about having proper coordination with PMGSY, PWD-R&B during laying of water pipelines. As per 2022 report 18.35 lakh rural households in J&K, 10.39 lakh households have tap water connections which is around 57 %. Srinagar and Ganderbal districts have already achieved the target of having 100 % households with tap water connections.
It is evident that Govt officers are forced to achieve targets under Jal Jeevan Mission -JJM by their seniors and that is the reason we lack coordination between various Govt organisations and engineering wings while executing JJM projects in J&K. This has resulted in complete chaos and confusion. At a time when people are being supplied with portable drinking water through taps, a huge population in many districts of J&K are deprived of good road connectivity. Blacktopping and metalling of roads is going on at great pace nowadays , but we don’t know when these roads will be damaged again? By achieving JJM targets if road surfaces are damaged causing huge loss to state exchequer which is a burden on the taxpayers, it is not development but a case of complete misgovernance. I am sure Hon’ble Lt Governor Shri Manoj Sinha will take a serious notice of it.
Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat is an Acumen Fellow. He is Founder & Chairman Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement / Anant Fellow for Climate Action.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.