Vewan Bandipora, Mar 27: Electricity poles lie uprooted and wires remain tangled in the stream cutting along the newly built 14-kilometer road from Athwatoo to Vewan.
These poles and wires in a historic first provided electricity to the remote mountain community in the Bandipora district of north Kashmir in 2019. The villagers’ joy knew no bounds, but regrettably, it only lasted for some weeks.
When PMGSY started building the road to the village that had been approved in 2018, it caused devastation. The 8.49 crore road project, which on the one hand gave the residents some relief, once more made their modest homes dark.
The light bulbs that had brought them some joy, died out soon as the machines began to rumble across the mountains. The electricity project had these components: Two 63 KV transformers, 70 LT poles, and 129 HT poles, according to district electric officials. But it could barely last a month.
Currently, at least 150 semi-tribal homes dispersed throughout the mountains live in utter poverty and are without access to modern conveniences like electricity.
“We continue to live in the same olden days using wood to light our homes. Our children are also compelled to study under these circumstances forcing many to drop out of school,” Wali Mohammad claimed.
Although the government has been giving solar lights and lanterns to the villagers, as part of several programmes, they say that the benefits are short-lived and that not everyone benefits.
Wali demonstrated how they burn the wood to light the homes in the evening, with family members huddled around it asking, “how long should we continue like this?.”
The 60-year-old continued that the villagers were ‘so happy’ when bulbs were lit for the first time in 2019. Though ‘erratic’ it provided the villagers, especially the youth ‘some hope’. But the dream didn’t last long and in a month or so the electricity disappeared, never to return despite the elapsing of three years.
The online mode of learning also remains a dream for the students of this village as the rest of the country moves ahead with mobile internet technology.
“The electric or solar devices last for some time but they ultimately run out of charge. In winters mostly we then return to the use of wooden sticks,” another villager Ghulam Mohammad Lone lamented.
He added that their children “aren’t familiar with the online mode of learning” and continue to receive education via offline mode as the department has failed to restore electricity to this village.
“Those uprooted poles and fallen wires continue to remain on the road as no one bothers to look into the matter,” Lone added.
“We want our bulbs to shine once again as we, our younger generations need it. All do not afford solar lanterns and solar lights and we don’t want to burn more wood,” a youngster Sajad said.
Vewan was electrified, according to electricity department authorities, but the infrastructure was damaged when a road to the village was built.
The villagers’ “first desire was the road,” according to Tariq Ahamd, Executive Engineer of PDD Bandipora, therefore they didn’t aggressively perceive power restoration.
The officer said, “It was rough terrain and the department had electrified the village by building infrastructure in trying conditions.”
He claimed that the department had previously provided the district administrator with estimates of the cost of damages, but neither funding nor approval had been granted.
Now that it is being planned under the tribal welfare programme, “maybe it will receive permission soon,” the officer added. The Executive Engineer further said that they are “expecting funds from the Deputy commissioners office and that it (power) will be restored in the next financial year.” He added, “ it will be our first priority in the next financial year.”