In March 2013, when Shah assumed the charge, this neglected City was struggling on multiple fronts.
Octogenarian Noora Begum of Tanki Pora has been a frequent visitor to this office for over a year now –every time accompanying delegations for redressal of public or individual grievances. Monday she again dropped in.
This time with no complaints but to say “Good Bye” in her feeble voice to the official, who exceptionally stood by this hearing impaired woman, “all the times.”
What used to be traditionally known as District Commissioner (DC) Srinagar in the past two years transformed into a new avatar: District Development Commissioner, Farooq Ahmed Shah who Monday left City’s powerhouse for his new official assignment as Director Tourism.
In March 2013, when Shah assumed the charge, this neglected City was struggling on multiple fronts. For complainants pouring in at DC Office, inconvenience started with endless wait for appointment, a test of their patience and leg muscles: Visitors had to keep standing as there was no waiting room at this office serving the Srinagarites for the past over five decades.
Within days, Shah got a waiting room created with facilities like TV and air-conditioning. “Before leaving office, he everyday ensured that the waiting room was empty, meaning that all the visitors had been entertained,” hails PA Altaf Hussain.
After streamlining office affairs, Shah pledged to bring end to traffic mess at Pantha Chowk and Parim Pora crossings announcing respite within month. Though critics initially took his statement as media hype, commuters said there was visible improvement at these busy junctions.
By now it was time when allergic poplar pollen annually took the City hostage. Shah imposed a blanket ban on any new plantation of Russian poplars, a development which the then government subsequently stretched to other districts of Kashmir.
On the other hand, officials said, over 1000 kanals of government land was freed from encroachers. A portion of such land near Teng Pora highway was handed over to Fisheries department for development of Srinagar’s first fish market.
Amid previous year reports of duping of pilgrims, the DDC intervened in the working of Hajj and Umrah operators. Administration made it mandatory for them to provide documented details of services they would offer. “On return the operators were asked to take feedback forms duly signed by pilgrims. And this worked, there has been no new case of duping,” admitted a police official.
For some leading private schools accused of taking students and their parents for a ride, the DDC intervened asking them to adhere to norms or face de-recognition. Schools subsequently introduced facilities like heating arrangements and fans, alike. He equally introduced “Standard Operation Procedure based inspection” of tuition centers for quality check. About civic amenities, the district administration, intervened in the installation of streetlights and even transformer repairs. About issuance of Permanent Resident Certificate, orders were issued that aspirants get the document within 10 days.
For years the revenue staff, particularly the Patwaris were accused of playing hide-and-seek with the aspirants, but vide a government order it was made mandatory for them to be present at their offices from 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM.
But September floods washed away many things. Srinagar remained worst devastated with over 80,000 structures, mostly houses damaged. The figure is more than the aggregate devastation in other districts.
As Shah headed the uphill task for survey and relief, Assembly elections were announced. Being the District Election Officer, his coordination with security agencies concluded with “a most peaceful polls.”
Within two years DC Office emerged as first choice for aspirants to register their complaints about anything or everything connected to governance. Even as the country talks of Naari Shakti and women security, this could be the only office in the City where a protocol was introduced that woman cop escorts every female visitor drawing appreciation from social circles.
But today as Farooq Ahmed Shah left the DC Office chamber, the adjacent waiting room looked deserted. A beeline of complainants was standing, waiting for their turn to voice their issues. But Noora Begum looked lucky as she got a chance to meet the outgoing DDC, she adored and came to bid her humble farewell!