Bandipora: The dream of having a power supply and road for the uphill villagers of Vewan in north Kashmir's Bandipora came true after many decades. But it was short-lived due to alleged departmental "apathy and a callous approach."
The Vewan villagers were mocked for living in the "dark ages" in the 20th century as they neither had a road nor a power supply. But after many decades, when the dream of having both power and roads began to become reality, the villagers were overjoyed.
Prior to getting a road, power infrastructure for the village was laid in 2019, cutting across deep forests and rough terrain. The officials of the power department carried the power lines and erected almost 200 electric poles, which they said was very hard. Although a 14-kilometer road of Rs 8.49 crore was also approved in 2018, the PMGSY delayed its earth-cutting works until 2019, a few weeks after Vewan received electricity for a historic first. With the road getting paved, the power lines and electric poles got uprooted, and Vewan was once again in darkness.
"The priority of villagers was a road over power," an official of the power department told Greater Kashmir, but villagers have been aghast as they are now deprived of both the road and power supply.
The 14-kilometer road that cut through the deep forests, as per locals, wreaked havoc as trees fell, but it never seemed the "construction was standard as it was difficult terrain and required a tough road to bear the harshness of the weather."
The locals said the department claimed that the road would be finished in 2022, but the villagers accused PMGSY of taking a callous attitude because numerous components, like drains and walls to hold the slides haven't been constructed or completed exposing them to dangers of their "houses too getting caved in."
"Without that, the road became prone to mudslides triggered by rain and snow," a local, Sajad Ahmad, said. He claimed that the road was hardly motorable, forcing them to walk on foot on several occasions as the mountain slopes were left dangerously prone to slides due to "careless excavation."
Locals reasoned that they were back in the "dark ages" and again traveling by foot to avail themselves of basic facilities like healthcare. "The officials and contractors never bothered to do a scientific study prior to road construction," an elderly Wali Mohammad claimed. He said the "road is now a sight akin to destruction."
Trucks had been ferried on the road down the bridge for more than 50 years, according to the villagers, who claimed that it had been tested during its earlier use by lumberjacks as a dirt road, but the new road excavated uphill was not.
Locals claimed that after knocking on every door and even visiting the district's top administrative executives, "the responsible officials never bothered to give us any attention." Locals even stated that a contractor macadamized the road in November of last year using poor-quality material, according to their claims.
"The contractor brought the macadam and straightaway laid it on the road in the dead of the night without going through standard procedures," the locals said. "They said that the soil from the mountain slopes was used in filling the base in place of gravel and other components to make it last which resulted in a huge portion of road getting collapsed."
With the road getting collapsed and the construction material removing off, locals narrate, "We are back to shouldering our mothers and sisters' wives on cots to the hospital," an angry group of villagers said, asking higher offices to look into the matter and help them out.
Officials claimed it was "natural process" that the road collapsed. "Whenever a natural slope is touched or disturbed it takes time to settle, and it has been only few years that we excavated this road," Bilal Ahamd Executive Engineer PMGSY Bandipora told Greater Kashmir. He reasoned it with the Banihal road still getting slides even after years while some portion had settled.