Situated in close proximity to the summer capital, Srinagar, central Kashmir’s Budgam district has witnessed a step-motherly treatment over the years on the developmental front. Deputy Commissioner (DC) Budgam and senior IAS officer, Syeed Fakhrudin Hamid in a free-wheeling interview with Greater Kashmir Senior Editor, Nazir Ganaie, shares information about the ongoing and upcoming projects in the district and his mission of turning it into a vibrant district with the focus on ‘Vision Document 2047’ prepared for holistic development of all sectors of Budgam. Excerpts
Greater Kashmir: Tell us about your administrative journey so far.
DC Budgam: I qualified for the UPSC examination in 2017. My first preference among services was Indian Administrative Service (IAS) and thankfully I got into Indian Administrative Services and was allotted Assam -Meghalaya cadre. My administrative journey from Assam-Meghalaya to J&K has been full of experiences that I believe have taught me a lot about the richness of cultures and at the same time, how unified we are in diversity. I was posted as Assistant Commissioner during my probation in Lakhimpur, Assam and then served as SDM in Dadangree, Meghalaya followed by a brief stint as Deputy Commissioner, Baghmara, Meghalaya which is a very far-flung district sharing border with Bangladesh and then coming to Jammu and Kashmir, I was posted as Managing Director of the J&K Tourism Development Corporation. Budgam is my first posting as a district magistrate (DM) in J&K.
Greater Kashmir: What are your major plans for central Kashmir’s district Budgam?
DC Budgam: Budgam is a land of mesmerising meadows and unlimited resources. Owing to its location and resources, the district has tremendous potential vis a vis tourism and other economic activities. The main plan is to ensure that this potential is fully realised in all aspects. In fact,a full-fledged Vision document (2047) has been prepared for the holistic Development of the District in all sectors.
Greater Kashmir: The power sector remains under tremendous pressure across the region. Budgam too faces outages. What are the upcoming projects?
DC Budgam: By and large, we are gaining momentum in the sector. A lot of new projects are underway. Under the power sector, a 100 MVA Grid at Nowbugh at a project cost of 33.86 core has been completed. Besides 21 No. 33/11 KV receiving stations under CSS have been completed/augmented and 4 other receiving stations are under process.
Greater Kashmir: You spoke about a lot of projects under execution. Any remarkable project that is going to be a game changer in the administrative affairs of the district?
DC Budgam: Yes. There are many major projects under execution across the district. The National Institute of Fashion Technology funded by the Government of India at Rs. 325.00 crores is nearing completion in the district and would facilitate state-of-the-art training in different emergent trades to the youth. It’s needless to mention that promoting entrepreneurship among the talented skilled youth is the way forward . Accommodation for PRIs at a cost of Rs 5.59 crore shall be completed by the end of the current financial year. 100-bedded ESIC (Employees’ State Insurance Corporation) Hospital at SIDCO Industrial Complex, Ompora, Budgam is being constructed at a cost of Rs 158.00 crore through CPWD. Nearly eight 100-bedded Girl Hostels are under construction in different blocks under SMAGRA at a cost of Rs 306.00 lacs each. A new Industrial estate is upcoming at Banderpora, for which about 64 Kanal of land stands have been identified. Apart from this, in order to improve animal health care, a sheep hospital at a cost of Rs 130.29 lacs is nearing completion at the district headquarter, Veterinary Hospital to the extent of Rs 95.18 lacs has been constructed during the current financial year.
Greater Kashmir: Budgam, being the nearest district to Srinagar, is lagging on the development front. Why?
DC Budgam: The Budgam district was carved out from the erstwhile District Srinagar in 1979 and since then has made significant progress/ development in all sectors/fronts which is evident from different developmental indicators of the UT (Good governance index, deliverable index However, we have a way to go and there’s a lot that needs to be done so that the fruits of development reach every citizen in the remotest village of the district. Let me put this on record, efforts are being made to make it a leading district in the coming years.
Greater Kashmir: What milestones would you like to discuss in the development and prosperity of this district?
DC Budgam: For the prosperity and development of the district, few immediate interventions are required and the most important according to me would be
Health care improvement. There are almost 216 Health Institutions across the District including 01 District Hospital and 09 SDHs. In order to maintain the health standard of the people of the district, these 10 major Health Institutions are required to be upgraded/developed as per the IPHS norms.
Full Exploitation of Tourism potential. Like other Districts of the valley, District Budgam is also having a huge Tourism Potential to attract Local, domestic and International Tourists. Presently there are 03 Tourism development authorities in the district. The following interventions/initiatives are necessarily required for tourism Development such as the Development of Circuit Tourism- Tosamaidan-Doodhpathri-Yousmarg-Poonch by developing wayside amenities, treks, Clubs etc, development of Cable Cars, development of Skiing Slopes and Skier Lift Bars at Tosamaidan, Yusmarg and Doodhpathri. There’s a need to explore the potential of relatively other unexplored areas viz Pehjan, Naranag, Nakwaer Pak (Nostril rock), etc., through massive infrastructure development to attract tourists.
Higher Education: In District Budgam there are 07 Govt Degree Colleges, and all have geared up to fully implement the NEP in letter and spirit.
Education: 927 schools exist in the district. In order to increase enrolment and to provide quality education, there is a need to establish/convert existing schools into smart/model schools.
Self-Employment: Self Employment is being provided to job seekers with a target of 15 persons from each of the 296 panchayats. We are currently formulating a District Employment Plan wherein the target is to ensure self-employment for each and every aspiring youth under various self-employment schemes.
Greater Kashmir: Budgam, one of the oldest districts, doesn’t have a full-fledged District hospital. Are there any plans in this regard?
DC Budgam: Due to the paucity of space at the existing District Hospital Building at Budgam, a DPR of 125 bedded new building for DH Budgam at Reshipora Budgam has been prepared and is under active consideration by the government.
Greater Kashmir: Due to many languishing projects, the development drive of the district remains halted. What are the reasons? When are these projects going to be completed?
DC Budgam: There were 125 projects which were languishing from so many years and the government has approved balance funding of 303.24 crores under JKIDF for the completion. So far 77 projects have been completed and open for the public and out of the remaining 47 projects, 31 projects are likely to be completed by the end of the CFY.
Greater Kashmir: Budgam doesn’t have a scientific waste management mechanism. Why?
DC Budgam: For scientific waste disposal management many initiatives are being taken Up under various schemes. But we have also deployed men and machinery for the door-to-door garbage collection and which is later dumped at a designated site. For achieving the objective of Swachh Gaoun 16551 soakage pits have been taken up out of which 5744 have been completed so far and 12980 compost pits have been taken up out of which 4472 pits have been completed. Besides 1.5 lacs households having been covered for door-to-door collection of waste and various waste collection, segregation sheds have been constructed under Swach Bharat Mission. Moreover, for establishing solid waste management in all 6 Municipal Corporations, the land has already been identified. DPRs amounting to Rs 465.00 lacs have been sanctioned and work at three MC viz Chadoora, Beerwah and Charar e Sharif is going on and the work at other places is also being explored. In addition to the above the door-to-door waste collection under SBM has also been started in rural areas and legacy waste is being removed. Also, a consolidated DPR for 06 Blocks for plastic Waste management has also been prepared at an estimated cost of Rs 96.00 lacs and submitted to the concerned quarter for approval. Further, e-vehicles are also being purchased for cluster Panchayat in every block for door-to-door waste/garbage collection. People are being made aware of the segregation of solid waste at source for which awareness campaigns are being held across the district.
Greater Kashmir: People are complaining about dilapidated road conditions. How are you addressing it?
DC Budgam: The roads in the district have been improved to the great extent under PMGSY and NABARD 461.71 Km of Road length were sanctioned under PMGSY out of which 422.39 KMS have been completed to date. Moreover, 88.26 km of road length have been sanctioned during the current FY for the upgradation of 11 roads which is under progress. Further 47 new projects under NABARD were approved last year and are under construction and shall be completed within a span of three years. Besides 04 bridges are under construction at a cost of Rs 2104.00 lacs. Besides, 42 No. of road projects at a cost of Rs 23214.49 lacs having a road length of 201.19 Km and 07 bridges at a cost of Rs 4205.47 lacs are in pipeline and are expected to be taken up in the next financial year.
Greater Kashmir: Locals are up in arms against the administration for allowing a few influential schools to create massive roadblocks in peak hours.
DC Budgam: I have been receiving a lot of complaints. We have constituted a committee that will examine and visit all the existing Schools in Budgam and then submit their report and recommendations. On the basis of it we would be able to address this question of yours fully and I am sure the committee would surely think about the benevolence of the people of Budgam, especially Budgam township. Meanwhile, SOP will also be devised regarding the clutter and mess on the roads.
Greater Kashmir: Throwing municipal guidelines to the air, many shopping malls and commercial buildings have come up in residential areas. Why is the administration maintaining criminal silence on this?
DC Budgam: We have a vibrant team and committees in place that check all these irregularities and violations and report to the administration and police accordingly. We won’t let our prime agricultural land go to waste like this. ‘
Greater Kashmir: Social excavation is a major challenge that Budgam has been facing for many decades. Those fighting against the mafia have become part of it now. How is the administration looking into this ecological disaster?
DC Budgam: The Department, District Administration has adopted zero tolerance towards illegal mining/Excavation and in this regard, various committees have been constituted at District Level to curb illegal mining activities. I personally won’t let Budgam suffer in any way at the hands of land, brick kiln, or mining mafia.
Greater Kashmir: Budgam has hundreds of brick kilns and stone crushers which are posing threat to the ecology. How are they being monitored?
DC Budgam: Jammu & Kashmir Pollution Control Committee has framed criteria for the establishment of Units viz, Brick Kilns, Stone Crushers etc, these units have to obtain mandatory Consent from Jammu & Kashmir Pollution Control Committee prior to these establishment/operations. The consent to operate or the renewal of consent is issued by Jammu & Kashmir Pollution Control Committee subject to the adoption of all Pollution Control Devices/Pollution Control Measures proposed by the Jammu & Kashmir Pollution Control Committee.
As per the notification issued by M O E F & climate change dated 22nd.Feb.2022 , new Brick kilns shall be allowed only with Zig-Zag technology or vertical shaft or the use of piped Natural Gas as fuel in the Brick making. Existing Brick kilns, which are not Zig -Zag Technology or vertical shaft are to be converted to Zig Zag Technology or vertical shaft or use of Piped Natural Gas as fuel in Brick making within a period of (a) One year in case of kilns located within 10 KMs radius of non-attainment cities (b) Two years for other areas.
Stone Crushers have to provide a screen and crushing point covered with C G I sheets, a water spring system, wind-breaking wall, metalled approached roads/premises and a green belt around the periphery for smooth functioning. In the event of failure to meet the prerequisite conditions, legal actions are initiated against the defaulters. Curbing Illegal mining, brick kilns/other environmentally hazardous activities is one of the main objectives of the administration to work on.
Greater Kashmir: How are you streamlining the education sector? A mere number of vehicles won’t add to the graph of the literacy rate in Budgam.
DC Budgam: There were 1270 Govt Schools in the district and to pool human resources and other infrastructure, 342 schools were clubbed. To further improve the quality of education, various new initiatives viz smart classrooms, the establishment of computer labs, libraries, etc have also been taken. In order to improve girl child education, nearly 8 KGBVs at a cost of Rs 805.02 lacs were taken up out of which 7 have been handed over. Besides 8 Girls’ Hostels at a cost of Rs2440.90 lacs have been taken up out of which 4 have been completed so far. The infrastructure development is underway for the two newly sanctioned degree colleges Soibugh and Chadoora besides Academic Block for degree college Magam and 8 classrooms building at Degree College Budgam have been completed at a cost of Rs 558.73 and 499.88 lacs respectively. Besides the construction of the Auditorium at degree, College Khansahib is underway at a cost of Rs 499.88 lacs.
Greater Kashmir: Would you count any success stories of Budgam this year so far?
DC Budgam: Smiles. There are many success stories to count. The most important one is that around 4000 youth have been provided self-employment under different schemes during the current financial year.
Greater Kashmir: Amid rising unemployment, how is the district administration helping out entrepreneurs and social enterprises, who are coming up with unique ideas?
DC Budgam: New initiative of imparting training to youth in non-conventional economic sectors such as Banking and Financial Services having employability potential has been started. Training in new trades/areas of entrepreneurship is being provided through different Govt training institutes. The Mission Youth has also taken new startups under SEI scheme in the services like Food Delivery, Cleaning, day-care, food truck, online courses, blogging, calligraphy, art and crafts teaching, graphic designing etc. by the way these new ideas the unemployment can be checked to a large extent.
Greater Kashmir: What are the new major potential tourist destinations that you are exploring in your district?
DC Budgam: District Budgam is having huge tourism potential to attract local, domestic and international tourists. Due to some reasons, the potential has not been released yet. However, at present, there are 3 Tourism Development Authorities in the District working day and night to promote different spots in budgam as major tourism destinations. During the current year about 8.00 lac tourists visited these destinations. The following interventions/initiatives are necessarily required and are being taken for tourism Development: Development of Circuit Tourism- Tosamaidan-Doodhpathri-Yousmarg-Poonch by way of development of wayside amenities, treks, clubs etc, Development of cable cars, Development of Skiing Slopes and Skier Lift Bars, AVRs at Tosamaidan, Yusmarg, Doodhpathri. Exploration of relatively unexplored areas viz Pehjan, Naranag, Nakwaer Pak (Nostril rock), Diskhal, Ashthaar etc. The idea of Homestays is being developed and worked out. The most important factor is, the Road connectivity, especially during winter, is being taken care of and efforts are being made to conduct winter sports in Budgam in the coming years
Greater Kashmir: Drug menace is rampant everywhere. How are you dealing with this situation?
DC Budgam: Creating awareness through local skits, plays and social media videos. Training Anganwadi workers, Asha workers, teachers and other stakeholders to identify drug abusers. Besides with the help of police, many hotspots are under continuous surveillance and notorious drug peddlers have been arrested with a result the graph has been reduced to a great extent. Moreover, facilities have also been created at the hospitals, where drug-addicted persons are being treated, and provided counselling and free medication. So far more than 500 drug-addicted persons received treatment.
Greater Kashmir: Many areas in Budgam are notorious for selling drugs. How are they being monitored?
DC Budgam: Eradication of Drug menace from the district is also a top priority of the administration. We treat the addicts as patients but we go really tough on the peddlers and drug dealers. We have a team of vibrant officers in the Police who work closely with the administration. We have slapped PSAs on scores of the dreaded drug peddlers and also the areas and localities which are notorious for the sale and purchase of drugs ( the hotspots) are under high surveillance.