Baramulla: The historic North Kashmir’s Baramulla town is losing its beauty and serene environs to choked drainage system, heaps of garbage alongside the roads and on banks of beautiful river Jhelum while the concerned authorities seem unfazed over this growing disaster, gradually grappling the town.
As one enters into the township, the garbage dumps, bumpy roads, choked drains and encroachment of footpaths by the street vendors is all which greets. This is all happening at the nose of Deputy Commissioner’s office and Municipal Committee Baramulla.
This official apathy had even defeated the economic investments made by the locals who are trying to encash the dividends of prevailing peace in the township as tall concrete and organized economic structures are witnessing the boost since lasts several years here.
In the main city, there are number of shopping complexes coming up while nearly a dozen multi story buildings have already been built in an organized manner. But the official apathy in restoring the order in town is apparently playing spoilsport to emerging economic power centre of north Kashmir and discouraging investors.
The claims of Municipal Committee Baramulla in maintaining its order and cleanliness of the town falls flat of spending crores of rupees over its development, sanitation and maintenance with locals seeking thorough probe over the investment.
“Every time they (authorities) claim that huge funds are being spent over the maintenance and development of town but when looked at ground, it has a very ugly picture to show. Where this money goes? That needs to be seen,” says the local resident Irshad Ahmad.
He believes that through investigations into the claims of MCB can pave way for unearthing a huge scam of public exchequer as the ground realities are quite different then what they might have been claiming on official papers.
The locals question over the existence of MCB where huge resources are wasted over the men and machinery but no action on ground. “Virtually they have failed to maintain proper sanitation, beautification of river Jhelum and proper drainage system,” General Secretary, Beopar Mandal, Baramulla, Engineer Tariq Ahmad Mangloo, laments.
“Nature has bestowed this town with beautiful environs but now it has become an eyesore for all who visit here. Tons of stinking garbage, blocked drains, broken dustbins, defunct street lights and lack of good civic services greet every new comer to the town and exposes official apathy,”
He alleges that the funds meant for public development and welfare services are being withdrawn from the government exchequer and swindled by the officials with no work on ground.
As if the pollution to the river Jhelum flowing through the heart of city due to garbage and waste overthrown by scavengers and locals was not enough, rag pickers have joined the chorus by piling up scrap and other waste material onto its banks, therefore, further polluting its waters.
“See these rag pickers are hammering final nail in the coffin by piling tons of garbage, scrap, cardboard and other waste material on the banks of river Jhelum in broad day light while authorities seem unmoved,” locals told The Legitimate.
The MCB has 21 wards and almost in all wards the situation is same where people show deep resentment and disagreement with the working of committee.
“What is more ironical, the toilets are overflowing into the Jhelum waters which isa source of drinking water for hundreds of villages residing on its banks. Even in most parts of the Baramulla, the authorities are pumping same water through the taps to the residential houses,” shopkeeper, Zahoor Ahmed Dar of fish market complains.
He says the ‘customary’ sanitation and cleanliness drives of MCB ends up with throwing garbage and filth into the Jhelum followed by photo shoots and fabricated media coverage to the events.
The locals, fed up with official apathy have warned of protests against the inaction of government against the erring officials.
“When we pay taxes and fee, we deserve better services. We urge government to understand the gravity of problem before they force us to come on roads. We will also seek the details of funds utilized so far by the MCB,” the locals threaten.
“Scavengers never bother to visit our wards and garbage dumping is striking an alarm with the soaring temperature in summers for many life threatening diseases like dengue, malaria etc. Even stray dogs are ruling the streets,” rues Abdul Rashid.
The MCB authorities, however, are shifting blame to the locals for the prevailing chaos in town.
Executive Officer Municipal Council Baramulla Shabir Ahmed said that “fencing of river Jhelum has already been done but unfortunately locals, shopkeepers still at most of the places throw garbage into the river Jhelum. Though we have built garbage-bins but unfortunately people still prefer to dispose-off garbage into waters and on roadside,” he told The Legitimate.
Ahmad, however, assures that stern action against the rag pickers dumping waste on river banks would be taken.
He seeks people’s cooperation and ensures that civic sense must prevail among people for clean and green Baramulla. He also attributes failure of cleanliness to the shortage of scavengers in the department.
“We have only 140 scavengers against the requirement of 600. People must understand and act in civilized manner as pure sanitation is not possible without public support.”
Khaki In Action
As the MCB seems on loggerheads over the poor sanitation with locals and refuses to accept its complete failure, the district police on Monday left it red faced when Senior Superintendent Police, Imtiyaz Hussain along with 250 more personals launched the cleanliness drive in the main town.
With a slogan on banners reading that “Everyone Must Be His Own Scavenger”, the district police chief in a blue track suit along with his men started the drive from St. Joseph School which interestingly is just few meters away from the head office of MCB, along with his children and Deputy Superintendent Police, Headquarters Feroz Yahya and concerned SHO.
The 250 odd men in khaki along with some volunteers and social activists cleaned the drains and garbage on the roadside in different parts of the town with an aim to imbibe the civic sense among people.
DC Baramulla Yasha Mudgal appreciated the initiative and highlighted the importance of the campaign for a clean and green environment.
Objective of achieving complete hygiene and sanitation, she believes could be possible only with an active support of collective society irrespective of profession, status and responsibilities as everyone dreams to live in clean and calm environs.
She maintains that cleanliness is next to godliness.
The police during the drive also educated shopkeepers and other stakeholders about the importance of sanitation and were exhorted upon to actively participate in the drive to focus on improving cleanliness in and around the town.
“About 250 volunteers of Baramulla police and other volunteers participated in this program and cleaned roads, foot paths, lanes and drains in the town by taking out polythene and other solid waste out of it. They also cleared choked drains and streets having scattered littering,” Hussain says.
He assures the cooperation of police to the civil administration to ensure that people are benefited at large.
“Cleanliness of our homes is worthless if our surroundings are unclean. Police will try to provide better services to the people in future and engage in activities which have a bearing on police -public relationship,” he adds.
“We should move with a sense of collective responsibility and should take efforts to clean our surroundings.”
The story first appeared in print edition of May 4.