Saga Of ‘Greater Baramulla’

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This historic town despite ruled by the states most towering political personality, Muzaffer Hussain Baig lost its mega developmental project of Rs 3000 crores to political and official apathy reports Reyaz Rashid.

 People of Baramulla were badly betrayed by successive regimes and political parties in the name of development. Street violence followed by ‘political marginalization and discrimination  in NC led government’ coupled with official neglect led to complete failure of ambitiousgreater Rs 3000 crore ‘Greater Baramulla’ project intended to develop infrastructure and create economic opportunities for the people of township in north Kashmir.

However, the long standing dream of ‘massive’ development in Baramulla with envisaging of ‘Greater Baramulla Project’ in January 2011 was shattered after Asian Development Bank refused to approve the project citing administrative failure to prepare Master Plan in four years and restrictions of time in executing the project.

In January  2011, prioritizing development projects to be undertaken under  comprehensive “Greater Baramulla” plan in the township which was supposed to witness real infrastructure boom, Project consultant from Asian Development Bank and expert Koudeu Burg and the then District Development Commissioner Bashir Ahmed Bhat , Joint Director Planning, Abdul Gani Malik  representatives of ADB and ERA, Town Planner, district level officers and experts had an exhaustive meeting in Dak banglow here in which a comprehensive plan of Rs. 176 crore for construction of 13 developmental  projects was thoroughly discussed in its first stage.

The project was fully funded by Asian Development Bank (ADB) and 144 different developmental projects were announced to be covered within least possible time in which 13 were highly prioritized. The project was undertaken by Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) under the Jammu and Kashmir Urban Sector Development Investment Programme (JKUSDIP).

As per the announcement made by the authorities in January 2011, the project was supposed to set up modern drainage and sewerage system, roads, bridges, industrial estate, bus stands, beatification of river Jhelum. But dream project died of silent death as authorities, despite knowing the fact that the town was facing innumerable infrastructural and developmental problems, squandered the time in preparation of  the Master Plan which never came up due failure of planning officials working in the town .

People of the town say that Baramulla town has been politically marginalized and neglected by the authorities owing to whom they have been suffering immense problems in terms of sanitation, roads and other development related issues. They said that the project could have restored the lost pristine glory of the historical town and brought it on the tourism map of Kashmir.

Though the project remained a major attraction and agenda for all almost all political parties, especially Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which in past had tried to take credit for the plan but all political representatives failed to ensure the implementation of this dream project thus leaving residents of this town dejected.

General Secretary Beopar Mandal Baramulla Tariq Ahmed Magloo says, “Among the beautiful and strategically important towns of Kashmir, Baramulla town has its rich history and significance but it has been neglected by all successive regimes and marred by official apathy at large. The authorities are deliberately delaying the developmental projects meant for this town. The town does not exist anywhere in the tourism map of Kashmir despite having abundant potential in the sector. We have multiple problems like drainage, sanitation, sewerage, road and others here but nobody seems to be bothered to pay any heed.”

 “We have been betrayed bitterly by authorities. We were shown sky and given peanuts as all developmental works of the town were kept hostage to Greater Baramulla project during past five years. And when the mega project is not approved by ADB it means the town is pushed to wall as there would be no development on modern lines as promised by successive governments.”

He says that recently a delegation of BBM led by its president met Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti at her private office, Church lane Srinagar. During Meeting with CM Mehbooba Mufti, various issues pertaining to Baramulla town were discussed in detail, which includes construction of SRTC bridge, evacuation of playground from army, complete macadamisation of Baramulla town roads and it’s allied links, creation of tourist reception centre at Baramulla and toll check post. Mufti gave them assurance, that all these demands put forth by BBM are genuine and will be redressed on top priority. The meeting with CM lasted for almost one hour and was held in cordial and fruitful manner.

Project Specifics

The project aimed at addressing major issues of the town like drainage, sewerage, besides bringing Baramulla on the tourism map and connecting it through roads and bridges. The salient features of the project were scientific solid waste management, better drainage and sewerage system, beautification of river bank and connecting Eco-park via cable car with the scenic Bosian heights. The aim of the project was also to extend the limits of the town. The prioritized projects include drainage, sewerage, up gradation inner roads, bridges, beautification river jehlum, bus stand, ring road, industrial estate, water sports, cable car and expansion of eco-park.

Project consultant and expert Koudeu Burg in the final workshop under Economic Opportunity Development Plans (EODPS had said “The main objective is to promote tourism and related growth in projected towns under the plan. The components and sectors include tourism, urban upgrading-solid waste management, and combined sewerage, Drainage system, Transportation-major roads and drains, bus terminal besides capacity building,” added Burg.

Baramulla was among the five towns of the state besides Islamabad, Kathua, Kargil and Udhampur which was selected for this mega plan.

According to the proposal submitted by the authorities, the town would have been expanded upto Delina in east and to Sheeri in the west. In southern and northern parts, the town will be expanded to number of villages such as Ladoora, Nadihal, Chakla, Janbazpora, Darngbal, Jalsheeri, Kahdniyar,, Sheeri, Fatehgrah, and upper reaches around Sangri and Gujjar Sangri upto Uplina, Fatehpora, Gutyar, Frestihar, Kanispora, Johama. With all these villages the town would come up as Greater Baramulla with an anticipated population of three lakhs in 2010.

Transport cum vehicular movement plan aiming to pave way for hassle free traffic movement and avoid frequent jams in the town, the project includes following areas of development. Four-lane highway from Delina to Sheeri with central verge ,  Construction of flyovers from St. Joseph’s school to Khanpora and main Chowk to old town (Azad Gunj), Footpaths on either side of the road and in markets.

Apart from this interior connectivity and road widening, the town will have a ring road on the pattern of metropolitan cities in India. The road will go through all the villages mentioned above and will emerge as significant landmark to boost the economy and social connectivity of the town.

For the connectivity of the town with Kupwara district, there are about five big and small bridges in offing. The main bridge from Jetty, Khawajabagh to Janbazpora will not only connect the town internally but will also connect Baramulla district with distrct Kupwara and Rafiabad area with shortening distance upto 10 kilometers besides minimizing traffic jams in maintown after bypassing the traffic.

 The other bridges are Ladoora Bridge connecting Juhama with Ladoora, Veervan Bridge connecting Khadniyar with Sheeri via Srinagar-Muzaffarabad Highway and the foot bridge between Khawajabagh and Janbazpora.

For parking of the vehicles, the town will have state-of–art truck terminal and ware house near Drangbal and fruit mandi at Kanispora. For passenger buses the existing bus adda will be shifted to outskirts of the town with separate space for the down traffic and another for upper traffic. The light motor vehicles will have separate parking slots at feasible places.

Greater Baramulla Forum

Greater Baramulla Forum  Meeting Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti
Greater Baramulla Forum Meeting Chief Minister, Mehbooba Mufti

Given indifferent approach of authorities towards the implementation of the project, members from cross section society joined the chores and constituted a forum named Greater Baramulla Forum’ (GBF) aimed at working for over all developmental and public issues of Baramulla town with main target of implementation of ‘Greater Baramulla’ plan but abandonment of this project by ADB dashed the dream of GBF.

“As the project got abandoned by ADB, it exposed the political parties and civil administration’s non seriousness towards development of the town. We were befooled by various political parties and the civil administration all these years by dream project but our hopes got dashed after ADB refused to approve the project later,” says president of the GBF Shamas Manknoo.

“I think officers sitting in the town from last many years are acting as serpent. They are responsible for the whole mess in the town,” rues Manknoo.

He adds that his forum is now focusing on the issues incorporated in  Greater Baramulla Plan such as  development of Municipal wards, class (C) city status to Baramulla town, extension of municipal limits, reopening of garrison road from Baramulla to Kantbagh, drug addiction, traffic regulation and parking facilities, sanitation, public urinals cum toilets, completion of district veterinary hospital Baramulla, establishment of Medical college, Engineering College at KU’s north campus, up gradation of nursing schools, up gradations of police training school, restoration of street lights, construction of Mini secretariat, establishment  of recreational parks and sports infrastructure with football academy, Weerwan Island Jetty Bridge, drinking water and electricity, bus stops and beatification of banks of river Jehlum.

MLA Speaks

PDP has always ushered peace and prosperity of Baramulla town but unfortunately due to 2008 and 2010 unrest the town suffered a setback in development sector.

“In 2012 when Lateif Zaman Deva was Deputy Commissioner, there were several meetings in which former deputy Chief Minister Muzzafar Hussain Beigh and representatives of ADB and ERA were present.   There was threadbare discussion and workshop on Greater Baramulla project but when the team of experts went to survey the town there was stone pelting on the team which gave adverse report to executing agency,” said Javid Hussan Beigh.

However, 17 projects were taken into hand but Omar Abdullah led government given the unrest salved the project and the ADB and ERA abandoned it.

He further informs, “We are trying to bring the town under the AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation) which has been recently initiated by the Government of India to transform the urban infrastructure overwhelmed with over-growing population. Sanitation and solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transportation, affordable housing for poor and robust IT connectivity among others are essential features of the project.”

“I have met CM Mehbooba Mufti and Deputy CM Dr. Nirmal Singh in this regard and I am hopeful to develop the town under the centrally sponsored AMRUT Project,” says Biegh

However, if sources are to be believed Baramulla town again fails to qualify for the centrally sponsored AMRUT Project. The main reason for the disqualifications is the delay of the district administration in notifying the master plan for the town.

The major qualification for the projects was that towns should have population more than one lakh. In Jammu and Kashmir State, four towns had qualified for the project which includes Jammu, Srinagar, Katra and Islamabad.

According to Census 2011, the population of Baramulla town was 71,434. The authorities had prepared the draft for the master plan 2011-2027 well in time but administrative failure to notify it has resulted in the disqualification of the town for the projects.

As per the master plan draft, scope of the town had been extended beyond existing town limits to contiguous areas of Delina in the East, Sheeri in the West, Ludura in the North and Sangri in the South. The entire area existing within these limits including other adjoining villages constitute the Local Area for the Master Plan.

“With the expansion of the town limits, the town could have easily qualified for the twin projects, however authorities failed to implement the master plan with the result desired population for the projects couldn’t be achieved,” official in the Housing and Urban Development Department reveals to The Legitimate.

Sources say that people of Sheeri and Kanispora has raised objections in expansion of town limits for they lose backward status.

Director Economic Reconstruction Agency Kashmir, Malik Basharat says, “The Asian Development Bank in its statement has said that the project has not been approved due to the fact that the authorities had failed to submit their master plan well in time and the time for the loan to be approved had remained too little with the result the project couldn’t be approved.”

“In Baramulla we have identified a site for the scientific disposal of solid wastes and we are waiting for the clearance from the Pollution Control Board. However the officials at the Pollution Control Board say that the identified site was not feasible for the disposal of the waste and assured that they will send their team to re-examine the area.”

 “Last month we sent our scientist to examine the site but he suggested that the site was not feasible to discharge the solid waste of whole town. It needs to be far away from the population as it can breed various diseases. The ERA needs to identify various sites and then our officials will suggest them the feasible one. Further we will send our officials to re-examine the place clearly,” said Ali Mohammad Dar, Regional Director, and Jammu and Kashmir State Pollution Control Board.

Executive officer Municipal Committee Baramulla, Shabir Ahmed says, “Greater Baramulla Project was directly hadled by the Deputy Commissioner Baramulla. We had submitted our project for solid waste management in scientific way but the project is awaiting approval.”

People of the town allege that frequent transfer of Deputy Commissioners within years was the major jolt to development and developmental projects like Greater Baramulla.

When Peerzada Mushtaq Ahmad Shah was DC Baramulla, the Master plan for Baramulla was uploaded for public perusal and opinion. The Baramulla Master Plan has been kept available on www.baramulla.nic.in. Moreover, it was kept available at all Sub-division and Tehsil level offices for the public involvement and there was several rounds of meetings chaired by the then Deputy Commissioner Baramulla, Peerzada Mushtaq Ahmad Shah and was attended by senior Citizens of Baramulla and members of Greater Baramulla Forum but things remained unchanged after Shah was transferred from Baramulla.

Baramulla constituency, represented by one of the tallest politicians of the State for last 12 years, is victim of the official apathy as Government has failed to provide basic amenities to the people of the area and develop the second biggest urban centre in Kashmir valley.

The Constituency was represented by former Deputy Chief Minister of the State and People’s Democratic Party (PDP) leader, Muzaffar Hussain Baig, who defeated National Conference candidate, Nazir Hussain Khan, by a margin of 6, 000 votes in 2008 Assembly elections. Baig polled 13, 019 votes and Khan 7621. However, depiste being the main brain behind the sanction of this project for the town, his stature even failed to save it later when the state was ruled by National Conference and Congress.

The inhabitants of this constituency say that some sort of developmental works were done for last more than a decade, like construction of buildings for District Hospital Baramulla, Kashmir University’s North Campus and development of few Public Parks in the town, but work on vital projects is yet to be started.

The dilapidated roads are causing traffic mess -on main and link roads, poor state of health sector, ever increasing irrigation problems, electricity crisis, drinking water scarcity, sanitation problems and Government apathy are the main problems the constituency faces.

Residents allege that Government has failed to meet the basic requirements of people in the town. They say that the inhabitants of main town are suffering during rains and winters due to the absence of proper drainage system. “Whole town submerges into water in rains and all the main drains remain chocked due to the official apathy,” locals allege adding, the Traders Federation Baramulla went to their MLA scores of times to get their problems addressed but to no avail.

Another senior businessman Bashir Ahmed Kanroo says that despite being the second densely populated area of Kashmir, Baramulla sans proper garbage dumping site because of which local Municipal Community dumps garbage in open in the bus stand. “People avoid bus stand due to the bad fowl emanating from huge piles of garbage that remains lying in the bus stand without any treatment.”

 “Street lights are lying defunct since the day when these were installed. Nobody bothers to repair them despite repeated pleas to concerned officials and leaders,” he rues.

The local residents said butchers dump waste directly into the river Jhelum, flowing through the town, has not only polluted the water body, but also became a threat as it has spread dog menace.

“A slaughter house was constructed in the Jhelum market of the town, but that was not made functional till date due to the official apathy. There is nobody available in the town to listen to the genuine grievances of people in the constituency,” says Mohammad Iqbal.

“The town was neglected from last six years due to the incompetence of local leaders. He maintains that apart from parks, and macadamization of roads in the town, no visible change has taken place. The Baramulla area was taken for granted by the leaders and Government, which can be gauged from the fact that this year no District Board meeting has been organized yet,” claims Bashir Ahmed Kanroo.

Preparation of DPR’s

Adhoc efforts neither result in better environment nor strengthen the economic base. In view of this, Town Planning Organization, Kashmir has undertaken the preparation of the Master Plans for various towns which envisages all encompassing development of these towns. Master Plans are expected to give impetus to the development and economic potential of the towns. In the first phase, the Master Plans of district headquarters have been taken up which will be followed up by Master Plans of other small and medium towns. Government has also decided of outsourcing some Master Plans; however the Master Plan for Baramulla which is on the threshold of becoming Class I town has been taken up in-house by Town Panning Organisation Kashmir. The Draft Master Plan-Greater Baramulla (2011-27) is not a maiden effort as the first planning effort w

as made in 1995 when first Draft Master Plan Baramulla (1995-2015) was submitted to the government for publication in 1998. It was as a consequence of this effort that Baramulla Development Authority was constituted and Local Area notified vide HUD-56/25-TP dated 26.10.1998.

The studies involved in the preparation of Master Plan for Greater Baramulla (2011-27) concern the areas crucial to planning and development of the region. Town Planning Organization, Kashmir regards it a privilege to undertake the assignment of formulating the Master Plan of Greater Baramulla (2011-27). Essentially in this Draft Master Plan, the issues that are regarded as very crucial in framing the development proposals to achieve better living and economic conditions in the urban areas, have been considered after carefully weighing the opportunities and constraints offered by the town. The comprehensive efforts have established a framework for physical and socio-economic development and upliftment of the town– its constituent elements and the development policy mechanism by which these goals can be achieved. At this juncture, the purpose of Town Planning Organisation, Kashmir in putting this document is to solicit critical comments and suggestions to achieve greater participation, meaningfulness and make the Master Plan for Greater Baramulla (2011-27) acceptable to stakeholders who have a role to play in its development and implementable for the Development Authority. The Draft Master Plan Baramulla (2011-27) is being submitted to the government and the already constituted Development Authority for publication under the provision of J & K Development Act 1970 and the rules framed thereof. The Local Area constituted needs to be modified to include all the villages of the planning area of this draft report,” read the preface of the draft Master Plan for Greater Baramulla (2011-27)  complied by Iftikhar A. Hakim Chief Town Planner Town Planning Organization.

As the ADB has already grounded the proposal of Greater Baramulla, it is to be seen how the government will upgrade the infrastructure of this main as it has already failed to bring it under the centrally sponsored AMRUT scheme to sustain the long 12 years political triumph over this main constituency of north Kashmir.

The story first appeared in print edition of June 15.

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