Back to village campaign in India's Jammu and Kasmir gathers steam

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The Srinagar Municipal Corporation has started night sanitation so that solid waste does not get accumulated. Even garbage at dumps will not be allowed to accumulate. It will be cleared twice a day. — Courtesy photo
The Srinagar Municipal Corporation has started night sanitation so that solid waste does not get accumulated. Even garbage at dumps will not be allowed to accumulate. It will be cleared twice a day. — Courtesy photo

NEW DELHI — Millions of people in India have uprooted themselves from their native villages since independence to join the maddening urban crowd, notwithstanding Gandhiji's truism that real India lives in villages. Now an effort is being exerted in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir to stem the trend through a back-to-village program.

The program has been successful so far. In the first phase of the multifaceted program, government officials spread out to villages to find out what compels the villagers to abandon their much-loved habitats for cities. Or in other words, what are the compulsions behind such migration.

The second phase flows from the first. It is to give them an equal voice through the promotion of panchayats. Enthusiastic people's participation in the last panchayat elections shows their faith in this institution.

The above two phases, according to the government’s assessment, have been successful. The third phase has been launched this month. Its focus is redressal of public grievances, public service delivery, and delivery of development at gram panchayat level. The groundwork for the third phase was accomplished by 4,000 government officials tasked with visiting every village to find out the obstacles in good governance at the village level.

The back-to-village program has four broad aims. First, to encourage the participation and involvement of the people in their village affairs. Two, the program involves government functionaries and officials in improving village-level governance and be easily accessible to the people. Three, the program has ushered in an era of equitable empowerment and development in the region. And lastly, better delivery of services.

It goes without saying that the success of this program will depend on the commitment and efficiency with which it is sought to be sustained.

The new initiative in villages does not overlook the plight of least paid laborers like construction workers and their dependents in the Union Territory. The lieutenant governor’s office has sanctioned financial assistance of Rs10 million for construction workers or their dependents in case of a chronic disease or death and for the expenses accrued in the performance of the last rites.

The sanctioned amount will come from a scheme called J & K Building and other Construction Workers Welfare Board (JKBOCWWB) . The borad gives Rs200,000 to the next of kin of a worker who dies and Rs300,000 for his funeral. A worker, registered with the board, who suffers from a chronic disease gets Rs100,000 for medical expenses.

There is also an effort to make Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu & Kashmir, the cleanest city of the country. This year in August, it was adjudged the 36th cleanest city in India; a very big jump from its 357th rank last year. This certainly shows a drastic, positive change in people’s living conditions in Srinagar. To further improve these conditions, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has started night sanitation so that solid waste does not get accumulated. Even garbage at dumps will not be allowed to accumulate. It will be cleared twice a day.

Back-to-village is one of the ambitious programs of the Jammu & Kashmir government. It would do well if it takes a leaf from the failure of the government of India which spent millions of rupees in the past about seven decades to lure people to stay put in their villages. Its policies, however, well thought of, were left for implementation to unmotivated, uncommitted, and self-seeking people, thus reversing Gandhiji’s truism that real India lives in its villages.

Reports from Kashmir say hundreds of government functionaries and officials have spread themselves into villages to find out their problems and grievances. They need a thorough motivation to do so. — SG


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