BASHARAT RASHID | 16 MARCH, 2020
A Hilltop Village Suffers with No Road, Electricity, Hospital or High School
‘For basic facilities we use horses or our own shoulders’
KASHMIR: Even in the 21st century the remote village of Shojan in the Tral area of south Kashmir lacks all basic facilities, with locals facing a lot of difficulty in day to day life.
The area is located above Panzoo village, amid green forests which have never witnessed electricity, a matter of grave concern as almost all other areas in Kashmir now have this basic facility.
Locals say they used to come down to Panzoo once a day, travelling 7 kilometres from the hilltop to recharge their mobile phones, before making the two-hour trip back to the summit.
The area is literally inaccessible and has no road, and Shojan’s residents, its school students in particular, suffer while travelling on a daily basis to learn and earn.
The village of around 60 households takes three hectic hours to reach by foot from the Tral sub district, after crossing risky areas and bumpy roads.
Seven years back the authorities started constructing a road from Panzoo to Shojan under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PM’s Rural Road Mission) which earned a sigh of relief from locals at the time, but they have yet to complete the 7-kilometre stretch.
They even cut down a hill using machines and made many curved portions to construct the road and route it towards Shojan – but the unfinished road has only added to residents’ troubles.
With only a 4-5 kilometre stretch constructed, locals express resentment at the authorities’ constant backsliding on their commitment.
According to local resident Ghulam Khan, the curved portions of the road under construction are dangerous. He said the road should be constructed only after taking preventive measures on all these portions to safeguard residents.
“We have been waiting seven years for it to be constructed properly, but nothing is being done to complete the road, which is a matter of serious concern,” said Khan. “To get basic facilities from accessible areas, we either use horses or our own shoulders to carry the goods.”
There is no healthcare facility available there, due to which patients, particularly expectant mothers, suffer a lot. Residents said they use wooden stretchers to take patients to the hospital in emergencies. They believe the authorities have left them to God’s mercy.
One resident lamented that they are usually stuck in snow in the winter, with no official from the subdistrict administration looking after them.
“In winters we are stuck here for months, no one bothers to look after us. We are lacking everything even in the 21st century – which is discrimination plain and simple,” he said.
The village has a middle school which unfortunately looks like a tin shed; poorly constructed decades ago, it caters to students till Class 8.
Students here feel very disturbed and annoyed that their school lacks proper infrastructure, impacting their studies.
The teachers too face difficulty, as after reaching to teach there by braving the odds, they usually face inconveniences in view of the lack of space.
After completing their studies here, students must either drop out of schooling or suffer to reach high schools that are very far from the village.
“The high schools are 9–10 kilometres from here, so our children either face difficulties or leave their studies midway as they regularly face inconveniences from the dearth of basic facilities here,” a woman resident of Shojan said.
Locals say no higher-up has ever visited this area to review the public provision of basic facilities. They say Tral additional deputy commissioner S.A.Raina was the first official to reach their village in recent times. His visit was a ray of hope for them as he assured them of all possible support.
Pertinently, the village lacks everything – a road, electricity, healthcare, clean drinking water, food supplies, and other basic infrastructure and amenities.
Raina, when contacted, said he “visited the area recently and witnessed some emotional scenes there.”
“The area has apparently been neglected as I observed there. It lacks all the facilities particularly road, electricity, infrastructure to school,” Raina said, adding that he has noted the residents’ main demands, which will be redressed.
Meanwhile, locals say they are hoping to get all basic facilities in coming times, so they can breathe a sigh of relief for the first time.
Cover photo: The dilapidated middle school in Shojan