'Terrorism Not A Problem In J&K, Unemployment Is'16 July 2011
Times of India
Pune: The main concern in the Kashmir valley, right now, is unemployment, not terrorism or religious discrimination, said Aasha Bhat, elected as the 'panch' of village Wussan Bangil, Tangmarg tehsil in Jammu & Kashmir's Baramulla district, two months ago. Bhat was felicitated at a programme organised by city-based NGO Sarhad for being the first Kashmiri Pandit woman to be elected as panch. Speaking on the occasion, Bhat expressed her desire to modernise her village. 'My village suffers from four to five hours of power failure every day. The river that flows through our village has dried up and we source water from a nearby stream and a few small wells dug up by the residents. I want to tackle these problems and provide employment to my people back home, because I have seen poverty up close,' said Bhat. She grew up in Wussan-Bangil, a village with around 2,500 residents, more than half of whom are unemployed. 'We don't have a hospital or a high school. The nearest school is at a distance of seven km. Militancy doesn't affect my village, but unemployment does. Most villagers do seasonal business of weaving carpets and shawls, but I want to provide them better and more stable job opportunities,' Bhat said. Her village comprises around 350 families, five or six of which are Hindu. 'Hindus and Muslims have lived in harmony in my village. But the voices of the poor do not reach the ministers. I will do everything I can to voice out our needs,' she said. Mayor Mohansingh Rajpal and Ashok Dhiware, chief, CID, were also present during Bhat's felicitation. 'We have decided to give Rs 1 lakh to Sarhad,' said Rajpal. Sarhad's founder-president, Sanjay Nahar said, 'We will hand over the entire amount to Bhat as financial assistance to her village.'