November 2019 News

'Dismal' Response To Programme

27 November 2019
The Tribune

Srinagar: Fear, anxiety and boredom are writ large on the faces of majority of officials deployed for the J&K government's much-hyped development programme 'Back to Village' in Kashmir. Officials say public participation in the first three days of the programme was 'dismal' as people continued to show defiance against abrogation of Article 370 by the Centre on August 5. 'We have been continuing our efforts to reach out to maximum people despite militant threats. However, the overall security situation is not favourable for conducting the programme, which is witnessing public participation less than what we expected,' a senior official told The Tribune. At Shadimarg rural development block in south Kashmir's Pulwama district, the government had assembled officials entrusted with the responsibility to listen to public grievances of five panchayats in a building on Monday. Minutes after officials reached Shadimarg, they were left fear-stricken as militants surfaced in the local market. Security forces later in the day killed a local militant at Pachhad village, within 1-km radius of Shadimarg. 'No civilian from five panchayats turned up with any public grievance or for development work. It was a boring day which ended with fear and anxiety,' said an official, who was part of the government's delegation for the public outreach programme. 'We had no security there. For the whole day, we were praying for our safety and waiting for the day to end,' he added. Unlike the phase-one conducted in June 2019, officials said they were getting a completely 'contrast' feeling in the ongoing programme. 'It is a compulsion to join the programme because people are not at all ready to listen to government agencies. Their anger can consume anyone of us and the government needs to act responsibly for restoring peace in Kashmir instead of pushing us into a death trap,' said an official on the condition of anonymity. Secretary, Rural Development Department, Sheetal Nanda said, 'We are collecting reports on public participation in the programme. I visited Ganderbal district and found the participation okay.'