Surviving in the Dark-Age

Poonch, Aug 9 (ANI): The tragic killing of five Indian army soldiers recently along the Line of Control in Poonch sector won't only affect their immediate families, but will also have an impact on the thousands of residents who live in the border area several hundred kilometers away from our metropolitans.

Bearing the brunt of conflict, these borderlands are highlighted only when there is either ceasefire violation or worse, war like situation. Else, no one knows what it is like to live near the LoC. How people survive in isolation away from the development ambit of the country where, on the one hand they are marred by the continuous conflict and on the other, no one pays heed to the problems faced by them.

Several hundred kilometers from the swift metropolitan life of Jammu, located in the Peer Panjal range is a village called Mohar Ban where life seems as old as a black and white picture. Bright only during the day, as night falls, the entire village is submerged in sheer darkness. Electricity hasn't reached till date in this village that lies in Mandi Tehsil, located twenty kilometers from Poonch Town. The dismal picture of the village inhabited by three hundred and fifty destitute lives brings shame to a nation that is celebrating its 67th year of Independence this year.

Eight years ago, with the objectives of electrifying all villages and habitations, providing access to electricity to all rural households and providing electricity connection to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families free of charge, the Ministry of Power launched the ambitious Rajiv Gandhi Grameen Vidyutikaran Yojana (RGGVY). According to a report, the State of Jammu and Kashmir received a total of eight hundred and twenty two crores under RGGVY, sixty percent of which has already been spent. A total of thirty lakh houses were supposed to be illuminated with this huge budget but so far, electricity has reached only twenty nine thousand seven hundred and forty two houses.

"In 2008, the electricity department erected electricity poles in our village but nothing has happened thereafter. We are dependent on candles and seldom get kerosene oil to light our lamps," said twenty-eight year old Farooque Ahmad, a local who further explains how absence of roads adds to the nuisance - "We have to embark on a three hour journey on foot to reach the road that takes us to the shop from where we get kerosene oil at a subsidized rate. But by the time we reach our destination, the oil stock is exhausted."

The worst is during extreme weather conditions -storm, heavy rain and snowfall - when it becomes even more difficult for the villagers to survive. In such conditions, even villages with access to electricity are not spared.

Earlier this year, besides facing heavy snowfall, the entire district of Poonch was suffering huge losses at the financial and social front. The situation was so bad that the entire region was cut off from the rest of the country for several days. Twenty towers of 132 KV malfunctioned due to heavy snowfall. Along with its border villages, Poonch district remained in the dark for many days.

The administration claimed that they have spent crores of rupees on erecting these electricity poles. It is evident that before the commencement of such a huge project, the geographical situation of the area must have been taken into account by the electricity department. The question is, if so much money was spent on erecting these towers to provide electricity in a snowbound region, then why did they turn out to be a complete failure in testing times?

The Charkha Development Communication Network points out that absence of electricity has affected life of the Mohar Ban villagers in every aspect. Most of the villagers, due to no power facility, have quit farming and have migrated to other places like Jammu and Punjab, to take menial jobs. In absence of employment opportunities, they have chosen to work as laborers. Education and health are other severely affected issues waiting their respective turn to be addressed. By Yousuf Jameel (ANI)

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