“When there is a case of medical emergency like a pregnancy or an accident, we have to take the patient on a cot for about seven kilometers,” says Ghulam Kadir Khan. The 35-year-old primary school teacher lives in Pohrou Kalnag village in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district. The village does not have any medical treatment facilities. The nearest pharmacy is twenty kilometers away.
“From there, we board a local bus to reach Kokernag Hospital [further 15 kilometers away],” adds Mr. Khan. Mr. Khan resides in a picturesque village but the uneven roads on crisscrossing mountains leading to rural areas of the Valley not only transcend into different lifestyles but altogether different eras.
In a village where televisions are rare, there are particular spots where people find a mobile network. “We get information after several weeks,” says Shabir Ahmad Bimla, a 40-year-old shopkeeper. “We have not been able to use communication facilities for years.”
The village has a population of roughly 3,000, with merely two general stores. In absence of connectivity to the village, the shopkeepers pay extra transportation charges for half of the distance and more to horse carriages for the next half.
“[Only] if we had proper road connectivity in our village, our day-to-day lives would have been easier,” Mr. Bimla adds.
In 2013, the government had started constructing a road under rural development programme, which was to be named Plan Serial 16. But, the construction was stopped midway –Soof village to Gadvail village – about five kilometers away from Phorou village. There has been no word from the administration for the past six years.
“The last we heard from the administration was about two years ago regarding another road-project connecting the village from Guihar [about five kilometers away],” says Bashir Ahmad Lone. The 40-year-old farmer would have boarded a bus from the village only if that road had been constructed. But, it didn’t happen. “At most, they built a bridge and nothing else.”
Not only are health and transport sectors limping but education too is. Again, the primary school students walk about eight kilometers to board a bus to a private school in Kokernag, Anantnag. In winter, the students end up walking about fourteen kilometers to attend coaching classes.
Mohammad Younis Bimla, 22, is a final-year student of Bachelor of Arts from Government Degree College, Kokernag. Every day, on his return, his father, senior Mr. Bimla, the shopkeeper, asks him to buy essentials for the shop in order to save some money.
“I always aspired to be a doctor,” says young Mr. Bimla. “But, due to lack of facilities, I could not qualify, and ended up taking arts.” Also, he says, due to the lack of connectivity, teachers do not prefer to come.
His father, Mr. Ahmad, says, “There is no proper infrastructure for education; even the government high school is half damaged for the last five years.”
Having followed the lifestyle for a long time, the people have adjusted themselves in the existing frame. The elders in the village hold lack of education and exposure as the reason for the village’s economic and developmental backwardness. Other services such as regular electricity and water are still a distant idea. For them, development is a far-fetched dream.
Asif Hamid is a Multimedia Reporter at The Kashmir Walla.
This photo-essay was published in our 10-16 Feb 2020 print edition.