My journey as a Municipal Councillor, Baramulla, has been full of satisfaction yet there is a desire to transform this beautiful town into a role model for the entire valley which still yearns in my heart. But I am sure that with a holistic approach and contribution of all the sects of society, this dream will soon be a reality.
It is an undeniable fact that past one year has been challenging especially the period after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A. I was a bit apprehensive as to how the entire thing will play up, its repercussions for the locals and other agencies that had the arduous task of its implementation. During the initial days, there was a sense of uncertainty and apprehension in the minds of the locals as if a birth right had been snatched away, which was a matter of pride of each Kashmiri.
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As a key appointment, I knew I had a pivotal role to play. The items of daily necessity were made available to locals at their doorstep which was a major challenge and separate task forces were constituted for the same. Relaxation in curfews, opening of grocery shops, <em>janta darbars</em> and online availability of stores in town and villages that too in a phased manner ensured that all grassroots issues of the <em>awaam</em> were being addressed. Regular feedback were also taken by the concerned authorities which enabled smooth governance.
The flagship programme known as ‘<em>Back to Village</em>’ was implemented in two phases. It further cemented our gains and locals welcomed this initiative by the govt and its grassroots imprints were much appreciated.
The vision of this programme was based on ‘<em>Womb to Tomb</em>’ concept and various interactive sessions with sarpanches and locals in far flung villages had an excellent response. Basic aspects like hygiene and sanitisation, requirement of schools, community halls, facilities for sports and issues of horticulture and agriculture were discussed in detail.
The entire thing was moving on the right track and gave us a buffer period of winters for self introspection. By the end of February even the locals who had inhibitions about this major decision by the government had come to terms and saw a new ray of hope for entire Kashmir.
The beginning of 2020 saw a global challenge in the form of Covid-19 which caught the world off guard. A team was constituted (Covid Warriors) in sync with medical authorities, NGOs, Mohalla Committee members and important members of various commercial centres of Baramulla. Even the security forces cooperated with us and we had made a framework to deal with it in a phased manner.
Approximately Rs 20 Lakhs was given to us initially to fight this crisis under the disaster management fund. In addition, other funds which are provided to the Municipal Committee were also utilised to procure basic items like protective gear and essential medicines. Day-wise monitoring system, provision of ambulance to far flung areas and door-to-door sample collection was a major challenge. GMC Baramulla was converted into a nodal centre to wage war against this pandemic. Opening of transport and shops based on even and odd formula has also been taken positively by the trading community.
I am also part of the Greater Baramulla Vision Document 2025’ (Conceptualised in 2011) which is based on a Master Plan, comprising of infrastructure development, self-sustainability in synchronisation with fragile ecosystem, growth centres for urban and rural areas, employment opportunities for youth and potential for tourism and trade.
The tiered driving force behind this concept have been the primary, secondary and key stakeholders in the form of beneficiaries, implementers and policy makers. For better functioning and ease, it was divided into Old Town, New Town and nearby villages. Major aspects like horticulture and agriculture have been given major boost in this plan. Detailed framework for beautification has been planned which comprises of development of Hajibal as a tourist hub, water sports at Khadniyar, electricity and drainage facilities, rapid public transport system and special eco zone on the outskirts of the town.
As a dual approach for development, the total funds allocated for panchayats (2019-20) was around Rs 10.75 crore out of which Rs 2.5 crore has been expended. As part of community development and panchayat works, construction of passenger shed, drains, fencing of forest locations have been achieved.
As part of Municipal Committee funds (2019-20), Rs 11.45 crore were allocated and Rs 6.84 crore has been expended. Funds allocated have been spent in town and village on repairs, sanitisation including provision of dustbins and as part of ‘<em>Swachh Bharat Abhiyan</em>’ and impetus to new techniques for increasing productivity of fruits.
Baramulla presently is the most peaceful town in the Valley and the environment gives you an opportunity to pursue your dreams. My journey so far has been a challenging one but the dream of Greater Baramulla is a dream worth striving.
<em>‘Shehr-e-khas mera khwab meri ibadat’</em>
<em>(Umar Kakroo is the Municipal Councillor of Baramulla)</em>.