Baramulla town is the second important city of the J&K, however, it has been ignored by the Urban Development Department from years. The cleanliness of the town could be gauged by its pathways and chocked drains and lanes and by-lanes that are filled with garbage.
Being Municipal Council, a full-fledged department with hundreds of employees is meant for the cleanliness of the town; however, the department has failed to justice with town. Even roads have been blocked by the street vendors making it difficult for the commuters to walk.
Since the town has a population of over one lakh souls and many new areas that are part of the Greater Baramulla have been clubbed with the Municipal limits, however, officials are not paying any attention on the cleanliness. The Municipal Council is being headed by non professional people and blue eyed officials close to the political hierarchy have been awarded plump posts. ‘This office is a den of corruption, where every illegal thing could be legalized by bribing the officials,’’ said Mohammad Shafi, a resident of Baramulla.
Last year around 100 LED lights were installed in different areas of the town, however, almost all those lights developed technical snags and now are useless. ‘’One light costs around Rs 12000, unfortunately, the contractor installed duplicate lights and all those lights developed snags within three or four months,’’ said a local at Azad Ganj. Though locals brought this case in the notice of officials, however, they didn’t take any action. ‘They will never take action against contractor, as he is the blue eyed contractor, who gets contracts on various firms and bribe officials,’’ said a former official. He said that even contracts have been awarded to those suppliers who have cases in the Vigilance department.
Another resident said that the Municipal Council generates revenue in lakhs unfortunately; the Council is without a ladder. ‘’The Council don’t have a ladder despite they look after entire electricity of the town. The electricians of the Council ask people to get ladders for any repair.’’
Blind eye towards encroachment
The encroachment is at peak in Baramulla town and its vicinities, even shopkeepers who have influence had encroached government land with the help of officials and people seldom seek maps for construction of new houses. ‘’The officials always encourage to go for illegal construction and take money for allowing construction. The officials even create problems for those people who try to seek legal ways,’’ said Dawood Ahmad, a resident of town. He said in the last five years 10 to 12 big shopping malls and complexes were constructed from Kanispora to Khanpora and they paid only peanuts to the department. ‘Most of the owners instead of paying fee towards the Municipal Council, bribed the officials. Even, if it is properly checked, only fee of one or two floors have been deposited, rest money goes into the pocket of officials.’
Such is the irony that an influential businessman encroached the land of Municipal Council after he constructed a big shopping mall in the town. ‘The complex owner is a powerful businessman with political connection. He bribed all the officials and constructed the complex.’’
The park on the national highway close to the office of the Municipal Council tells all about the functioning of the Council. The park was given under the control of Muncipal Council, instead of upkeep of the park, the officials’ handed over a patch of land to sumo drivers for stand after they paid hefty amount to the officials of the council. The front of the park is now an illegal sumo stand and nobody could raise a voice against it. ‘The illegal sumo stand has turned the park into a dumping ground and every week the drivers pay hafta towards the Muncipal Council.
Rent and allotment of shops
The Municipal Council has no records for the rent of the shops which it has leased to the people from time to time. The Council has never revised the rate contracts of big shopkeepers, instead take money from them. Even in the upscale market, the shopkeepers still pay an annual rent of Rs 1200 and many shopkeepers have not paid rent for years. ‘’Pay money to staff and escape from rate revision,’’ says a shopkeeper.
Market Checking and Polythene drive
The market checking and polythene drive is never conducted by the staff who are paid for it. They only do it once in a blue moon and that too for photo ops and facebook publicity.
Even the sheep and goats are slaughtered in the houses without any checking as the slaughter house has been made dysfunctional by the top officer of the council. ‘’Three decades back, there was a proper system of sheep slaughter and now butchers slaughter sheep at their homes and pay money to Municipal Council officials. We don’t even know what was slaughtered.’’
The Only silver lining
The sweepers employees are the only working force of the council. They are the only people who are doing selfless work and unfortunately they are never paid on time creating problems for them and their families.
The Executive Officer Municipal Council, Firdous Ahmad while responding to these allegations, however said that his department is keenly working in the town for its betterment.
He said that the rents are revised after every three years, although he didn’t mention the parameters on which the rents are revised.
“We are keenly monitoring the constructional works in the township and action is taken against those who violate the norms. The market checking is also conducted frequently while the drive against the use of polythene is continuing for six days a week,” he said.
Maintaining that 210 site plans have been sanctioned to deal with encroachment problems, he said that the Chief Minister has assured them that the Sumo stand will be shifted into the lawns of Tehsil office after the mini secretariat is built.
He, however, blamed the previous EO for shifting the stand to the Cariapa Park.
“The shops are also allotted on the direction of the Director,” he added.