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Drowning in Neglect

Six people died in a fatal boat accident near Gandbal
12:49 AM May 14, 2024 IST | Faisul Yaseen
drowning in neglect
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Life in Kashmir can be difficult, and it is important not to lose sight of the challenges people face on a daily basis. A major concern within J&K is the neglect and tragedy associated with critical infrastructure projects like bridges.

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It might seem hard to believe, but the Jammu and Kashmir Infrastructure Development Fund Corporation (JKIDFC) has sanctioned funding for 622 unfinished projects worth Rs 1446.73 crore. But here’s the kicker: they’re all stuck! And get this: These schemes are scattered across all 20 districts of J&K. At least 15 bridges and seven pedestrian bridges have been left unfinished for years and are in need of major repairs.

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Recent incidents of boat capsize in Gandbal and Awantipora have highlighted the serious ramifications of the Jammu and Kashmir government’s inability to complete important bridges in the region.

Lives have been lost, families torn apart and communities left to mourn after broken promises.

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Six people died in a fatal boat accident near Gandbal. Two more persons went missing in the Awantipora boat capsize.

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It was a sobering reminder of bureaucratic incompetence and government apathy.

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The incomplete bridge over the River Jhelum for nearly a decade is seen as a sign of impending doom, forcing villagers to risk their lives on dangerous boat journeys.

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The failure of the government to prioritise security of the people and their welfare left deep holes in the lives of the people of Kashmir.

Suhail Ahmed, a resident of Gandbal, shared the woes of countless Kashmiris who suffer because of governance inefficiency.

His words reflected the stark reality that lives could have been saved if the government had heeded the call for timely infrastructure construction.

Despite such loss and shock, the government’s response shows that it is not worried.

The decision to resume work on the Gandabal Bridge is primarily motivated by public noise and media scrutiny and is a gesture rather than a genuine concern for public welfare.

Given years of established and broken contracts, diplomatic guarantees appear to be neutral. Increasing the size of the project will not alleviate the suffering of those who ultimately paid for the strikers.

Another stark example of an important bridge project standing for a remarkable 17 years is the situation at Dogripora. In an era of technological progress, Muhammad Ali and Intisar Ahmed express their frustration at the lack of progress. They praise those without lifelines, who are forced to cross the dangerous rivers, rivulets, and fast-flowing streams.

The unfinished bridges and road projects in Jammu and Kashmir from Shopian to Samba, Ramban to Reasi, Baramulla to Budgam, Kupwara to Kathua are symptoms of governance inefficiency and government apathy.

This is a stark contrast to the fact that between the 15th century and 18th century, Srinagar, situated on both banks of the River Jhelum, was way ahead in terms of construction of bridges.

With seven prominent bridges – Aali Kadal (built in 1415 CE by Sultan Ali Shah also known as Ali Shahmiri), Zaina Kadal (built in 1425-1426 CE by Sultan Zain-ul-Abdin), Fateh Kadal (built in 1500 CE by Sultan Fateh Shah), Habba Kadal (built in 1551 by Sultan Habib Shah), Nawa Kadal (Built in 1666 by Nuruddin Bamzai), Safa Kadal (built in 1671 by Saif Khan), and Amira Kadal (built in 1774 CE by Amiruddin Khan Jawan Sher) - Srinagar came to be known as the City of Bridges or the ‘City of Seven Bridges’. Over the years, five more bridges Zero Bridge, Abdullah Bridge, Budshah Kadal, New Zaina Kadal and New Habba Kadal also came up on the River Jhelum in Srinagar in addition to footbridges near Presentation Convent and S P S Museum.

However, in the era of fast-track development, people are condemned to live a life full of misery and hardship while the government spends money on mundane demonstrations of progress like selfie points and infrastructure projects that are constantly delayed.

J&K needs to address infrastructure problems as families cope with avoidable tragedy.

Funds from JKIDFC, meant to be a panacea for stalled projects, continue to fall on deferral and adequacy.

The government has run out of excuses. Every bridge not built and every promise broken shows how the government has betrayed the trust of the people and failed to fulfill its responsibilities.

Until the J&K administration puts the safety and welfare of its people ahead of political gains and bureaucratic red tape, Kashmir’s bridges and roads will remain incomplete and its people imprisoned to endless frustration.

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