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Dhargloon Upper village is located in Balakote block of Poonch district, 10 km from Balakote town. The village is in precarious situation of being within range of firing and mortar shelling from Pakistan across LoC in Balakote Sector.
Total area of village is 375 acres, of which common land is 63 acres (17%) and agricultural land 250 acres (67%). Common land is used for grass cultivation as village economy is dependent on milk animals. Village has implemented a social forestry project on 38 acres forest land. Area surrounding Dhargloon is forest land. There is no village level forest protection committee. Staff of Forest Department guards social forestry project and villagers are denied entry or access. Those who live near forest area have facility of grazing or cutting grass on specified limited area under the project. Villagers’ access to natural resources is poor. Dhargloon Upper is spread in eight wards and has 400 households with population of 3200 persons. Over 350 houses are kutcha. All households are Muslim (25% Gurjar and 75% Pahari Muslims). Gurjar households have Scheduled Tribe (ST) social status. Average size of holding is 0.63 acre. Farmers cultivate wheat, maize, vegetables and fruits (pear, apple and walnut) on rain fed land. Only 10% land is irrigated (“Chhaan” nallah). There is no perennial or snow-melt-based nallah. For drinking water there is one chashma.
Three cards, namely Ration Card, Kisan Credit Card (KCC) and MNREGA Job Card are the life line of Dhargloon. Fortunately villagers have no issues with regard to ration cards even as all households have got this facility. Villagers feel survival is possible without ration card. Out of 400 farm households, 240 (60%) have got KCC; bank loan is sanctioned to only 50 KCC holders. KCC loan is a disquieting issue. Under MNREGA, Only 150 job cards are issued in the village of 1000 youths. MNREGA Job Cards are held back in the custody of Sarpanch/panches because job card holders rent-out their cards to 250 unemployed youth who do not have job cards but wander for work opportunities. Sometimes one youth uses Card and on some other day any other youth uses it. MNREGA job cards were reportedly issued to “special people (“khas log”). Of 1000 youths, 500 youths are educated up to post-graduation and 200 youths are graduates/ 12th class passed. Unemployment reigns supreme: 600 youths are unemployed; 100 youths are employed in government service; 50 youths migrated to Saudi Arabia to work as servants, laborers, unskilled jobs, etc. Each migrant sends remittance of Rs.1 lakh per year. Foreign migration and government job are major attractions but jobs are evasive even as opportunities eluded youths. Main occupation of village is wage-labor; farming is reduced to the status of allied occupation.
Infrastructure in Dhargloon Upper is reported as existing in poor condition or non-existent. Village produces fruits though there is no market for selling. Almost entire produce is consumed within village. There is bank branch (J&K Bank) in Middle Dhargloon, which caters to the requirements of three villages of Dhargloon Upper, Middle and Lower. It is strange that despite good rains there is no watershed development; gushing rain water creates flood-like situation, destroying crops every year, followed by petty compensation. Patwari visits village every year and records crop loss. Idea of crop insurance is non-existent. Middle Dhargloon has one Government outlet for seed supply. Farmers use 60% seed requirement purchased from this outlet, and 40% seed is produced by farm households. Agriculture Department organizes one awareness camp on agriculture /technology/seeds, etc. every year in the village. Villagers tried cultivation of chilly but crop caught some disease. Paddy was affected by some unknown warm. Villagers reported that no help was received from Agriculture Department. Each household survives by rearing cow/buffalo, four-five poultry birds, grasses and few fruit trees. BPL households are 30%. No house is landless; all are land-operator-cum-wage-laborers and hard working. At least 300 people in village are desirous of taking bank loan for goat/sheep, buffalos, retail shop. Villagers are critical about NGOs, departments, private agents, village level workers, etc. which could not facilitate bank credit support to all villagers requiring financial assistance.
Condition of roads is extremely poor, particularly link road. Dhargloon-Dewta link road (3 km) is totally damaged. Till 2004, road was kutcha; road construction started in 2004 under PMGSY but still it was incomplete and under-construction for about 10 years. Only few culverts were constructed during decade long on-going work. It is reported that contractors are interested in constructing first culverts and “dangas” (sidewalls) only as such portions of project generate profit while leave road as such after doing earth work. At some portions even earth work was not yet started. During rainy season, road becomes muddy with ditches and pot holes. Villagers desperately demanded completion of work. Households located near LoC facing hardships demanded better treatment and service in offices. Issuing of “State Subject” certificate and ST certificate consumed at least six months and up to two years. Innumerable repeated rounds are made to Mendhar tehsil. Obtaining copies of land records by farmers involves similar hassles faced in Poonch and Mendhar blocks. Several payments are duly made but still farmers are required to make repeated rounds to get legitimate service. Villagers demand humane and better service from offices.
Power supply is limited to four to five hours per day in summer and winter. During rainy season power supply is cut-off for two months. They made several complaints to PDD office but to no avail. There is a piped drinking water supply scheme (WSS) sourcing water from Khanara ‘chashma’; however, it benefits only 10% households having connection; remaining 90% households are deprived of the facility. Chashma gets dry during 4-5 months of summer; hence water flow is less. Alternative source of Chhaan nallah is not used for WSS due to lack of funds. A majority of the deprived households use this nallah directly to fetch water on head load by walking one km daily. Near Chhaan nallah there is a spring which flows throughout the year but it is not used for WSS. Villagers desire installation of second WSS with proper filtering and chemical treatment facility. Villagers desire to shift to Jammu or other secure place permanently due to incessant mortar shelling and firing from across the LoC. They want to shift at least two km away from LoC since bunkers are not there for safety against shelling that takes place throughout the year. There has been loss of precious life in Dhargloon and neighboring villages. A small girl child got killed by shelling as she was in sleep. Dewta ‘Mohalla’ is in direct line of crossfire. Cattles and livestock also get injured or killed by shelling. Houses directly facing LoC upfront are the most endangered.
Villagers reported that people of 15 villages on LoC in Balakote sector abandoned their villages and crossed over to Pakistan during wars of 1947, 1965 and 1971. Thousands of hectares of abandoned agricultural land came into control of security forces. Households which did not migrate also encroached upon some area. Even powerful outsiders heard and developed interest in such land. Upper Dhargloon residents rued that while they faced bullets and shelling from across the LoC, abandoned land was encroached-upon by outsiders. So, they also developed interest in that land even if by getting access to green natural grasses though army won’t allow them to enter abandoned land unless they agreed to do “begaar” (unpaid labor) for men in green. Encroachments on abandoned villages are a perfect example of what Adam Smith called, “primary accumulation of capital” and Marx termed it “the so-called primitive accumulation of capital” rampant in the early stages of development of capitalism. Every inch of abandoned land was controlled by private interests. Individuals from Mendhar reportedly encroached upon 200 to 500 ‘kanals’. This is how foundation is laid for capitalist development. The encroached area of 15 villages is located between Mendhar sector and Balakote sector on LoC.
Village of 3200 population does not have dispensary. Patients go to Middle Dhargloon. If patients are seriously ill it creates problem. Villagers demanded opening new dispensary in Upper Dhargloon as village is located at forward position facing LoC. They also want emergency medical facility during night -hitherto they first run up to Higher Secondary School (1 km) then from there, catch a private cab or Tata Sumo for Mendhar (18 km). Primary Health Center (PHC) in Middle Dhargloon has one medical officer (under NRHM), one Ayurvedic doctor, one nurse and one medical assistant but pathetically there is no first-aid facility. Till date no person is provided medicine even for fever except few tablets once in a while only if available in stock. No glucose bottle is available in PHC. Prescription slip carries doctor’s prescription for medicines costing Rs.300/- which this village of 30% BPL households could not afford to buy.
Villagers reported fleecing of AAY cardholders due to improper practices adopted by ration shop dealer in Upper Dhargoon. Ration shop dealer charges Rs.10 extra from each cardholder on pretext of transportation cost. Each AAY cardholder is made to shell out Rs.120 instead of Rs.85 per month. Each of the 400 ration cardholders receives 34 kg food grains instead of prescribed norm of 35 kg. Villagers demanded regulation of activities of ration store dealer. They had complained to DDC office but to no avail. They were sent to Tehsildar. They also brought it to the notice of Tehsil Supply Office. As villagers protested they were retorted back to DDC office. Upper Dhargloon does not have veterinary center. Villagers are forced to take ailing animal to Middle Dhargloon veterinary center. Sometimes animal could not walk due to fever or “afara”; in that case compounder would charge Rs.100 as visiting fee without producing receipt. If any villager could not pay then he may have to forego receipt of service by visiting. Household would have to cough up Rs.200-500 each time medicine was given by compounder without payment of receipt.
Villagers desire four-five more ‘Anganwari’ Centers. Households expect that educated female youths would get employment in these Centers. Kids were hitherto deprived of this amenity of playschool and nursery in crèche. Newly constructed building of Middle School is defective even as roof leaks profusely during rainy season. Students face lot of problems as there is no other proper place to hold classes (even in old building). New building that was recently constructed is yet to be passed by the departments concerned even as roof started leaking. Vigilance case was initiated against private contractors though it bore no outcome for the well being of students. Villagers reported that mode of implementation of project on school building was not appropriate and as per technical procedures. Contract for construction was given to Zonal Resource Persons (ZRP) and Cluster Resource Persons (CRP) who were basically school teachers-on-contract, not building contractors with required competence and experience in building construction. They messed up things, and structure of building was found not fit for use by the school authority. Villagers feel that entire investment of Rs.7.50 lakh on new building is sheer wastage of public money. Villagers desire that classes of children should not be conducted in classrooms of new defective building since it is dangerous. Villagers are perplexed since safety of children is endangered due to defective structure of newly constructed building. Lack of space induced all concerned to carry on with using classrooms in defective building. It is declared holiday during rains or winters amid snowfall. With only two rooms for eight classes in old building with newly constructed building having only four rooms (defective), villagers deserve better school infrastructure. Dhargloon is devoid of classroom facilities for school children and jobs for educated youths. Wage-labor market awaits them.
(Author works for NABARD. Views expressed are personal)