How can the ailing Surinsar Lake refresh others?
Sixty kilometres from Jammu city, Surinsar village houses the lake that draws a queue of tourists. It has the onus of playing host, and be responsible for maintaining the cleanliness and sanctity of the lake.
And yet, basic development challenges plague the village, adversely affecting its people as much as its exquisite lake.
Surinsar Panchayat constitutes ten villages, and houses a population of over fifteen thousand people still living in the dark age.
With only one ayurvedic dispensary catering to the health requirements of such a huge population, one can only imagine the quality of life of this disadvantaged community.
Young mothers with their new-born babies clutched tightly to their bodies can be spotted treading carefully on mountain paths in these villages.
Headed towards the dispensary for vaccination and regular medical check-ups of their children, they usually have to walk ten kilometres to reach the bus stand from where they get a bus or taxi to the dispensary.
Rajni Devi, a young mother, who has to walk a distance of almost ten kilometres from her village Panjoa to reach Surinsar, says, "My girl is barely ten months old. I have to walk the treacherous terrain for more than four hours to reach Surinsar and then get on a bus to reach the nearest health centre at Mansar. It demands a lot of time and patience. I leave home at seven in the morning and return at roughly the same time in the evening."
Considering the amount of hard work required to reach the health centre, many women miss out on the scheduled medical check-ups of their infants. And on the other hand, overburdened doctors keep extending the scheduled appointments.
Mohan Lal Sharma, Naib Sarpanch of Surinsar, sharing his bitter experiences, recalls the apathy of Government officials who have, on many occasions, been submitted proposals by the village heads to provide health care centres in the village.
"Our appeals fall on deaf ears. It is a matter of disgrace that despite having the potential to attract tourists from across the globe, our Surinsar has been left at the mercy of God. We have lost many precious lives here due to lack of proper health care facilities. Last year, two children died of snakebite because they could not be taken to hospital through roads blocked by heavy rains. And these are not cases in isolation. Many people have died of snakebite because they could not be brought to hospitals well in time," says an emotional Mohan Lal.
The single ayurvedic dispensary is not equipped to cater to the health care needs of the residents and tourists.
The villagers' demand for a 24x7 health centre should be met at the earliest, feels Mohan Lal.
The government of Jammu and Kashmir talks about its initiatives in improving the health care scenario in the rural belt, but the ground reality contradicts these claims.
Being closer to the winter capital Jammu, Surinsar has become a hot spot for picnickers from various city-based educational institutes.
Several buses parked near the lake during the day clearly reflect the attraction of travellers for this place.
Last year, the Committee on Environment of Legislative Council had organized a meeting to discuss steps for saving the environment and keeping the pristine glory of Surinsar Lake intact. None has been organized to discuss people's health.
Why the government is not keen on improving the health care facilities of this village, is the question bothering every villager in Surinsar.
The local MLA, Jugal Kishore Sharma, shares his view. He admits that the health sector is marred by government apathy.
"Surinsar falls in my constituency Nagrota and I regret to admit that its needs have been overlooked by the government. I have raised the issue of providing a fully functioning health centre in every board meeting and, at times, in the State Legislative Assembly too. I had also suggested that we convert the existing ayurvedic dispensary into an allopathic one but nothing has been done so far," rues the MLA.
Not much expertise is required to realise how short-sighted are the plans and proposals put forward by the authorities concerned while going for any developmental projects in the rural belt of the State.
The Charkha Development Communication Network feels that the prime issue of accessibility is hardly taken into consideration while planning health institutions for such regions.
If such is the situation of a village located barely sixty kilometres from the winter capital of the state, Jammu, one can only imagine the plight of the people living in villages tucked away in the remote border areas of the state.
The views expressed in the article are that of the author.
(Posted on 29-08-2014)