A Small Village in Budgam, Kashmir is crippled by corruption.
Sajad Rasool, Community Correspondent from Badgam district, Kashmir calls the village of Zugookherian a a perfect example to illustrate the phrase ‘a remote corner’. It is at one end of the Budgam district nestled in hilly terrain and deep in the woods. It is economically backward. Apart from a few small farmers the rest of the population either works as daily wage labourers or for the lack of a better alternative, take to timber smuggling. What is not helping matters for this community of around 2500 is that even as government passes schemes that promise development and welfare, they are liquidated by a system that has no accountability to its citizens and is rife with corruption.
Electric poles have been constructed and the wires have been laid but they have been barren for years. Not a single volt has ever passed between these structures. The electricity department has collected a sum of 2500/- from every home in the village with the promise of installing solar panels. There have been no signs of either equipment or the money. The contractors from the electric department are meanwhile, openly demanding bribes from the villagers.
The water supply fares no better. Pipelines have been installed but they are in disrepair and the taps are dry. The women of the houses walk many miles every day to collect water from a spring. The people are angry but their complaints and petitions are met by the deaf ears of the water department who hardly even visit the village.
Transparency International has called the state of Jammu and Kashmir ‘alarmingly corrupt.’ A 2005 survey rated the state as the ‘second most corrupt state in India’ and since then, the situation has slipped to even worse levels. Essential government services like the police, water, power, land departments are rampantly corrupt. And the worst affected, at the bottom barrel of this vicious cycle are the underprivileged and the people living below the poverty line.
Sajad, who made a video on the troubled community of Zugookherian, says, “The people are already cut-off geographically and the corruption and apathy are severing them off socially, economically and developmentally. As some parts of the country move into the 21st century, some are still struggling for basic rights and amenities.”
As the Great Indian Anti-Corruption debate rages, Sajad reminds us of the ground realities. The distance from the centre of the debate to a remote corner like Zugookherian is immense. To champion, debate and draft a law that promises a corruption-free country is one thing but what matters is the responsibility to ensure that these changes reach out and better the lives of the one’s who need it the most.
In India, we continue to practice manual scavenging, a derogatory practice, confined to people belonging to lower castes and resulting in their deaths.