CHAKWAL: When Manmohan Singh first became prime minister of India in 2004, fate smiled on the forsaken hamlet of Gah. Singh’s ancestral village, Gah, is located 25 kilometres west of Chakwal city and attracted journalists like moths to a flame following the former PM’s rise to power.
At the time, former President Pervez Musharraf ordered then-Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi to undertake developmental work in Gah, in a bid to show goodwill towards the eastern neighbour.
Elahi’s government in the province had declared Gah a ‘model village’ and announced several development schemes for the village.
But nine years on, even as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looks toward the east to forge better ties between the traditional rivals, his younger brother’s government in Punjab seems to have averted their gaze from Gah, where uplift schemes have been abandoned for lack of funds.
Gah was declared a ‘model village’ soon after Manmohan Singh became prime minister; uplift schemes stalled for want of funds
Documents obtained by Dawn show that a basic health unit, worth Rs7.13 million, a veterinary dispensary along with a ratification insemination centre, worth Rs4.15million, and a government vocational training institute for women, worth Rs3.7 million, were to be built in the village. At the same time, two primary schools, one for boys and the other girls, were to be upgraded to middle level for Rs3.7 million and Rs3.8 million respectively.
All these schemes, except the basic health unit (BHU), were approved on February 2, 2006 and were to be completed within a year. All these projects were completed albeit not within the stipulated time period.
However, the vocational training institute is yet to be opened for students, while the work on BHU was abandoned near completion.
Construction of BHU was approved on December 6, 2005 in a meeting of the district development committee, with an estimated cost of Rs6.63 million. However a revised cost of Rs7.13 million was sanctioned for the BHU by the executive district officer for works and services on December 22, 2005.
Ironically, the contractor for the project, who had to execute the scheme within eight months, was not given proper funds. Rather, he was issued funds sporadically and in small installments till they completely stopped. During the financial year 2005-06, the district government only issued Rs500,000, followed by another installment of Rs1.5 million the next year. From 2007-08 onwards, the scheme remains unfunded.
Since 2007, the district works and services department has written eight letters demanding funds, but none have been issued.
The non-issuance of funds has cost heavily to the contractor who has forced to approach Lahore High Court for justice. The court directed the provincial government to immediately issue the funds, however no action has been taken.
Another hurdle that came in the way was the imposition of a ban on all kinds of funds for the Model Villages Project.
“Throughout my career of 30 years, I have never faced such a situation,” lamented the contractor, Mohammad Ameen Malik, adding that he could not execute the work with the previous budget, citing sharp rise in inflation between 2006 and 2014.
Currently, the incomplete building of the BHU has become a spot much where donkeys can be seen, while the building of the unopened vocational training institute is also being damaged.
President Gah Development Organisation Raja Ashiq Ali, who is also a family acquaintance of the former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, said that the dreams of the people of the area have diminished since 2005.
“We thought that the face of our village would change, and people of adjacent villages would also benefit from these facilities, but this is yet to be seen,” he said.
He claimed that the former President Asif Ali Zardari ordered to release Rs160million for Gah village, but his hefty amount was never given.
“The tender to construct boundary walls around the village graveyard, along with the construction of a funeral home were also issued. But the desired funds of Rs30 million have not been released yet,” Raja Ashiq Ali said.
Interestingly, on the direction of the former premier of India, the Energy and Resource Institute of India had installed streetlights on a solar plan, and also installed geysers at the village mosque. Both of these projects were finished within due time.
When contacted, District Officer Buildings Riaz Butt refused to comment on the issue.
Published in Dawn, July 2nd, 2014