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Without food, water, or shade: Aggrieved visit Grievance Cell with one problem but return with plenty

Srinagar, Aug 18: Two in the afternoon and the unforgiving sun looms overhead. The air is humid, a swarm of houseflies buzzing around.

At a distance, a small iron gate leads to the advisor’s chamber at the J&K Grievance Cell in the high security Church Lane here.

As one enters the gate, the view unfolding before the eyes is startling. A sea of anxious faces gathered in the open garden look towards you with a vacant gaze.

There are no waiting rooms, as the visitors wait helplessly for their turn under the scorching sky for hours.

The sole pear tree in the middle of the garden restricts its shadow to a few people resting underneath. The majority others are left to suffer the blazing sun and anxiety.

Some seated on a handful of available chairs shelter themselves with file covers. Sitting on their haunches, others talk among themselves.

Two or three old men in skull caps can be seen dozing off. A wheelchair bound old woman in the corner wipes off the sweat with the crinkled handkerchief and there comes the shout: “who is next?”

Ghulam Nabi Wagay, a 70-year-old farmer from Anantnag, becomes alert at the shout, but it’s not his turn, informs the staffer.

With a resigned face, he clutches a soiled canvas bag and carefully puts the documents back into it.

“I left home around 6 in the morning and reached here by 8 am. I have been waiting since then,” he said.

Wagay, whose entire property has been allegedly seized by this elder brother, wants an action against him. He has made several rounds of the grievance cell in the past, but in vain.

“This is my third time here. I waited for the whole day last time as well, but they sent me back at 6 pm. I will be on roads if I fail to get my problem addressed today,” he lamented.

A somber-looking group of elderly men sits next to him. They whisper among themselves, and one of them volunteers to voice their grievance.

“Our area is in a deplorable state. Apart from bad roads, we have poor water supply. This is due to the fact that the water pipes are completely damaged and need immediate replacement,” rued Mohammad Shareef, a resident of Hapatnag, Nagbal, at Pahalgam.

Shareef and his group members have been waiting since early morning, and they are irked by what they call the “apathetic approach” of the authorities.

They are worried about how they would convey the message to their families if they run late, as the authorities prohibit the use of cell-phones inside the building.

“They have no facilities here. Imagine waiting all day long and having nothing to eat! They don’t have any canteen here,” said Shareef, in a worried tone.

Another group of three men, in their 60s, appears equally unnerved and apprehensive about getting their problem resolved.

“We have assembled here for the creation of saffron irrigation sub-division for operation of sprinkle irrigation under National saffron mission,” said Abdul Majeed Wani, President Saffron Growers Association.

Wani said, “We don’t understand the logic of calling in so many people at once when they know it all of them can’t be entertained with just one advisor at hand.”

“See the inadequate facilities over here. We are made to wait here under the glaring sun. There are no parking facilities and not even a cell phone is allowed inside. The only thing they offer is water.”

To compound the apathy and misery of people, advisors take turns to visit the cell once a week, but the allotted two hours are woefully inadequate to tackle the rush.

An official at the grievance cell accepted the dismal state of affairs.

“I can very well empathize with the people but what can we do? It is the responsibility of higher ups to provide the requisite facilities,” the official, wishing not to be named, said.

“People have to wait hours under open sky while officials are sitting in AC fitted rooms. The visitors even have to park their vehicles on the main road and many times are being towed away by the traffic personnel,” he said.