Dr R RameshLeh district, in the newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh, is in the front-page news for an entirely different reason in recent times. About 8 Km from Leh, a cluster of Gram Panchayats, identified as ‘Spituk cluster’ by Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Rurban Mission (SPMRM) is fast emerging with facilities and opportunities that are essentially urban in nature.While the development of Rurban Cluster at J & K is revving up, Spituk Cluster near Leh has taken the socio-economic drivers to a remarkable new level.The clusters have been identified, inter alia, recognizing the potentials for economic growth, tourists flow and opportunities for employment generation and livelihoods promotion. The projects that have come up in the past 2 – 3 years in Spituk Cluster in Ladakh include infrastructure required for tourism promotion viz. amusement parks, access roads, parking area development, LED street lights, public toilets, community parks, centralized solid waste management system; besides augmentation of education facilities in local schools by building smart classrooms, enlarging libraries, and setting up E-Libraries. New warehouse facilities have been constructed that serve as storehouse, and distribution centre especially for horticulture crops like apricot, which are exotic and abundant in this part of Ladakh.In 2016, the ‘Rurban Mission’ of the Government of India, introduced an integrated cluster action plan in the erstwhile State of J & K with a view to stimulating economic growth. Three clusters of villages were identified – one in Jammu (Gole Gujral); the second in Kashmir (Khumriyal); and the third one in the newly formed Union Territory of Ladakh (Spituk). The activities of the Mission have gained significant momentum after Ladakh became a Union Territory in October last year.Spituk Cluster is located in a cold desert in the thick of a pristine landscape about 3500 m above sea level. It comprises of three Gram Panchayats viz. Choglamasar -I & II, and Spituk itself, which is the main village in the cluster. Spituk cluster has a population of 12,973 (Census, 2011).Spituk Cluster got Rs.64.92 crore approved for implementing the cluster action plan prepared. Works worth Rs.32.23 crore have already been completed, and the rest are in progress.With attention of the Rurban Mission intensifying for Spituk Cluster, Leh today is one of the most rapidly rurbanising areas in the Union Territory of Ladakh. In the past couple of years, with adequate financial and technical support, Spituk cluster is set for long term systematic planning and infrastructure development to cater to the diversifying livelihoods and growing economic activities in Ladakh. All these are instituting a ground for collective optimism, and personal aspirations amongst the residents of erstwhile J & K. The projects that have already come up (and some of them in pipe line) are: Street Lights: From Forest Bagh, Choglamsar to Agling T-point and Bull Farm to MES Powerhouse high-mast LED street lights have been provided. It will be extended to all the major junctions and hamlets of the entire Spituk Clusterby the end of 2020.Road Connectivity: A number of road projects have been identified so as to enable connectivity to marketplaces and urban centres. Six such critical rural road projects at a cost of Rs. 120 Lakh have been completed.Smart Classrooms & E-Libraries: The current generation of children should not be using learning technologies that are primitive. Therefore, ICT-enabled smart classrooms, and digital libraries have been set up in schools in Sptiuk Ldumra and Tashi Thongsmon, Choglamsarat the total cost of Rs. 111.24 lakh.Orchard Development:Ladakh is known for exotic apricot fruits, and it’s almost synonymous with the region. The Mission identified the huge untapped economic potentials veiled in orchard development. In order to tap the commercial promise, and to boost the local economic activities around it, individual farmers have been encouraged to set up orchard farms. The Mission providesthe required enablement at a cost of Rs. 1.20 lakh for 10 units. It includes 50per cent subsidy/incentive from the government.Tourism Promotion:An amusement park is being constructed in the cluster under Rurban at a cost of approx. Rs. 630 Lakh at Choglamsar. It’s on the banks of Indus river. It will have a park with Toy Train, Dragon Roller Coaster, Striking Car/ Bumber Car, Rock-climbing Wall etc. The work of land development, and access-bridge to the location are partially completed, and further works are in progress.Children’s Park: A children’s park has been constructed at Tashi Gatsal, Choglamsar at a cost of Rs. 15 Lakh. This park is already a favourite go-to place among the children of the area.Community Hall: A multi-purpose model Community Hall has been constructed at a cost of Rs. 64 Lacs at Spituk village, besides community sanitary complexes in strategic locations.Ration Store: Ration stocks in Choglamsar village used to be stored in a very old and damaged building for many years. The store has been fully renovated at a cost of Rs. 17 Lakh.Solid Waste Management: This first ever Solid Resource Management Centre (SRMC) in Ladakh got functional in December 2017 at Choglamsar. Door to door waste collection takes place on a regular basis; and the waste collected are scientifically managed. The success of Choglamsar SRMC has prompted replication in places like Nubra, Khaltsi, Nimoo, Pangong and Chuchoti in Leh.These are only indicative of the change of scene in the J & K, and the profound transformation taking place in the newly formed UT of Ladakh. Plethora of such initiatives is in the offing. Thus, Rurban Mission is affixing its signature in J&K and Ladakh putting growth clusters on a rurbanizing path. The Mission since its launch in February, 2016 has systematically created 300 Rurban clusters in 28 States and 6 UTs of the country. Total investment of more than Rs. 27,500 crore has been approved for the development of these clusters, and approximately Rs. 8772 crore (about 32 per cent) has been invested that unlock the potentials of rural areas to emerge as local economic growth centres.Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of providing catalytic interventions to rural clusters to grow with the ‘spirit of villages and the facilities of cities’ is near-at-hand with Ladakh exhibiting it in reality, on the ground. The clusters are benefitting with improved urban-like infrastructure, better connectivity, scientific waste management systems, tourist amenities, skill trainings and improved economic activities. Rurban Mission,as envisioned, is demonstrating convergence in action. Like the dream of New India is coming near-at-hand in Ladakh,it will constantly come, time and again,in other parts of the country as well, with Rurban Mission working in 300 such clusters today.
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