Underdeveloped areas in Punjab still waiting for basic facilities

More than 60% people in Noorpur Thal are without clean drinking water

There was lot of hopes in the people of underdeveloped areas of Punjab when PTI formed the government in the province after the July 2018 general elections. People were hoping that new government led by Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar would focus on these areas and solve problems faced by the people. But not much has changed in last two years of PTI government.
There are common issues like lack of clean drinking water; dilapidated condition of roads, the local schools and hospitals in bad shape and without basic facilities. There is acute shortage of employment opportunities. Poverty and unemployment is continued to rise in these areas.
People are facing similar conditions whether they are living in Rajanpur district in South Punjab or Chakwal district in North Punjab.
Noorpur Thal tehsil of Khushab district is among such areas. It is one of the most deprived and underdeveloped tehsil in Punjab province. It has been 38 years since Noorpur Thal got the status of tehsil but the problems of the region are the same as before and the standard of living of local people is declining amid lack of basic facilities.
Agriculture is the main source of livelihood in Noorpur Thal tehsil.Around 90% of the population of Noorpur Thal is dependent on agriculture and waits for rainfall to harvest crops. When sufficient rains occur during the season, the farmers cultivate chickpea in their fields, which is ready to harvest in five months.
The produce harvested per acre fills two sacks. After the crop is harvested, the farmer fulfils the dietary needs of his own family for a year from it. If rains during the season are insufficient for harvest, the quantity of production decreases, because of which farmers barely recover their investment from the crop.
The major crops are Grams and wheat. Chickpea/gram (Chana) is the major source of livelihood of rural people in the Thal desert of Punjab that is well known as home of chickpea because the area cannot support/sustain major cash crops due to low fertility and lack of irrigation. Its production entirely depends upon the intensity and distribution of rainfall.
Thal accounts for the bulk of production of this crop, cultivated on about 2.129 million acres during 201617. Gram/chickpea contribute 70-80% to the total pulses area and production. The total seasonal average crop water requirement of gram (Chickpea) has been calculated using the scientific method, which comes to about 275 mm (11 inch) and ranges from 250-315 mm (10-13 inch). The crop is, however, liable to lodging and disease with extra vegetative growth when there is high moisture and humid conditions.

The climatic uncertainty due to erratic rainfall in the Thal desert is the main obstacle in crop production under rain-fed conditions. During the drought periods, there is absolutely no produce and even the farmer has no seed to sow in the next year.
 It is one of the very few desert tehsils in Punjab. The major issue faced by the people of Noorpur Thal is clean drinking water.The total population of Noorpur Thal tehsil is around 243,295.
More than 60% of the urban population of Noorpur Thal tehsil still lacks the facility of water supply due to which the citizens are forced to drink underground water.
Malik Waris Kallu won four consecutive elections from Noorpur Thal tehsil. It was PP-42 before the delimitation of 2018 and become PP-84. He remained part of the ruling PML-N in Punjab from 2008 to 2018. But people are still facing many problems. He was the only candidate of PML-N from Khushab district who won the election against resurgent PTI in 2o18 elections. 
According to the local journalist working for a national English daily Malik Arshad,   The office of Rescue 1122, built two years ago, is still understaffed and has not been made functional. In case of any accident or fire, the fire brigade is called from Joharabad, 65 kilometers away.
All connecting roads of Noorpur Thal, including Jhang Road, Bhakar Road, Shahwala South Road and Quaidabad Road are in a dilapidated condition, wasting hours of the commuters’ time. The condition of the roads also causes several accidents every week. Local people say no road has been repaired or rebuilt in the area during the past decade.
                                             
A large number of youngsters of the tehsil had played their role in making the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) successful by voting in the name of change but even after two years the condition of Noorpur Thal is the same. Not a single development project has been started here yet.
Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar visited Noorpur Thal last year and local people informed him about the problems of the tehsil. The chief minister promised to solve all the problems but that promise has not been fulfilled to date. We also appeal to Prime Minister Imran Khan to pay attention to our neighbouring tehsil of his Mianwali district.


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