Is Anything Straight In Kashmir?


If one examines various aspects of life in Kashmir, a question comes up whether anything works in a straight way here?

There is an Arab saying about the Camel. It goes like this, “O, Camel which of your parts is straight?” The saying fits perfectly the life in Kashmir during the present times. Nothing seems to work here in a normal straight way. In the shivering winter let us begin with the Electric Power which has been playing hide and seek. It is a tragedy of our times that in spite of having the highest potential for generation of hydro-electric power we are totally deficient in it. Not only could we be running everything on power but would have been exporting it to neighbouring countries and earning huge revenue. On the contrary we have to buy back the power generated from our own rivers! Can there be anything more pathetic and cruel than this? Who is responsible for this? Our own so called leaders who for their own self-interests mortgaged everything including their souls! Nobody even raised a voice when the waters belonging primarily to us were divided between our two neighbouring countries by the World Bank! If one considers the revenue being generated by these power projects, we should be getting free power for at least 100 years as compensation!

After generation let us come to transmission and distribution. We are supposed to have the highest transmission losses anywhere in the world! Regarding distribution, the less said, the better. It is a perfect lesson for how things should not be done. In downtown area of Srinagar the domestic connections from a pole are a puzzle. Only the lineman can say which wires go to which house? It is so dangerous and hazardous that one wonders why we do not have continuous fires and electrocutions! In fact, after seeing these jumbled up connections and being told that there are no electrocutions, a power engineer from a Communist country remarked that he had started believing in God! Will we be ever able to straighten and streamline our transmission and distribution system? At least not in our lifetime!

Now let us take the consumer side. People want to consume the energy for all their needs but do not want to pay for the actual energy consumed. This is known as the “Power Theft” which must be unique to Kashmir. It is alleged that some people have dual connections. One is normal through the meter and the other is a couple of connecting wires which they hook on during the night! In addition, a large number of people just hook on and do not pay at all. A number of well to do people including some officials of the Power Department have allegedly been caught for the “Power Theft”! Would it not be better to levy a reasonable power tax on every citizen whether he uses it or not? This may generate more revenue than already earned by the Power Development Department!

Traffic is another big mess! Firstly, the drivers get their licences without having any knowledge about the basic traffic rules. The licensing is another lucrative business. Then there is no control on the number of vehicles which can go on the roads. Kashmir valley is supposed to have more than a million and Srinagar alone almost a quarter million! It is reported that in forties we had not more than 45 vehicles and now more than a million. There has not been equal expansion and growth of the roads. Interestingly, the existing roads have heaved a sigh of relief during the continuous shut downs. To manage the movement of these vehicles we have very few traffic policemen. On the contrary, we have battalions upon battalions of Armed Police to keep people in check if they start moving on foot on the roads asking for their rights!

If one goes on, there is no part of the society whether a government department, civic facility, or even private organisations and concerns which run straight. One cannot put the entire blame on the government and other organisations only. After all who is running all these organisations? We, the people from this very land! The reason for deviation is the absence of truth and honesty. These seem to have been banished from Kashmir! Many foreign explorers, authors and others who have visited Kashmir in the past have remarked about these two missing qualities. However, many have put the blame on the foreign rulers who have been ruling over us for last four centuries or so in the most ruthless manner. Every drop of honesty had been drained out from our blood!

However, there was a beginning in changing the centuries old slave mentality. That happened when a movement for emancipation started in Kashmir in recent times. Normally, once extremely suppressed people get some sort of a break and start getting material things which they could never imagine, they are bound to lose their balance and fail to perceive the difference between the right and the wrong. However, once a person realizes that only the material well-being is not the end of life that signals the beginning of a revolution. This has happened during the present uprising. People have realized that all the material goodies do not necessarily guarantee a life of dignity and honour which we have been longing for centuries. A voluntary shutdown by all sections of the society for more than five months is not a small achievement. This step has served its purpose very well. It has amply demonstrated the will and the resolve of the people. The message has gone all over and now there is need to straighten all the deviant parts to bring in real honesty and truth! This may be the only thing straight in Kashmir at the present moment and all concerned need to take note of the same!

Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired) (Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir)


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