(Kashmir’s political problem is a Gordian knot which no one has been able to disentangle for last 70 years. Till the problem gets resolved, there is need for good governance to at least make daily living conditions of the citizens comfortable)
Most of the political leaders in Kashmir from all the “streams” talk about the “Political” problem. The mainstream leaders talk about safeguarding the individuality and unique character of Kashmiris by defending Article 370 and Article 35-A and also plead for the restoration of total autonomy as envisaged in the basic instrument of accession signed by the erstwhile Maharaja and the Governor General of India. They fail to admit that it is basically they who diluted and compromised the autonomy for their own personal interests. They never really defended the special status. They did not mind even when their autonomy resolution was thrown into a dustbin!
The other stream is for “Azadi”! They are not prepared to do anything else except keep on struggling by various means for their demand of ultimate “Azadi”! Everything else, according to them, will dilute the demand for “Azadi”. The main basis for agitation is the condition in the accession document and the international declaration through UN Security Council regarding the ultimate settlement of the dispute through free will of the people exercised through a plebiscite held under UN auspices. Ironically, while struggling for “Azadi”, they expect the government which they do not recognize to be “legal” to improve all the living conditions. There has never been any voluntary attempt from their side to force the “illegal” government to improve the fast deteriorating civic conditions or to start a movement of their own on voluntary basis to do so!
During last 70 years there have been many upheavals, agitations and even three wars about the ultimate fate of the State. More than a couple of hundred thousand people have been killed, thousands have been maimed and disabled and over 10,000 have disappeared without a trace. The worst has happened after the start of the nineties of last century when an armed uprising by the local youth supported from across took place. Because of total ban on free expression, there has been rise in militancy and violence. Due to a state of uncertainty, the normal civic life has been adversely affected. Corruption in every sphere has become a norm. The ruling politicians have shown the worst form of nepotism. At present almost a million youth, highly educated, are unemployed because of the wrong policies of the ruling politicians especially their attempts at glamourizing white collar jobs right to the lowest level instead of inducing the spirit of entrepreneurship among the youth. It is a pity that almost seven hundred thousand outsiders are doing jobs which should normally have been done by locals. This involves drain of rupees forty crores per day as their wages to outside state which should have been the earning of locals!
By all accounts the valley is in a mess. It will take a long time and a strong will to sort out these things. One fails to understand why the citizens and intellectuals should wait for the ultimate solution to sort out our day to day living conditions? The most immediate task of the ruling elite of whatever party is holding the reins of power is to improve the day to day living conditions. Good governance with sincere, responsive and active administration is the need of the hour. In almost every front whether civil society, or the government, Kashmir is in a total state of anarchy. In true sense, left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. Everybody tries to escape from facing the real situation in every aspect of life. Let us first take apprehension of an impending flood. Most of the experts have predicted that we may get a repeat of the 2014 flood as practically nothing has been done to prevent the same by all concerned. In spite of the fact that a very high level committee has been constituted by the government under the Chief Executive, the progress on the ground is abnormally slow. No preventive measures can be effectively implemented on the ground unless the work is taken up on a war footing with round the clock monitoring. All the concerned organisations seem to have become impotent both in execution and monitoring. One only needs to take a walk on the embankments of the flood spill over channel from Mehjoor Nagar to By-pass Bridge to practically know the ground situation. The Government has now constituted a committee to investigate the bungling in dredging! The State High Court has asked the Government to put up the Flood Mitigation Action Plan in the next hearing of the PIL filed on the subject. God only can help us now!
Now take the disgusting condition of all the valley roads and above everything else the pathetic state of the National Highway, Kashmir’s only lifeline! We are more interested in fly overs! The first fly over was meant to smoothen travel of VIPs to the Civil Secretariat. The other fly over is to provide a smooth passage to the airport to the VIPs notwithstanding the impact it would have on the population en route! Again it is an ad hoc whimsical decision. There are two parallel roads which could have been sufficiently widened with an extra bridge at Rambagh to have through passage to Airport. The last one is supposed to be a grade separator at Tourist Reception Centre to take care of traffic mess. However, it is allegedly meant to streamline the movement of VIPs to Civil Secretariat. According to latest reports its opening has made no difference to the traffic mess at the Tourist Reception Centre! The most annoying aspect of these huge construction projects causing immense inconvenience to the citizens is the hurry in starting these on ad hoc basis. Seeing the entire mess one can only suggest that the politicians from all streams should leave politics aside for some time and concentrate on good governance to at least improve the day to day living conditions of the people! In fact, in a State Assembly election held some time back, the slogan given was “Roti. Kapda aur Makaan”! The same needs to be repeated now and whenever an election to the State Assembly is held in future!
Mohammad Ashraf, I.A.S. (Retired) (Former Director General Tourism, Jammu & Kashmir)