Waning Impact

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It should give Kashmir food for thought that the pride of its summer capital are the doings of a conquering Mughal potentiate rather than an expression of public will supposed to be reflected in a modern democratic government. This is not to detract from two gems Kashmir’s contemporary political princes have gifted Srinagar – one a celebration of a certain chief minister’s passion for golf, and the other a testament to another certain chief minister’s anxiety to be in the good books of India’s ruling dynasty. There would not have been reason to pick on either of the projects had they not been undertaken, at great cost, when urgent civic issues like garbage collection and city drainage were desperately in need of attention, for want of funds.  It is another matter that public coffers have since had to bear the exorbitant cost of paying for and maintaining elected municipalities, with pitiful little to show for it.         
The curse of plastic bags has resurfaced with a vengeance in the city after a momentary administrative campaign that appeared to have rooted it out. The mysterious manner of the government’s indulgence for agencies flooding the city with plastic bags again can safely be attributed to political patronage – for even the state’s notoriously slothful bureaucracy had shown that it could deliver once someone really cracked the whip.
With its failure to sustain administrative measures in a simple issue like polythene bags, and broaden them into a management policy for all types of plastic waste, the government cannot be expected to tackle the more complex matters of scientific treatment and disposal of garbage, rampant commercialization of residential areas, copy-cat urbanization of rural Kashmir and the degradation of the valley’s ecological wealth in the countryside.
In more enlightened societies it is the leaderships that set a benign agenda, mode and trend of development, and sell it to the public who cooperate willingly and wholeheartedly in what they rightly perceive to be in their ultimate interest. But Kashmir is a study in contrast. Here a remiss leadership is more than matched by an unthinking public who see the stark face of their depredations every day but don’t lift a finger to arrest it.  
One would have thought that the salutary results of the government’s short-lived but, to a certain extent, strictly enforced ban on plastic bags would have convinced citizens in Srinagar about the virtues of sticking to alternative means. But today, almost every shopkeeper and vendor selling everyday items in the city’s proliferating markets has one unanswerable argument to defend his use of polythene – customers insist on it. In the face of this perverse public attitude, the government must go back to its pro-active mode – if it cares for the city, that is.

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