Let The Truth Be Told

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IN a few weeks time, the entire govt machinery in Jammu and Kashmir will shift to the summer capital of Jammu, in a ritual that is repeated twice every year. Well, this is a legacy that the State has carried from the days when a Maharaja bought over, yes, bought over the State along with the people for some pittance. In the modern world, that is equivalent of one businessman selling his factory along with its stock in trade to another businessman. That is perhaps being too generous to the Maharaja who actually bought the people of the State as slaves. Be that as it may, in a few weeks time, Kashmir will not even have a semblance of an administration. Not that we have an eager administration serving the people of the State during its summer stint in the valley. But then even pretence matters. This whole business of Darbar move is atrocious, which was designed to help the Maharaja feel comfortable and live a life of luxury, away from the vagaries of the weather. What better way to do that than spending six months of summer in Srinagar and the winter in Jammu. Even though now we are ruled by democratically elected Governments, what if they happen to be families ruling us by rotation, this legacy, which is a throwback to our days of slavery under the Maharaja, has somehow been embedded in the administrative structure and culture of the State. So here again, as  we are staring at yet another harsh and difficult winter, our rulers will be moving to more comfortable environs, where they can warm their spirits during the next six months. Not only our administrators and rulers, but even many of our separatist politicians prefer the warmer Indian plains during winter. After all, even they need to recharge their batteries for the coming summer. Away from the hectic life in the valley, they also meet specialist doctors, undergo medical checkups, a bit of tinkering here and there and they are ready to lead this Qaum during the rest of the year. You know, they bear such sacrifices for this Mazloom Qaum.

Well, talking of winter in Kashmir, most outsiders think Kashmir looks resplendent during the winter months, when it snows in the valley. The meadows and the hills in Gulmarg and elsewhere in the Kashmir valley present beautiful photo-ops. Even many Kashmiris think the valley looks stunning during the winter. Everyone keenly waits for the first snowfall, so that they can unleash some of that beauty on their social media feed. Oh, but I am taking none of that. Call me cynical. But that praise for Kashmir’s beauty sounds so irritating, infuriating and patronizing to me, knowing how agonizing life is behind that picture perfect beauty. No electricity for hours. At times many days and even weeks go without electricity visiting the poor souls in Kashmir. Even Srinagar city, which is the summer capital, witnesses severe power outages and during the times when electricity is supplied, one has to use a torch to spot an electric bulb. So pathetic is the voltage. 

Kashmir has gone from one controversy to another during the last six months. After the PDP-BJP coalition was stitched, the release of a separatist leader became the first bone of contention between the two coalition partners. In a bid to show who the boss was and dictate the course of the coalition, the BJP made sure the decision was reversed and PDP shown its place in the ruling dispensation. Then the central Govt announced a rehabilitation package for the return of Kashmiri Pandits, announcing separate colonies for them. It seemed the Govt was not serious about their return but merely wanted to keep the pot boiling.  Even before the noise about this proposal could die down, the people in the valley were faced with yet another catastrophe, the ’90s style killing of civilians by ‘’unidentified gunmen’’. Not to be left behind, the elements also joined this party, creating a flood scare a couple of times. Civilian killings are never off the table in the Kashmir valley. So we had a toddler and his father, a former militant, being brutally killed, again by ‘’unidentified gunmen’’. As a parting short to the summer, we had a good measure of beef controversy thrown in. For the better part of last one month, the valley has witnessed yet another controversy, this time involving the ‘’holy’’ cow. A High Court order to implement the eight decade old ban on sale of beef, expectedly witnessed strong reactions, so much so that, a lady separatist leader took out all her vengeance on a poor cow, openly showing her ‘’defiance’’, taking a video, circulating it and in the process gaining her five minutes of fame. You see, even a cow can be your ladder to fame, only if you know. Coming as this beef controversy did at the time of Eid ul Azha, the ‘’innovative’’ State Govt in a bid to save cow and the other bovines, banned internet for 72 hours in the State. That was ingenious. After all, what you don’t see does not exist. So there, a dispensation which believed in a ‘’battle of ideas’’ just a few months back, literally made a mincemeat of those lofty claims. Before I commit some kind of blasphemy and hurt someone’s ‘’religious feelings’’ which are the most brittle thing these days, let me skirt this beefy issue altogether.

So here we are, the hapless people of the valley, waiting for another bone chilling winter to leave us frigid, with days in a row, where we can’t dare take a bath. Not that we have a natural affinity for uncleanliness, but who can even think of taking a bath with cold water in sub zero temperatures. Blessed be the soul of some of our ancestors, who came up with the completely innovative and indigenous idea of a Kangri, lest how could we handle such cold days and nights, being at the mercy of successive indifferent and insensitive governments. 

Since I am talking of a difficult winter and how a dearth of electric supply compounds the problems in the valley, let me also mention the favourite election slogan of PDP, which was about renegotiating the agreements with NHPC and also buying back the power projects from them. These two points also formed the agenda for the PDP-BJP coalition. Subsequent to Govt formation, the State Govt sent a delegation to meet the Central Power Minister Piyush Goyal to discuss these two issues. Among other people, the delegation also had the Animal Husbandry Minister Sajjad Lone. One would assume they had gone to talk about non conventional sources of power generation. But no, they had gone to discuss the issues related to NHPC power projects. Perhaps Sajjad Lone was there because of his English speaking abilities. Who knows? Within a few minutes, the State delegation had egg on its face with the Central Govt straightaway refusing to rework the royalty issues. Regarding handing over the projects back to the State, the NHPC officials, without hesitation told the delegation they had no problems, provided the J and K Govt paid them the amount, which runs into a few thousand crores. That was that. 

A more honest approach by the Govt would take the pragmatic and effective way of generating revenues by installing electricity meters, not only in the capital city of Srinagar and Jammu, but all over the State, over a period of time. Without resorting to rhetoric and many a times dishonest claims, the State Govt should charge the consumers as per their usage and also work towards reducing transmission losses. This would go a long way in improving the bleak power situation in the State. Electricity theft is a common practice in the Kashmir valley. Even people with a huge prayer mark on their forehead, those who have undertaken Hajj and Umra pilgrimages and those who are seen in the first prayer rows in the mosque, can’t resist the temptation of indulging in this ‘’pious’’ practice. Not only in power theft, even our businessmen and traders seem to have perfected the art of tax evasion. Go to any showroom, small or big, chances are that you will not be provided a bill for your purchase. At a time, when most shopping takes place with the help of debit and credit cards, many showrooms in the valley either don’t use card swiping machines or in many cases, claim that it is out of order. This culture of tax evasion took deep roots during the years of militancy when the entire state machinery was thrown out of gear. Big businessmen and distributors would not pay taxes, even after collecting it from retailers, saying it was necessary to ‘’bleed’’ India and ‘’weaken’’ them economically. You see, our traders and big businessmen were inflicting a ‘’thousand cuts’’ on the ‘’enemy’’, even without going to the battlefield. 

So you have a situation in the valley, where a callous and inefficient administration is lording over an indifferent population. For the present Govt to make amends and improve the situation, it needs to set things in order. Efficiency and effective governance come from keeping things simple, without resorting to rhetoric and playing to the gallery. Coalition Jugaad permitting, this Govt has got five years to improve things. The time to start is now.  Remember, Noah’s Ark was built when it was not raining. You see, this is all about effective planning, a concept completely alien in our neck of the woods. These days, even barber shop gossip passes off as scholarly and intellectual discourse here.

 

 

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