The condition of roads in Kashmir or at least Srinagar city is terrible. Deep fissures define main roads, lanes and by lanes or across the length and breadth of the road feeder system in Kashmir. Roads and road systems are the most visible feature(s) of urbanization and urban systems. The nature of the road system defines and decides for people how they commute, travel and use other public systems like transport and what have you. From a political perspective, roads are the interface between people and the government in places where road development and maintenance is the domain of the state. The obvious question, given the condition of read systems in Srinagar is: why is their condition so decrepit? What explains this? And, above all, what does it tell us about Government?
We will begin answering this set of questions in the reverse order.
The decrepit condition of roads in Srinagar is ominous for the Government regime that rules Kashmir contemporarily. Given the visibility, ubiquity, utility of roads and road systems, these should have been the premier area of focus for the government. Two reasons would account for this. One, a new Government would be animated and driven and hence wanting to demonstrate its intent and resolve by fixing the obvious area of concern for people: roads. This, would besides, signalling intent also signal broader resolve to improve government and governance in Kashmir. Two, fixing roads vigorously would also set the tone for the government and governance in Kashmir for the future.
But, on both fronts, the Government has not come forward; it has let the road system languish.
So, drawing a reverse inference from the condition of roads and Governments apathy towards these, we can infer that the current government has begun on a sour note. There appears to be no vigor nor enthusiasm for better governance and government in Kashmir. Hence neither the desire to neither improve, nor improvise and hence neither the motivation to signal intent nor set the tone. This ties into politics and is ominous for the BJP-PDP coalition government in, at least the Kashmir division of the state.
While government, as an institution in Jammu and Kashmir, is defined by inertia but a prosaic matter as road development could have been done. There is a broader reflection of politics here. The PDP BJP government in JK ran into difficulties the moment it assumed power but the problems became more poignant after Mufti Sayyeds death and the interregnum post Muftis death and Mehbooba Muftis assumption of power. The circumstances leading to her assumption of the Chief Ministers seat apparently were not very sanguine; it was not smooth sailing for especially for Mehbooba and some of her party members. There was ambiguity, ambivalence and even hesitation in forming the Government. One redeeming feature or aspect where Mehbooba and her party could emphasize upon and cannibalize it politically was good or lets say improved governance. But given the poor start, which roads are a good reflection of, it appears that the party is not even keen on doing this. Broadly speaking, this political inertia and decrepitude is ominous: it reflects helplessness, lack of enthusiasm and resolve and , in a way, signalling that the chips are down. The party and the Government then is victim to a certain fatalism and inevitability that is negative.
This cannot be good and salubrious for the party. If improving upon and fixing signs of decay and decrepit systems that are eminently open to remedy, like the roads are an indication, then the politics of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, especially the Kashmir division of the state is in doldrums. This, to repeat, is ominous and assumes poignancy at a time when the disconnect between the governors and the governed is growing by the day. Kashmiris are then victims of double trouble: whilst our politics gets convoluted, stale and shows no signs of vibrancy in terms of the resolution of the conflict in and over Kashmir, governance in the state which could improve the lives of people also shows no signs of improvement. Kashmir and Kashmiris might suffer from this double bind for a long time. Unfortunately!
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