SRINAGAR: The municipal function of what are usually called municipalities (administrative bodies having corporate status) is a key function. These functions include public health, welfare, regulation,public safety and public works and development.
The administrative remit, locus and focus of municipalities then is broad and expansive and at the same time critical. Given the very nature and functional remit of municipalities, their task is onerous. They need to be well resourced, well staffed and well run. The question is: does our citys municipality, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation(SMC) measure upto these tasks.
Against the backdrop of the mess(some call it a dump) that Srinagar city is- unclean, dirty, and even squalid, the answer is a clear cut no. The facile answer trotted out by authorities that that SMC is defined by a paucity of resources-capital, staffing etc. But these reasons do not really wash. However, hypothetically speaking, we will assume that these reasons hold. There are solutions despite these reasons. These pertain to organizational and logistical ones. Organizationally, the SMC can take recourse to downsizing and outsourcing. These will , at one stroke, remove, capital constraints and unfreeze this capital for other pressing core tasks. This can be followed by outsourcing of non core activities which will allow the SMC to focus on core functions and allow it to morph into a service provider will seamless and efficient delivery systems. To prevent and stem abuse, vigorous contracts and oversight mechanisms can be devised that allow oversight of outsourced functions in a transparent manner.
Last but not the least, politics must be excised from the SMC. It cannot and should not be used as patronage or patronage disbursing machine hostage to sectional and vested interests. Once the SMC is depoliticized, and its organizational and structural aspects streamlined and made more efficient and effective, the impact will be salubrious. A resource rich , adequately staffed, capital loaded SMC can devote itself to a total facelift and makeover of Srinagar city- rendering it cleaner, greener and healthier in the process.
If, however, the same saga continues and the SMC is neither well managed, over staffed and under resources, then it is not a stroke of genius to conclude that Srinagar city will be unlivable and ungoverned space in a few years. With intense demographic change hovering over Kashmir at large and Srinagar city and its urban spaces under stress, the city will be an urban dump. This will have implications and consequences on the rest of living space(s) in Kashmir. Our health, tourism, and other welfare relates themes will all suffer and deteriorate. The task of streamlining and making the SMC more efficient has therefore never been as important and critical. Let the powers that be consider this and give it due thought and devise an effective plan to restore Srinagar city to its pristine glory. SMC is central to this. And Srinagar citys future is contingent on a clean, green and healthy Srinagar. Let the process begin now!
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