Point of Order

On Monday, an order from J&K’s Food  department asked oil companies to stock up on LPG cylinders in Kashmir Valley. The order evoked a sense of de javu among people as they were quickly reminded of the successive government orders in the run up to revocation of Article 370 on August 5.  Then also an order had called on  pilgrims and tourists in the state to “immediately” curtail their stay and leave the state “as soon as possible”. The order cited an unspecified looming security threat for the extraordinary measure.  This had instantly triggered panic. People rushed out of their houses to stock up on the essentials. Hundreds of vehicles lined up for fuel at the filling stations. Many people without vehicles were seen carrying fuel in cans, bottles and even vacuum flasks. And then also the government had asked people not to worry and termed the order as routine. Even the then Governor Satya Pal Malik had assured people that the situation was hunky dory. But as August 5 proved it, all such assurances came to nought and there was nothing normal about the order.

Now this time again the Food department, has said the order was routine, issued to prevent a shortfall of “essential commodities”. The department  has  said that “some people are spreading false information regarding a communication with respect to the LPG stock.”

But bitten by the past experience, this assurance has hardly calmed the nerves in the Valley. People are rightly questioning the order and its timing.  Kashmir has hardly witnessed such type of orders in the middle of summer. More so, when it explains the urgency of stocking up on LPG “due to closure of the National Highway on account of frequent landslides”.  The National Highway hardly closes during summer, nor are there any landslides.

This, in no way, inspires the confidence of the people. To cite again the example of last year, the government order asking outsiders to leave the Valley had followed within an hour of an assertion by the state’s top security brass at a press conference in Srinagar that the security forces had reigned in the once runaway separatist militancy and brought the situation under control.

Former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has rightly criticized the move and asked the government “to explain these orders”.  And the Government should. But then the administration’s credibility is now so low that even an explanation won’t do. As Omar has put it, “after all the lies & false assurances last year even if/when the government explains these orders hardly any of us will take the assurances at face value”.  For its orders and explanations to carry faith with people, the government needs to rebuild its credibility.

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