by M J Aslam
More than a century ago, George Bernard Shaw in his famous 1906 play The Doctor’s Dilemma has said: “all professions are a conspiracy against laity”.
Conspiracies are hatched and executed in groups, albeit the idea is often brainchild of a master kingpin of that group who resembles “suspense boss” of the Bollywood movies. Conspiracies are committed on the back of the victim, called laity, common people, in the Bernard Shaw, play.
The conspiracy here means a method or a design invented and employed by the professionals of a profession for “acquiring prestige and power” to have and hold control over the profession with the objective of banging doors of competition at all those who are not members of the group, also called the non-professionals. Such acquisition of intriguing craft and skill is used, exercised, sold or exchanged for lucrative purposes of money, position, or possession in return with the buyers and users.
These professionals “seldom meet together” but their conversations “end in conspiracies against” others on their back and “the law can do nothing to prevent” such conspiracies. (Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations first published in 1776 (2007 edition) pages 105-106).
In the era of virtual world, where physical contacts or meetings among people, professionals, are now dispensed with, conspiracies are manufactured easily and communicated fast to the public. After all, conspiracies are always secret and behind the curtain. In a highly militarized place like Kashmir where chaotic social, political and economic conditions subsist for decades, people in overwhelming numbers continue to be captive of mental slavery of “selfish, intriguing, dishonest, treacherous and fraudulent” nature, ( William Moorcroft, Travels in the Himalayan Provinces, J and K, Vol II, pages 128-129) a fertile ground has been created for the professional conspirators to acquire and hold control over the expertise and deny it to the non-members of the group. It has a price. Iterating, the law can do nothing to prevent these malpractices as they are packaged and sold under the specific labels of different professions. The prime object of the professional conspiracy is to obtain monopoly over the profession and kill the competition.
These professional conspirators in a conflict zone like Kashmir have assumed horrible shapes of criminal cartels against whom the law, lacks claws to clutch upon. The moral code is trampled by these white collar criminals under their iron feet. In good numbers, they put on religious labels and robes too to hide their criminality and immorality.
You might have heard of the cartel formation in the businesses only. But cartels in Kashmir are to be found indiscriminately among the so-called professionals too. True professionals, however, never use unfairness and cheating in the discharge of their professional duties. Despite being a crime, cartelization can’t be reduced, among the group members, into writing or in any other express shape. It can’t be oral even. It is implicitly gatherable from the way the activity is conducted by its members. The sinister design of cartelization is to kill competition and establish monopoly in a business or trade.
Precisely, this twin illegitimate objective of the business cartels is what the professional conspirators in Kashmir are doing by making good use of general ignorance of masses and overdependence of the buyers and users on their professional products and services with eyes shut. The professional conspiracies and cartelization inside Kashmir have flourished under the patronage of the corrupt system of administration, and inbuilt avaricious nature of Kashmiris to make overnight fortunes.
In Kashmir, where near to all energies of the law enforcing agencies are utilised and consumed by the State in quelling the “popular sentiment” of people, an inevitable result of it is that a mushroom growth of conspiracies and cartels in all professions and occupations has taken birth. There are cartels in coaching centres’, pharmaceuticals, engineering, contractors’, revenue officials’ and media.
Political parties contesting elections are “party cartels” using resources of the state machinery when in power to maintain and control their “prestige and position” among the masses. With “power” in their hands, they behave like “gangs” during the time of their regimes to suppress the already-oppressed people of Kashmir, obviously in collaboration with the federal structure.
These professionals’ cartels are operating under legal certificates under the names of licensed occupations. But license does not change the reality and status of a profession if it is run by thugs under the guise of professionalism inasmuch as a licensed pimp’s nature of activity doesn’t get changed by grant of a license to him as he knows he is carrying on an illicit “profession”. In Kashmir, [several] doctors work as commission agents for pharma companies and medical-test labs, engineers clear contractors ‘bills against pre-fixed rates of commission, teachers set up private coaching centre diverting students away from regular classes and enticing them to buy readymade question-answer-sheets from them, revenue officials in league with land brokers fudge the land records for illegal conversions and mutations. These are just bizarre instances of professional and occupational cartels operating in the valley. In cartels, non-members can’t get a share in illegal proceeds of the crime.
Monopoly in any profession is detrimental to the competition which, if allowed, certainly brings variety and quality in the professional duties and services. In the total absence of private electronic media (Greater Kashmir dated December 24, 2018, read Nothing Kashur in DD Kashir), only media left in Kashmir are newspapers. Barring a few specific newspapers, no other paper has any reasonable readership among Kashmiris. If specific media reading and watching in Kashmir will become a cult or mere craze or habit among the people in general without an objective for better, educative, informative and competitive content among the readers, it will prove disastrous for competitive and objective journalism of Kashmir as a whole.
The same holds true of a selective group or firm of lawyers who hold a monopoly in the profession at the altar of basic professional principles, winking at, aiding and abetment of “wrong practices of corrupt institutions” solely for material gains. Doors to competition in all professions should be encouraged for the overall good of posterity of Kashmiris.
Lord Macmillan has written: “If no profession is nobler in its right exercise, so no profession can be baser in its abuse”. (Lord Macmillan, Law and Other Things (1937) page 185) This is exactly what is happening with all professional conspiracies and cartels inside Kashmir. It is the grossest perversion. Right exercise of a profession in its kind is the noblest and most beneficial to the people, while its abuse and misuse, for personal temporal gains, grudges, prejudices and preconceived notions, is most sordid and pernicious.
George Orwell was right in saying: “In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”.
(Author is an academic, story-teller and freelance columnist. Presently, AVP, JK Bank. Views in this write-up are completely personal, not of the organisation the author works for or writes for.)