Jammu & Kashmir is about to have a new elected government in place. If newspaper reports are to be believed, the two largest parties in the recently elected legislature have reached a consensus over most of the conflicting issues and both of them are promising an efficient and stable government to the electorate. Howsoever fractured the mandate was on regional lines, there is a common yearning for good governance in all the regions of the state.
The previous government was, in more than many ways, a government on papers only. Then Home Minister of India had candidly remarked, in as early as 2010, that there was a governance deficit in the state. Nothing has changed since then. The situation has, in fact, worsened over the years. It would take reams of paper to list the failures of the previous government and its apathetic indifference to the welfare of J&K and its inhabitants.
The new government has, as such, a plateful of issues to tackle in almost all realms of governance. While both the parties had promised moon to the voters during the elections, the providing of even the bare minimum entitlements to the people will need a lot of thinking and efforts. The BJP had been hawking Development and Vikaas to people for whom even basic amenities are a dream. The PDP, on the other hand, had raised the bar of expectations much higher through their ‘Aspirational Agenda’. It needs to be seen how the coalition of supposedly ideological opponents carves out its governance agenda.
All said and done, this forsaken land needs immediate attention after decades of neglect and decay. If that doesn’t happen, if promises remain un-kept, if the infrastructure continues to be archaic, if the public service are not shorn of inertia and inefficiency and if government systems are seen as non-productive, this state will go into an abyss wherefrom it may never come out.
While it may be difficult for the about-to-be government to narrow down on the priorities, it would be important for them to focus on issues of immediate concern without losing sight of the larger picture. Wherefrom should the government start? Given the mismanagement in almost all of our affairs it is difficult to answer.
However, the wisdom of an old fable may help to find some answers. As the story goes, there was a king who happened to stop by an orchard. On seeing the king, the gardener of the orchard picked a pomegranate from a tree, squeezed it into a glass and the glass was full. The king heartily drank the juice and while drinking thought of imposing tax on production of pomegranates. Not satisfied with just one glass, he asked for another. The gardener went to the tree, plucked a ripe pomegranate and squeezed it. This time only a few drops of juice came out. Disappointed, he brought another pomegranate but the same thing happened. The King who was watching all this with amusement remarked, “Why was the first pomegranate juicier as compared to others? Were not they of the same tree? Or is it that you changed the tree?” The gardener replied, “Your majesty, I did not change the tree but perhaps you changed your intent”. Surprised, the king asked, “How do you know I intended the evil?” The gardener replied, “Your majesty, when the king intends evil, the crops fail automatically.”
The point being made here is that the new dispensation shall have to move forward with certain sincerity. The sincerity of changing the governance narrative in the state! If it is able to make some fundamental changes in the way the poor masses are governed, provide a semblance of order in otherwise chaotic and create a genuine goodwill by catering to mundane and basic aspirations of the people, half of the work for the government will be done. That may call for taking some very hard decisions and ensuring their implementation on ground. Rest, as they say, will be history!