Honeymoon period apart, Mufti Sayeed led government’s politically correct statesmanship has kept the TV screens burning for all these days. But why does not anybody in the government look at these low hanging fruits to make a difference, asks Tasavur Mushtaq
With new government perfectly saddled after a brief hiccup of controversies, it is now time for governance. But interestingly, for a common man, the issues closer to PDP and BJP don’t seem that significant. What matters is how the new dispensation gives the feel of ‘change’ to people on ground. With some sensitive and long term issues that need immediate intervention and policy shift, people who voted are desperate to see things changing into reality, which at least, are in the ambit of government at the local level.
Some issues that need action on war-footing are:
- Traffic Jams
Despite the tall claims that various steps have been taken to streamline traffic in summer capital, the city daily witness massive traffic jams. This leaves people irked besides stuck for hours. Traffic cops are too quick to blame swelling vehicles on slender roads for frequent jams. As the menace continues to depress commuters, a solution is expected from the new dispensation.
The existing condition is such that even after offices shift to Jammu, there is no breather in valley. Barring few places, the much-talked about traffic lights seem out of order.
Lately, Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh flyover project has escalated chaos in the city. Keeping the “sluggish” project progress in view, many voices in unison say: It shouldn’t have started before road widening under Master Plan.
The consequences of these traffic jams are severely felt when there is an emergency. Several cases have been noticed where patients died in ambulances and students missed their papers due to heavy traffic jams.
But before the task seems colossal for new dispensation, here is something, it should know: It is just a matter of managing the city spread over 2,228 square kilometer area. So, buck up. Check those restricted tipper and truck movement, relieve busy routes and divert the traffic to alternative paths.
- Public Transport System
Barring very few areas, Kashmir is alien to better transport services. Besides run by full-fledged department, the transport system is being monitored by police wing. But even then, the picture is nothing short of a nightmare.
A resident of Lal Bazar, Ahmad take a daily bus to Hazratbal, de-boards it there and boards another to reach his workplace at Lal Chowk. He prefers two buses than one “sluggish” service from Lal Bazaar. Apart from running at a snail’s pace, the buses disappear from road once the clock strikes 6:00 PM. Further, the residents claim there is no proper system in place that would see how many vehicles are supposed for the area, check their timing and the route plan.
Amid this, auto rickshaws continue to take passengers for a ride. Though the new dispensation has directed auto rickshaws to adhere to meters, but it needs proper enforcement wing to implement the directive. Till a proper task force won’t be put into action, one has to witness self-set timings of Sumos, overloading in buses and accidental blood on the roads.
- Act Against Encroachments
Mufti Muhammad Sayeed-led government in 2002 did one major contribution to city: Demolition Drive. Though the critics played it up by saying that the drive is “anti-city”, but mainly, the move was well appreciated. In recent years, the process was undone as new encroachments besides illegal constructions were seen popping up in and around city. Not only this, the encroachment by vendors multiplied the problems of pedestrians including those who are doing their business on the main roads.
The otherwise busy Lal Chowk has wrongly parked vehicles. Reason may be the fewer parking spaces. And then there are vendors on road who made it much more difficult.
For instance in Karan Nagar, one stretch of road meant for critical patients in ambulance to reach hospital, is encroached by a shopping complex owner. He uses space for parking vehicles. What will happen to sick? God knows better!
Besides throwing encroached routes open for public mobilization, the priority of the new dispensation should be to spare river-bank from swelling encroachments to avoid another flood fury.
- Put End To Adhocism/Contractualism/ In-Charge Postings
In recent years, the emerging trend in Kashmir is to fill important positions as in-charge posts and not full-fledged. This way of appointment has other clause of ‘till further orders’, which in many cases doesn’t end. With such type of orders, experts suggest, both efficiency and accountability suffers.
A middle-rung bureaucrat reveals such type of officials at the time of retirement face problem to prove that they used to work on these posts. Because as per their records, they are confirmed in one scale, but by virtue of these ‘in-charge’ posting, they retire much higher than actual.
The other ‘rotting’ trend making rounds in our system is engaging educated youth as ‘Rehbari-Taleem, Rehbari-Sehat’, Rehbari-Ziraat’ and similar other services. This is like ‘use and throw approach’.
Naveed is akin to those educated youth whose job lasts till annual academic session. Married to banker in 2013, once he applied again for the job, a fierce competition marred his chances.
This seasonal hiring and firing hampers the process of better delivery. The response of government – ‘to give employment to all is not possible’ – is true, but then, coming up with better and alternate system is also the primary responsibility of the authorities.
- Public Distribution System
Cutting across different section of society, Public Distribution System (PDS) is linked to all. A supply system of various commodities over the years has been almost made to be part of systemic failure. To facilitate the supply though, a system of fair price shops was introduced, which worked for a while. But, reportedly, the owners turned this into a money minting machine.
In fact, many ration card-holders allege that fair price shop owners demand and keep ration card in their custody. This means, the per month quota of various commodities are being sold at exorbitant prices as the real beneficiaries prefer to buy from market than fair price shops.
The proper system of prior information and better dealing is missing from the scene. Many accuse that on pretext of non-availability of stocks, the owners dodge consumers forcing them to purchase from the market.
Besides supply, adhering to set price is also flayed. The case of availing LPG cylinders isn’t any different. So, weeding out this rot is needed.
- Beautifying city, Road development and Infrastructure
As compared to winter capital, roads in summer capital haven’t been improved over the last many years now. With every government claiming to be the sympathizer of city dwellers, the picture on ground is quite contrasting. An hour-long rainfall is enough to deluge all routes of the city. Besides, dogs, filthy surroundings, unhygienic sanitation, failed drainage and other loopholes further erode the sheen of Srinagar. So, the new dispensation should tighten all screws to restore the glory of Srinagar.
Visit any of the city hospital, it presents horrific look. Both infrastructure and man power seem to be over burdened. The emergence of referral system and lack of basic facilities at village or district level must share blame for this.
The system in place should be as such that the district hospitals should be able to treat the basic ailments at their own level.
The facilities, infrastructure and expertise should be to an extent that only patients requiring specialized treatment should be referred. This will do two things: one, minimizing the risk of losing life in transit; and second, it will curtail the flow to city hospitals.
Till the new dispensation won’t heal the healthcare, the lives in want of proper medical care will remain at risk.
- Put Honest Faces At Front
The government on ground is represented by the officials. The first step taken should be to have honest faces at front. Apart from providing huge relief and revitalize accountability, the move will act as a confidence building measure.
The Chief Minister’s grievance cell should be made vibrant and responsive. Responsibilities should be fixed and heads should roll for any sort of complacency. The timings of coming and leaving should be properly monitored by the competent authority and the laid back work culture, that is now part of government service, should be done away with. Result-oriented process should be put in practice.
- Better and Friendly policing
Post-2002, there was an apparent change in security situation. But the men in uniform refuse to pass on the “peace dividends” to the society. Given the change in situation and a confidence building, there is urgent need to change the way policing is done in this part of the world. With result, many prefer other options than police.
A policeman on road should be seen as a ‘guide or helper’; and not someone, whom you fear! Though new IGP has already vowed to stick to public-friendly policing, but it needs a policy initiative to bridge the perceived public-police gap. Initiatives like public-police melas are appreciative, but there are various issues (other than militancy) that need a proper handling by police. The cops should stand guard and repose faith so that the same is being reciprocated.
- Allow Voice of Dissent
Over the years, successive governments have ‘muzzled’ the voice of dissent. In last dispensation, arrests and house detention of separatists outnumbered the figure of last many decades. Octogenarian ailing separatist leader Syed Ali Geelani’s record of being barred from offering Friday prayers is a record in itself.
Though the new dispensation is endorsing talks and space to separatists and favouring release of political prisoners, but fair trial is still something, which people expect from Mufti’s second innings.
Hundreds of youth “facing stone pelting charges” reportedly voted in favour of ‘change’ in last polls. The new dispensation must review their cases and drop charges considering their career and future.
The dividends of democracy that made Mufti CM should also go down to the last native of this place.