Excavation for ‘civilization’
As rulers make tall claims, the city is being dug out here, there and everywhere
SRINAGAR SUFFERS BY NASEER AHMAD
Once you look around Srinagar city or elsewhere in Kashmir, you will find out everyone is at work. Outside State labourers, local and non-local contractors busy in the work. Here under this scheme, there under that scheme. These are hey days of ‘Labour work’ in Kashmir.
Government departments are digging roads, uprooting trees, laying pipes on macadamized roads, erecting polls and then removing them at the same time. Work on pavements is continuous process. One example is pavement alongside Boulvard road. Every year it is being constructed and then next year ‘deconstructed’ to be constructed again. The concerned department has made it point that no one should walk on this pavement. That is why the work on it must continue till eternity.
One department completes work on a road, macadamize it and then another comes and starts laying water pipes and electric polls. Then finally Economic Reconstruction Agency headed by a person, who seems to be after every post in the Government, comes and starts great excavation that leaves no space for pedestrians to walk and vehicles to move. ERA, which has brought Srinagar to standstill, has decided to dig every road and then leave it there.
To any foreign observer who first time visits the city, he is likely to get an impression that people in Kashmir are looking for another city beneath Srinagar city, another civilization beneath our towns. That is the reason behind this great unending ‘excavation’ everywhere in Kashmir.
This is not an exaggeration. Recently a respected foreign scholar asked a senior Government official why you colored Mughal Gardens pink. His answer was typicaly bureaucratic. These changes have done over the centuries by different rulers of the State. The scholar simply laughed. “But it was not pink when I visited here in 1982.”
As floriculture department carries on with its pink mania, digging of roads continue to be favorite pass time of other Government departments.
You may ask how long this unplanned digging continues in Srinagar and other towns of Kashmir. There is no straight answer to it.
The Government departments have made it point that pedestrian should not get room to walk on the road. That he must get killed, injured and paralyzed for life for venturing out to take a walk on the road. There are no pathways. They have been included in roads.
Have a look at the Islamabad-Srinagar road. How many accidents, how many human lives it has taken so far- Innumerable. The road has not been widened an inch over past three decades. It has no pathway.
Have a look at roads in Srinagar. No road is complete. Downtown has 5000 year old history, they say so. It seems it is about to fall. Nothing has been done to improve anything here.
Where is the problem? It lies in the mainstream.
Not long ago Ghulam Nabi Azad was the Chief Minister of the State. He would talk only development and eradication of corruption. He went for double shift. Stayed long hours in office to see whether the development work is really taking place or not.
Azad had different vision for the mainstream politicians. Azad would talk less of Kashmir dispute more of the development. He would often repeat in the Assembly that “the issue” would be solved when Pakistan and India will decide to resolve it.
He was the first chief minister in recent years who stated in the House that the State Assembly has no role to resolve Kashmir. How truthful he has been!
Since 1950 when the Constituent Assembly of the State came into being till date, the Assembly has played no role in solving Kashmir. New Delhi has never even given damn to it and its resolutions even though in foreign countries it cited it as fortress of democracy in Kashmir.
In 2000, the Assembly passed autonomy resolution. In 2011 interlocutors appointed by New Delhi knock at the doors of Moulana Abbas Ansari and then announce it to the world that we have met those who matter in resolution process.
Had New Delhi taken mainstream serious on resolution of Kashmir, it would not have send parliamentary delegation to separatists in the height of crises in 2010.
Perhaps Azad, who has been all his life in the corridors of power in New Delhi, knew it and hence stressed for development and eradication of corruption. Whether he succeeded in his agenda or not, that is debatable issue but he was the first politician who had guts to convey that the mainstream and the resolution process are different things.
New Delhi could not budge to Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah even though he agreed to become Chief Minister from Prime Minister. In 1975 he was informed that clock will not be allowed to turn back. Sheikh, it seems realized his helplessness, and then allowed Bajaj to construct Clock Tower in Lal Chowk so that to remind himself advice of Indira Gandhi on the value of time.
In 2008 when green flags were hoisted by people on the clock tower, mainstream leaders went into shell. Omar Abdullah was first to come out of it. He emerged in Budgam one day.
Omar, who these days is busy 24*7 in tweeting and re-tweeting, addressed first election rally before 2008 Assembly elections in Budgam. Omar said if the separatists will promise roads, electricity, clean drinking water, he will not participate in elections. These election, he said, were for roads, electricity and water.
Azad had set the tone. That the development should be core agenda of the mainstream, others should have followed it.
Instead they all talk Kashmir dispute. From Ghulam Hassan Mir to Muhammad Yousuf Taragami, from Mehboob Beg to Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, from Ali Muhammad Sagar to Tara Chand. Sham Lal to Raman Bhalla. Everyone.
It is strange Sagar is talking Kashmir dispute. In July 2010, Sagar came before media and appealed Home Minister of India to come to Kashmir and reign in CRPF. “They are not in control. They don’t listen to Chief Minister,” Sagar had cried.
Today, he talks Kashmir. Even Muzaffer Baig talks Kashmir. In 2004 Baig said in the Assembly that “we (mainstream) have been always at the beck and call of New Delhi.”
Islamabad town is in shambles but both former Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed (Mufti is MLA Islamabad constituency) and its MP Mehboob Beg think they are going to resolve Kashmir. They talk resolution of Kashmir dispute and forget about their mandate that is to look how to develop the town. It is not worth living. Its condition is simply horrible. But they are not bothered.
First let them repair lanes and by-lanes of Islamabad and then they should do walk the talk on Kashmir. Same is the condition of Sopore. Budgam has ‘distinction” of being maxim number of illiterates. Kupwara is lowest on development paradigm of the State. But Sajjad Lone seems least bothered. He is busy in constructing roads, and irrigation pipelines on facebook and twitter.com.
The good old London of Kashmir will not even pass Chambal ki gati. Old Town Baramulla and Old Town Srinagar face same neglect.
In 2009 when beautiful Prinyaka Chopra had to shoot in Old Town, she was all smiles despite seeing every road in shambles. But when she went back to Delhi, she had this to say about Srinagar and Kashmir, “I am back to civilization.” Means by being in Srinagar, she was feeling as if, she was in Ramghar of Sholay.
It seems now all government department and ERA in particular have decided to find civilization in Srinagar and other places. That is why they have started this excavation at grand scale.
(Naseer Ahmad is a senior journalist)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 17 May 2011 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 17 May 2011 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 18 May 2011 00:00:00 IST
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