Imaginative Or Imaginary Government?

No reforms under this rule



A government can’t possibly have a long-term excuses for poor basic governance, especially in a system where two power-centers have been ruling the State amongst themselves for the last four decades. Governments can do anything if they intend to. With political will and a visionary imagination, governments elsewhere have changed the most backward, crime-ridden States in India and for that matter war-torn and ravaged countries around the world into emerging economies. And in that context of change, the State of Jammu & Kashmir is perhaps the most fertile place for reform. This State has long been waiting the transition of politics into leadership and statesmanship. The traditional excuses of maladministration and malfeasance are now running out. A conducive atmosphere, some more or less eventless years that witnessed a big tourist rush or earlier the conduct of the historic Panchayat elections - all promised to be harbingers of approaching prosperity. The time for J&K to emerge from the depths of gloom and dismay seemed to be right around the bell. There were expectations, even from the critics of the ruling party, that this time around J&K would see the better end of governance and development. No big expectations these. Expectations of good roads, a dignified pattern of electricity, good hospitals and good schools. So, when the 2008 elections took place, the people of J&K hoped that they would finally, for once in the tumultuous history of their State, be worthy enough of a government that broke the status-quo, a government that would revolutionize the State’s policies and go beyond electioneering promises and pledges.
Alas, J&K instead of an imaginative, dynamic government got an imaginary one. There are so many crying examples of apathy and lack of political will all around us. Areas of Srinagar have roads that have been dysfunctional for around two decades. Drains that were dug out when I was born are still wide open, staring at us and mocking at us. “Heritage” programs have been initiated to keep Srinagar city backwards. Who says the zero-bridge has such historical significance that it cannot be used as an alternative route connecting the two banks of the city? Bridges aren’t museums or historic monuments – they are important parts of public infrastructure. The most important motive of our government at times seems to curate and preserve the heritage of our State. While, preserving history is important for the pride of a nation, when will we emerge out of traditionalize and go towards development? The Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) or the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) for instance have their own benchmarks for imagination and creativity. While the State isn’t worthy enough of a feasible Master Plan, the departments are rather busy with and more focused on constructing malls with ‘heritage’ roofs.
The epitome of agricultural science and public policy in J&K is the Kisan Mela. Ribbon cuttings, check-distribution photo opportunities and stentorian speeches later, the Kashmiri farmer is still where he was five decades ago. Our revenue system is the same that we had during the rule of the Mughals. We have been hearing about the digitalization of revenue records since time immemorial and even today you will find the ‘naqsha-e-inthikhaab’ of your land drawn on a piece of cloth in a trunk in the Tehsil Office.
We have a lone children’s hospital in Srinagar which has now earned the distinction of a baby-slaughter-house. The Government Medical College has defaulted on its pending payments to distributors. Our hospitals are crying for ventilators. Just the other day I heard that the Operation Theaters in SKIMS, Soura had run out of cotton-wool and a health sector NGO came to the rescue of bewildered surgeons. The Bone & Joint Hospital often runs out of X-ray films and plaster-of-paris for fracture casts.
Compared to other State’s that are now coming out of economic recessions and political depressions, this present State Government is a dampener. I often say that the irony is that one of the youngest Chief Ministers in India leads one of the most traditional governments  in the country.
Our Governments lack imagination. They don’t dream beyond the contours of five-year terms. We haven’t had a government that has thought about a twenty-year strategic plan. And imagination is the key to change and reform. J&K needs an imaginative government. And for that we need to get rid of the imaginary ones.

(Junaid Azim Mattu is the Srinagar Head of Peoples’ Conference. Views are personal. Email –     

Lastupdate on : Fri, 21 Dec 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 21 Dec 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 22 Dec 2012 00:00:00 IST

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