Kashmir presents a `true model'
PROF. M A SOFI
There indeed is no dearth of issues which are known to plague civic life in Kashmir as is admittedly also the case in other parts of India or in the subcontinent. It is nobody’s case to plead for a completely smooth and hassle-free life in the cities and towns of modern India which is in fact too huge to manage in terms of the requirements as dictated by considerations of education, health care, sanitation, electricity, access to safe drinking water, public transport and similar other things. However, considering that such things are a pie in the sky in the subcontinental context, there still is an irreducible basic minimum of civic amenities to which every citizen of the state is entitled, regardless of his location, pedigree or his affiliations- political or otherwise. What we are currently witnessing in the valley of Kashmir is a veritable collapse of institutions comprising a state or a civil society. Forget the frequent power breakdowns or lack of sanitation in the lanes and bylanes of Srinagar and other towns of the valley- which are easily amongst the most backward and underdeveloped towns of this region- a complete indifference of the state administration towards these and certain other issues shall continue, but only to the utter detriment of this society which is fast losing its pedigree and its reputation as a paradise on earth. As against a whole lot of issues which are crying for attention on the part of the powers that be, some of them stand out as the most conspicuous and need to be addressed forthwith before the situation may run completely out of control.
Let us start with the issue of traffic (mis)management in Srinagar in particular and in other towns of the valley in general. This issue can safely be singled out as the most significant of all those mentioned above in view of the price it has exacted in terms of life and limb over the past few years. Statistics reveal that it has been the single-most factor responsible for maximum deaths of hapless victims involved in road accidents in the valley, including a recent gruesome tragedy on the boulevard road of Srinagar where a young man in his early forties was crushed to instant death by a speeding vehicle which, however, got away with it- thanks to the brazen indifference and dereliction of duty by the police which was posted only a few meters away from the scene. The fact that the police continue to remain oblivious to the need for pinning down the culprits tells its own story. A personal call to the IGP Crime by the author of this column, immediately after the unfortunate mishap had happened, drew a blank as his verbal assurances turned out to be not more than plain lip service! Apart from this callous neglect of their duties by the police, the issue of traffic mess is further exacerbated by several other factors including the fact that it is inextricably linked to the road infrastructure in the valley. Let us understand that the steps being taken to address the issue of traffic snarls including, for instance, the act of road widening can at best provide a short term solution to accommodate the huge volume of traffic that is only expected to grow by the day. Even the idea of constructing more and more flyovers has to be weighed against the possibility of collateral damage it will inevitably cause to the heritage of this historic city as also in terms of the disruption on account of diversion of traffic which the residents of Srinagar shall have to contend with over a period of time which, I can bet, would stagger over a couple of decades if not more, at least in the case of the proposed flyover from Jahangir Chowk to Rambagh Bridge. This pessimism derives from our bitter experiences here in Kashmir where it is rarely the case that a project gets completed by the deadline stipulated for its completion, thus allowing it, in the meantime, to snowball into a boondoggle with attendant problems involving cost escalation and mobilisation of fresh resources for its completion. The only way to reverse this trend is to make efforts to enlist the services of national or internationally known construction companies to undertake such tasks, instead of assigning them to the local firms who are both inept and clueless in terms of the technical knowhow to handle such mammoth projects-the track record of ERA in the execution of the drainage project in the valley should be an eye opener!
Of a piece with a host of factors having contributed to the traffic mess, I wish to refer to a phenomenon that is not peculiar to Kashmir but obtains as well in other parts of India. This involves a ubiquitous desire to own up a private car by one and all, which is a perfectly genuine desire, but which should be weighed against a whole lot of conditions attached with such a desire. To begin, this involves the possibility of sufficient resources being available at the disposal of the car owner, so that his desire for a better life is not hemmed in by the requirement, for instance, to have to pay the road tax- which should be pegged at a sufficiently high tariff necessary to maintain the road infrastructure- and that he is not overly bothered by the steep hike in the fuel prices which has come to be a regular feature, knocking at our doors with disturbing frequency. I would even go so far as to recommend doing away with the business of providing loans for the purchase of private cars, that too at a measly interest rate of 8%. It is a pity that the same loan giving agencies are known to provide education loans at a whopping 12% rate of interest p.a! If that suggestion may sound bizarre, amounting to the denial of the right to property, so be it.
After all, democracy is not the be all and end all of everything- we have to learn to guard ourselves against the pitfalls that may flow from an unrestrained pursuit of things which may though, appear perfectly legitimate and genuine at first sight according to the law of the land. It is only in hindsight that one discovers a sting in the tail! This is because there is such a morbid tendency to go by the letter of an injunction-divine or otherwise- rather than by its spirit, that right now we are witnessing the spectacle of dogs being granted the indulgence to unleash themselves with uncommon impunity and ferocity on the hapless victims in this part of the world. It is, in fact, these so-called champions of animal rights taking refuge in the provisions of democratic rights that dogs have been allowed to go on the prowl and feed themselves on the local populace as their ‘canine’ fodder! We are told: every dog has a day-though every human hasn’t, at least in this part of the world, or else human rights would have taken precedence over animal rights! What we are witnessing instead is that the dogs are actually having a field day, in that the residents in a dog-infested locality do not enjoy the privilege of venturing out even during the day. The dogged determination with which infringement of human rights is sought by this crop of dog lovers, aided in good measure by the unseemly sight of huge garbage heaps being dumped all over the place, does not inspire hope of dog menace being a thing of the past, any time soon! In this scenario, nothing could get more painful than the realisation that the SMC has not yet woken up to the need for a proper scientifically run treatment plant for the disposal of tons of garbage that gets accumulated everyday on the roads and streets of Srinagar and other towns of the valley. Till that happens, we shall be left with no choice but to savour the fruits of living in a democracy and so shall the privileged dogs gleefully continue to spill and savour the human blood that comes so cheap in the bastis and bazaars of Srinagar.
(Prof. M A Sofi teaches at Department of Mathematics Kashmir University, Srinagar (Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Lastupdate on : Tue, 26 Jun 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Tue, 26 Jun 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Wed, 27 Jun 2012 00:00:00 IST
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