LPG Queues of Slavery

Is it time for our own French Revolution?

Hope

JUNAID AZIM MATTU

The causes of the French Revolution that saw the end of the ‘Ancien Regime’ of France are many. And a dissenting, secessionist political sentiment wasn’t one of them. Persecuted into poverty and economic humiliation by the aristocratic French nobility, the peasants, bourgeoisie and aspiring bourgeoisie rose up in revolt for their dignity resulting in the revolution of 1789.  After a radical political and social upheaval, France was proclaimed to be a republic in 1792 and King Louis XVI was executed the next year.
It’s said that the world we know of today has unfolded in the shadows of the French Revolution. The emergence of republics, liberal democracies, growth of secularism and the evolution of modern socio-political ideologies marked the proclamation of the French Republic. The main cause of the French Revolution was Economics. Pushed into the throes of destitution and poverty, the French people lived under the gloom of indignity – a life of subsistence, of basic survival. Hunger and malnutrition became bitter, omnipresent realities. The popular reflection of these conditions of destitution – both in history and literature – revolve around the rise in the prices of bread. Just to put things into perspective, bread is to the French what rice is to Kashmiris. A loaf of four pound bread rose from 8 sous to 12 sous by the end of 1789. Around this period, the courtiers of King Louis XVI informed his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette about the widespread sufferings of the people in view of growing price of bread. Queen Marie Antoinette upon learning that the peasants had no bread is famously known to have suggested a haughty ‘remedy’ in response – “Qu’ils manget de la brioche” (Let them eat cake).
The Omar Abdullah government has a similar remedy for thirsty, cold and shivering Kashmiris quivering in never-ending LPG queues. Invisible to the aristocratic nobility which graces the palaces of the Gupkar Road, common Kashmiris are perhaps surviving at the lowest ebbs of indignity and humiliation. Sajad Lone often states that our political elites love to see Kashmiris queue up – queue up for Kerosene, Rations, LPG cylinders and identification parades. Now, more than ever, I couldn’t agree more. There is this sadistic sense of monarchial power that our aristocratic nobility derives from looking at pictures of these long queues – of young and old alike.
The question of revocation of subsidy on LPG cylinders by the Central Government is a raging national debate. Our party has suggested restoration of limitless subsidy on LPG cylinders for people living below the poverty line. Our State Government and its political leadership is however too weak to make a case for our State in Delhi based on the harsh climate of the State. In view of rising firewood costs, unaffordable market-rates for kerosene and revocation of subsidy on LPG cylinders, the common man has been pushed against the wall. His very survival during the coming harsh winter is a question staring the State government in its face.
The State Government has also chosen to give Gas Agencies and Dealers a free-run of arrogance and criminal harassment. The documentation and registration process that has seen 24 hour queues in front of Srinagar’s various private Gas Agencies has been marked with poor management, inadequate manpower and humiliation for the waiting consumers. The picture at all these Gas Agencies is similar – a couple of clueless employees sitting behind computer screens – absolutely incapable of registering the customer forms and completely unconcerned about the long, humiliating queues outside their doors. Most of the licenses for Gas Agencies in the Valley have been handed out as favors or against hefty bribes by sympathizers, financers and supporters of our political elite. These Gas Agencies make recurring and significant profits which are very commonly topped with proceeds from black-marketeering in addition to their white earnings. Yet, these Gas Agencies have conveniently shrugged their shoulders in view of their consumers’ sufferings. People who queue up in front of their offices at the first light of dawn return home starved and humiliated in the evening. The Government should immediately review the functioning of all these agencies and revoke the licenses of those agencies which are reluctant to take necessary customer-service measures in view of the LPG crisis.
The French Revolution saw the famous attack on the Bastille (fortress considered to be a great symbol of royal power) and the passage of The Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen in 1789. Where are the rights of the Kashmiri people? Why must we live a life of humiliation and deprivation? Why must we look like beggars in queues instead of paying customers buying gas cylinders? For our State government, the ideas of equality, rights and enlightenment have stopped at the Banihal Tunnel. Its time to storm our Bastilles on Gupkar by democratically uprooting and expelling our aristocratic nobility from the political future of this State. It’s perhaps time for our own little French Revolution.

(Junaid Azim Mattu is the Srinagar District President of J&K Peoples’ Conference. Email – junaid.msu@gmail.com)   

Lastupdate on : Fri, 16 Nov 2012 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Fri, 16 Nov 2012 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Sat, 17 Nov 2012 00:00:00 IST




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