Outlining JK's Governance

The Governor’s Secretariat claims to have disposed of 68,053 out of 68,244 complaints over the past one year (INS News, 7 June, 2019). It suggests its 100% performance in the governance sector; hence a far better governing arrangement than the elected ones in the past. 

May be the claim holds true in respect of other areas in the State. But, it is not so regarding the Professors’ Colony, Naseem Bagh, Hazratbal. The inmates registered six complaints with the Governor’s Grievance Cell (GGC) for resolution of issues in the newly set-up HOD system under the Power Development Department (PDD); subterranean sewage pipes under the Lakes and waterways Department (LAWDA); Colony roads under the City Roads Department; water supplies under the Public Health Department (PHE) and similarly situated problems under the domain of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC). Practically, none of the issues was addressed by the concerned departments, may be for their fund-shortage or apathy either. 

Evidently, the word ‘disposal’ of the GGC simply connotes receipt of complaints and their transmission to the concerned Departments for needful, without monitoring their follow up action in real practice. In fact, the governance in Professors Colony’s context and the Valley in general is elusive, perhaps for the decade-old conflict, misplaced state priorities, decelerating institutions, diminishing public faith, endemic corruption and the like system rots since early nineties. 

For palpable breach in the ‘social contract’, the state structures are unresponsive to the public urgencies. Alternatively, the Colony inmates raised their own funds to electrify the ‘dark’ lanes and plug the overhead ‘deadly’ holes on the thoroughfare. The PDD blatantly denied doing so and the City Roads benumbed to our phone calls regarding the urgency.  

Reality is that the governance has taken a back seat to the security in J&K. The major thrust is on the militancy, elections, Yatra and the like pressing problems. Eventually, the rule of law is invisible. The ban on the polythene, beggary and the massive territorial encroachments are self-explanatory. Public spaces, roads, lanes, by-lanes, pavements, river and stream-beds and historical sites, are recklessly occupied and misused by the vendors, grocers, retailers, wholesalers and other ‘evil doers’. While they hold no regard to the ethical and moral values, the state machinery is defunct to stop it either. The people are naturally subjected to the recurring floods and traffic jams, here, there and everywhere, indicating as if ‘the state is not in place’. One wonders: would it ever end and who to stop it, LAWDA, SMC, police or any other State Department?

The arable land under paddy and saffron cultivation is fast diminishing due to the road widening, constructions and industrial set ups. Neither protective nor alternative measures are operational, which tends to marginalize the State’s self-sufficiency on the one hand and enhance its dependence on the Punjab on the other. Similarly, the traditional Kashmir crafts, copper works, wood carving, shawl and carpet weaving etc., are precipitously perishing for changing market forces and the State’s failure to translate their protective ordinances into real practice. Thousands of customary artisans and crafts men are turning jobless for what theorists perceive as the ‘misgoverned’ or ‘failing’ if not the ‘failed’ state’. Would the interim government do something special for their enduring sustenance, since it has already taken a number of policy decisions for purported posterity?

The level of public-services delivery is poor. The city roads are pathetic due to the wholesome drains, dents and ditches. This year, repair and macadamisation works are curiously delayed, despite half of the financial year gone by now. Only some patch works is underway at certain isolated places. Power cuts continue even in late June, and no difference exists between the metered and unmetered areas. The infrastructure of the Power Department is too weak to resist ordinary rains, downpours is too distant. The on-road power transformers are thoughtlessly exposed. The power Department is sluggish to de-erect the electric poles along the roads widened by the City Roads at certain locations. It indicates lack of departmental coordination as a deterrent to the smooth traffic and transport.  

Market dynamics exhibits ailments. The J&K’s 7.2% inflation rate is highest in whole India. The market regulations being virtually in-operational, the commodity prices are not determined by normal supply-demand factor but rather by the whims and wishes of the stockists. The oft-recurring national high-way blockades and artificially-created scarcity of the commodities does the rest. Poor quality goods are sold at high prices and the adulteration level in various commodities is on the steep rise for the institutional apathy. No regular checks are in place to weed out spurious medicines, eatables, and drinks from the market. The checking squads are rarely seen during the year, leaving thereby the vendees at the mercy of the vendors.

Financial accountability and system transparency is deficient. The J&K is infamously one among the top most corrupt Indian states: Karnataka, Andhra, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, J&K and the Punjab. The earlier regimes showed no serious interest to reduce its extent in recruitments, appointments, constructions, industries, subsidies and other service sectors. The earlier land, sports and recruitment scams and the recent one in JK Bank, speak volumes about the unscrupulous state of affairs in J&K.

However, the JK Bank’s crackdown by the anti-corruption bureau (ACB) warrants prodding on several accounts. Was it really done to filter the Bank’s innate pathologies or to mar its unique identity?  Would the present scam be a catalyst to reopening the Bank’s earlier recruitment frauds, and would it give justice to the affected candidates? Is JK Bank the lone case of scandals in the State? Would the present interim government undo the system rots during the extended six-month Presidential rule or leave it for the future elected government to account for?  

Tailpiece:

Unquestionably, governance is a victim of continued Kashmir conflict and its spill over on the institutional functioning. It generated system rots over the decades, which the former regimes cared least for the vote bank politics and the Centre’s close-mouthed nod to it for larger national interests. The present interim government of Governor Malik is also trying to streamline the system. But, he too has complications to restore ‘good governance’ in the ‘ailing’ state. Therefore, good governance won’t be forthcoming without durable political stability in the state.