On the eve of 2008 Amarnath land row the then PDP president Ms Mehbooba Mufti said: “The creation of Shri Amarnath Shrine Board was a folly of the NC, in connivance with the BJP, and this wrong decision was implemented to materialize the communal agenda of the fascist forces through the BJP’s blue-eyed boy S.K. Sinha”. On August 11, 2008, trade bodies, Hurriyat and PDP gave the call for Muzaffarabad march to protest against the blockade in Jammu. Eight persons including separatist leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz got killed during the scuffle. Since then, PDP has taken a complete U-turn. Rather, the party has abandoned its idea of ‘soft-separatism’ and embraced the same BJP, a “fascist” party.
The PDP-BJP government will soon complete three years in office. Their tenure, so far, has been a disaster. Since the killing of Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016 Kashmir is reeling under an unending cycle of violence. From then on, around 150 civilians have lost their lives, thousands others were maimed by bullets and pellets. In 2017 alone, more than 170 militants have been killed by the security forces. This is a record going by the last ten years. But, who cares if a record number of local youth is picking up arms too. Two young women were killed in December with their infant children craving for mothers milk. Amidst all this, the Centre’s Interlocutor Dineshwar Sharma is visiting district headquarters, listening to traders, students, and other groups to ascertain their “legitimate aspirations”. Then comes the ultimate surprise. The government has amended the Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees Conduct Rules, barring the government employees from posting anything against the government on social media. Employees cannot also “endorse posts, tweets or blogs” of any political figure, or use their personal social media accounts for “any political activity”. This comes within days of Ms Mufti opening her own twitter account. At a time when the priority of CM should have been to restore normalcy in the state she is busy in rehabilitating her relatives and political workers at the cost of institutions. But you are not supposed to make any anti-national comment.
We are facing a serious governance deficit. Almost all sectors of the economy are underperforming or not performing at all. But the ruling party is busy in addressing its internal dissensions. The power tussle, within, was quite apparent during the PDP’s function in Jammu on December 2 when Ms Mehbooba Mufti was re-elected as the party president.
Power Development Department
Kashmir valley is reeling under severe power crisis. Load shedding and power schedules have made life miserable. Funds in crores have remained unspent. As per the reports in this newspaper, the power development department has registered zero spending out of Rs 3491 crore allocated to Jammu and Kashmir under the Prime Minister’s Developmental Program for strengthening the power distribution system during the past two years. As a result of this lackluster attitude, the distribution system in six circles—Srinagar, Ganderbal, Sopore, Bijbehara, Pulwama and Budgam in Kashmir was not strengthened.
Disaster Management and Flood Control
In October this year, the Chief Election Commissioner of India A K Joti cited “flood relief” while delaying the announcement of Gujarat polls. He said the Gujarat Chief Secretary had written to the Election Commission seeking more time before the declaration of poll dates as the Model Code of Conduct would hamper flood relief work. Although over 300 people were killed and thousands affected by the September 2014 floods in Kashmir, the poll panel, then headed by V S Sampath, decided against delaying elections which were held in five phases from November 25 to December 20. Our flood relief efforts were seriously undermined.
Kashmir is prone to disasters. Since the 2014 floods no serious effort has been taken to better prepare us for future disasters. Where are the boats and life-saving gears? How many trained personnel are there in the flood control department? The major reason behind the flood vulnerability of the Kashmir valley is the shrinking of our rivers—the inadequate carrying capacity of the river Jhelum from Anantnag to Baramulla. How much effort has been made for restoration of wetlands, water bodies, and the removal of encroachments in the flood spill channels? Dredging of Jhelum river goes on at snail’s pace. The Irrigation and Flood Control (I&FC) department has awarded Rs 46 crore project to Kolkata-based dredging firm. But it proved more of wastage of public money. Only few spots of the river along the national highway were widened and beautified for ‘feel good’ purposes. Seismologists have warned of an earthquake measuring 8 on the Richter scale in the Kashmir region that may cause causalities in lakhs. Are we prepared for another big earthquake?
Flyovers and Highways
There is no other big miracle in the world than the widening of national highway in our state. Seven years on, the ambitious project of four laning of Srinagar-Qazigund stretch of highway is yet to be accomplished. It is missing another deadline. There is no foreseeable deadline for the completion of Banihal-Ramban stretch of Srinagar-Jammu national highway. Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh flyover is all set to miss another deadline too. It is a source of great pain and agony for thousands of commuters who happen to pass through this route.
The Jammu and Kashmir state has the distinction of being one of the most corrupt states in India. There is a widespread public perception that corruption has increased manifold during the present regime. The backdoor entries into different departments are like a norm now. Recently the state government announced to regularize around 60,000 daily wagers and casual labourers. Thousands of political workers of the ruling alliance have been inducted into this list in the last two years.
The ship is sinking. God save the Queen.
Dr. Bashir Ahmad Veeri is a former member of the Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Council. Views are personal