"Rupees 482.7 lakhs" reads the signboard as the 'Project Cost' of the road supposed to be completed by this time. On the same road, in my village, while strolling back home from Masjid one easily enjoys the privilege, which no VVIP in this country enjoys – the privilege of inhaling a mouthful of dust emanating from the withering road as the tippers and Chevrolets (or Marutis) zoom by! I don't know who to blame? The government, the concerned engineering department, the executing agency, the district administration or the contractor! I guess this privilege is being selectively offered to the people of some particular areas only.
Being a frequent visitor to the summer capital, I often stare at the double or even triple black topping of the VVIP roads once such a person is expected to visit the valley. The yellow lines are carefully painted along the sides of the road in order to give the VVIPs a royal feeling once they travel along with their long cavalcades (which stall every other traffic movement while they are travelling). And then coming back to my place, I sometimes feel like using my skull cap in place of a handkerchief whenever I forget to carry one to avoid the above mentioned uninvited 'privilege'! And I wonder we were supposed to vote for this!
The autumn this year has been a pretty silent affair, at least in our part of the Valley. Partly because Kashmiris now have enough of money to outsource the harvesting work to the people from Bihar, Bengal or UP. While the labourers from outside the state do the harvesting work in the place which fetches them one of the highest wages in India, we are busy watching T20 and Bollywood, which are fetched Direct-to-Home thanks to cable TV and ever so competing DTH services. The other factor to the silence of the autumn this year has been the absence of proper irrigation facilities. Now, here, I may be asked to complain to God instead of the government as the rains have been irregular. But then it was not the case of irregular rains in the previous years. Lift irrigation schemes, foundation stones of which have been laid by ministers who may not even be sitting MLAs at this time, lay defunct.
There are neighboring villages who seem to have to wait till eternity to get a glimpse of the water tanker for fresh potable water for daily consumption. The mere sight of the water tanker sends the whole womenfolk (as well as kind men) into a tizzy with some even coming out with 'jajeer naer' and any other vessel capable of storing water! And about water for other purposes, it is the same old saga of women carrying pots on their heads to the neighboring streams. I guess we were supposed to be part of the great Indian success story and we were supposed to vote for this!
Since the last time we voted for Bijli, Sadak and Pani, much water has flown down the rivers in our state giving motion to the turbines of the likes of Baglihar, Kishenganga and other power projects, but the hours of curtailment for the common Kashmiri remains the same. I wonder is it the illegal hooking on power lines which the shrewd among us are adept at or is it the ambitions of the Indian corporation which controls the prized power projects that contributes more towards the curtailment? Now that the other favoured alternative to bijli has been capped to 6 per year on subsidised rates, we are made to think and go retro or metro! Retro in the sense that there are less choices left like food cooked on chulha for a candle light dinner, or metro in sense that we are going to have FDI that will bring KFCs, McDonalds with which a pizza is just a phone call away (no need to cook on our own)!
While as most of the people, even in the government, justify the elections in the context of delivering basic services like bijli, sadak and paani, the dismal delivery of such services (if not absence thereof) makes one think, "Were we supposed to vote for this"?
(The writer is an alumnus of National Institute of Technology Srinagar. Feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org)