Understand people’s problems

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Couple of weeks back, in a private discussion a group of young Kashmiris while sharing their mind on the issues of governance, said: “We face lots of problems and hardships on account of various public utility services – say transport for instance. But how can those in the ruling chairs understand these problems and identify with us when they do not have to travel in old ramshackle buses we travel in?”

As the discussion went on, many more young people chipped in with countless other examples to highlight the failures of political leaders in having a first-hand understanding of the realities of the common people. Ranging from government’s failure in implementing the prescribed rates of essential commodities to the amount and extent of corruption in government offices — all sorts of examples were put forth to buttress the argument that there is a huge gap between what is claimed by the authorities and what is actually faced by the common people.

Whether ministers or bureaucrats travel in public buses or not is beyond the point here, what is indeed important is that the ordinary people have a strong belief, and not unjustifiably so, that those in the ruling echelons do not face the kind of problems and challenges as commoners face. Obvious conclusion of this belief is that if the leaders and rulers do not understand the situation on ground, it is hard to believe their ability to affect any worthwhile change in the ground situation.

Politics aside, when it comes to providing good governance and delivering on the political promises, even the minutest details about actual ground situation vis-à-vis different spheres of human activity, are vital. Rationally speaking, it is on the basis of the important data about what is already there – what are the loopholes and lacunae – that one can correctly devise corrective measures as well as future programmes. Now, if those vested with the responsibility of formulating government’s policies as well as those whose job is to execute and implement them, continue to remain cut-off from the common people’s realities as they have so far been, expecting any change on ground will be too farfetched.

Enjoying all the privileges and perks of power and authority, politicians and bureaucrats have no reasonable reason to avoid coming out of their luxury offices for having a feel of what common people have to face day in and day out on various counts. Indeed there is not even a single sphere of life worth its name here which is without its share of problems. The government will certainly do a great job if besides thinking of new things for the public welfare it also takes keen interest in setting the already existing rotten systems right. Big political talk aside, it will certainly be a great thing if it goes for some deeper analyses of issues that concern the ordinary mortals.

The best thing the government could do for the people and for its own credibility and for re-cultivating the lost public trust, is to bring about some semblance of accountability in its functioning. Let it initiate a culture of holding its functionaries responsible for the jobs they are supposed to do and are paid for. Once a few heads are set rolling for failures that bring hardships to the common people and disrepute to the government, it goes without saying that the standard of the overall governance will automatically start going up. Obviously this needs a huge political will. Having successfully braved some of the biggest challenges to her political career, Mehbooba Mufti must now focus attention on the working of government functionaries, who otherwise seem to have ganged up to fail her government on every front and each count. It is high time for her to weed out the unscrupulous lot to bring about a culture of accountability in this land of unaccountability.


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