Another conflict in the making
As happens always, this Eid too witnessed a boom time for the business community in the Valley. And as has been the precedence here, the business people did everything they could to woo the public. With the hoardings and banners announcing bumper sales on various goods fluttering everywhere, people too seemingly found the deals irresistible, and went on a spending spree. And this being the wedding season too, people are still seen thronging market places. However, what is really confusing is that there hardly exists any institutional mechanism anywhere in the Valley which could at least verify the authenticity of shopkeepers’ claims vis-a-vis discounts they claim they are offering on the festive occasion. And obviously it is the gullible public that is once again at the receiving end.
While on the one hand, festivities push them towards spending, on the other they have to burn a proverbial hole in their pockets by paying whatever is demanded from them. Take for instance the market places in various parts of Srinagar. The prices of a same good or commodity are at great variance depending on the place a person chooses to buy it from. For instance in city interiors the goods and commodities are priced comparatively lower than what the same things would cost in uptown ‘posh’ localities and big shopping malls. And it refuses to sound logical to think that the concerned governmental agencies won’t be aware of this. They are pretty well in the know of how common people are cheated; but unfortunately they have developed a habit of being unconcerned and unmoved for reasons best known to them.
Understandably then, in the absence of any checks on their deceitful tactics, the shopkeepers are having a great time. They are looting the people, and people too have, willingly or unwillingly, put themselves at the mercy of the shopkeepers. They no longer question and hardly ever complain, and therefore contribute their bit in propagating and patronizing a culture of trickery and pretence. Add to it the attributes of globalization which have over the years in a very subtle manner popularized consumerism to the extent that our society too has evolved to adopt what is called ‘throw-away’ culture. It is no longer that people shop because they need to, but like elsewhere in the world, here also there exists a huge chunk of population which shops only because they feel like renewing their repository of consumer goods at home and elsewhere every now and then. The trend would have been a welcome development had ours too been a society with very high per-capita earnings. However, it is not like that. While a handful few are placed very comfortably on the income scale, a vast majority is finding it very difficult to make even the ends meet. As a result of this, the gap between the ordinary and the ‘elite’ has widened to the extent of creating cleavages of dissent between the rich and the poor. It is during the festival seasons that these cleavages are further widened to mock at our entire social security system.
The government which is already guilty of doing precious little to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots in terms of their economic wherewithal, complicates the problem further by siding with the rich and the elite. In such a situation, it is only too obvious that the amount and extent of frustration among the commoners surges with every passing day. If the trend continues like this, the day is not far off when we will be face to face with yet another conflict with economic disparities as it primary cause.