Weigh their rhetoric
People in Kashmir have all remained at the receiving end of the bombardment of huge financial figures. No wonder then quite a few clichés have made it to the official assertions here — both of the political and bureaucratic bosses. Terms like ‘peace’ and ‘development’ and ‘historic initiatives’ and ‘landmark decisions’ are certainly the most hated words. The reason being that these may no doubt make for good political speeches, but on the ground they are visible nowhere. For instance, if one really wants to judge the official claims about the development, all that needs to be done is to step out of the home or office on the nearest lane, street or a road. The broken, potholed and dilapidated roads, choked drains and filthy lanes are a running commentary on the fake developmental claims of the past over a decade of first NC-Congress combine and then PDP-BJP alliance government — if one chooses to look only at the two most recent dispensations. Now there are some who may want to say that the roads are broken because of the weather; such people must be told that Kashmir is not the only place on the face of the earth where its rains or snows during winters. There are places that face far worse weathers than this place, but in terms of the civic infrastructure, particularly the roads and drains, they are one among the best.
The truth is that the governments of this place have never every really focused on giving people their money’s worth. Their only priority has all along been to earn a quick buck and this is what they have been doing under the garb of laying roads and drains, in the construction of buildings and bridges and of late the flyovers too, and of course the dredging of River Jhelum and its tributaries and distributaries in the aftermath of September 2014 floods!
Interestingly, with another round of elections happening in next few months, the political leaders of all hues and colours are packaging their speeches and messages in such a manner that they want the people to believe that it is their (public’s) interest which is at the core of whatever they have done thus far and whatever else they want to and will be doing henceforth. So the standard catch-line is that government has spent whooping sums or will do so in future for the betterment, progress and development – for public welfare. Although there is nothing unique about such pronouncements, however, what is new is the increased resonance of financial matters in the popular domain post-2002, and interestingly these claims will as always grow shriller at the time of elections.
Interestingly in this maze of claims wherein each party and combination is praising itself and denouncing the adversary, common people are hard-pressed to comprehend if there is actually anything worth praise in whatever whichever governments claim to have done here. Indeed there can’t be a bigger challenge to an ordinary Kashmiri’s imagination and creativity than finding and locating the areas where these visibly mammoth sums have been invested to bring about any betterment in the life situations of common people.
Money has no doubt been invested, but its benefits have remained confined to a limited coterie of people who plan, sanction and execute various projects — more on the paper and less on the ground – and those who have good rapport with the ruling elites here. For a place which is continuously refusing to budge from being one of the most corrupt states, no amount of politically loaded financial rhetoric is going to bring about any change unless and until something is done to stop the pilferage of public funds. This obviously needs a massive political will, which remains a very scarce commodity here. There are many skeletons in each government’s cupboard which certainly the political elite do not want to bring in public focus. So instead of basing their politics on fudged promises and fake claims, those who want to take a shot at the political power here will be better served if they go for some degree of introspection so as to evolve a proper content for their election campaigns. As for the common people, they must look at the roads and streets and drains and hospitals, bridges and schools around them to try and make some sense about the veracity of the claims that are made in a bid to woo them into repeating the choices they have made during previous elections.