Beyond speeches

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Once again in his Republic Day speech and messages, the State Governor remained centered around progress and development — claiming that the State was on path of development – thanks to his administration’s “Mission Good Governance and Development”. Indeed history is witness that every single government has on every single such occasion always claimed that it prioritizes development for the sheer reason that development leads to prosperity and with prosperity people develop stakes in peace. On paper the assertion sounds pretty fine and attractive too, but anything that looks good on rhetorical canvas isn’t necessarily as beautiful on the actual ground as well. Particularly at a place where there is a wide chasm between what is being said by the political executive and bureaucrats and what actually gets transformed into reality on the ground. So people have their own reasons to take official assertions with a pinch of skepticism.

Jammu and Kashmir has been witnessing troubled times of its history since 1989. The continuation of violence and political uncertainty has impacted every sphere of life here, normal processes of economic development being no exception. In fact, in the early years of militancy, developmental process not only came to a grinding halt but whatever existed here too faced wanton destruction. Indeed this is perhaps why that World Bank has concluded conflict as being “development in reverse”. Schools, bridges and other such infrastructure was targeted and destroyed. Talking of development during those days would sound nonsensical. It was only after 1996 and subsequently after 2002 and then once again after 2008 elections that the issues of development and reconstruction have become the focus of official assertions with increased resonance.

Damage suffered by the State during past couple of decades of political turmoil has been unprecedented. Whether the government is facing the challenges faced by the State successfully continues to remain a debate, but there is no let-up in verbal assurances and claims. Given the kind of institutional corruption plaguing this state, people have every reason to doubt whether promises made to them in political speeches could actually be realized, because a substantial amount of public money meant for their developmental needs gets pilfered into the personal coffers of the greedy and corrupt officials. Indeed this is perhaps why the reconstruction process – be it as simple tasks as widening or black-topping of roads or construction of drains —  takes years to complete. The inordinate delay in completion of two flyover projects in Srinagar is a case to prove the point. Even though the successive governments have been stressing timely completion of various reconstruction projects, but in the absence of any monitoring mechanism worth its name, what is visible in the name of so-called development is only destruction and defacement of existing facilities.

Governor’s speech and pledges of giving corruption-free and transparent governance, as also his vows of ensuring progress and prosperity may seem appealing, but situation on the ground is appalling. His government has to have a serious and realistic look at how they are actually going to realize all those promises and pledges they have made since they embarked on the mission to bring in CHANGE.

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