For how long…?
Despite repeated pledges by government authorities, they have not been able to keep the rates of various commodities under check. Indeed in Kashmir traders have always made various governments to dance to their tunes. And of course this wouldn’t have been possible if the sleazy money misappropriated from ordinary consumers by way of unscrupulous trade practices wasn’t there as a shared incentive. So the unfortunate reality is that the dishonest traders extort money from consumers by way of fixing and claiming rates of various commodities as per their sweet choice and will, and then share a portion of this dirty money with the officials in various government departments so as to buy their protection and patronage. This has been going on here for long, and there does not seem to be any end to it anytime soon. Indeed such is the amount and extent of this corruption that one really wonders about the possibility of things ever changing for good.
Making the matters worst for the common masses is the fact that those at the official helm, who are supposed to act as watch-dogs and set the wrongs right have long stopped to think in terms of public good. If at all anything moves them, it is their own petty and selfish interests. Otherwise there is a frustrating inertia that has become as a characteristic feature of more or less each and every wing of the government. Of course those placed high up in the administrative echelons will like to differ with what popular perception about the scheme of things is; however, this hardly changes the reality on ground. Reality is what people experience in real life and it obviously has very little to do with what the bureaucracy would want to see on paper or otherwise like to publicize. This marked gulf between the actual and the perceived reality is what is resulting in peoples’ disenchantment with the government and its systems.
Take for instance the rates fixed for essential edibles or even chicken and mutton in the Valley. Interestingly those at the helm of affairs -- be it those in the Legal Metrology or the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs departments, or for that matter the SMC or the police, though everybody individually and collectively know that the rates prescribed by the government are not respected in the market, yet these official agencies want people to come to them with formal complaints to initiate action against the erring traders. Why? Why can’t they take suo moto cognizance when they themselves, being part of this very society and place, know it very well that the government’s rate-lists are followed more in breach?
In such a situation isn’t it natural for the common consumer to question the very efficiency of the concerned agencies and doubt the capacity of the government on the whole? If a government can’t make chicken- and mutton-sellers to abide by law and instead prefers watch ordinary citizens being cheated without much ado or respite, does it really have any moral ground to be in the ruling chair? And by the way, it is not only those selling chicken or mutton who are on a looting spree, in fact the entire market places have been transformed into big cheating dens where people are cheated on one of the other pretest. It is a gamble to shop here, and obviously the one who loses the least in the bargain is the luckiest!
One more instance is that of the public transport system. Transporters have perfected the habit of humiliating and cheating the commuters and this is done without any remorse and respite. And it is certainly with the help of the concerned agencies that a nauseating status quo has been maintained. Even as everyone knows how insulting the behaviour of the transporters is and how much immunity they enjoy even after brazenly violating all laws, rules and norms, why is it then that the authorities are doing nothing to tame this unruly lot? The concerned departments – both Transport as well as the Traffic Police are so neck-deep in corruption that expecting them to bring about any change in the situation is certainly like expecting the impossible to happen. Again a similar question can be asked: If the government and its agencies can’t bring about any semblance of law and order on the roads and streets, isn’t it impossible for them to manage the affairs of entire the state? ‘Good beginning is work half done’ and unfortunately here one really wonders how long people will have to wait to see any ‘good beginning’ beginning!