Neglected City

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After excruciating wait of countless years, finally yet another leg of Jehangir Chowk-Rambagh flyover was thrown opened for the public. Though huge parts and portions of this project are still incomplete, but the administration takes pride in the fact that its deadline was met when a portion of it was inaugurated Sunday. Let’s hope that the remaining work is completed without any delays and the whole project actually does what it is meant to – decongest some vehicular traffic along this important road stretch.

What about the other problems faced by this neglected city – those which do not need big flyover like projects but a little bit of official concern and care so that ditches and potholes get filled, roads and streets get necessary repairs, bare manholes get lids…. City also needs streetlights, countless electricity poles need to be realigned, broken and dilapidated water supply lines need to be replaced, and more than anything else sidewalks and footpaths otherwise occupied by shopkeepers and street vendors need to be restored for pedestrian use.

For the past several years when urban local body elections were not being held, people were told that most of their civic problems are there because there is no city council in place. But today, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has an elected Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Councilors for every single ward of the city, and yet civic problems are far from being over. If this is how it was supposed to be, then what was the fun of conducting ULB elections? Aren’t these elected officials supposed to take care of the city’s civic needs and ensure redressal of public grievances? If they do, their worth is justified; if they don’t, their presence itself is nothing but yet another political trick played on the people here.

Thanks to Adam Smith for having told us upfront – “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard of their own interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity, but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantage.” This complex truth of politics couldn’t be put more simply and succinctly than this, as it has indeed placed the actual politics in front of a mirror to rejuvenate a thought Aristotle had shared few hundred years earlier. In “Politics” says Aristotle, “Everybody thinks chiefly of his own, hardly ever of the public interest”.

Reality is that come elections, politicians in order to show-case benevolence talk big,  and make towering promises, but once elected, they resign to self-love, and taking care of their own necessities takes precedence over people’s needs. This is exactly what happened during recent municipal elections. We saw various political groupings, which are basically the main culprit in initiating and sustaining a conspiracy of systematic disenfranchisement of Srinagar City, lamenting the plight of its roads and streets, drains and parks, and of course its residents too.

Actually this systemic and systematic neglect of the City began in over a decade and half back when it was openly propagated that “those who don’t vote can’t claim benefits from government”. This sleazy idea was so brazenly shared even in public speeches that within no time it became a cliché for taunting and tormenting urban population so endlessly that the seeds of rural-urban divide sown much earlier got a perfect setting to germinate and sprout. Even today the City residents are reeling under resounding shocks of this anti-urban bias of successive dispensations that followed not only in political but also in the administrative corridors.

Shedding a few ‘crocodile tears’ for the battered residents is, after all, not a bad idea when the ball is in their court, and votes in their hands! During municipal elections, all of a sudden politicians started talking about the issues and concerns of Srinagar, and the miserable plight of its residents. But once the elections were over and the elected people got what they had aspired for, it was back to square-one for the city and its residents. Neglect continues as ever, and so do civic problems.

One may ask: is there any single place or sector worth name which has witnessed any change for good after the municipal elections earlier this year? Seems the city will have to wait a few more years until fresh municipal elections to see someone again talking about its problems and vowing to address them!

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