This week some action was finally initiated against illegal constructions that have come up in Khushal Sar lagoon in the heart of Srinagar. A structure or two were demolished but dozens of other illegal structures have been spared. While the action against the illegal structures is appreciable, but there are certainly some questions which could be asked, and hopefully will be answered by someone in the official echelons.
Why is it that the authorities always turn a blind eye to the illegal constructions and encroachments while they are taking place? In the instant case also it may be asked as to where were the municipal authorities, or for that matter the LAWDA officials, and even the territorial police while encroachers and land-grabbers were filling in portions of Khushal Sar, or for that matter the nearby Gilsar and vast tracts of Anchar Lake? Pertinently, this newspaper had on numerous occasions over the past few months flagged the issue and highlighted how all these official agencies were patronizing this loot and plunder by default – i.e. looking the other way. In the dead of the night hundreds of dumper (tipper) trucks would openly ferry material to these water-bodies and it goes without saying that this would not have been possible without the active connivance and patronage of different government agencies including the police.
Howsoever one may want to look at it, fact of the matter is that without the official support and patronage, which is readily bartered in lieu of some sleazy money, no illegality is possible anywhere. And in this case, these lagoons and marshes have proven a proverbial gold-mine for those vested with the responsibility of preserving and conserving them.
Post-August 05 political situation in Kashmir, like previous such occasions of situational turbulence, afforded yet another opportunity for the unscrupulous lot to make hay while life had come to a virtual standstill and the sun of unaccountability shone hot and bright. And the history has it that these people never miss on such opportunities. In fact they are always on look out for every single chance of milking the situation to their advantage. This is exactly that happened here. A cursory look on both sides of the Dr. Ali Jan Road is visible evidence. Scores of new structures, including houses and shops, have come up – all illegally, and in brazen violation of rules and norms – during past few months. And interestingly, the same very authorities who until yesterday were earning money from the encroachers for allowing them hassle-free freedom to do whatever they wanted, are today pitted against them and demolishing their structures.
While razing the illegal structures is ok, but someone will also have to take all those officials to task who have allowed these structures to come up in the first place. Why should the governmental punitive action be directed only at the involved civilians while the corrupt officials and agencies are spared? The concerned officials who have patronized illegalities here must be taken to task if the government actually wants to stem the tide of corruption and officially-patronized illegalities here. And what is equally important is that the demolition drive that has been undertaken has to be indiscriminate in the sense that all illegal structures must be torn down. This initiative cannot be selective – the officials cannot have the privilege of pick and choose – pick the ones of their choosing for demolition and sparing the others. Unfortunately as of now, this is what has been happening here all along, and in the instant case of Khushal Sar too this is what has been done. While couple of structures have been demolished in Khushal Sar, scores of others that have come up in the same area, including of the left and right flanks of Dr. Ali Jan Road are standing there unscathed, laughing and mocking at the tardy and selective official action.