Anchar, Khushal Sar crying
Couple of weeks back, civic authorities here accompanied by a large posse of police and paramilitaries carried out a ‘ritual’ demolition drive of some structures in Khushal Sar area. The news was flashed to the local media through Information and Public Relations department with boastful claims that the operation against the encroachments in the dying water-body and elsewhere will continue. Interestingly, while scores of new constructions have come up in the area including on the vast tracts of the adjacent Anchar Lake during past few months post-August 2019, the demolition squad essentially targeted only the tin walling of a single house while all other structures were let go unscathed. Perhaps encouraged by this half-hearted effort of the ‘unconcerned’ authorities, the land-grabbers missed no time in encroaching some more portions of the Khushal Sar and Anchar Lake, and the process is continuing unabated even today. Every night hundreds of tipper trucks ferry construction material into the interiors of Khushal Sar and Anchar, and within no time make-shift structures are raised there, which are then transformed into full-fledged concrete structures – shops and houses – within few days’ time.
Indeed Kashmir has a long history that whenever there is situational turmoil, the unscrupulous people in truck with the Revenue and Municipal authorities and of course with the patronage of police take the opportunity to satisfy their greed by laying their hands on wherever they find any government land. This time the situation has been far worse because it is the water-bodies which are at the receiving end. Post-August 2019, the most visible evidence of this loot and scoot is the Khushal Sar and Anchar area right in the heart of the Srinagar city. Over the past few months only, vast tracts of these water-bodies have been filled in and scores of new shops and houses have come up. Obviously this would not have been possible without the go-ahead from the concerned authorities who are vested with the responsibility of safeguarding these public properties.
Now the question is: who is it one could blame for this loot and plunder of these precious state resources? Of course the people who encroach are to be blamed, but then some amount of blame must also be directed at the government agencies and officials who are openly encouraging and patronizing such greedy machinations. But thus far it has hardly ever happened that the government officials have faced any legal wrath and reprisals of their part of the fault. This is where the actual rot lies. As long as the government remains focused on and engrossed with the optics of larger political problems, the areas of actual and immediate public concern will fail to catch its radar. This is exactly what seems to be happening here.
Divisional administration must wake up to the disaster that is taking shape in these vital water-bodies by way of their encroachments. A cursory tour of the area by Divisional Commissioner or the Deputy Commissioner Srinagar will reveal to them the amount of damage that has been brought to the area in past seven months only. Once they see the situation themselves, it certainly would not take them long to decide on how to undo it. Question is: will they bother to come out of their comfort zones to see the situation as it exists for the ordinary mortals on the ground?