Good intentions alone don’t work

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Highlighting the significance of Budget-2021-22 for Jammu and Kashmir, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on Thursday said the Rs 1,08,621 cr Budget approved by the Central government is “historic”. He also said the aim is to rebuild the economy, create jobs and secure the future of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. He then went on citing figures to drive home that there has been increased fund allocation for different sectors, and once the money is expended, it will change the politico-economic landscape of Jammu and Kashmir.

The LG also said that maintaining transparency in the working of the administration is the focus area of his government, and that efforts are afoot to ensure effective monitoring and timely execution of works. “Budget Estimation and Allocation Monitoring System (BEAMS) has made the system more transparent and has eliminated the scope of corruption.”

Now there is very little reason and room for anyone to disagree with whatever the LG said. However, it is also an unfortunate reality that whatever appears good on the paper does not translate into an equal attraction on the ground. Indeed this is an area which, even though needing serious and concerted focus of the political executive, has remained neglected backwaters of the governance here.

In the year 2000, The World Bank, while looking at the economic causes of conflicts, in its report – “Breaking the Conflict Trap” pointed to corruption as being one of the major contributing factors to continuation of political conflict. Although there are other idiosyncratic triggers as well, but corruption is directly responsible for weakening the governance systems and structures, and eroding whatever trust and the credibility these institutions may have. So politics of the place aside, it goes without saying that corruption and lack of transparency in the governmental working have, over the years only perpetuated a culture of immunity and impunity for the unscrupulous, which in turn have automatically turned off the ordinary have-nots by denying them opportunity and access to what they felt was/is rightfully theirs.

Without going into the details of how the corruption and culture of nepotism were, over the years, institutionalized here, any new dispensation would do great service if it is able to create a template which will give the ordinary people a sense and feeling of a discernible depart from the past. Thus far it has, unfortunately, not happened, even though there seems to be no dearth of political will for it.

Take the roads of Srinagar, for instance. Even when Srinagar figures among the Smart City list, the reality on the ground is that even today there is not a single street here which may qualify for being a smart one. Even the streets that got a fresh coat of macadam only last year are in absolute shambles, with abundant potholes making them largely un-motorable.  So where is the accountability and transparency? If, as the people are told, there are maintenance clauses in the road contracts, then why are the construction companies not held responsible for the dilapidated condition of the roads, which couldn’t sustain weather vagaries of a single winter?

Roads are just one sector; one can go on pointing to similar lacunae and loopholes in every other sector as well. But obviously that is not the intention. The point that is being made is that the administration will do itself, and the people of this place, a great service if instead of just relying on the inputs that come to it through the official paper trails and channels, also tries to have a feel of the exact situation as it exists on the ground, and how it is faced and lived by the people. Good intentions alone do not suffice; corrective measures can lead to effective corrections only they are focused on the exact wrongs.

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