Good governance?

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Blame it on the general politico-official culture here, fact of the matter is that SMC councilors even after being there for quite some time now are actually visible nowhere on the ground, nor are their contributions, if any, discernible anywhere. In fact when the elections for the SMC were being held, all those people who participated, like their counterparts in the higher political echelons, made towering promises with the general public. But after being elected to office, they have gone, as if, missing. The pathetically pitiable condition of the entire Srinagar city — be it in terms of roads, streets and drains, or the condition of electricity and water supply — is indeed a very sad commentary on the existence and utility of the elected city council. Thus far, it has only been because of the dirty political slugfests involving SMC councilors which have indicated their presence on a few occasions. Otherwise when it comes to working for the development of the city, their contributions score a big zero.

A little bit of political will together with a little quantum of sincerity to serve is all that is needed to put his disjointed city back on track. And if the elected representatives of the city have it in them, nothing is going to stop them from delivering on the ground. In fact they have so many added advantages. Unlike the bureaucracy, since councilors are chosen by the people of their respective wards, they have a better idea of their needs and requirements. They have far more intimate understanding about the local cultures and public temperaments. They are ideally situated to mediate the general developmental needs of the city including its civic requirements. It is high time that besides their own “empowerment” the municipal councilors start moving around to ensure empowerment of the common people of this God-forsaken city as well. Taking care of the broken roads and streets and chocked drains, and of course delivering this city from the greedy clutches of encroachers and land-grabbers can be a best take-off point.

There are other areas as well which demand immediate attention. For instance, the months-long shutdown after the August 05, 2019 developments, followed almost immediately by another shutdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, has been like a God-sent opportunity for the unscrupulous lot. In complete and brazen violation of the laid down rules and norms, shops and other commercial establishments have come up where they should not have been. While the government lands including the edges and banks of some important water-bodies like Anchar, Khushal Sar, Brari Nambal lakes, or for that matter the Bagh-e-Nund Singh right under the SMC’s proverbial nose have been encroached upon big time, commercial activities have been also initiated in certain residential colonies of Srinagar. Residents of scores of such areas despite flagging these violations to the concerned agencies including with the Deputy Commissioner Srinagar, are still waiting for action against the violators.

Obviously, as the hindsight has it, violations do not take place in vacuum. There is a deep and visible nexus of the greedy and unscrupulous with the police and the SMC and other agencies – a symbiotic relationship encouraged and nourished by open exchange of sleazy money, read corruption. Simply put: everything has a price tag here; so those who violate laws and rules buy the official favours – which is often by way of authorities turning a blind eye to their machinations. This is the sad state of affairs everywhere, in the city and the countryside. So when people are told that accountability and transparency have been brought about in the governance systems, they can’t help but have a hearty laugh or share a mournful groan at such boastful claims. Good governance will certainly make a big, pleasant and meaningful difference to people’s lives only if it somehow manages to escape the political speeches and official assertions, and reaches where it is supposed to be – on the ground zero in the hill and dale, city and towns, roads and streets, and course the government offices in Kashmir.

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