Tame them now
Where is the government? This might seem a weird question, but the qualifiers that people back up this query with makes one understand the message they want to convey. “If a government is not able to make butchers and grocers and milk-men to adhere to the rates fixed by it, one has a reason to question its utility.”
Take the argument forward and expand it to bring in other services as well, then, one can say with absolute surety that the administration has completely failed in giving common people any semblance of the rule of the law. It is not only the mutton or milk-sellers or grocers but almost anybody and everybody selling anything in Kashmir prefers to go by their own rule – which is that there is no rule. Traders do whatever they want to do, and howsoever they are able to do it and nobody actually raises a brow. The administration usually opts to look other way, for the two sides have cultivated a deft understanding wherein they scratch each-others proverbial backs and distribute the spoils among themselves – the sleazy profits realized by fleecing the ordinary people through black-marketing and profiteering.
Hindsight has it that whenever administration, owing to whatever reasons, tries to tame the unruly business-people, the latter would opt for a strike to blackmail both administration as well as the people into submission. Our butchers have taken this skill to enviable heights over the years. But this does not mean that others are lagging behind. Be it grocers or those selling poultry or any other edibles, everyone knows how to get away with their selfish ways and the administration has thus far only been an inert onlooker, always choosing to fall in line once it gets its share of the murky money.
Interestingly, each time administration tries crack whip on the greedy traders, latter retaliate by creating artificial scarcity of the essential edibles. Like always, the butchers and of course the whole-sale mutton dealers or ‘Kothdars’ have held an entire population to ransom all along, as have those selling poultry, milk and milk products.
Going back to the initial assertion, if administration here had been active and sensitive to the public needs and problems, it would have initiated punitive action against these people who are blackmailing the masses here.
Whenever a butcher (or ‘Kothdar’) or a grocer applies for a license for a particular business, they actually sign in an oath and pledge to offer certain services to the people (supply mutton or milk, for instance), and also assure that in doing so they will adhere to certain rules and regulations pertaining to the quality as well as prices of these commodities as notified under law or prescribed by the by the government (through its concerned agencies) from time to time. Now when these people breach their part of the contract (as they have done on innumerable occasions), why doesn’t the government initiate action against them? What holds divisional administration from canceling their licenses and devising some alternative means to ensure the supply of essential and quality edibles to the people at reasonable rates?
Instead of taking any serious action against the erring traders, the administration here has perfected the style of issuing only empty warnings and threats. Fact of the matter is that given the amount and extent of unemployment in Kashmir, there are so many other people and parties who are willing to substitute the unscrupulous lot – butchers, kothdars, poultry dealers, grocers, et al. Why not go for it? It is time that administration communicates to all ‘black-mailers’ that it too has a backbone to stand high and erect on. It need not buckle or bend before the unreasonable demands of the greedy business-people. The number of unemployed and under-employed people in the state is already so mammoth that if the administration wishes, it can, with a lit bit of creative thinking and some small incentives, put in place a very viable alternative for any and every kind of service by simply roping in and tapping in on the huge unused or under-utilized human resource. Nothing and nobody is indispensable; everything and everyone has a replacement. Just think about the alternatives. Public needs cannot be left to the mercy of few greedy business-people.