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10th January '2014
Kashmir’s Neros!

Just a couple of feet of heavy snowfall have totally paralysed the entire Kashmir because of what some call administrative unpreparedness. However, there is more to the failure of administration at the critical juncture. It is the rulers who control the administrative machinery who need to take the blame. Merely sitting in cosy committee rooms and reviewing the preparedness over hot tea or coffee does not make the administrative machinery more efficient and alert. Apart from ensuring accountability at every level, the practical lead given to the workers in the field not only by the administrative heads but by the rulers themselves can make a difference. If some semblance of normalcy is returning it is not because of the rulers. Rather it is in spite of them. They should be thankful that the staff at the grass roots level is putting their best in spite of the most difficult working conditions and lack of proper facilities.

If the power supply keeps on running or has been restored in some areas it is because of what one calls PDL (Permanent Daily Wagers) of the department who are yet to be regularised even after 20 years of service or so! The roads are getting cleared because of people like Rafiq Ahmad of Mechanical Engineering Department who has given his life on the job. Woking in sub-zero temperatures without proper clothing and other facilities is not an easy task. One has to only watch on foreign TV channels workers doing similar jobs during bad weather with most sophisticated warm clothing, bright coloured security jackets, gloves, hats and most modern implements. One could easily have the similar equipment here if we had not wasted major chunk of our money on fancy golf courses, cable cars and other recreational facilities enjoyed only by few members of the elite. These new Maharajas living on the Gupkar Road (these days renamed by some as the “Gatkar Road” because of the darkness the ruler living there has given to the people in severe winter) would have had the first-hand experience but for their cosy stay with the Durbar in Jammu. The high voltage line carrying supply from Chashmashai station had snapped. The entire Gupkar area too had plunged into darkness! Never mind if for security reasons the Maharaja’s Residence is supplied by essential services feeder in spite of the fact that he was not there! Of course it is more important than a lifesaving hospital. To realise the misery people are facing they have just to go out of Srinagar to see that quite a few areas have been without power for days on end.

It is said that when Rome was burning, the Nero was watching from the balcony of his palace and fiddling with his guitar. He was shedding tears on this misfortune which according to some was started by him to clear some areas of Rome! Similar is the story of Queen Marie Antoinette. When the revolutionaries were storming her palace, she asked her courtiers why people were shouting. When they told her that they had no bread, she said, “Why don’t they eat cakes?” On being told that they had no water, she said, “Why don’t they drink champagne?” It is said that when Marie Antoinette was put in prison by the revolutionaries, her entire hair turned white in a single night! When Kashmir freezes, the modern day Nero keeps on tweeting sitting in cosy places or flying in choppers and special aircraft snapping beautiful landscapes from the windows. He too, like the Queen Marie Antoinette, is totally disconnected from the people at the grass roots level suffering the miseries of winter especially in some remote places. Incidentally, it appears that he does get tense and is worried sometimes because his hair has turned white at such a young age! The worst tragedy is that some of the opposition leaders are worse than the Nero who at least watched the burning Rome from his balcony. These people criticize the rulers sitting in their warm rooms without doing any productive work themselves. They could at least move about in the field among the suffering people and relieve some of their hardships.

These days there is loud thinking and common talk about having someone like Kejrilal and his Aam Aadmi Party in Kashmir. Well, Srinagar is not Delhi and it does not require Kejrilals in politics. There are already scores of politicians of all hues and shades leading people in a dozen different directions. What Srinagar needs is Aam Aadmi initiative in civic life to improve the daily living conditions of the Aam Aadmi here. We need broom wielding crowds taking the initiative in civic affairs on their own. Civil Society leaders sitting in cosy restaurants and discussing problems over tea do not help the suffering people in any way. They do a lot of pinning but no productive work. Someone motivating people and then practically leading them in the field may make a difference and force the administration to be more responsible and accountable. But the moot point is who will do it? The disconnection of the rulers and their opponents from the people as well as the dichotomy of the main narrative and the woes of daily life for the leaders of popular movement appears as a logjam! We may continue to suffer the hardships of day to day living for quite sometime!

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