(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 65, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. Dr. Iqbal is the Vice Principal, Controller and the head of department – Operation Theater Technology at Tahira Khanam’s Paramedical Sciences Institute, Lawaypora, Srinagar. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)
State in Disarray
Admitted that a concerned Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah preferred to stay put in freezing cold of Srinagar as the snowfall put the administration out of gear, instead of taking the plea of his job entitling him to be in Jammu secretariat, the concern could be read as self-satisfactory as well as generally gratifying.
Granted CM, young in years as well as in spirit, is a well meaning gentleman, with a pronounced preference for doing the right thing at the right time, at the right place. Accepted that more often than not, CM voices public concern, as he did when Altaf Ahmad in Uri died of bullets fired by Central Industrial Police Force, when as per numerous accounts firing was unwarranted.We may concede all that vis-à-vis the chief minister, who has been elected by popular vote. On his own admission, the vote was purely for running an administration; in no way did it imply a survey of opinion on the future of what in its short form is called the ‘K’ issue. Still, CM comments frequently on ‘K’ issue. His critics say, it is because of his propensity to be one-upping on separatists, or to take the wind out of their sails. Whatever it might imply, he is within his rights to say, what he says loudly.
Having conceded CM’s right, he, however, remains open to question on whether whatever the steps he takes are result oriented or not. That is the litmus test of performance. On that the CM’s record is not laudatory at all. However even on result oriented assessment, CM may get a partial let-off, as it is extremely difficult to get through the web of bureaucratic hurdles. The sclerosed arteries of administrative circulation are so hardened, as to make its health highly suspect. Nothing ever seems to move it, be it Omar Abdullah or anyone else. Having served for three decades in Middle East, where regimes are dictatorial, anyone from our parts with similar experience would swear that things move faster and much more meaningfully than the democratic system, we subscribe to and swear by. However this may not be taken as a plea for supporting dictatorship, with its obvious flaws and squeezing of political space for dissent.
JK state’s health is suspect, it rates high in negative sense…on corruption, on administrative in-aptness, with its summer capital—Srinagar rated the fourth filthiest city. This is in spite of nature having endowed the Valley with attractive water bodies, and with majestic hills surrounding it. The Valley has a salubrious climate. All that the Valley is decorated with in natural scheme of things stands nullified by an administrative system bent upon reversing what the nature has provided. In the process of reversal, the administrative anarchy in the state has left nothing undone! A liberal dose of political favours has provided the support base for the anarchy. What is true of the Valley holds well beyond it. In Chenab Basin, in Pir Panchal range, in the plains of Jammu, beyond Zojila, on heights where vegetation is un-sustainable and life sustenance challenging, the story of administrative anarchy repeats many times over.
JK State is unable to get its act together; nothing demonstrated it better than the recent snowfall that threw the administration out of gear. Life in the Valley was back to where it stood a century or two back, in spite of the technological advancement having made it easier in much of planet earth. In spite of the fact that we stand quite high in educational advancement, whether our textbooks strengthen the moral fibre within is highly suspect. There are some lessons we have readily learnt, squeezing the 14 feet alleys and side alleys to 10 feet, by advancing our lawns by a foot or two on either side. Inside our cosy homes, we can proudly claim to have the best of tapestries, wooden panelling, and wall-to-wall carpets covered by woollen or silken rugs. Our kitchens, pantries, crockery and cutlery are indeed a state of art exhibition, custom made, so as to say. Yet a snowfall over a few hours or a day is enough to throw life out of gear, as personal comfort, the comfort of the family remains the concern. The societal care stays much outside the realm of our scheme of things, as well as the concept of a community life.
Our politicians, bureaucrats—many if not all, our police force, the administrative system, or what we in our propensity of being political liberals call politico-bureaucratic nexus remain part of us—first cousins, second cousins, close or distant relatives, friends or acquaintances. Before blaming the system, we need to go on a self-assessment exercise. We need to accept that it is collective failure—failure to get acquainted with what life is all about…its subtleties, the finer aspects, the spiritual upbringing and the moralistic tuning. We may cite just one example, if only to illustrate the point, and also dwell in what hurts us most—the power cuts in spite of having the potential to generate 20,000 MW, the lower estimate being 16,000 MW from our water sources.
Figures relate that National Hydroelectric Power Corporation [NHPC] a government of India [GOI] subsidiary has grown from a 1975 initial investment base of 2000 million to an approximate investment base of over Rs 3,87,180 million with an authorised share capital of Rs 1,50,000 Million. From 2000 million to 3, 87,180 million works out to an enhancement of 193.5 times in its capital outlay. The huge gain has made it a ‘Mini-Ratna’ [analogous to Emperor Akbar’s Nav-Ratans] No grudges, except that out of its 5295 MW capacity of power generation, J&K state contributes approximately one third…1680 MW, and it is widely felt the state gets peanuts in return!
NHPC did what it thought serves its interest, what about our collective inertia? The government might have been on exhibition drive of its in-aptitude, what about the civil society? Was its slumber so deep, that it allowed happening, what eventually did happen? And then our bureaucracy, a societal arm paid for safeguarding socio-economic interests. For 15 years, it forgot to make proper financial transactions with NHPC. Thus we have 1984 agreement, which entitled Jammu and Kashmir State to 47 percent power from Salal project including 35 percent energy at Busbar rates (generation cost) and 12 percent royalty. Instead it continued to get only 23 percent on these rates; the losses have grown up to Rs 2340 crores.
A leading Srinagar daily reported the loss quoting sources privy to it, in its 4th January dispatch. News agency KNS also carried the news. Could all this be explained, unless we admit collective inertia? Instead we take the easier way out, blame the government, raise a few slogans, go on hartals now and then, stage a protest demonstration, pelt a few stones, and the get into a state of selective amnesia! We may still fuel an argument that whatever we may do, NHPC has no right to fiddle with our resources…leave the water resources, what about our water bodies? The state of water bodies may leave us with hardly an option, but to hang our heads in shame. We are the worst sufferers of our own cruelty…the cruelty of spirit!
The society at large remains obsessed with ‘K’ issue resolution. That may remain a priority; times have shown that we need resolution of the conflict within our societal order. The conflict within is one-upmanship in proportions rarely seen outside the Valley. Ours is a society in disarray. Whileas the planet is getting into post modernistic gear; it remains questionable whether we could call ourselves modern, as implied in its definition. Questionable, as merely a day of snowfall takes us back to medieval times. It calls for some serious introspection, the question remains are we up to it? Your guess could be as good as mine!