Yes Minister: Power and Accountability in Kashmir

Yes Minister: Power and Accountability in Kashmir

Be it the passing cavalcade of the chief minister , or a political functionary or even a minion, or someone from the top echelons of the bureaucracy- when the visible portions of the administration swing into action even to the extent of inconvenience to the people- one theme runs through it all: power flows upward in Kashmir instead of downward to the people.  The same holds true for accountability. Broken down, this means that people who are supposed to serve the public serve power instead. The consequences are writ large in all domains of governance in Kashmir. In a way and to a certain extent, this dynamic is reminiscent of the famous British sitcom, “Yes, Minister” , carried in the early eighties by the BBC. Yes Minister followed and parodied the ministerial trajectory of Jim Hacker, a minister.  The sitcom illustrated the multiple struggles of the Minister to formulate and enact legislation or apply policy changes which are consistently opposed by the British Civil Service, especially by the Minister’s permanent Secretary, Sir Humphrey Appleby. While Appleby is outwardly deferential towards the new minister(hence Yes Minister), his real agenda is  to defend the status quo at all costs.  The aim here is not to merely indict the bureaucracy in Kashmir and paint it as an irredeemably obstructionist force and it is neither to exonerate the political class here; nor is the aim to draw a strict parallel between the sitcom and the conditions that obtain in Kashmir. While there do exist similarities between what Yes Minister aimed to draw out and the politician –bureaucratic dynamic in Kashmir ,  but here power is so warped and embedded in the vitals of the politico-social processes  that seeking, pleasing and ingratiating to power becomes an end itself. This dynamic, to repeat, is structurally, woven into the entrails of power political constructions and frameworks in Kashmir. In the process, public administration becomes convoluted here, governance becomes a problem itself and people suffer.  Unless and until, power flows to the people and unless, the administration and governance grid or framework is made to work for the people, the same fate will befall the administration’s city plan for Srinagar. Termed as the Capital City Development Plan(CCDP), the CCDP aims to transform the development of Srinagar city and it is delinked from the District Development plan. There is also latitude for local MLA’s in terms of availability and disbursal of funds which means a clear element of patronage in the whole scheme. In the final analysis, schemes or policy developments like the CCDP amount to tinkering at the edges. Tinkering and changing nomenclatures or even redistributing authority and the locus of spending are not what will alleviate the everyday issues and problems of the people. What will remedy these is a whole sale reorientation of the governance and policy paradigm in Kashmir- the kind where both power and accountability flow to the people. Will this ever happen? Unlikely because Kashmir is Kashmir- a region where the primacy of politicking over politics  and the centrality of conflict ensures that it remains as it is.

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