Bad and Flawed Public Policy

Bad and Flawed Public Policy

The J&K High court on Wednesday ordered the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) to ensure that street vendors do not occupy roads and footpaths. In another directive, the court said that the registration be suspended of public transport vehicles that have insufficient space for passengers. The nature of the directives appears to be slanted or focused on commuters and passengers and relief for both these groups. The fact of the matter is that these domains are and pertain to the domain of public policy, but things have come to such a pass to warrant judicial intervention. Public policy in Kashmir is static as opposed to dynamic- in terms of conception, formulation and execution. Ideally, there these constituent components of public policy should be seamless and frictionless, to the extent they can be. But, in a place like Kashmir, these components act as independent variables that neither connect with each other nor speak to each other, so to speak. The result is a mess and disorder. The reasons for these conditions are multiple. In the main, these pertain to patronage politics, warped nature of public policy, decrepit policy paradigms which brook no change when the overall conditions change- population growth, unplanned urbanization , shrinking public spaces and places and economic growth( whatever its nature might be), among other things. The cumulative result of all these factors is intense stress on urban spaces like cities. The real issue then is flawed public policy. But the Court, by not taking a holistic view, in order to cleanse cityscapes , is penalizing that class of people who are the most vulnerable- street vendors. On the face of it, to repeat, the only stakeholder that the Court seems to be taking cognizance of is commuters and passengers.- for, apparently aesthetic reasons and ease of commute. Where are the street vendors to go? The economics of street vending is predicated upon the volume and intensity of commuters and their buying needs or even caprices. If vendors are removed, the obvious corollary is that street vendors are deprived of livelihoods. Yes, our cityscapes need to be clean, aesthetic and free from clutter and hence chaos, but why penalize those who are the by products of bad public policy. If it is in or within the remit of the court, then it should issue directives to those who have actually created this mess and disorder; not merely the weak and the vulnerable.

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