Populist Posturing

Viewed cursorily, it would seem that the NC is finally showing some semblance of dignity in that it is taking a firm stand and not letting its coalition partner to dictate terms. But ultimately, it is not about taking a firm stand just for the sake of asserting the party identity or somebody’s individuality. What matters is the issue at hand, and how worthwhile or superfluous it is. During the past five years of his tenure, the CM has had many occasions and issues on which he could have asserted himself and which would perhaps have given him recognition as an effective leader of the people he is supposed to be representing. But alas that is not how things move in this part of the world. Here one is not required to carve a niche for himself in order to be recognized as a leader. All that is required is the ability to fit into prefabricated moulds as and when required by the real power-brokers at New Delhi. For, it is a fact that though they may legitimize their claim to being leaders by winning elections, the elected leaders of Kashmir are manufactured in New Delhi albeit from local material.
Kashmir has many issues even if the issue of its disputed status, which seems to have itself become a matter of dispute now, is kept aside. Of late most of the people who are recognized as leaders by the common masses are the ones who have espoused the issue of Kashmir’s disputed status, though presently even this breed of leaders is in a state of disarray. The so-called mainstream leaders, even if they do not make the disputed status of Kashmir their main issue – of course they don’t shy away from milking it for all it is worth whenever the need arises – could still gain a lot of prestige among the masses if they take up other pressing issues. But that is not the case at all. Mainstream leaders, for the most part, remain preoccupied with pulling down each other and currying favour with their masters at the centre. The only issues they take up are populist ones that give them instant popularity with some sections of the people though these issues may not be of much import in the larger scheme of things. These leaders thus expend their energies in taking palliative measures rather than addressing any real issues. Considering the matter of the creation of new administrative units that has resulted in so much fuss, once again a non-issue has been given much hype. The proposed creation is just a populist measure and a bid on part of the NC to woo voters, especially in rural areas. Bringing facilities like education and healthcare to the doorstep of a common man is understandable but carving out new administrative units, ostensibly to bring the administrative machinery to their doorstep, doesn’t really translate into some great advantage. In fact the creation of new administrative units has numerous disadvantages which will far overweigh any supposed advantages of this subdivision. Ours is an age of technology, great strides have been made in the IT sector, consequently centralization of administration and monitoring of various projects is gradually becoming a norm. The creation of new administrative units is thus a retrogressive step.
Further extensions of the existing disproportionately large administrative machinery will entail augmentation of infrastructure as well as manpower. This will put further burden on the cash-strapped economy. The augmentation required will also be non-productive as is true of most of the official machinery which consumes a major portion of funds without having anything to show for it except being a stumbling block by promoting redtape. The state is already suffering because of past populist policies, not the least among those being the promise of a government job for everyone –something that has resulted in the state resources being drained by the salary and pension bill. Instead of taking bold steps like pruning the unproductive employee force it seems that the NC has fallen back on the old sop of generating even more jobs through the creation of new administrative units. Not that it does any good to the ‘beneficiaries’ either, because this sop has lately been spread pretty thin. Pensions have been done away with, and then this scheme of providing a fixed meagre salary for a prolonged probation period was introduced, turning a government job into shackles that leave a person disabled and frustrated.
It would have won the CM some genuine respect if he had instead concentrated on some real developmental activity like increasing power generation which would have a far-reaching impact on the region’s progress. For that matter, an attempt to gain control over existing power generating units, getting them back from the NHPC, would have been a far worthier goal, something worth ‘sacrificing’ the chair for.