The disturbing other side of Kashmir’s showcased prosperity becomes evident rather sharply in the month of Ramadan when the devout are enjoined to take particular care of their responsibilities towards the underprivileged and the needy. But even otherwise, sights and signs of suffering and want abound, particularly in Srinagar, where many from outlying districts, particularly remote areas, seek help from residents, sometimes in cash and sometimes in kind.
Kashmir’s summer capital boasts of a number of organisations and trusts purportedly committed to lending a helping hand to the needy, and the state government itself has a full-fledged social welfare department headed by a cabinet minister. By its mandated role, the government department is supposed to operate across the state, and private trusts and institutions can safely be assumed to exist not only in the summer capital but also, at least, in major towns.
Also, over the past two decade-and-a-half particularly, the Valley has seen a rash of mosques and shrines built and renovated through intensive fund-raising drives and donations of people in the neighbourhoods. Many areas in Srinagar have a mosque for almost every mohalla, each with organised management and maintenance structures, again largely funded by locals. This can safely be assumed to be generally the case in all urban centres in Kashmir, like the Baramulla, Sopore, Anantnag and Budgam townships and to a lesser extent for communities living in rural belts and remote areas.
With such a supposedly-robust institutional framework of khair, government as well as private, operational for over a score of years, it is surprising that the Valley should have islands of deep suffering and want amid meretricious prosperity and unconscionable consumption. One would have thought that managements of mosques and shrines that flourish across the Valley would have at least an approximate roll call of households without earning hands and financial support that compels some of their frail and ailing members to solicit help and assistance by going door-to-door in the cities and towns.
So far as the social welfare department is concerned, it seems to have turned itself into just another arm of a bloated and over-staffed bureaucracy, devoid of sensitiveness and fellow-feeling. This holy month would be opportune time for the department, as well as private welfare organisations and the managements of mushrooming mosques and shrines to identify such suffering households for society to extend help in a systematic, accountable and need-based manner, so that no one is forced by circumstances like poverty and unaffordable treatment for severe illnesses to knock at the doors of strangers for help and assistance.