Since the police and other wings of the administration, possibly even municipal functionaries, have long found a goldmine in roadside and pavement vendors, there is little possibility of Srinagar ever getting uncluttered kerbsides and walkways constructed in most markets and thoroughfares at great cost to the public exchequer. It is also unlikely for Srinagar and its citizens to take their place among cities and people with pride in their neighbourhoods.
In most of the city, it is a rare pavement that has not been occupied by handcarts on the one hand, and by shopkeepers on the other, who display merchandise on space supposed to have been provided for pedestrians. In many parts, particularly areas down from Nauhatta, vegetable and fruit vendors regally take over roads, leaving little room for vehicular traffic or movement on foot. Authorities supposed to regulate such issues may well not exist.
The administration’s laxness has other results: every morning, lanes, streets-corners, roads along strings of shops, and sites where vendors ply their trade, are found littered with trash – rotting fruit and vegetable peel, filthy paper-and-plastic wrappers, and peanut shells. This is compounded by mounds of refuse, from shopkeepers, dumped into the streets at closing time, and heaps of garbage from households even in areas where the municipality runs its sanitation fee scheme. No cure seems to be in sight, because it is a mystery how and under what terms road-side vendors and shopkeepers are allowed to run their businesses. The police is notorious for its habit of hafta from every possible source, and the Srinagar municipality, notwithstanding its feeble attempts at functioning, too ineffectual to enforce any code.
Some in the municipality cite the acute paucity of field staff, saying posts falling vacant due to retirement et cetera have not been filled. This, according, to them, severely hampers sanitation operations like clearing domestic dust bins in many areas. Surprising that a city flaunting an automobile almost at every doorstep, feels too poverty-stricken to fund its cleanliness, and that what passes for leadership and government lacks the ability and the conviction to motivate it to do so.
This could not have come about but for the compromised nature of authorities supposed to uphold and enforce rules and regulations. One cannot expect any government functionary, be it from the police, the municipality or any other civic wing, to discipline violators and offenders when they are highly on the take themselves, receiving generous gratification every week as hafta.
And it remains a wonder that streets and lanes lined with generous overnight donations of unsightly refuse and rubbish fail to disturb anyone taking an early morning constitutional – not even worshippers hurrying to mosques for dawn prayers, who are supposed to know that cleanliness was once deemed to be next to godliness.