The solidarity that came to the fore during floods needs to sustain and percolate into other aspects of life for Kashmir to emerge as a truly caring and responsible society.
Srinagar is still plagued by cluttered kerbsides and walkways constructed in most markets and thoroughfares at great cost to the public exchequer.
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.
The municipality’s herculean efforts in the flood aftermath, and in reorganising itself subsequently deserve to be commended, but it needs cooperation from the public as well. 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.
Also, the municipalities’ complaint of inadequate staff needs to be addressed, as, according to insiders, shortage of field staff severely hampers sanitation operations like clearing domestic dust bins in many areas.
The police and the municipality have been rightly lauded for their commendable work during the floods. Would it be too optimistic to hope that these key arms of the government shed their old reputations, and function in the spirit they have in the deluge aftermath?