Potholed Politics

Governments led by pro-India political parties in Jammu and Kashmir never tire of mistaking an orchestrated repetition of stock rituals for governance. Chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed’s speech on India’s Independence Day only reinforced this when he expended a lot of energy on explaining how he had released money for road repairs and how his government had requested “the union government to declare (the) Mughal Road as (an) all-weather highway”. These, he said, were indicators of “developmental initiatives” taken by his government. It is not that chief ministers of Kashmir only are capable of confidently declaring, before audiences of thousands, the seasonal repairing of roads as development – politicians in the sub-continent do so regularly – but only in Kashmir do politicians subsist continuously on such farcical notions of governance.

In his I-Day speech, finance minister Dr Haseeb Drabu announced that 10,000 vacancies in government departments would be filled up in the next four months, but going by the official spokesman’s statement (this newspaper does not have access to  Dr. Drabu’s full speech), the finance minister did not sell this announcement as an achievement of his government. Aware of the financial drain caused by a humongous, unproductive bureaucracy in the state, he added that other options needed to be explored to create jobs as government jobs could not solve the problem of unemployment. But were elections to happen a day after these vacancies are filled, the government would be the first to count this as one of its major milestones. And in the same breath, it would say that salaries for these employees eat up most of the money New Delhi provides the governments in J and K, with very little left to develop sectors required to reduce dependence on government jobs.

Failure is the only end result of this calloused form of administration.

Needless to say, New Delhi holds the purse strings, and the current NDA dispensation has unambiguously shown how it can bring any government in J&K to its knees by choking the flow of funds. The deal, history shows, has been to control politics through economics and vice versa. In such a situation, declaring the repair of a highway as development can only invoke laughter, and pity. Although it is clearly a hopeless case until governance is unshackled from militarised control, pro-India governments in J&K can at least try by resisting the temptation to see filling up of potholes as development.