It is not being impolite. My considered view is, whatever their façade mostly they are on assignment in Kashmir. Few weeks back, when more than half of Srinagar city was still submerged in ice cold waters, thousands marooned in their houses were waiting for crumbs of relief and were on a lookout for brave hearts to rescue them. Thousands others were suffering ordeals in temporary shelters and relief camps some activists from New Delhi arrived in Srinagar. Ostensibly, to express solidarity with the deluged multitudes, assess magnitude of the losses, severity of the situation and to advocate adequate funds for rehabilitation of people and reconstruction of the state. These activist, otherwise having a friendly profile in Kashmir invited a select group of scribes, civil society members and business leaders for an interaction session.
Expressing sorrow in most plaintive language, over the sufferings caused to people by worst ever floods in past many centuries they immediately got down to brass-tacks of objective behind their visit to Kashmir by asking the select gathering how appropriate it would be holding Assembly election in the State in November or December.
I have no definite information, how the select group responded to the query from this “soft-face” from New Delhi and if this group saw holding elections in the state practicable in December. For failure of incumbent “Sarkar” to deliver a party believing that it has better chance to make a comeback lobbying for elections on due December is understood. Nevertheless, talking about elections in Kashmir at times, when furious waters have swept away our heritage like a straw, crumpled entire infrastructure of health care, education and development like a tin foil and shattered our economy is nothing less than mocking at people’s sufferings. Inurse no grouse against politicians who are oblivious to the sufferings of flood affected people seeking elections in the State at an earliest.
For politician in Jammu and Kashmir engaged in “electoral-politics” elections have more to do with their bread and better than governance. Romping or managing a victory or winning a berth in the cabinet means to majority of them buying prime properties in Dubai, constructing malls in metropolises, getting acres of government land mutated in the names of their kith and kin and appointing their own relations and supporters in government and creating their fiefdoms in administration. Some ‘camp follower politicians’, who have been fattening on the political uncertainty in the state, see the disastrous after-deluge scenario as most opportune for launching their children in politics.
The question arises should the Election Commission of India submit to the whims and fancies of this class of politicians. And instead of allowing the administration and the private initiatives to put the state back on the wheels announce elections in the state at a time when people of the state more particularly in Kashmir are fighting a battle for survival. The initial estimates made public by an advocacy group and endorsed by the state government suggest that state has suffered a loss of rupees one trillion and if one adds damages suffered by the GOI establishments in the state and private sector the losses can exceed to over rupees 1.5 trillion.
According to preliminary official estimates ‘the housing sector suffered losses over Rs. 30,000 crore while business sector incurred losses worth over Rs. 70,000 crores. The floods according to government directly affected 12.5 Lakh families across the State, while independent sources have been suggesting that over seventy percent population suffered because of the deluge. Losses suffered by public and private sectors are very huge and reconstructing these need immense resources, conducive administrative atmosphere and responsive and committed administrative machinery. Official figures suggested that 353864 houses were damaged by the floods and with each passing day more and more houses are collapsing in some posh colonies and lower middle class dwellings of Srinagar city and some rural areas. In coming winter months providing warm shelter not tents to hundreds of thousands of families who have lost their houses will be a stupendous task fraught with dangers. In case the state administration fails to address the problem timely, it has potential of taking an ugly turn that can bring the state to the brink of a law and order situation of far bigger magnitude. That can add to the miseries of the people.
With governments in New Delhi and Srinagar not having even taken first steps towards rehabilitation and reconstruction and continuing to be clueless about fixing of priorities and arranging funds required for reconstruction, the Election Commission announcing dates for election a month or so later is ill-advised. Sixty years history bears testimony that holding of elections in the state even in normal circumstances is not a cakewalk but a dangerous gamble in as much as it often assumes colossal dimensions like anti- election campaigns many times putting the administration out of gear. The 1987 elections are a classical examples. The 2008 elections that trigged 2009 and 2010 agitations could be the most recent examples. In view of the magnitude of the devastation of the recent floods and suffering of people the state cannot afford a political turmoil or an agitation. It in fact, it needs a congenial atmosphere for mitigating the miseries of people.
It is a common man’s knowledge that the elections in Jammu and Kashmir are not an activity confined to office of the election commission and law and order machinery only but for serious dissent against electoral process in the state these suck entire administrative machinery into its vortex. In the aftermath of the flood when state is putting a demand of Rs.44, 000 Crores special package for providing relief to the sufferers and New Delhi is contemplating to involve the World Bank and Asia Development for rebuilding the damaged public infrastructure the state needs a robust fully focussed and committed administration.
Elections will have to wait till comprehensive plans are drawn for building Kashmir, donor or loaning agencies come forward and process of reconstruction starts in full. History has provided yet another opportunity to NDA government to prove its sincerity towards Jammu and Kashmir.