The government order last week that imposed a blanket ban on storage, sale, possession and use of heavy heating appliances such as blowers, heaters and radiators in central Kashmir’s Ganderbal was so ill-conceived that it was withdrawn within hours following a barrage of criticism.
A corrigendum was soon issued by the Deputy Commissioner Ganderbal, the officer who had issued the order earlier, which now prohibits sale, purchase and use of “banned nichrome coil based crude water heaters and crude cooking heaters, which do not conform to the relevant specifications of the Bureau of India Standards.”
The two orders – the one that was withdrawn and another issued as a corrigendum – were aimed at ensuring efficient use of electricity and its conservation during the ongoing winter season, which is going to continue for at least three months.
It is the duty of the administration to ensure an uninterrupted power supply during the harshest periods of winter, when much of Kashmir depends on traditional and modern heating appliances to keep themselves and their children and elderly warm in freezing climatic conditions.
The order, however, was grossly irresponsible and shifted the responsibility of ensuring the continuous power supply to the consumers. If the solution to ensure uninterrupted power supply is to not use it for the purposes it is meant for, it is surely a bizarre solution.
The winters in Kashmir are harsh. The temperatures fall to freezing levels for a minimum forty-day period of the chilai kalan. Those are tough times to live, especially for the children and the elderly, who are weak in terms of immunity, prone to illnesses and may already be on life-support medicines. The cold of winter, in the absence of proper heating mechanisms, can mean death to many frail and old bodies.
So the order – though withdrawn under public pressure – placing a blanket ban on use of heating appliances was cruel and inhumane. It is just another incident that proves that the bureaucracy, left alone to govern and administer without the overview of a political structure, can be totalitarian and foolish.
The lack of knowledge about local issues and lifestyle, coupled with an urge to copy-paste irrelevant solutions from other locations, are becoming an unfortunate working style of the bureaucracy in Kashmir. The bureaucracy continues to remain indifferent and ill-informed about the ways and the essentials of life in Kashmir. That is the reason why, month after month, government orders are causing more disturbances than enhancing stability.
The examples are there to see for everyone. The improperly managed transportation of apple-laden trucks last month, which were forced to stop along the Srinagar-Jammu highway for several days, caused irreversible damage to the local economy and has shattered the hopes of the farmers.
Another example of the bureaucratic fallacy is the current working style of the body overseeing the projects of Srinagar Smart City. Most of the works that have been ordered and are underway right now are almost hostile to the objectives of the Smart City project. The intense insistence on destroying the existing works and redoing them into a fancy avatar of the same are not a solution and it will not make Srinagar a smart city in any way.
The amount of infrastructure damage along Polo View Street makes no sense. Why was the road in the heart of Srinagar’s already congested commercial nerve center dug out and is going to be restricted for pedestrian movement only? How is this going to achieve the goal of making Srinagar a smart city? The officers, who devised this idea of destroying the existing infrastructure and rebuilding it with minor changes, need to answer to the people who pay huge taxes.
Talking about the Polo View Street, it is simply shocking to even imagine that a major connecting road will be shut for vehicular traffic in a densely congested space like Lal Chowk, which remains jam-packed for most hours of the day and has a lack of road network that should be there in the commercial heartland of the capital city.
The officers who are involved in such planning, just to satiate their ego more than solving any problem, should sometimes try to step out of their government vehicles and walk on the streets like a common man. They will curse themselves for what they have done. While a large amount of taxpayers’ money is spent on these maddening projects, the lanes in the interior of the cities continue to look like dug out paddy fields.
While these officers pat each other on the back, it is shocking to see the level of their mismanagement. The Deputy Commissioner of Pulwama district was awarded for excellence in public administration in April this year and yet the case of compensation for losses to livestock caused by June snowfall in highland pastures, which was categorized as a natural disaster, is pending for the last four months.
There is little that can be of any value to those who don’t want to learn. The administration and officers should not suffer from this syndrome. It will bring glory to none, just miseries to the people.