Can Sayeed handle mismatch between resources and expectations in J&K?
Jammu/Srinagar: While Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed insists two months is hardly time to judge his government, the common man here believes the PDP-BJP coalition has begun its innings on a disappointing note.
Talking to mediapersons in winter capital Jammu, Sayeed said he does not believe in making tall claims.
“My government would be completing 90 days on June 1. I do not believe in making tall claims. My thrust is on good governance, transparency, anti-corruption and revival of the panchayati raj system in the state”, Sayeed told media persons during a luncheon interaction in Jammu last week.
The problem for Sayeed and his allies in the BJP is that while agreeing that two months might be too short a period to judge any government, the common man feels the present political dispensation in the state is neither here nor there.
“During the previous government, officials used to do your work after accepting bribes. The problem with the present government is that even after ministers call officials on pressing public issues, they remain unmoved,” Ali Muhammad Dar, 65, a contractor in central Kashmir’s Chadoora tehsil, told IANS.
The state government is hard pressed for finances and needs a bail out till procedural wrangles are addressed by the central government.
Talking to IANS at an informal interaction, the chief minister said: “Funds will come. There is no problem on that front. There are procedures to be followed and once the procedures are completed funds will flow.”
Contractors, who sat on a hunger strike in summer capital Srinagar last week, say the state government owes them Rs.900 crore ($142 million) for works allotted to them.
“We have raised loans and created individual indebtedness to execute works allotted to us. No payment was received by us which was due before March 31,” said Muzaffar Ahmad, 46, a local contractor.
Public Works Minister and legislator from Amira Kadal assembly constituency Syed Altaf Bukhari said sit-ins and peaceful protests are part of the democratic exercise and need not rattle the government.
Bukhari’s problem is that the police have been using water cannons, batons and tear smoke shells on an almost regular basis to disperse protestors in the Residency Road and Amira Kadal areas.
From need-based contractual workers demanding regularization to government teachers demanding salaries that haven’t been paid for months, protests have become a routine in Srinagar city.
“We come from different areas of the Valley. We gather at the Press Enclave on the Residency Road to attract media attention so that our cries finally reach those in power”, said Manzoor Ahmad, 24, a school teacher from north Kashmir’s Kupwara district.
“The problem for our ruling alliance is that the previous NC-Congress government issued employment orders to nearly 26,000 people without any budgetary provision.
“These people were given employment orders days before the model code of conduct came into force (in late October 2014) for the state assembly elections. It was a political move without caring for the future of the people so engaged.
“Where are their salaries? Where are the posts against which they have been given engagement orders? Where is the budgetary provision for such a fraudulent recruitment,” a senior BJP leader from the Jammu region asked.
For those not demanding wages and regularization, the skyrocketing prices of essential commodities is the reason to thrash the ruling alliance.
“If ‘Acche Din’ means peas costing 50 rupees per kilogram and tomatoes costing 40 rupees per kilogram then it is okay,” Shabir Ahmad, 39, who lives in Srinagar’s old city area, told IANS rather disgustedly.
Adding to the disappointment of the common man in Kashmir is the fact that the much hyped relief to victims of last year’s unprecedented floods is still awaited.
“We got insurance claims, but the state government has so far done nothing to re-establish our devastated businesses,” Nazir Ahmad, 45, a shopkeeper in uptown Maisuma area, told IANS.
The problem for Mufti Sayeed is that the people expect development, peace and jobs during his rule.
Would the lack of financial support from the centre and the baggage from his predecessors become more than what the wily old politician can handle? People would know before the year is old.