Postpone Jammu and Kashmir polls for rebuilding

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Will Jammu and Kashmir state see some months of Governor’s rule in the run-up  to the elections?

Will the reins of power be back in the hands of Governor N N Vohra, once again?

Vohra had taken charge as Governor after Lt Gen (Retd.) S K Sinha left the state on June 25, 2008, just when the Amarnath land row was starting. And he had to take charge of the state after the resignation of then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, who quit on July 7, 2008.

The days of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah at the helm of affairs and contributing in any worthwhile manner seem to be dwindling. He seems to be living on borrowed time and it looks certain now that the next elections will not be held under him.

The stories of devastation from many areas of the Kashmir Valley have been pouring in, and things seem to be very, very bad. Very, very ugly as they stand now because even the restoration of the Srinagar-Jammu road link looks like a long shot.

We often call this road the lifeline, and when it is snapped, the Valley’s link to the outside world also gets snapped. The only way to link up the Valley is to use the air route, and using aircraft is always a costly affair.

In fact, prohibitive costs of air freight and fare apart, the capacity of the Srinagar-Jammu road is far more than the air route. Via road, far more goods, medicines, and people can move in, and move out, if need be, as they normally do when it is open for most parts of the year.

This lifeline has remained snapped for over nine days now and may continue for some time more. When restored, movement of goods, most vital among them being relief material, will be slow. Hopefully, the traffic police will behave better and not in the manner in which they do normally with vehicles carrying outside registration number plates.

As expected, the election dates for Haryana and Maharashtra have been announced by the Election Commission of India (ECI). Who wants elections or even to think about them in Jammu and Kashmir? The answer is Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has already declared that polls should be held on time.

Given the scale of rescue, relief and rehabilitation efforts required to be put in for rebuilding Kashmir, it is anybody’s guess how long it may take. Rough estimates are that it may take years, and years, to rebuild the damaged infrastructure alone.

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) officials have estimated that at least 3,000 km road network in the state may have been damaged. And they will need over a year and Rs 1,500 crore to get going and restore this infrastructure even partially, to have some semblance of order.

Time and money being two factors already mentioned, gathering such manpower, material and trained manpower too will be challenges difficult to meet.

Throughout the rescue efforts, it has become clear that politicians are entirely missing from the scene. They are a category apart and can mobilise manpower, muscle and money for winning elections, for themselves, and can’t do the same for the people in distress.

Of course, the politicians too are among victims and that serves them right perhaps. It would have been so unfair had most of them escaped and only the poor paid for their follies. Indeed, the follies of the politicians to lead people in the right direction and promote encroachments all along the river banks for a consideration, whether it be at Gujjar Nagar or elsewhere in Jammu or on the meandering banks of gentle-flowing Jhelum!

It will be great if the ECI decides to take an early decision on postponement of elections in Jammu and Kashmir. People will only heave a sigh of relief, in more ways than one, if this is done. Earlier the better.

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