By Umar Shah:
At a time when the PDP in Kashmir is ridiculed by the people for failing them on all fronts, the ban on beef has come as a blessing in disguise for this 16 year old party, shrouding all its inabilities and inefficiencies. More than one year has passed since the floods that ravaged the Kashmir valley- causing large scale damage to public and private property. As elections were announced merely a month after the floods, PDP- then the opposition party with 21 MLAs, came out with the pledge to rebuild Kashmir. It also promised political space for the Hurriyat, release of political prisoners, a war against the corruption and end in unemployment.
After remaining in power for seven months with the BJP as its alliance partner, the PDP virtually did nothing that could have strengthened peoples’ belief in the electoral process nor did it display effective governance.
The much-hyped relief package for the flood victims is in limbo, and so is any assurance about its approval from New Delhi. The flood hit traders, besides the common people, had pinned hopes on the new government to end their woes but as months passed, with not even a single penny spent on rehabilitation process, anti-incumbency started sprouting its roots. Even the state’s finance minister found it difficult to comment on how much and when the relief for the flood victims would be approved by the Government of India. A top government official said while pleading anonymity that till date, there has been no money given by the Centre for the rehabilitation of the people who were ravaged by the floods of September-2014 adding that, “We have been giving meagre amounts from the CM’s relief fund. Something that cannot even be termed as a relief.”
Another challenge for the PDP government was to end unemployment. The number of registered unemployed youth has crossed 6 lakh mark in Jammu and Kashmir. But Government estimates are traditionally 50% of the actual figures since those who are long-term unemployed, and not registered are not counted in official figures. Ironically, there were less than 3000 posts till date filled by the present PDP regime in the state, leaving lakhs of educated youth in a lurch. There are, according to the government, 80 thousand posts vacant in various departments, but so far no effort has been made to fill them or even refer them to the recruitment boards.
The PDP had also promised the release of the political prisoners in Kashmir- something for which the party sought votes at large scale. Ten days after forming the government, Mufti’s close confidant and Education Minister Naeem Akhtar said, “PDP’s policy is not keeping people in jails beyond the call of law. That is our policy, and there is nothing new about it. Everyone knows that we will pursue this policy”. But after facing the heat over the release of the separatist Masarat Alam, this chapter got closed. There has been no single political detainee who has been released. Sources in the State’s home department said that even after compiling the list of those who ought to be released, the sanction was never accorded.
Another front on which the PDP regime cuts a sorry figure is in putting the State’s economy back on track. While presenting the budget this year in April, finance minister Haseeb Drabu claims to be working on making the state self-sufficient and ending the begging-bowl syndrome. Seven months after, he admitted that there are the General Provident fund cases of even the cancer patients pending for the disbursement. “There is no money in the coffers. Where from would I get it- I don’t understand,” Drabu said in September while addressing the group of casual labours who were sitting on a hunger strike as they were not paid their wages since the past six months. Ironically, at a time when the government was scrambling to shore up its finances, it ordered the purchase of 100 SUVs for the ministers. Each vehicle had a cost of Rs 11,26,208.
But, the old Mufti, at last, should thank his stars that the broken promises and bizarre measures have taken a back seat. Ban on beef is dominating the scene. Journalists, activists, cartoonists, separatists- all speaking, sketching and pitching over a single issue. The beef ban. Its history, it’s present and, more important, its ramifications, if not revoked, are discussed, debated and deliberated. Interestingly, the PDP, since the High Court order, has been issuing weird statements about the ban. Sometimes terming it as ‘nothing new’ and at times calling it ‘subtle.’ Moving the Supreme Court against the High Court judgement, PDP, on the other hand, allows BJP (its coalition partner) to oppose any bill in the legislative assembly that would seek the revocation of the beef ban.
As simply described by a shop owner in Srinagar’s old city, PDP and BJP have fixed the game. Both sides are striving to score their political points- both will oppose and support the beef ban making it difficult for the masses to understand who is on which side.
Editor’s Note: The facts of this article could not be independently verified.