By Naseer A Ganai
The High Court issued an exemplary order. It sought details of income and assets of all officials of Srinagar Municipal Committee (SMC). The SMC acted like the SMC. It furnished details of assets of sweepers instead.
The court reprimanded the SMC counsel and sought property details of officials, inspectors, ward officers, khilafwarzi officers etc. Property details of their spouses and children. Their movable and immovable assets.
There is no doubt that the SMC is responsible for the ugly growth of the city. The SMC officials, who allowed this to happen, deserve to be punished like the ugly malls they have allowed to construct in the residential areas.
There might be honest officials in the SMC. There is no dearth of honest people in Kashmir or in the SMC. These honest people could be found on any roadside dhaba sipping tea and discussing 'metaphysics' like whether Obama should intervene in Kashmir or whether Taliban would take Kashmir route after the US exist from Afghanistan. Their “other” colleagues have no such philosophical ambitions. They are straightforward. They mean business. Paisa phenko shopping mall dekho.
The “other-ones” usually take a lead. But it is first time, thanks to the High Court, that “the others” might be facing ire of their spouses and children. But then, they say, every “other” has his day.
There is not a single area in the city, which is residential. Every residential area has malls. Every mall has shops. There is an argument. That if these malls would be touched, it would bring chaos and confusion in the society. Will it? Is government afraid about law and order situation? It is joke.
Let us play devil’s advocate and argue that if these malls would be ‘assaulted’ it will bring chaos in the society? But then every chaos brings an order. There is dire need of an order in the society. A common man constructs a house after years of struggle and then neo-rich comes and constructs a huge mall just in front of his house leaving him seething and frustrated with anger. The common man and his children land in a clinic of psychiatrist while as wards of neo-rich enjoy beech dances in England and Bali.
There is dire need to end this belly-dance of neo-rich, who have legalised everything for themselves. Sooner the better. Otherwise tomorrow they would become the United States and it would be difficult to take on them.
There is need for positive intervention. The chaos should not be allowed to go on. It has to be stopped. What has been done has to be undone. The responsibility should be fixed, officials should be identified and punished and people be rid of this chaos, once and forever.
The government must be ordered to earmark some land in the city outskirts for the malls just like you have in other cities. Why you want to choke people of residential areas.
Raj Bagh was once beautiful area to reside. Today its’ residents might be fleeing seeking asylum somewhere. It has become Somalia of Kashmir. There is no order. There is nothing. There are malls, hotels, guest houses, restaurants and more malls.
Barzulla was once a residential area. Now it has malls and more malls. At the pace with which these malls are coming up, soon their owners will post guards outside them, who would force people to enter these malls and ask them to buy something from their shops. Forcible purchase would soon be added into economic lexicon.
Look at the old city. It has become cesspool. If not intervened now the old city would soon turn into Dharavi of Kashmir.
There is not a single building, constructed in past many years, which is an architectural marvel. These building look like stray dogs. They just bark on the city and its’ citizens. The malls and other commercial buildings also reflect aesthetics of the city and its’ people. If we claim we have 5000 year old history. That too a written history. Then the architect of our buildings should reflect that we have an aesthetic sense. But they reflect we have none. They have no connection with our past. On this aspect alone they deserve a harshest punishment. They deserve to be slapped along with those who permitted their construction.
Some malls even don't have parking lots and others don’t have even washing rooms. Such are the people, who own some of these malls. They don't keep washing rooms in their malls. Even their owners deserve mental restructuring.
Those, who propagate the theory that illegal malls bring prosperity and employment, tell half truth. The illegal malls only bring prosperity to mall owners. The malls have brought prosperity among the employees of the SMS, who have permitted them. They have enriched those who have sold these shops. There is no trickle down effect. Malls don’t bring economic prosperity. They only uplift already rich class. Middle class have no money to enter malls to buy branded clothes. They throng Sunday market on Sunday to find out whether they could purchase something there too or not.
No one is against rich. They have every right to be rich and very right to enjoy riches. But being rich doesn't mean you become “mall rich” and construct a mall wherever you wish. No illegal mall is above law.
We live in seismic zone-five. And if earthquake measuring seven magnitude someday hit the city, these buildings would be our graves. We will be buried under them and “the other” SMC officials would charge money from the children of the dead for providing death certificates of the deceased.
Time has come when “the other” in the SMC should be made to understand that it is not wrong to discuss metaphysics and it is not wrong to be an honest.