Facelift for Srinagar makes residents fume

By Sheikh Qayoom, IANS,

Srinagar: With zebra crossings, road dividers and fences being painted, even during a downpour, Srinagar is being spruced up as top offices reopen here after six months of functioning in winter capital Jammu. But residents are asking if all this is really necessary in the face of more pressing needs.

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Under a two-century-old tradition of the erstwhile Dogra Maharajas, the seat of governance shifts between Jammu and Kashmir’s twin capitals of Srinagar and Jammu every six months – known as the Darbar Move.

“The logic behind shifting the seat of governance lock, stock and barrel between Srinagar and Jammu was that the Dogra Maharajas and their courtiers did not like the bitter winter cold of the valley,” said a college teacher here who did not want to be named.

“Our democratic ‘maharajas’ are no less than their predecessors. The tradition must continue. After all, except for the ministers and senior bureaucrats, all others living in the valley are children of a lesser god in Kashmir,” the teacher said sarcastically.

Commenting on the tradition of shifting the seat of governance between the two capitals, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah also said in one of his tweets recently that the tradition of the six-monthly Darbar Move is outdated and yet he was not sure if he could ever change it.

“Do I think the ‘Durbar Move’ is a waste of money? Yes I do. Is there an alternative? I haven’t seen a viable alternative suggested,” Omar posted on his tweet.

The problem with the official facelift going on in the city these days is that it is happening in the backdrop of messy traffic management, an even messier urban drainage system and the growing horror of stray dogs that have been biting a hundred locals a day in this city of 1.3 million souls.

It is clear that the priorities of the state administration are somewhere misplaced.

“Instead of wasting precious paint during rain and thunder, the state authorities should focus on the traffic chaos in the city and other burning civic issues,” Farooq Ahmad, 28, who works in the Press Enclave area of the city, told IANS.

“It has become normal to get stuck in traffic jams for hours at busy crossings. The traffic is simply frustrating here. They are painting zebra crossings in the city without realising that it is impossible to cross the road at these points because of the mess.”

In order to streamline the traffic in Srinagar, the authorities are installing automatic traffic control signals like in other big cities in the country.

“The installation of automatic traffic control system would ease the present situation,” said an official of the traffic department here.

As Srinagar gets a facelift before the civil secretariat starts functioning here on May 7, residents here rue the fact that instead of addressing the main civic issues, the paint and polish job is being carried out to keep the dust under carpet.

“Who is the administration trying to impress?” said a shopkeeper in city centre Lal Chowk.

(Sheikh Qayoom can be contacted at [email protected])