“Democracy has its own way of taking things forward. The people of J&K have seen the face of development in the last couple of years. The kind of transparency J&K government currently maintains – e-tendering for government contracts; public oversight through Jan Bhagidari initiative on status of public works and projects: financial management system like BEAMS that allows end-to-end monitoring of budget works; digital payments; and 100% transparent recruitment in government – is very difficult to roll back,” a senior J&K government officer told TOI.
“People of J&K will demand more transparency and development (from democratically-elected regimes). They will have no appetite for opaque behaviour. If there is something that has changed in J&K in the last 2-3 years it is governance that has gone from absolute opaqueness to sunshine,” the officer added.
Even in terms of law and order, the official said, the last one-and-a-half years have been the most peaceful in four decades. “People are enthused by the current state of normalcy. They want shops to remain open and their young to regularly attend school and college. Shikara operators and hotels want their business to run as well as it is running now. There is a stake in peace; like elsewhere in the country, residents of J&K also want to lead a normal life,” said an officer.
Few concerns for the J&K government remain. First is to be able to roll out the planned development quickly. “The current speed is many years’ attempts encapsulated into a very short period of time. We need to maintain this momentum and sincerely hope nothing disruptive like Covid recurs,” said an officer.
Second concern is an attempt by some to create a “false” narrative – notwithstanding the fact that J&K is one of the top performers in many sectors and on social/health indices and has achieved 100% saturation in implementation of most government schemes – that things are not well in J&K and that its people are suffering.
“New roads and flyovers have come up here since 2019, reducing travel time. Dal is at its cleanest ever. You can move in Srinagar downtown, once a hub of stone-pelting incidents, without any fear. Stadia have been built or renovated to encourage youths to engage in sports. As many as 25 lakh tourists have visited Kashmir till November 24 this year, as against 7 lakh last year and the all-time high 13 lakh in 2016. But some choose to turn a blind eye to all this,” said an official.
“Stray killings of civilian minorities are touted as return to 1990 militancy levels. J&K was in fear of terrorist violence for almost 4 decades..but today people expect 100% peace, even though the security situation has vastly improved,” said the official while stressing the need to “win the narrative war”.