The “foreign-educated” mayor’s native response to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC)’s outrageous drive against the city vendors is clearly an escape clause.
Given Junaid Mattu’s schooling in sundry political parties, he still sounds like a spokesperson defending the indefensible – the viral-violent-visuals.
At the behest of a curated-counter clip posted as a riposte by the SMC on its social media handles, the expressive mayor tries to justify the anti-encroachment act as the public welfare move. However, dismissing the online rage as a “misinformation” is clearly a bad PR move.
Impounding stalls and stuff of poor vendors facing crippling lockdowns since 2019 summer apart, the commoners castigated the abrupt adrenaline-rush against the street “violators” who over the years multiplied right under the nose of SMC and its former executives, now playing pope on social media.
If these poor vendors were violators, why didn’t the SMC unleash its helmet squad on them earlier? Why now, when they’ve become fixtures of cityscape? What’s an alternative address for them in the city they call home?
Even the poor of Paris come out on streets for survival. Do they deserve to be driven out? While rules have to be followed in letter and spirit, but the sudden and somewhat selective action seems a case of misplaced priorities here.
It may be argued that the waning local political say has now emboldened officials to dismantle the political investments in Kashmir capital. But then sparing the stalls of the poor for survival should be an equal concern of the city custodians as well.
If a particular politician can relocate them from a busy street and shelter them in a now thriving urban mart, then the SMC is expected to do more.
It’s alright to enforce law, but it’s equally important to be sensitive of the times and circumstances.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. And neither will a brushing blitz or sledgehammers make Srinagar smart overnight.
The two municipal “role models” including bureaucracy’s “poster boy” should realize that the small people-friendly steps always make a giant leap.
But the implemented strategy makes it another policing act than a city welfare move.
Brainstorming for the urban poor’s proper engagement should be there. The municipal body’s mandate isn’t mere bulldozing, but proper rehabilitation as well.
These vendors might be bottlenecks for vehicles, but the use of force captured on cameras is clearly an offensive on the poor people caught in survival crisis.
You may justify the use of force as an “unpleasant job”, Mr. Mayor, but then one has to think about the plight of the crippled community members – unless the “Naya Kashmir” and its developmental drives have now become the drives against the poor vendors.
With two young men at the helm, the city’s concerned citizenry expects some sane and sensible handling of the urban affairs. Reducing even the municipal affairs to an act of force only vindicates the detractors crying foul.