An electoral marketing campaign

Public Outreach
Mahesh Chander Sudan
We, the people of JKUT, could find groups of sitting Ministers of Union Government visiting union territories of JK and Ladakh as a part of public outreach programme staged to enhance the presence of governance at our door steps. Public outreach programme as understood can be performed by a community, an organization, a company or others to connect inform and get feedback from local community or customers. In other words, it is more in depth and well informed marketing campaign carried out at a targeted audience. What necessitated public outreach programme, is it insufficiency of information, lack of well-coordinated interaction between ruler and the ruled, or is it a diligently derived campaign to mould public opinion favorably to mitigate fall outs of recent political changes effected on erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir? The ground reality supports none of these situations and it demonstrates deeply drilled sense of helplessness prevailing due to prolonged deficiency of governance and uncertainty about restoration of democratic rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir. Delay in holding elections for one or the other reasons hurt the spirit of democracy and compels poor voters to question their own existence in the entire scheme of governance as established and desired by the highest law of the land.
It is seen that Outreach Programme II designed to last for nine weeks was originally planned to start from Jul 21 but got delayed due to monsoon session of the Parliament and Independence Day Celebration. The outreach was aimed to cover most of the tehsils and interact with the people directly involving around 70 union ministers. However, the outcome of Public Outreach Programme I carried out in Jan 21 involving 36 Union Ministers remains in close custody of government officials without any visible change on ground. No doubt, the intent and the content of the programme as proclaimed is to help and complement governance for the welfare of the people of Jammu and Kashmir who are left helpless to live in suspended democracy. The ground reality speaks for itself and the mode of ongoing outreach programme II clealy shows that most of these high profile Union Ministers are seen holding programme in their ministerial offices located in the UT or seen addressing political cadre of their party, for instance Minister from Lok Jan Shakti Party (LJP) reportedly addressed his party cadre and carried out assessment of his party in the Union territory contrary to outreach programme. Agriculture Minister visited and chaired some functions in one of the Agriculture Universities is another example. More classically, the visit of one senior Cabinet rank Minister along with his wife and Minister of state at Z-Morh tunnel, as published well photographed in local media, speaks eloquently about the seriousness of the programme. Least to say that these Union Ministers are logging their visits for covering expenditure incurred on their visits out of public exchequer without any visible public cause other than promoting their political ideology. We, the people of JKUT, understand the situation that has been created for Union dispensation post abrogation of Article 370, 35A and reorganization of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmit into two Union Territories. The people from both the regions of Union Territory are yet to accept the change and believe that they have been stripped off the statehood status undemocratically.
Inter alia, the people of the UT are yet to feel any change in their life post 31 Oct 2019 and are finding it difficult to meet their basic requirements of life. They are not ready to bear with the fact that they do not have their democratically elected representative next door to redress their grievances since 2014. Even the recently elected District Development Committees are proving powerless and ineffective to deliver on ground except for manipulating public resources for their personal gains. The administrative machinery has found another channel to siphon off funds without being exposed directly. An independent audit in this regard will prove the ground reality beyond any doubt.
It is encouraging to note that Union dispensation has started realizing to accept that the recent political experiment carried out on J&K may not yield expected results and therefore diversionary tactic of sending large number of parliamentarian is adopted for moulding prevalent shrilling silence to their political advantage. On the contrary, the prolonged absence of elected government merely for political purpose generates negativity amongst general public that creates a void and hurts the faith of the poor people in the system so established especially in a democracy that essentially functions for the larger welfare of the state. The system of governance adopted in JKUT post reorganization of erstwhile state is significantly deficient to ensure law and order, public utility services, reset shattered education sector especially higher education that needs well organized facility and faculty, rejuvenate health care system both urban and rural and to draw an efficient plan to restore participatory governance in the true spirit of democracy.
We, the people of JKUT, feel that all out efforts should be made to restore us our constitutionally established right to form own government for efficient governance of our resources with due honour and dignity rather than sending herds of parliamentarians to camouflage public annoyance emerging out of recent political dissection carried out unilaterally that is yet to get large public acceptance. No amount of visits of foreign or Indian parliamentarians would alter the ground reality that the people of JKUT may live with abrogation of Article 370 and 35A but would never comprise with stripping of statehood that requires unconditional restoration. Jai Hind, Jai Bharat.
The author is WgCdr (Retd)