Author: Saadut
•9:50 PM


"Rashomon” 1950 Japanese movie written by Ryunosuke Akutagawa and directed by Akira Kurosawa is a classic in itself and depicts human behaviour and the perception of truth from different visual capabilities and human understanding. The movie is an exemplary depiction of how we relate to and see truth. The plot is woven in 12th century Japan, where during a journey thru the jungle a samurai and his wife are attacked by a bandit. During the ensuring fight the samurai is killed by the bandit, and soon after the crime the bandit is captured. During the trial the narration of the samurais wife and the bandit are completely different. To get to the truth a psychic is brought in to allow the murdered man to give his own testimony. Here in also the version of the story is completely different. Finally the woodcutter who had found the body of the samurai is asked to testify. His story is also different from that of others. Although all of them are speaking the truth, their stories are different from each other. This narration of truth as visualised and understood by human being is more closer to perceived truth than absolute truth. I am not doing a movie review here. The only reason that I have dissected a movie plot which was released many decades before I was even born is that in our daily life we often face such occasions where perceived truth for the same problem or event is different for different individuals, even when each may be right in his own way. This syndrome I term as the “Rashomon syndrome”.

The current stalemate between the employees, the government and the common people has all the ingredients of the “Rashomon syndrome” in it.

The employees
The state employees (about five lakh of them) have been demanding the implementation of the sixth pay commission in the state and enhancement of the retirement age to 60. With the inflation levels’ having breached all acceptable limits since the last time a pay revision was implemented for the state employees, their demands for the implementation of 6th pay commission are not without reason. The price rise and inflationary pressures in J&K seem to have been imported the same way we import almost all our essential commodities. Since Kashmir is an “all things import” place the meteoric rise of prices of food products, manufacturing products, and essential commodities outside the valley (or state) automatically has a cascading effect in local markets. Knowing that a honest monthly pay packet for an employee which would sustain the family needs for almost up to end of the month some years ago, will currently not suffice for a fortnight with the same family strength and needs, the pressure is definitely on the earning hand to try to stretch where there is nothing more to be received and the stomach which keeps asking for more, where no more can be fed. While sustenance needs money and more money, the power of earnings keeps on shrinking. The wallet keeps on trying to elasticise between providing basic amenities to the family (where the government has utterly failed in providing for basic social amenities like health care and education) and attending to “stomach and clothe”. If anything is left that may chip in to the social requirements of the individual. The “roof” requirement is an elusive dream which cannot form a part of the honest earning, not in a single lifetime. With these things in mind the employees may have no other option but to force their way into pay revision acceptance.

The government
A pay hike needs money and the government has none. In order to implement the pay hike on account of the sixth pay commission recommendations the government will have to arrange for Rs. 3,800 crore immediately (retrospective effect from January 2006) while the recurring expenditure incurred every year will be more than Rs. 1,400 crore. While the ever increasing state debt stands currently at more than 13000 crores, the total internal revenue of the state stands at Rs.3000 crore only. With such a gap between the ever mounting state debt and actual availability of funds, the government has some serious thinking to do before committing itself to any pay rise. The current salary bill standing at about 2800 crores, forcing the government to raise further debts to meet the financial requirements of implementing the sixth pay commission recommendations could be suicidal for the state’s already ailing economy. Raising further taxes to generate revenue may not be an option that the government would exercise, since this would go contrary to the initiatives for creating “investor and business friendly” environment in the state, and with limited business enterprises existing in the state (especially in the valley) such a move may not compensate in total or even part requirement of funds to meet the new liabilities (while leaving the existing debt unmanaged).

The common man
The participation of people in the last elections was attributed to their desire for development in the state. The issues of roads, water, and electricity dominated the election rhetoric, with all parties promising to address these problems on priority. The development of basic infrastructure is the key that may lead to economic development and absence of this very basic infrastructure is what wards off any economic developmental activities in any region. Our habitations look like ghost towns with nonexistent roads, turn into rivers with over flowing or non functional drainage systems and towns and villages are turned into moonless nights with the ever elusive electricity. The few industrial estates that may have been spared by the security forces in Kashmir are hardly accessible and any industrial activity that may be taking place there is not what we may term as “flourishing” with skeletal services and infrastructure in place. Our cities and towns have been barricaded not only against human warriors but also against development funds and infrastructure improvement activity. All this for the reason of “shortage of funds”. The common man may certainly question the very existence of “the state” when it cannot provide for, plan and implement basic infrastructure development activities. Funds available with the state should be prioritised for providing of basic amenities and infrastructure. The availability of funds for basic developmental work and infrastructure management should not be done in number terms in the budget but in terms of percentage of the total budget with priority spending earmarked for state infrastructure development (equated among all regions – non transferrable intra region or division). And when it come to implementing pay revision for state employees at the cost of other developmental activities, the common may have a different take: what good will a pay revision for the state employees do to the state when their performance leaves everything (not something) to be desired for. What contribution do these government departments have towards mitigating the problems of the people? It is a wonder that the society and the state are still surviving in spite of the nepotism and negligent attitude of these government departments! Should pay not be linked to performance?

Retirement age and unemployment
The enhancement of the retirement age is a demand that the state employees have been making keeping in view the retirement age standard followed by their counterparts in the central government. They may have a case, by calling for work opportunity parity. But J&K is just not any other state and things just don’t end at creating parity in the retirement age.

After the 90’s the traditional Indian economy got influenced in a big way by the invading capitalistic forces. The traditional socialistic economy was mixed with capitalistic economy and new socio-capitalistic economy came into existence (mixed economy). New employment avenues were created in the growing private sector and the government sector was no more the only choice or not even the first choice for employment. All across the country this private sector flourished, but J&K was an exception where the involvement of the private sector was negligent or nonexistent owing both to the turmoil factor and to negative or lack of proper policies of the successive state governments.
Our educational institutes kept churning out thousands of youth who are daily added up to the lakhs of unemployed youth, without any career direction in sight. The few jobs that may have been advertised for by the state got lakhs of applications. And with SSB taking years together between advertisements of jobs and actually filling them, the time it takes for the majority of these applicants to have become overage. The restlessness in the society and anger among the youth is primarily because of the void and the vacuum that stares them in the face. With the some jobs that may get filled, there are usually founded accusations of favouritism and backdoor access. Most of the unemployed candidates having reached or about to reach the “over age threshold” the extension of the retirement age will only add to depriving them of any hope of jobs. While the private sector may take some time to invest and extend its reach to Kashmir, even if the government may try to express build up on infrastructure and investment opportunities in the state, currently the only hope that these unemployed youth have is fair play and availability of genuine opportunity from the state. Generating a group of “rehbars” in some departments is not going to change the status. While the state may be concerned with deferring the immediate financial liabilities that may arise from retirement of government employees at 58 (for payment of post retirement benefits), it may be able to address a greater cause by limiting the retirement age to 58, in way of proving equal and fair opportunities to unemployed and at the same time ensuring that new blood is infused in the state departments who could be instrumental in work culture and approach change in the administration. Deferred liabilities cannot become erased liabilities, and have to cleared, today or tomorrow. After all some changes have to come from the grass root and need to be implemented in spite of the pain they may cause.

The state, the employees, the common man and the ever increasing unemployed class are all equal stake holders in the welfare and well being of the state, and none can be ignored at the cost of the other. While everybody’s concerns may be their truth, the state needs to prioritise its work area and requirements so that the meagre financial resources and opportunities that are available with the government can be utilised properly. Will the state government be able to identify the truth or will it search for the mirage in the “Rashomon syndrome”.

07th Feb 2009
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