COVID-19 Response and Usual Suspects : Government apathy and civil society organisations.

By Rafqat Sonwaire

As the impact of the global coronavirus (COVID-19) grows, the organizations and institutions dealing with these extraordinary predicaments remains on how we can continue to support communities breaking through this cycles of pandemic. Therefore KASHMIR also remains relent to the stakeholders and to the subject because of already having difficult and different challenges. We do recognize that in areas already experiencing crises like Kashmir, the spread of COVID-19 could be significant and devastating given the baggage of political uncertainty, governance challenges and psychological nuances on the larger population.

We are already seeing the drastic effects of the virus on how we live our everyday lives back in Kashmir.

We want to understand from different states and countries about how your lives and work have been affected by this global health emergency, and what you need during this time of crisis particularly in Kashmir. The government in Jammu and Kashmir need to understand that public lockdown under an extended health emergency like corona virus must be essentially different from a curfew imposed in Kashmir, when the assumption is that anyone on street is a potential troublemaker.

Now coming back to the Civil Society Response means the NGO response in this situation and practices in Kashmir province, I would rather articulate it like this; When doctors are called for sickness,
Engineer’s for construction of roads and buildings, journalists for reporting, lawyers to represent in the court of law and the professionals in their particular professional duty continue as per the roles and responsibilities, Than Why is it that every Mohallah in the township and every village will have its own group and they call it NGO and jump into these situations without any particular background (Professional or Experience) particularly in Kashmir if you see earthquake 2005 response , floods 2014 response and 2008-2016 response such groups such NGOs come up with lot of buzz and gets invisible immediately after the crises are over .
One of the developmental professional from J&K says and I quote “ These usual suspects, khadpanchs , retired bureaucrats, kitty party Aunties, businessman, politicians with their family foundations and the list will go on will be visible in such events particularly on social media and in paid news reports”.
I don’t personally discredit or undermine the desire and will of such people but as I said earlier if every profession needs professionals to handle why not this subject matter with such eventuality needs to be handled by professionals?
Let me add on saying that this profession of humanitarian Aid or Development Practice or Public Policy or Social Service sector is studied and taught across the globe ( A specialized Subject, highly evolved) and we back home in kashmir are full of such professionals; practicing the same profession from last so many years and these Kashmiri professionals are working in prestigious institutions and organizations across the globe like WHO, UNDP, UNICEF and In international NGOS and locally as well.
Now the problem statement; Like any other profession (informal treatment) this stream and profession has been made handicapped by the conflict, so does the South Asian context carries forward this primarily because of the government apathy and lack of awareness. Therefore People still can’t recognize this as a specialized subject and practice.
Coming back to government and remember about the initiative by the then-Governor Mr. Vohra who wanted to regulate the NGOs and accredits them as per their specialization but it did not work ; he wrote several times to Social Welfare Deptt for some policy intervention like J&K Government does with Press and Newspapers In JK through the information department. If you see some of these usual suspects again in grant-in-aid allocation through social welfare department, it’s same regular stuff that defines our society and practices of CSOs in J&K.
Today when the world is searching and Looking every minute WHO or other UN organization update to combat this COVID -19 not only J&K Government particularly social welfare department is all out to run photo ops at typical orphanages and announcements for pensions so do these Usual Suspects out there taking selfies with bureaucrats,
Now see the administration, these bureaucrats are yet to realize what harm they are creating rather than good to this profession. Without going to specifics do they know that a social worker or humanitarian worker or professional is trained for such work, they are taught this and they practice this profession all along with their lives?

Where is the social welfare department, do they have numbers of how many NGOs are registered in J&K , Do they know how many specialized NGOs are working in J&K , DO they ever reach out to these specialized NGOs for working collectively for inclusive sectoral development, do they know what is happening in other states and how governments work with them.
One specialized Scheme Exclusively for Children know as Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS), see the government apathy for this scheme and compare the same scheme and its implementation with the rest of the country and see the difference. Why I am quoting this scheme is because the subtitle of the scheme document says “Civil Society partnership” now for God’s sake tell them what have you done in realizing the objective framework of this scheme.
Therefore neither the government is serious to make inclusive consultations in situations like this nor will they venture out to understand what NITI Ayoug did recently called upon all the Specialized Organizations and Institutions for collective and sustainable response.

Therefore kindly see what NITI Ayoug did recently with national international and local CSOs and created a Robust framework to respond to this epidemic with the inclusive and social wisdom and not staying on twitter to issue sermons of governance .

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