At first sight, it looks like a room of tech-savvy government men using the internet to zero in on youths with militant tendencies. But a closer look and it is something else.
The authorities in Kashmir, infamous for using social media sites to control dissent, are now using these for addressing day-to-day grievances.
And in the past six months, Waheed-ur-Rahman Para, chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed’s political analyst who leads the dedicated team of youths assigned the task, says he has handled more than 6,200 governance-related grievances on Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp.
“We have seen a lot of misuse of the social media in Kashmir. What we want is to use it now is for the development of the state,” Para says.
“We believe that every complaint against the government has a potential to become a compliment if handled properly.”
Help, of all sorts
Para and his team’s modus operandi is simple. They monitor the social networking sites, look for possible complaints, call the aggrieved, and forward a screen shot to the concerned official.
Para’s team says they mostly handle grievances about ‘bijli, sadak, paani (electricity, roads, water)’, but find many complaints from students facing problems in getting a hostel room allotted, or even an admission to a college.
The group says it also handles cases of transfer of government officials, besides complaints about red-tapism in government departments. But some cases are unique.
The team members say they once, with the help of the Union external affairs ministry, got a South Kashmir youth released from a Malaysian jail.
“He was a psychiatric patient and had assaulted someone in Malaysia where he had gone to work. It would not have been possible to bring him back without the help of the government’s team,” says the released man’s relative, not wishing to be named.
But ever since work began, it has only been increasing for Para and his colleagues. Para says the team’s success has encouraged more people to come forward.
“Now people have been flooding our office and till date we have received 2,500 hand-written complaints that have been sent to the concerned departments. Besides, we have also issued 1,900 facilitation letters for the deserving people,” Para says.
Para says the team has made as many as 10,500 calls till December 31, 2015, for on-spot redressal of grievances.
But it’s mostly the youths who are coming in with complaints, Para says.
“Our youth have had a very bad experience of governance in the state owing to the situation here. What we have been doing is reach out to them rather than they reaching out to us. This gives them a feeling of being heard,” Para says. “In a way it is integrating youth with the system”.