Introduction to KashmirForum.org Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.
www.kashmirforum.org

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A University Law Professor Ponders on the Curse Afflicting J&K

Corruption in public offices

By S. M. Afzal Qadri

(Prof. Qadri, 60, was born in Srinagar and had his early education at Islamia School and National High School in Srinagar. He graduated from S.P. College, Srinagar, and completed his L.L.B. and L.L.M. from the Aligarh Muslim University. He subsequently returned to Srinagar and practised law before joining the Law Department of the University of Kashmir in 1976. After obtaining Ph.D. he was promoted as professor and is presently a member of the University staff. He enjoys writing on topical subjects like human rights, police attrocities, criminology and other social issues.)

THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE APPEARED IN KASHMIR TIMES

Corruption is a curse in a society and in India it has taken such a magnitude that it is beyond our control to stop it. Right from the Bofors up to the kick backs which politicians receive from time to time one can say that Indian society cannot live without one or the other form of corruption. It is said that law makers are the guardians of law but when the lawmakers who are supposed to control and legislate on prevention of corruption ask for money for asking questions in the parliament how do we expect that corruption will be stopped in the society. The worst type the corruption is the political corruption in the society. Newspapers and other reports from various agencies are witness to this fact. Right from getting a ration card up to the appointment in any office the work can not be done unless we grease the palm of a person who is in power.

The state of J&K has a distinction to be one of the most corrupt states in the country. During the last 20 years of turmoil it has reached its heights now and not a single day goes when there is one or the other scandal of corruption involving higher ups in the government.

The previous coalition government established a State Accountability Commission with pomp and show and its first chairman took the job seriously without understanding that it's just an eyewash and poor man died on a very bad note.

The commission wanted to enquire into the misdeeds and corrupt practices of a particular department but the "corrupt lobby" in the state administration is so strong that the chairman was left with no alternative but to resign from the position in an unceremonious manner. From that time this commission is without permanent chairman and not a single recommendation of this commission was implemented by the state. The main object of this commission was to provide just and responsive and clean administration where people will be given fair chance to ask the state to enquire into allegations and grievances against public men which include even the ministers and members of the legislature. Beside the law exists both in ordinary law and special laws to control the corruption in public offices. The relevant provisions of the Ranbir Penal Code and J&K Prevention of Corruption Act lay down the rules to control and prevent corruption in the society.

State Vigilance Organization is there to detect and prosecute the offenders and bring them to book .But unfortunately, they could lay down their hands on small offenders and no influential person is prosecuted. In one or two instances they were able to lay hands on people of influence, but these offenders taking the advantage of lacunae in law saw to it that they are acquitted.

Statistics reveal that in J&K during the year 2006, 84 cases were registered for violation of various sections of anti-corruption law and there were 151 pending cases from last year. Out of total 235 cases only 99 cases were charge sheeted. In year 2005 in 184 cases final report was submitted. Out of these cases only 7 persons were convicted, and 35 acquitted .The percentage of the persons convicted in the year 2005 is 16.7%.This is the situation with regards to those persons who are arrested by the investigating agencies for the offence of corruption.

The recent revelation of an MLA and subsequent resignation of a minister on charges of corruption is an eye opener for all of us. If a MLA is asked to pay the bribe what will be the fate of an ordinary citizen. Does the Chief Minister have the right to say that he has come to eradicate corruption in the State? Can he claim that he is interested to give a corruption free government to people living in this State which is facing number of problems? When he cannot stop corruption amongst his ministerial colleagues can he ask a petty peon to be honest? Can he plead that he wants to give clean administration to the people of J&K? These are the questions which need to be answered and State will have to satisfy the people on this issue.

The State Accountability Commission has a role to play in cases where allegations are leveled at a higher level against a minister. Why should not they take a suo moto cognizance of the case and investigate it. It is a litmus test to prove that Commission is really performing its duty. Corruption in this society will not end by only enforcing laws. Those who indulge in corrupt practices know how to defeat the law. Therefore there is also a need to start a social campaign against the corrupt persons in the society. We should ridicule those who are corrupt and we must stop paying kick back for enforcing legal rights and should discourage it at all levels.

The courts will have to be tougher with regard to corruption cases and even the law should be amended where prosecution story should be taken as correct and burden of proving innocence should be shifted to defence. If we all will not get together to eradicate corruption this State will be doomed and nobody can stop it.

Hoping Against Hope: Mrs. Parveena Ahangar's lonely fight for justice and truth

Syed Basharat reports on a slow march to justice for a determined mother ...

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 27, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

SRINAGAR, Jan 29: Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Srinagar Aijaz Ahmad has issued non bailable warrants against three army majors accused in enforced disappearance of Javed Ahmad son of Parveena Ahangar-president Association of parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP).

The three army personnel-Major S N Gupta of 6 Assam Rifles, Major Dinesh Sharma of Mountain Brigade and Major S S Katoch are allegedly involved in custodial disappearance of Javed-11th standard student, who according to family was whisked away by National Security Guards (NSG) on August 18, 1990 from his uncle Ali Mohammad Ahangar's house at Dhobi Mohalla Batamaloo-Srinagar.

Next day Javed's family members filed a missing report at police station Batmaloo and Shergari but no FIR was registered. In search of her son, Parveena approached every nook and corner of the administration including Police Control Room (PCR) Srinagar. From PCR she was sent to B. B cant hospital where her son was admitted.

"I went to that hospital thrice but all in vain," says Parveena, who again approached PCR where she was advised to approach the high court.

On filing a petition before state high court which directed the police station Shergari to register FIR in Javed disappearance case. The police station Shergari registered FIR no 17/91 under section 364 (abduction). After police inquiry it was established that three Majors were involved in Javed's detention and subsequent disappearance. On February 5, 2003 police presented charge sheet against the accused army personnel. The trial started but the accused army personnel never turned up. According to Parveena, her family was continuously intimidated by different agencies, who even offered money, job, and bounties to withdraw the case. Parveena, however, didn't succumbed to any pressure. Instead she has played a pioneering role in uniting majority of such families who don't know whereabouts of their loved ones, under the banner of APDP.

Parveena has visited almost every jail in India but to no avail. But even after 18 years, her search has not ended and she still hopes far her sons' safe return. Her struggle gave a new direction to those mothers who share a similar tragedy. With a non bailable warrant issued against the accused army personnel, Parveena sees hope that perpetrators of her son's enforced disappearance would be brought to book. "I will continue this fight until my death. It is not a matter of prestige but justice and truth which should prevail in any circumstances,' she observed.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Culture is undernurished in Kashmir

Our own culture:
— and it must have a flavour of its own

SAJJAD BAZAZ

Ours is a cultural blend unique in itself. We live in a multiplicity of tastes and desires. This makes us relish the blessings of nature more than anyone else. The state is not only different in cultural forms and heritage, but also different in geographical, demographical, ethical and social entities from other parts of India. In other words, we are living in a state, which is precisely a spectrum of variance and variation.

Even as the distinct parts of the state - Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, yield diverse religion, language and culture, they constantly interfuse with each other resulting in sparkling specimens of unity in diversity. The various cultural forms like art and architecture, fairs and festivals, rites and rituals, languages and landscapes, mounted on the ageless era of history, reflects uniformity and diversity with matchless cultural symmetry and service.

Kashmir has a long and cherished history of 5000 years and is rightly called by some authors – the mother of all civilizations. It has been the highest learning point of Sanskrit and Persian where early Indo-Aryanic civilization has originated and flourished. Ladakh on the other side, has been the highest living centre of Tantrayan Buddhism. Similarly Jammu, has been the axis of Rajas and Maharajas, who have enriched the cultural, historical and social bonds of all these diverse ethnic and linguistic sections of the state. The ancient archeological monuments and remnants of the past are the true reflections of the rich cultural traditions of our state. We should not forget that Kashmir has a rich heritage of poets, writers, philosophers, intellectuals and craftsmen, who have earned a name at the international level.

In light of the rich cultural heritage of the state, the government developed an institution by the name of Academy of Art, culture and languages to promote and protect the richness of this invaluable asset. A look at the functioning of the Academy reflects that in the past this institution has made significant contribution so far as perseverance of our cultural heritage is concerned. The poetry of our renowned poets was not only collected but also given the shape of books, and most of these books earned reputation at the international level. In fact the Kashmiri encyclopedia was a significant feat achieved by this institution. It also did a magnificent job by organizing music classes including Santoor classes and calligraphy.

But the last two decades have marred the functioning of this institution and the conditions which prevailed here during these times discouraged artists to carry on their mission of preserving and promoting their art and culture through their performances. One thing is significant that the then state government did injustice with this academy by installing a person as head of the institution who was remotely connected to literature. In fact he was a man from the theatre and all his attention focused on the theatretical activities with the result the rich literature and music was forced to take a backseat. By this, the focus also shifted from Kashmir to Jammu.

The apathy continues since then. Though on the literature front, a little aid to the poets and writers has continued and many books have been printed on Kashmiri literature, the music, art and drama continues to be ignored. Sufiyana music is our classical music and right now we have only two prominent gharanas of Saznawaz and Qaleenbaf left to carry forward the rich Kashmir music. Precisely, nothing is being done to preserve and promote this magnificent form of Sufiyana music which is breathing its last.

It is an apathy that cultural groups and Sufiyana music groups from Egypt and other countries are being promoted by paying huge amounts to them and our own musicians of this form are being ignored. Though at their own level one of the left out gharanas is having its own center where some boys and girls are being trained in Sufiyana music, the activity which otherwise could have been well organized by the cultural academy. This shows the urge of this gharana to keep this traditional music alive.

his is also heartening that this gharana is representing Kashmiri Sufiyana music in Muzaffar Ali’s cultural bonanza where world famous sufi music artists perform. This is considered as one of the biggest platforms for performing sufiayana music in the world. Even as the Government of India organizes this show, the state is being represented privately by the concerned artists without any support from the state government and not to talk of the Cultural Academy.

Take the case of musical instruments. It is incredible! But true. The world famous Santoor player Pt. Shiv Kumar Sharma’s magical touch of Santoor strings takes you to the entirely different world and the instrument he plays on is manufactured in Kashmir by Zaz family. The family has been the greatest makers of our musical instruments. This craft of manufacturing our world famous musical instruments is also on the verge of extinction, as the craftsmen lack proper support.

Kashmir has a very rich legacy of folk theatre. Nothing is being done to preserve our traditional folk media like Band-e- Pather. With the result the artists associated with this form of art are drifting away from it. In fact Rajtarangini also makes a mention of Band –e- Pather and its impact on the people has been tremendous to mobolise their opinion. Many of our historical aspects have been depicted through this folk form in a satirical way. But the people associated with this traditional folk media have been ignored. Similarly Dhambail – our very rich sufi dance, has also remained a thing of a past. One wonders how we can patronize the sufi dance of Iran, Egypt and other countries and ignore our own rich cultural heritage.

Over the past few years we have seen one name making lot of rounds Pt. Bhajan sopori. He is often seen in the official functions and a special guest of cultural academy. You find his music compositions on many local channels courtesy cultural academy. One wonders, if there is only one music composer left in the whole J&K when we have very renowned music composers.

Basically, the point is that the Academy of Art, culture and Languages has a capacity to preserve and promote the culture of our state. It has to function as an independent institution. Let this Academy be purely for the people and by the people of the state and dying aspects of our precious culture are saved from extinction. In short, it must modernize its operations, obviously with all local flavour.

January 27, 2008
Copyright © 1998-2008- GreaterKashmir.com

Rotten System: a timely discourse by Firdous Syed

Rotten system: Can you remove the rot is the question of curiosity?

WORDS WITHIN BY FIRDOUS SAYED

(Mr. Firdous Syed, 41, was born in Bhaderwah, Doda, and had his schooling in Jammu. He is currently the Chairman of the "Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies," and associated with the J&K National Conference. Between 1989 and 1991, he led the Moslem Janbaaz Force, a militant group, and was jailed from 1991 through 1994. In 1996, he publicly renounced the gun culture, and has since joined mainstream politics and is an active member of the Kashmir civil society.)


This being last budget session of the current assembly, Opposition National Conference would have tried to corner Treasury benches on routine issues of governance, employment and human rights. But MLA Sangrama, Shoaib Lone’s serious charges of corruption against Peerzada Mohammed Sayed proved a God-sent opportunity for the Opposition to put coalition government on mat. Even though Ghulam Nabi Azad’s government acted with great alacrity in controlling the damage by removing Peerzada both as minister and as PCC president, besides asking Vigilance organization to probe allegations against him, but if public mood is taken as indicator, the damage has already been done.

Notwithstanding Azad’s loud-mouthed rhetoric about fighting corruption, nobody believes his anti-corruption drive any more after his ministers have been “caught” red-handed, neck-deep in corruption and other malpractices. Whatever was said on the floor of assembly about the levels of corruption in higher-echelons of government is largely known to the general-public, for they have to face it on daily basis. Shoiab Lone just removed the lid from a stinking cesspool of corruption and politico-bureaucratic nexus, which is ever busy in loot and plunder here. Reeking of the gutter might be a reason for the discomfort of present ruling elite, but its foul smell has become unbearable for hapless the common people.

Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig has confessed that he is “feeling suffocated” and “wants to quit”. Whether his inner voice is strong enough to prompt him to resign, or that he will eventually hush-up the feeble murmur of his conscience remains to be seen, but there cannot be any disagreement when he says “corruption has become ‘Nasoor’ (wound that refuses to heal) and is knee-deep in our society”. He also acknowledged it was very difficult to do away with corruption when the entire system was “rotten”.

In the good old days, political leaders were seen as guides and role models, and were honoured and respected by all. But over the years, with the erosion of values, the politics has evolved into a stinking gutter of immorality. Needless to say that entry of morally, materially and ethically corrupt and low people into the public arena has turned a highly respectable ‘social service’ (politics) into a money minting enterprise.

Both moral and material corruptions, which are rampant here, reflect the decay of mind. If it were not so, perhaps an MLA would not have thought of greasing the palms of a minister’s wife through her chauffeur, for his own petty financial gain! Then the MLA whines about the whole transition as a “great injustice”, and complains about the “fishy deal” without even blinking his eyes for a second, as if it were his divine right.

And Minister’s wife allegedly threatens mother of the “wronged” MLA, and Minister, who had to resign, complains as though he was deliberately “targeted” and there was a “political conspiracy” against him. And he has guts to say “if I open my mouth many skeletons will tumble out — ‘Eis Hamam Main Sab Nangey Hain!” Isn’t he driving home the point that he is not the only one who is corrupt – that nobody here is saner than thou! A livid theatrics of political tragedy and black humor cannot get more bizarre than this.

Over the years the political system has been rendered totally ineffective by the entry of the unscrupulous in the government and the legislature. “Don’t open this Pandora’s Box for the time being” — no less than a person of Chief Minister’s stature is on record to have said this on the floor of the Upper House while trying to brush away the scandal under the carpet even after wily-nily accepting “It has come to my notice that legislators and members while spending their Constituency Development Funds (CDF) have a certain percentage of it.” With such fraudulent antics of the present-day rulers coming to fore, a political turmoil and upheaval would have gripped the entire state if government had even an iota of credibility among the people.

The electoral politics is a money-spinning dynastic and family profession here. People inherit from their parents their present positions as a matter of right and legacy. If one looks around the ‘who is who’ of politics today, there are four prominent dynasties of Sheikh’s, Mufti’s, Shah’s and erstwhile Maharaja’s family engaged in politics here. Then there are political families of Lone’s from Lolab and Sangrama, Mian’s from Kangan, Aga’s of Budgam, Itoo’s from Noorabad, Beg’s from Islamabad, Narboo’s from Leh, Kitchloo’s from Kishtawar, Bhim Singh and Harshdev from Udhampur, Khan’s of Gool Gulabgarh, Lal Singh and his wife from Kathua — all well-represented in the present legislature. And many more political heirs are eagerly waiting in wings to jump into the fray.

Apart from ill-equipped and poorly qualified (in terms of ethics and mannerism) people entering the system, there is an inherent problem with the system itself. No man-made system can be prefect, and obviously the democracy is far from being perfect. The ills of democracy are too many. In an adult franchise of ‘one vote one person’, even the lunatics, clowns, sycophants, mass-murderers, thieves, criminals, and people of doubtful integrity can elect and can get elected. Moreover, in the sub-continent people do not vote to elect someone for merit, suitability or uprightness; people simply vote on the basis of kinship, caste or regional preferences, which make it possible for the people with dubious credentials to be the masters of masses’ destiny.

When Gulam Nabi Azad became the Chief Minister, he made some tall claims about eradicating corruption. However, today it is clear that whatever he said was just political rhetoric and shrill cry even though it attracted a lot of public attention. People were ready to give him benefit of doubt – “may be he genuinely believes what he professes”. However, with the experience of hindsight now after more than two years of his rule, one can safely assume — either he was na├»ve and did not know the dynamics of the problem fully or he was simply bluffing. In Congress culture, the chief minister of a state is simply at the mercy of the whimsical high command. No chief minister is free to nick-pick his team; high command always plays a game of one-upmanship. Perhaps Congress doesn’t want chief ministers to become too strong to challenge the authority of party high command, which is far removed from ground realties. Congress chief ministers, even if they are well meaning, are simply constrained by this fact to wage any meaningful campaign for public good. They are always too busy to keep high command in good humor and factional leaders under check.

Had Azad really meant business, just a cursory look around his cabinet colleagues, would have made him understand that barring few, most of them do not justify their position in his cabinet. But the fact that he is putting up with the tainted, infers that he too is either part of the rotten system and lure of the high office has a great gravitational pull for him, or he is too weak a person to usher in any structural change. A rotten and malignant establishment cannot produce a benign system. There is dire need for a complete restructuring. Where a revolution is the answer a quick fix or band-aid will not do.

Return of the Native: "Kashmir University is wailing ... it needs resuscitation."

Syeda Afshana recalls when "gardeners and daily wagers in the University outnumbered the teaching faculty ..."

Kashmir University : This is all about the highest seat of learning.
SYEDA AFSHANA (Media Education Research Centre, Kashmir University)

Write down your story,
They say to me.
But, for me,
Everything becomes a poem.
Only this way
I can say what I want to say.
So I can also cope with it.
Afterwards I am quiet.
So I can think
What has happened to me.
So I can guide the reader
Until they are very close to this.
What is indescribable,
I then describe.
And so it should remain
That I can tell the story.

So much has changed in five years! An interlude of silent upheavals. Ever more change, ever greater complexity. Five years back, I stepped into Kashmir University, my alma mater, as a teacher. Majestic Chinars of Naseem Bagh greeted me with the same warmth as I had felt on my arrival as a pupil of this apex seat of learning. The spectacular tomb of Hazratbal shrine looked ever graceful on the ridges of shimmering Dal Lake. The surrounding groovy hills of Zabarwan made the setting inclusive and just the thing!

The passion and delight for teaching was high. The journey began. The same classroom that was my blissful abode just months ago became my trialing platform. I enjoyed every moment of it. It was a challenging thrill. Some mistakes; some memories—everything was piling up my nascent experiences.

Days passed… Months fled by… The feel of the system started happening. I had never imagined that learning institutions would be no different than any other “govt. agency”. I saw Cosmetic Treatment, or what they say Facelift, as a major priority of those who ruled the roost. Numerous construction plans and renovation formulas made my alma mater look like a Construction Company . The eco-friendly ambience was declining but the number of masons and laborers’ working in the campus was on rise. The truckloads of material dumped in campus invariably brought down the quality of academics because of the paradigm shift in priorities. Lavish purchases and liberal appointments made the heyday. The gardeners and daily wagers in the varsity outnumbered the teaching faculty.

Brand and cozy vehicles ala Qualis and Tavera became the fad of a few HOD’s who contrarily took fewer pains to perk up academic output of their departments. Even some of the HOD’s/Directors were just treated as Quick Fix Solutions as either ‘incharge’ functionaries not fulfilling set criterion to be in those chairs or else ‘imported’ from other faculties to head the department that wasn’t their baby. Round peg in square hole! Paradoxically, the basic amenities for students and research scholars never braced up. The situation in hostels or classrooms remained dismal. No appropriate cooling or heating arrangements in classrooms, and even lack of proper toilets in certain departments cut the sorry figure.

I saw mockery of sorts… Teachers vying for administrative positions rather than advancing their research and academic errands. Lobbying and factionist tendencies hijacking the mission of noble profession as good as teaching. Unaccountability towards classroom teaching amplified. Certain teaching members of varsity have a full-fledged business units running, ranging from Kashmiri A-Z (Arts to Zaffran)!

Plethora of seminars, conferences, sports and cultural activities kept the show on, though the basic essence of my institution slowly watered down under the debris of publicity stunts and public relation exercises.

I saw sneaky crusades and intrigues emerging to push and pull people onto chairs of importance. Shifty signature campaigns, anonymous malign posters and slanderous canvassing came to stay as hallmark of certain elements in the varsity who are otherwise supposed to be the “nation-builders”!

The White House (Administrative wing) of varsity turned to be the classic example of apathy and red-tapism. Unless a file is pushed virtually from one desk to another, things rarely moved. Work culture never nurtured. From station permission to leave sanction, I saw teachers cajoling the babus like tramps. Lighting up cigarettes to dropping them home, many a senior teacher did it happily. Dignity of a varsity teacher took a harsh beating. From stopping their salary on petty pretexts to pressurizing them to follow the whip, the half-baked bosses in certain departments ruled like arrogant autocrats.

I also saw ‘techno-talk’ making rounds often. Installation of Selling Spots like Hi-fi virtual libraries or sophisticated convocation complexes merely made a difference in qualitatively scholastic output of the varsity. The same was ludicrous in the backdrop of the reality that erratic power supply on campus renders all techno-talk just futile. And then, the cost-benefit analysis of such ventures barely showed up expediently. That’s why it seemed more and more Symbolism took over the Spirit in such endeavors.

Yet another disease that infested my institution was that of Intellectual Lassitude. When the role of the university in increasingly knowledge-based societies across the globe is seen as fertile breeding ground for revolutions and reforms, aimed at improving the contexts in which people live, Kashmir University miserably failed to fulfill this void. Instead of letting off garrisoned minds and voices, fear element always dominated the arm-chair intellectuals over there. Freedom of expression got shackled; thinking fatigue became contagious. Intellectual dissent or discourse was gradually replaced by Intellectual disdain.

All this pooled with the dissuasion of talent and potential and blocking entry of young blood by misuse of discretionary powers to favor the blue eyed persons, thereby promoting the culture of mediocrity. Instead of creating conditions to broaden and update or change a person’s qualifications on a lifelong learning basis, fresh breed in the varsity was usually pushed to the wall. Everything said, one can not brush off certain achievements of Kashmir University here and there. However, the same appear minuscule in the backdrop of emerging vision of the universities to deliver high quality teaching and learning, and being at the leading edge of research of regional, national and international significance.

The dynamic role of the university entails to create setting for students by providing higher education based on scientific and applied research activities matching the level of science, culture and the latest technologies; besides ensuring high quality of studies and tailoring of study programmes to the needs of the market.

Kashmir University has to evolve the strategic aim to be achieved by 2010 or 2020: To be one of the strongest research and study institutions that provides highest quality studies, has highly-qualified academic staff, applies modern teaching methods, possesses highly-developed research and study resources, and introduces innovations.

Such a herculean task cannot be carried out without lot of tactical cleaning and honest plugging of loose screws of the system that has so far been highly reprehensible and parasitic.

My varsity is wailing...it needs resuscitation....it has to survive and excel...it has to stand and speak up.

January 21, 2008 Copyright © 1998-2008- GreaterKashmir.com

License Raj may be dismantling in India, but Kashmir's autonomy provides a convenient cover to continue with "Business as Usual"

Traders to resist ‘Commissioner Raj’

Karra’s Special Commissioner Proposal Draws Flak
MUDASIR ALI (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar, Jan 21: Finance minister Tariq Hamid Karra’s proposal to have a special commissioner of appeals has been criticized by the Kashmiri traders who on Monday termed it a propaganda by the government to ‘wipe out’ the Kashmir trade industry.

The FM had proposed in his budget speech to have a special commissioner of appeals who shall hear appeals against the orders passed by assistant commissioners and deputy commissioners and to have an intermediate rung of officers between the commercial tax officer (CTO) and the deputy commissioner to assess audits of the dealers.

“The proposal by the FM is nothing but propaganda by government to wipe out Kashmiri trade,” said Farooq Ahmad Shah, president Kashmir Traders and Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), addressing a pressing conference here.

Shah accused that FM was aware of the fact that setting up of the new posts will increase the hardships for traders.

“FM has proposed special commissioner of appeals. They will be all men from government to exploit the traders at their will,” Shah said.

The traders, Shah said, were expecting that opposition National Conference will speak on this ‘anti-trader’ proposal. “But they’re silent and now we have no choice but to oppose the proposal publicly. We hope government will not compel us to come on roads,” Shah said.

He termed the proposal as a political move by the government to accommodate some ‘blue-eyed’ persons in the establishment.

“Elections are coming nearer and politicians have to keep their people in good humor. Hundreds of relatives of influential persons and politicians will be absorbed on these posts only to pile up the miseries of traders and manufacturers,” Shah said, adding, “Otherwise there are already so many government agencies existing meant for the same purpose.”

Shah said chairman of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on VAT, Dr Asim Dasgupta, on his recent visit to Kashmir admitted that revenue collection through the implementation of VAT regime has gone up to 54 percent.

“He (chairman) is on record to have asked other states to follow J&K as a role model. But FM maintains that the collection has gone up to only 35 percent. Where are the remaining 19 percent? Though implementation of VAT has brought losses to traders as well as consumers but we continued to support the government. Instead of encouraging the traders they are hell bent on destroying the trader community,” Shah said. The basic aim of the implementation of the VAT, Shah said, was to abolish the inspector Raj and allow commercial tax department to act as facilitator between trading community and government.

“Instead, government has proposed to set up commissioner Raj and wipe out the trading community. We wouldn’t accept this,” Shah said.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Face of a corrupt system: Woefully inadequate maternity wards of Srinagar's two main medical hospitals

While ruling politicians are skimming the system and separatists are busy denouncing one and all, ordinary citizens are suffering ......

1. Multiple problems plague Lal Ded

Excelsior Correspondent

Srinagar, Jan 19: Lal Ded Hospital, Valleys only maternity hospital, is in complete mess. Hospital has become a junkyard of the garbage without proper hygiene. Hundreds of women patients visiting the hospital everyday blame hospital administration of mismanagement and carelessness. While as the administration says patients are suffering due to lack of funds, infrastructure and shortage of man power.

But between the blame games, the poor patients in the hospital are left unattended and some times patients have to leave the hospital without any treatment. Hospital has become the symbol of corruption in the form of bakshish. Swaping of babies even some times child theft has become the common complaint of the patients.

The oxygen plant in the hospital is nonfunctional from past one month. The incinerator - used for disposing anatomical waste - stops working after every 10 days due to unavailability of fuel. The heating system is stopped for several hours even during the night time, in these chilly days, when the mercury dips below freezing point.

Patients also cry for the necessary medicines needed even at the time of emergency. The life saving drugs are too missing from the hospital.

Accepting that there are certain problems in the hospital, the Superintendent of LD Hospital, Bashir Ahmad Shah, blames it to lack of funds, insufficient staff and over burden of patients.
"We have 125 vacancies in the hospital and despite our requests to higher authorities these vacancies are not being filled or replaced by substitutes", says Shah. "These vacancies are in both the categories of doctors and paramedical staff. Shortage of the staff is hampering the work of hospital".

Shah says the hospital is always over burdened with patients. The 500 bed hospital with only 420 beds functional receives everyday about 120 indoor patients and relieves only 40 patients. So on average there are 600 patients admitted in the hospital which results in the doubling of patients.

About the budget and funds, Shah says, "Funds are very poor and less to meet the needs of hospital. This year's budget has exhausted three months earlier so we cannot provide drugs to patients."

The problem in the sewage disposal also lies in the shortage of staff. "We have dearth of staff for segregation and proper disposal of the hospital waste", Shah said, adding, "However, incinerator is functioning properly and we are disposing anatomical waste of Bone and Joint Hospital and Rainawari Hospital too."

But the experts in the field of garbage disposal say the segregation and disposal of the hospital waste in the hospital is not done according the required norms. They also warn that the treatment of this hazardous hospital waste has negative repercussions on the environment.
"We have written to the manufacturer of the Oxygen plant who is bound in providing service to us", says Shah, hastening his handicap in repairing the oxygen plant, "but the manufacturer has replied that he is busy and could not come for some time".

But the corruption and mismanagement has no answers in the administration as any body who visits hospital can see it.

Inaytullah Magray, who has brought his expected wife for delivery in the hospital and is admitted in the ward 305, narrates the awful tale of bakshish. "It starts from the time of making the admission ticket, the persons in the counter asks for the chai and says, 'these days it is very difficult to get admitted here so you are the lucky one as your wife has been allotted a bed'."
According to Magray the demand of money does not stop till the patient is discharged from the hospital. "When the Dai (female sweeper) come for sweeping the ward she asks for the money and this continues till you remain in the hospital", he says.

This happens everywhere in the hospital, be at operation theatre or drug counter, says Magray, where ever you go for the help money is demanded. And the demand and amount doubles if the delivered baby is a male child as the case happened with Magray.

However, Magray says, that the money is not demanded by the doctors but paramedics and other hospital staff and they too constantly deny that it is a bribe but chai or bakshish by own will of the patient and her attendants. As the birth of a child is blessing so offering money becomes necessary.

Swapping of a male child with female and theft of children with the cooperation of the staff in labour room and hospital is also blamed by people. Recently a woman was caught while trying to flee with a baby boy from the pediatric ward of the hospital. But some of the attendants got hold of her. Woman was later handed to police. In March 2007, a baby boy was taken and no trace of him has been found till date. There are few complaints regarding theft and exchange of babies in the Police Station Rajbagh.

However, the Superintendent of the hospital says that the bakshish may be prevailing in the hospital but he has no knowledge of that. "If such is the case people should bring into my notice. I got to know once that some employees have taken the bribe and suspended five employees. But people must cooperative for that, if they pay willingly what can be done".

2. SKIMS' maternity hospital suffers from 'host of diseases'

The Daily Etalaat

Srinagar, Jan 25: Rabia of Zoonimar Soura, a new-mother, finds it hard to feed her baby because she fears the baby might get hurt for the bed she is occupying is shared by another woman. This is not a one-off case. Sharing of beds by two patients is a norm in the Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences' maternity hospital.

"There is a huge rush of patients in the hospital and the number of beds is less. As a result new-mothers are forced to share beds," a junior resident doctor, wishing not to be named, told etala'at. And because of this, new-mothers have to bear the brunt. "I find it hard to rest. I am always afraid I might hurt the other patient or that she may hurt me," said Mehmooda of Mallabagh, who shared her bed with Rabia.

Rabia added: "I have not fed my baby properly. How can you when there is danger of the baby being hit by the other patient on the bed?"

One of the attendants, Firdousa of Zadibal chipped in. "There should be more number of beds here. Patients are facing a lot of problems in such a situation."

The maternity hospital, located just outside the premier SKIMS at Soura caters to patients from a host of areas like Sonamarg, Kangan, Sumbal, Ganderbal, Buchpora, Soura and many areas of the old city including Khanyar, Fateh Kadal, Nowhatta etc.

But the limited number of faculty members in the Department of Gynaecology and Obstetrics make matters even worse. "There are four faculty members currently working here who are supported by a handful of senior and junior resident doctors," said a senior gynaecologist at the hospital. "

Although two years back two senior faculty members retired, those two posts are yet to be filled by the government," she added. "To add to that, we have only three beds in the labour room and if an extra case comes up, we find it really hard to cater to all of them," she stressed. "Sometimes manhandling of doctors by the relatives of patients becomes a huge problem."

The government has allotted a portion of land for the construction of a 100-bedded maternity hospital at Soura, the work on it is yet to start. "Government made tall promises about the construction of the hospital. Those promises have yet to be fulfilled," the doctor signed off.

THE SITUATION IS NO BETTER AT OTHER TWO BIG HOSPITALS IN SRINAGAR: SHRI MAHARAJA HARI SINGH (SHMS) HOSPITAL AND THE BONE AND JOINT SURGERY (B&J) HOSPITAL.


B&J hospital turned into garbage dump

We don’t have incinerator facility: Deputy Med Supdt

Abid Bhat / Rising KashmirRising Kashmir News, Srinagar: The lawns of Bone and Joint Surgery Hospital Barzulla’s have been turned into garbage dump as the hospital lacks incinerator facility.

The problem has increased as the men of Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) are not clearing the wastage dump from the area.

“The main hurdle in the management of the waste here is a lack of incinerator in this hospital,” said Dr Sayeed Ahmad, Deputy Medical Superintend BJS hospital.

“We have to transport the biomedical waste to the incinerators at the LD hospital and some times there is delay in transporting the hazardous waste to LD.”The filth lying in the compounds is not only a serious threat to the public health but to the staff of the hospital as well. The hospital staff say that there should have been a mechanism to dispose off the waste. “Its transportation is a length procedure,” they said.

“I have seen the hospital staff burning the waste in open as they cannot remove this hazardous waste. In the morning the rag pickers look for the discarded syringes and other plastic material at this dumping site,” said Mohammad Yousuf, a canteen boy in the hospital.

The SMC has refused to lift the waste from the hospital.

Confirming this, the solid waste management officer at SMC Manzoor Ahmad told Rising Kashmir, “We had sent the dumper to Bone and Joints to remove the waste from the site. When we dumped the waste at Achen, it was found some that some biomedical waste was present”.He added, “We cannot handle the biomedical waste and it is up to the hospital authorities to find a solution to the problem.

The bio-medical waste needs to be segregated and labelled into bags at the point of generation after which its transportation and disposal can be carried out by using the approved methods”. Manzoor further said, “The hospital needs to make sure that this waste is not mixed with the garbage as its improper disposal puts to risk our staff also”.

About lack of this facility in hospital, Deputy Medical Superintendent BJS said that the proposal for installing an incinerator is pending with the higher authorities. “We have been demanding an incinerator for more than two years now and still no head way has been made on the issue,” he added.

For SMHS docs Sundays are fun days

Attend only critical patients after call from hospital

Faheem Qadri / Rising Kashmir, Srinagar: Doctors at Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital in Srinagar celebrate Sundays at home and attend to patients only in case of emergency and that too if the hospital administration calls them.

Injured in an accident, Jehangir Malik had to wait five hours to get an ultrasonography done as the doctors in Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) were absent.

The doctor who was to be present on duty was celebrating the holiday at home and arrived to the hospital only when she was repeatedly called up by the Chief Medical Officer of SMHS.

Asked about her absence from duty, the doctor said, “I am not responsible. It is the administration who should take care of things. On Sunday the doctors here are on call and whenever the need arises we are called up.”Javaid Ahmad, Malik’s brother said, “What does this mean that a doctor will be called up only when needed? What about the emergency case like this? By the time the doctor reached here my brother could have died. God forbid if anything would have happened to him who would have been held responsible?”

The Chief Medical Officer on duty called up five doctors but nobody was ready to visit the hospital.

As no doctor turned up, a doctor from a hostel was called up to handle the critical situation.Besides Jehangir there were seven other patients including three females waiting for a doctor to turn up.“We are waiting here. This is the only thing we can do. Officers here tell us it is none of their concerns,” said Assadullah, father of Rozy Jan, a patient from Chrar-e-Sharief.

The attendants of the patients had a scuffle with the doctors when they finally arrived as they had to wait hours together with their patients withering in pain.

“It is 4 pm and there is no doctor in the hospital. SMHS is the mother of all hospitals in Kashmir. The condition of smaller hospitals can only be guessed,” said Abdul Hamid, an attendant.

A patient Muhammad Akbar of Beeru Budgam is lying on a stretcher at Ward 6 for the past three days as the number of beds is not adequate. Admitted on the last Friday of the month after a brain hemorrhage, he was taken to an emergency ward and discharged the same day.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

J&K's 2008-09 Budget: eye-popping Rs.18,443 crores, but no stimulus for agriculture in Kashmir's largely agrarian economy

Nissar Bhat dissects the J&K Annual Budget and finds it lacking towards infrastructure development and agri-sector, while deepening the dependency syndrome.

(Mr. Nissar Ahmad Bhat, 38, was born and raised in Srinagar. He graduated from the Islamiya College of Science and Commerce, Srinagar, with a degree in B. Comm. His interests are reading and writing and is presently employed as a journalist.)


Of fiscal consolidation and correction

NISSAR BHAT

Srinagar, Jan 16: The budget 2008-09 presented in the state assembly today has come amid certain positive pointers like a fully funded Rs 4500 crore budget, an enhanced Rs 25,834 crore 11th five year plan, a considerably good revenue growth and a little bit containment of expenditures in the state. With these positive indicators should we believe then the state is limping towards the goal of fiscal correction and consolidation? Let us try to find out the answer.

To begin with, our experience with past budgets is not too healthy. Besides the critical challenges in economic and social areas hobbling state’s overall growth – that we continue to grapple with – the successive budgets while failing to forecast the formidable challenges emerging in a weak economy, like we have in J&K, did not devise long term measures as would strengthen and create self-sufficiency element in the state economy.

With budgets losing sight to trigger internal resource mobilization and contain unproductive expenditures, the dependency syndrome in J&K economy has seen a sustained elasticity.

Even as the current fiscal has made a positive shift in terms of enhancing the internal revenues, the burgeoning fiscal deficit that represents the growing borrowing requirement of the government continues to be an area of concern. Despite some increase in the state’s own tax revenue and share in central taxes, the outstanding liabilities as per cent of the gross state domestic product were at 60 per cent in previous fiscal. No wonder then J&K is far from achieving the goal of posting a revenue balance and reducing the ratio of gross fiscal deficit-gross state domestic product to three per cent by 2009-10 set forth by the twelfth finance commission while stressing for fiscal correction strategy in the states.

The two areas of concern other than the power where the liability has witnessed a sustained increase over the years are the pension and interest payments. While the interest payment and serving of debt in 1973-74 stood at Rs 14.75 crore, this increased to a whopping Rs 1100 crore in 2004-05. Similarly the pension liability grew from a mere Rs 1.58 crore in 1973-74 to Rs 630 crore in 2004-05.

The interest payments as percentage of total revenue expenditure have hardly seen any decline. While in 1998-99 the percentage of interest payments to total revenue expenditure stood at 13.54, in 2006-07 it was at 14.03 per cent. The budgets have hardly contained this growing liability. Even as the liabilities as percentage of gross domestic product have seen a decline from 81 per cent yet in 2006-07 it was at 60.1 per cent. From the gross fiscal deficit of Rs 96.6 crores in 1995-96, it escalated to over Rs 1200 2006-07.

The recent economic survey has rightly underlined the main areas of concern viz. unemployment, high power deficit, law rate of investment in agriculture. The finance minister recently said more than the fiscal deficit what concerns “us all is the huge infrastructure deficit.”

To have an idea of our infrastructure deficiency, two examples would do: When it comes to the road length - an enhancement of 1000 kilometers road length augments the income of the people by Rs 1000 - J&K has just 35.17 kilometers road length per 100 square kilometers. Similarly the state is facing the health infrastructure deficiency that the previous budgets have hardly sought to make up. We have just 111 hospital beds for the one lakh population and the ratio of doctors is 48:100,000.

It is not just that low outlays have gone into infrastructure development, we have also been lagging in social sector development. While in 1996-97 the social sector expenditure to total expenditure was 34.6 per cent, it declined to 28.2 per cent in 2006-07. When it comes to agri-sector, the position is not encouraging. With our failure to transform our archaic agri-based industry into a modernized one, the state’s production capacity has come down considerably. Not that alone, we have quite little to celebrate about other allied sectors including animal husbandry, milk supply, diary, forest and soil conservation and fisheries.

While over past some time the government has sought to mobilize the resources within the state, yet the populist compulsions have restrained it from going a whole hog. The entertainment industry for example, which indeed is buzzing in the current world has hardly added anything to the state kitty. Over the years the realization in this sector has dwindled. While in 1998-99 the entertainment tax realized by the state was Rs 3.27 crore in 2004-05 it was just Rs 86,000.

Thursday, January 17, 2008
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Friday, January 18, 2008

A noble voice from Azad Kashmir: Let us begin reconciliation with some confessional apologies ...

Kashmir Issue: Historical Wounds Healing and Reconciliation is Possible - By Sardar Aftab A. Khan

(Sardar Aftab Khan, 36, was born in Gulkot, Sudhnuti, in Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He is a graduate engineer who is presently living in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, United Kingdom. Aftab speakes five languages and has undertaken reconciliation training at the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy. He is the former chairman of the Kashmir Youth Movement, and has addressed conferences all over the world on the subject of preventing young people from getting involved in conflict situations. His interests are peace, environment and development.)


Jammu Kashmir! Heaven on earth in the folds of great Himalayas exist as a distinct political and geographical entity from before B.C with varying borders and sovereignty.
This beautiful country has always been a peaceful and picturesque destination for those who want to rediscover their souls, comfort and peace of mind.

For the last half a century the people of Jammu Kashmir have been suffering from enormous economic hardships, conflict, turmoil and uncertainty about their future.
The rapidly changing geopolitical situation of the world has had a dramatic impact on the Kashmiri’s genuine people resistance movement for peace, security, stability, honour and independence. There is a lot of confusion in the western world about whether the movement is a freedom struggle, a cross-border incursion or terrorism.

As after 9/11 everything has changed and the meaning of many words has tried to be re-written. We know that there are many stakeholders in Jammu Kashmir and many more are interested in profiting from the conflict. There are many proposals, formulas and road maps for a solution to this conflict from outside but very few or hardly any from with in Jammu Kashmir.
Jammu Kashmir is currently divided in three different administrative units, i.e. Indian held Kashmir (IHJK), Semi autonomous Azad Kashmir (AJK), and Pakistan held part of Kashmir (Gilgit Baltistan). The people of these parts are also put under three different sets of governance control. They do not have the freedom of speech and movement among different parts of Jammu Kashmir. They cannot freely interact with each other to discuss their political future and evolve a unified political agenda and leadership.

Some historical wounds and some misconceptions have disturbed the socio-ethnic and multi-religious co-existence in Jammu Kashmir, and add to the complexity of Kashmir issue.
There is a serious need for a process of healing and reconciliation among people of all faiths and political viewpoint in Jammu Kashmir.

To start with Kashmiri should have to overcome the dilemma of misconceptions about their historical wounds such as Amritsar Treaty, two-nation theory, the end of sovereignty of Jammu Kashmir on October 27, 1947, January 05, 1949 U.N resolution which has limited the right of self-determination of the Kashmiris, Tashkent and Simla agreements, Lahore and Islamabad declaration of January 06, 2004.

Jammu Kashmir with its current geographical boundaries and a total area of 2,22,336 Square Kilometer with a population over 12.5 million came into being as an autonomous state on March 16, 1846 by virtue of the Treaty of Amritsar between Maharaja Gulab Sing and Mr. Frederick Currie, Esq., acting under order of Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Harding Governor General of the Possessions of East India Company. This autonomous status changed to that of a sovereign state on august 13, 1947 when British rule ended in south Asia.

Alas! This sovereignty and independence were soon lost when Pakistani tribesmen entered into the state and Indian armed forces invaded Jammu Kashmir and at the same time Pakistan armed forces also got there and both the armies clashed to occupy the whole state. In 1948-49 United Nations mediated a ceasefire and resolved to arrange a plebiscite to determine the future status of Jammu Kashmir according to the wishes of the people of the state. However, both India and Pakistan refused to withdraw their armed forces and did not fulfilled their obligation to hold a free plebiscite under the auspices of U.N.

This status quo continues till today and the tottering fabric of human civilization in South Asia is still struggling for its sustenance. Pakistan and India both have adopted positional bargaining tactics to resolve this issue during their negotiations, which is the root cause of unresolved issue of Jammu Kashmir. Only principled negotiations can bring lasting peace in South Asia and Right of Self determination to the people of Jammu Kashmir.

To be part of "principled negotiations" the people of Jammu Kashmir need a process of healing and reconciliation among Muslims, Hindu Dogras, Pundits, Sikhs, Buddhists and Christians. This can be done by properly identifying and eliminating the misconceptions about historical wounds, accepting responsibility of all the misdeeds that different ethnic and religious groups had done to each other and rendering a proper apology for them. There must be a commitment from all sides not to repeat the bloody chapter of violence against each other in future.

One of the biggest historical wounds of Kashmiri nation is the myth "Amritsar Treaty was a sale deed of Kashmiri Nation". This misconception has been the main source of mistrust among Muslims and non-Muslims in Jammu Kashmir. The reality is that Maharaja Gulab Sing being son of soil had paid the ransom money to East India Company in 1846 and regained autonomy and statehood for the people of Jammu Kashmir. His misdeeds and those by his successors towards their people are another chapter and should be analyzed separately.

To start a process of healing and reconciliation among people of all faiths and religions in Jammu Kashmir I would suggest that Dr. Karan Sing being legal heir to throne of last ruler of Jammu Kashmir should extend an apology for all the misdeeds his ancestors had done to the people of Jammu & Kashmir, particularly the Muslims during their time of rule. Similarly, Mirwaz Umer Farooq being religious leader of the Muslims and Sardar Abdul Qayyum being the one of the main living leader of people resistance movement in 1947 should apologize for all the misdeeds which Muslim had done to non-Muslims during 1947-49 in Azad Jammu Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan and also during last 16 years in Indian held Jammu Kashmir.

I hope by these gestures for social justice and commitment for non-violence against each other in people resistance movement for independence of our motherland we can restore the multi-ethnic and multi-religious social fabric of our tolerant harmonious society. This will help us to stand united under one flag, one leadership and one resolve for independence. We will soon join the community of nations as torchbearers for peace, love, and harmony. And once again our land, the paradise will welcome all those who love nature to soothe their souls in the folds of Himalayas.

Sardar Aftab A. Khan can be contacted by E-mail at aftab787@yahoo.com or by snail mail at Gulkot, Pallandri, Sudhnuti, Azad Jammu Kashmir (via Pakistan). Note that this article was written in September 2004.

How is corruption in Kashmir these days? Glad you asked ...

Three related news items emanating from the J&K State Assembly exemplify how corruption is eating into vitals of the Kashmiri ethos. Transparency International (TI) has stated that J&K is the second most corrupt state in India.


1. Suffocated Baig offers to quit

(KASHMIR IMAGES)

Jammu, Jan 14: Confessing that deep-rooted corruption in the state was suffocating him, Deputy Chief Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig said he was contemplating to bid farewell to the his high profile office. This is how it was until late Monday after his emotional speech to the House minutes before Chief Minister’s address who vowed to carry on his fight against corruption.

Muzaffar Baig left the House dumb struck when he disclosed at the conclusion of the debate on the charges of corruption leveled against a minister in the State Legislative Assembly that he feels to quit.

“I feel asphyxiated in this system which has been so rotten and deep rooted that we can not change it despite best efforts,” said Baig after seeking permission of the speaker to speak before the Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad. “It may be a feeling of defeat and inadequacy, but I confess that I feel so lonely and helpless,” said Baig.

“May be I do not have the kind of resilience that the Chief Minister has, but is it the responsibility of an individual alone to fight this termite out from our society? Aren't we all responsible?" he carried on.

“One CM, one Cabinet can not change this system,” lamented Baigh.

“Our society values only money. We are all falling prey to this rotten system,” said Beig expressing regret. Quoting from Upanishads, Baig said that however bright the fire may be, it is bound to emit smoke. “When shall corruption end, we do not know, but we shall have to initiate a beginning.”

He confessed that he was in deep anguish as he stood in the House. "I am not ready to sit here if I can not make a difference" he said.

“It is easy to ask for eradication of corruption but very difficult to weed it out and cut the tentacles of monster. “Rashvat kay khilaf bolna alag hai aur rashvat ki lash ko kanday per utha kar dafan kar nay kay liye zameen doondna alag baat hai.”


2. ‘Clean’ Govt’s mantri took bribe of Rs 40,000

Jehangir Rashid (The Daily Etalaat)

Jammu, Jan 15: Education Minister Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed resigned on Tuesday following charges by an independent legislator, Shoaib Lone that he took a bribe of Rs 40,000 from him. Peerzada called on the CM and submitted the resignation to him. "The Minister has resigned to pave way for an independent inquiry into the matter,"

Azad told the Legislative Assembly while speaking on the motion of thanks on the Governor's address to both Houses of the Legislature. Azad said the resignation letter has been forwarded to the Governor for acceptance. He said that investigations would be carried out on the allegations leveled against the Education Minister.

Shoaib Lone, who represents Sangrama constituency in the Houses, hinted on Monday that it was Peerzada who had taken a bribe of Rs 40,000 from him to do his sister’s work.

Azad informed the House that he has accepted the minister’s resignation, but without naming Peerzada he added that it has been sent to Governor for his approval.

Earlier on Monday night, Peerzada, who also heads the state unit of the Congress, told reporters here that he would resign as his name had figured in the corruption charges levelled by Shoaib.

"I have no idea as to what he (Shoaib) is talking about, but since my public image has been targeted, I would quit the Ministry till inquiry comes out with its findings," the PTI quoted Peerzada as saying."I, however, want the inquiry should be fair and just," he said suspecting there was a "big political conspiracy (being hatched) against me by my rivals within the party (the Congress) and outside of it.”

Peerzada’s resignation came after the Kashmir police arrested his driver for allegedly making threatening calls to Shoaib's mother. The caller had allegedly asked that either Shoaib takes back his corruption allegations or he will be killed.

The Opposition had raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly on Monday and demanded the sacking of the Education Minister.


3. Handwara resident offers arrest for bribing MLC - “I paid Rs 60,000 to MLC M S Panditpuri to get a job for my son”

Ashiq Hussain

Handwara, Jan 17: Encouraged by what happened to Education Minister and State Congress chief Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed after the expose of his alleged involvement in bribery, one person staged a sit-in in front of police station in Handwara today demanding he be arrested for having bribed the MLC, M S Panditpuri. “If both who give and take bribe are criminal, then I also deserve to be arrested,” is the argument Sahaullah Mir of Batagund Handwara puts forth.

Mir says Member Legislative Council, M S Panditpuri, had demanded a graft of Rs 60,000 from him for getting his son Ashiq Hussain Mir and son-in-law Feroz Ahmed Ganaie appointed in government service.

According to Mir he had paid RS 60,000 to Panditpuri in presence of two witnesses Ghulam Ahmed War and Saif-ud-din Mir on January 26, 2001.

However, neither have my son and son-in-law been provided jobs nor money returned to me, Mir says, adding that he had even taken the case to the State Accountability Commission (SAC).

After hearing the case registered under number 3/2005, SAC, he said had written to the State Governor for action against Panditpuri and also recommended that Mir be returned double the amount that had been claimed from him as graft.

However, until now neither has any action been taken against Panditpuri not has the money been returned to me, said Mir.

And enthused by what happened to Peerzada Mohammed Sayeed following his alleged complicity in bribery, Sahaullah Mir of Batagund Handwara came to the Police Station Handwara Thursday morning and asked the cops there to arrest him.

“Arrest me, please arrest me as I have been involved in bribery and am liable to be punished,” Mir told the policemen. However, the cops there “denied him the privilege” and pushed him out, following which Mir staged a sit-in outside the police station demanding he be arrested.

“Chief Minister says besides those who demand and accept bribe even the people who give bribe are criminal and must be punished; therefore I deserve to be arrested and punished,” says Mir.

With police in no mood to put him behind bars despite his “public confession”, Mir has threatened that “in case action was not initiated against him”, he will bring his family along on Friday and they will together “commit suicide outside the police station”.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Ecological Disaster in the Making: Forest Minister admits it's a "loot and scoot" situation

Forest is a totally ruined department, says Forest Minister

From Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

(Mr. Fayyaz, 47, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. He is the Srinagar bureau chief of Jammu & Kashmir's largest-circulated newspaper, Daily Excelsior. He is also a filmmaker and currently making a film on Kashmir's top pilgrim tourism destination of Chrar-e-Sharief, and about Sheikh-ul-Alam Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani, also known as Nund Rishi.)

SRINAGAR, Jan 12: Forest Minister Qazi Mohammad Afzal, who is in the eye of a storm in Legislative Assembly over the Kundal committee report, today said that Forest was a "totally ruined department" in which the loot-and-scoot situation was continuing and the politicians and officials had built too strong a nexus to be broken by ordinary measures. He asserted that he would leave no stone unturned to expose real culprits of the timber mafia whose immunity was intact notwithstanding the Kundal report.

Qazi Afzal revealed to EXCELSIOR that the other day only he had taken a high level meeting of senior officials and called for a detailed report about the massive damage caused to the state's sylvan cover in his 3-month-long absence from Ministry. "I have no hesitation in saying that due to political intervention, Forest has become a totally ruined department. This is what I had revealed to Chief Minister in August last year as I wanted to launch a major drive against the timber mafia", Qazi said.

"When the timber mafia came to know that I was going to get back my portfolio, it managed posting of a DFO in the most sensitive Pir Panjal Division in the dead of night. Order was issued hours before I resumed charge. And, what was the sin of the prematurely removed DFO? He had just ignored a politician's halt orders and dismantled the illegal sawmills of three of his relatives in 'A' zone in Budgam district", Qazi lamented. He said that within two days of his resuming charge, he learned that scores of conifer trees had been felled in compartment No: 66 of Gogaldara Block in Gulmarg Range.

On Qazi's express orders, Forest Protection Force (FPF) conducted a raid and found that 11 Devdar and 3 Kail trees had been felled in just two days and 1450 cft of timber was being smuggled. The FPF team seized 792 cft (636 cft Devdar and 156 cft Kail) and placed the same in the custody of Forester Ghulam Ahmed Sofi, Block Officer Khoipora, against a Supurdnama. On the Minister's orders, PCCF Mr Irshad Khan placed Range Officer Gulmarg, Ishtiaq Ahmed Matoo, Block Officer Gogaldara, Forester Malik Feroz and Forest Guard Ghulam Ahmed Rishi under suspension. "I'm ordering a high level inquiry as I have reasons to believe that higher level officials and some politicians are actually involved", Qazi asserted.

Minister has also learned that a former Range Officer of Gulmarg, who had been similarly placed under suspension last year in identical circumstances, has not only managed his reinstatement but has also been rewarded with a training course. Even as both Vigilance Organisation as well as Forest Department are supposedly conducting an investigation, the official involved is under training in Dehradun.

"This is our State's biggest problem. Our forests are denuded with impunity and there's a lot of political intervention from several quarters. In August itself, I had told honourable Chief Minister that MLAs as well as the people they represent are not satisfied with the system in Forest sector. I had made it candidly clear that media was equally dissatisfied and the timber procured from our forests was not reaching the common man. Now that I am back to the work, I'll mean business", Qazi added. He said that due to the Kundal committee investigation, one-odd Forest official had been axed, that too in an offence of dual citizenship. "It's a veritable big mafia, completely intact even after the Kundal probe. It has become a huge, lucrative business for well-connected people. Until we take a major initiative, it's not going to break", he added.
Qazi revealed that in days of returning to office, he observed that massive damage had been caused to forests in his own Assembly constituency of Ganderbal. "We immediately mobilized Police which seized as many as 57 sleepers and dumped it at DPL Ganderbal", he said.

Last fortnight again, in a day of his resuming the portfolio Qazi learned that massive damage had been lately caused to some compartments in Lidder Division in Anantnag district. On the Minister's orders, a four-member team of FPF conducted a midnight raid and seized 126 cft of illegally felled timber at Vail Nagbal in Mattan Range. In two hours of the raid, a group of 12 officials of Forest Division Lidder cordoned the house of the poor Gujjar who had provided shelter to the FPF team. As the Forest officials were preparing to set the house on fire and burn the FPF officials alive, a reinforcement from FPF and Police rushed to the spot on an SOS and rescued the three guards and a watcher.

Next day, FPF officials lodged a complaint with Police Station Aishmuqam and identified five culprits as Ghulam Nabi Paddar, Abdur Rasheed Trali, Nisar Ahmed Mir, Mohammad Afzal Sheikh and Mohammad Ramzan, all Forest Guards of Lidder Division. Qazi said that he had asked for a detailed report and a "very serious departmental action" was imminent against the five Forest officials and their local helpers.

Asked for his comments, Joint Director FPF Kashmir, Liaquat Ali Dar, said that Police simply filed an FIR but did not take any further action. He added that officials of Lidder Division did not only attempt to burn the FPF team alive but also thrashed Deputy Director Abdul Salam Sofi mercilessly next day when he went to the spot. "My subordinate staff in Anantnag have complained to me that the SHO has taken a sum of Rs 50,000 from the culprits and hushed up the matter. This is a serious allegation which I am taking up with SSP Anantnag and other senior Police officials", he said.

Dar was, however, quick to give credit to Forest Department that earlier this week DFO Kamraj Division extended best possible cooperation to the FPF squads in jointly seizing over 600 cft of illicit timber that has had been felled in compartments 17-Tris and 19-Tris in Kupwara district. He said that the DFO also placed two guards and a watcher immediately under suspension. He said that "heavy damage" was being caused to the forests in Kashmir valley and claimed that FPF had seized as much as 2,000 cft of illicit timber in just three days.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

All Politics is Local - Exchange With Mr. Omar Abdullah (NC) on Lack of Degree Colleges in the Budgam District

Hon. Omar Abdullah
J&K National Conference

I am writing to you about a very serious matter. Even though I am currently based in Washington (USA), I have a special place is my heart for the Budgam district, the land of Sheikh Nooruddin. I have watched with keen interest the human development in the district that mostly relies on agricultural economy, when everyone sitting in Srinagar/Jammu talks about investing in tourism and export promotions. I have always felt that among the three original Tehsils in the district, Chandura got the short thrift. One of my concerns has been that while both Budgam and Beerwah have degree colleges, none exists in Chandura.

I am sad to say that this situation has only worsened since the State government implemented the Bilorea Commission recommendations last summer. Suddenly, what was once just an Assembly constituency, Khansahib, has been propelled as a sub-divisional headquarters pushing the Chandura Tehsil into further irrelevance. May be I am not smart enough to know why Khansahib, which is much smaller in size than Chandura and some other towns in the district, would get a higher preference over Chandura. But the recent agitation by usually peaceful people in Magam, Chrar, Chandura and elsewhere only points to a sense of injustice that local people feel about decisions being made by the State government unmindful of public reaction by showering favors on a less deserving town. Rightly or wrongly, it conveys images of Machiavellian politics.

I am not saying that Khansahib should not receive development funds. Budgam district has the dubious distinction of being Jammu and Kashmir’s most backward district in education. So had the government gifted even 2 or 3 degree colleges (out of the 18 announced recently) to the district, it would not have been inappropriate. But when the district is assigned only one new college, I believe politicians of your caliber would know that it will provoke violent reaction from constituents because of ill-advised decision to favor a less deserving town over more deserving towns. In Magam, one is faced with an added complexity of dealing with religious sensitivities that further complicate an already tenuous situation.

Both Chandura and Chrar have substantially larger high school population than Khansahib. In the broader context of locating the new degree college in the Budgam district, it would have been much wiser if decision makers had looked at the map to select a geographically central location, considering that degree colleges already exist in Budgam, Beerwah and Bemina. At least such a decision would have been convenient for college going students. If indeed such a decision is made, there is no question in my mind that the choice would be Chandura.

I appeal to the J&K government through the largest political entity in the State Assembly to re-examine the decision to locate the new degree college in the district at Khansahib. I strongly believe that district constituents will be best served if the college is located in Chandura, though I would hope that because of district’s utterly pathetic literacy rate, the State government makes a wise decision to locate two new degree colleges in the Budgam district – one in Chandura and one in Magam.

With my best regards,

Vijay Sazawal
__________________________

Dear Dr Sazawal,

Many thanks for your email regarding your concerns about the location of degree colleges in Budgam district.

You make a strong case and I am inclined to agree with most if not all that you have said except that unfortunately logic seldom plays a part in decisions like this. Khan Sahib assembly has the only MLA as a Minister and that too one close to the Chief Minister (as opposed to a Minister of State from Chadoora belonging to PDP). This is the ONLY reason for selecting the location of the degree college.

All I can assure you is that should the National Conference be returned to power in the elections this year we will take a fresh look at locations of all the new degree colleges and rationalise the same.

Thank you once again for your feedback.

Best wishes

Omar Abdullah
Sent from BlackBerry® on Airtel

Azad Plays Machiavellian Politics, Sacrifices Principles Over Political Expediency

KPs, women fume at no representation in ministry

Rising Kashmir News

Jammu, Jan 05: Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad has failed to please all sections of society by expanding his council of ministers. This time the Kashmiri Pandits as also the women have been left out leading to strong resentment in these sections.Those angry over the non-inclusion of a KP or a woman in the cabinet point out that it was for the first time in recent democratic history that they were ignored. It goes against much talked about issue of 33 per cent reservation to women in matters of governance and also to government’s plans about resettlement of Kashmir Pandits.

In the first three years of coalition government headed by Mufti Mohammad Sayeed both had representation, though the lone KP minister Raman Matoo later landed in jail in infamous sex scandal. Suman Lata Baghat, was the senior cabinet minister. She also was under dock for her alleged corrupt practices.But this time many names were making rounds in Congress circles about possible nominees. Ashok Bhan, a Delhi based Congress leader and senior Supreme Court lawyer and MLA Khem Lata Wakhloo were the front runners for a berth in the cabinet. Bhan had a strong backing of Congress high command as he had also brokered talks between moderate Hurriyat Conference and New Delhi and was seen as a better face of KPs in the Congress.

Similarly Wakhloo’s induction would have pleased both the sections. A former minister in Ghulam Mohammad Shah’s regime, Wakhloo is a nominated MLA and has been loyal to party since she quit the Awami National Conference. Sources in the party said that pressure was mounted on Azad to accommodate one of them but he did not relent as he was keen to take in his close confidant Abdul Gani Vakil. Wakhloo told risingkashmir.com that the party might have thought about elections which are close and taken a decision accordingly. Though the sources said that she was not happy but she did not make a direct comment saying, “KPs don’t have representation in the ministry.”

However, Jitendra Bakhshi, Chairman of Action Committee for Return of Migrants was forthright in saying, “It is shameful on part of Congress to ignore KPs.” “I am opposed to Congress politics but they should not have done this,” he said adding, “The minority minister might not have done wonders for the community but it speaks lot about the Congress policy towards settlement of Pandits.”

Likewise the women also feel demoralised. Since the “restoration of democratic process” in 1996, the women have not been given their due share. In Farooq Abdullah’s government Sakina Ittoo was the lone minister when she started as Deputy Minister and then MoS. Later Suman Bhagat was the Health Minister in Mufti’s regime. While Congress did not make any effort to give women their due position, the PDP too did not contribute much in that direction inspite of having a woman as president. There are, however, a few women elected as councilors of various municipal committees and corporations as members but they are left with little powers to deliver.

Noted social activist Nighat Shafi Pandit said that the situation on this front was very disturbing. “Women have no voice in this state when they make 50 per cent population,” she told risingkashmir.com. “Forget ministry even the State Commission for Women is without a chairperson. A minister was quoted as saying that there was no woman suitable for the post,” she said adding, “This is ridiculous.”

Referring to government’s plans to appoint chairpersons for various boards, she said, “It should not be an exercise for rehabilitating someone who has lost elections. If the government is spending huge amount on them then those people should be appointed who can contribute.”Shafi said that women were the worst sufferers in the state on account of all situations.

Government finally takes action to halt culture of massive corruption in SRTC - Postscript to the story posted on 28 November 2007

(Apropos to the investigative reporting by Ahmed Ali Fayyaz that was posted on the Blog on November 28, 2007, the Government concedes to the rot in SRTC.)

Govt wakes up to SRTC ‘death’

Cancels 143 Illegal Appointments Made In 2007

SHEIKH AJAZ

Srinagar Jan 4: State government on Friday cancelled the appointments ordered in the State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) during last year. “It is hereby ordered that the appointments/engagements made in SRTC on consolidated basis during 2007 in violation of prescribed procedure are cancelled with immediate effect,” an order issued by the General Administration Department (GAD) reads. The order (No. 1515-GAD of 2007) mentions cancellation of 143 appointments made in the corporation in 2007. The appointments, according to many SRTC employees, were made in brazen violation of rules and regulations. The employees have been protesting against the appointments for the past many months, seeking their cancellation.

“From past one year we’ve been protesting against the illegal appointments; finally the government admitted its fault. The cancellation of illegal appointments would surely end severe financial crisis plaguing the corporation,” said an SRTC employee, Muhammad Ramzan.

Another employee, Noor Muhammad said, “It is not our hobby to raise protests, but we wanted to expose the rot.” According to SRTC sources there’re myriad reasons that have turned the corporation into a proverbial white elephant. The issue of illegal appointments is one.

The other major reason for SRTC’s downfall is plying of buses on non-profitable routes. “Dozens of our buses operate on the recommendations of many MLAs and ministers in their non-descript constituencies,” the sources said. “If we ply some of those buses on other routes, we’ll end up as gainers.”

Friday, January 04, 2008 Copyright © 1998-2008- GreaterKashmir.com

Tourism is nice, but it does not create adequate jobs in our State that has predominantly agriculture based economy

Develop leather sector in JK

(Dr. Mazaffar Bhat from Chandoora, Budgam district, argues for private sector development in an agrarian economy.)

LETTER PUBLISHED IN THE DAILY ETALAAT, 2 JANUARY, 2008

We all know that Jammu Kashmir state has been going through a worst kind of political, social and psychological turmoil since last nearly two decades. In addition to political instability many more socio-economic problems have increased manifold which are eating up the vitals of our society. One of the most important socio-economic problems is the problem of un-employment. This is a global problem nowadays but as for as our state is concerned unemployment has crippled the life of our educated unemployed youth who in spite of being highly educated are jobless. The government departments are already overflowed by the employees. We all have to acknowledge this hard fact that there are hardly any avenues in government sector now plus JK state ranks number one with regard to number of government employees (population wise). If we talk of private sector it is still under-developed in our state. Only a few sectors are being explored by the state government. Moreover our politicians lack political sagacity with the result we find lot of restlessness in our youth.

In order to generate more jobs for our unemployed youth, government has to explore the possibilities of developing private sector in Jammu Kashmir state. There are many private sectors other than tourism, handicrafts and horticulture, which have enormous potential if they are exploited in a more professional way. One of such sectors is leather sector. In Jammu Kashmir as per the statistics of Jammu Kashmir Kisaan Tehreek (a Peasants Organisation) an estimated nine lakh cattle including buffallows,12 lack goats,19 lack sheep are being consumed annually. But this is a matter of grave concern for all of us that in spite of such a huge consumption of mutton and beef we still do not have any well established large sector leather industry. We do not find any high-tech leather processing units or tanneries in our state. Every day we see trucks loaded with animal skins and hides are being transported to cities like Ludhiana, Jallandher, Agra and Delhi where there are many large scale and small scale leather industries. This is a shame on part of our politicians and policy makers that in spite of such a large amount of raw material availability in this sector still our state government is unaware of it. Nothing has been done to develop leather sector. This is clear sign of depravity on part of the state government. Our government is only putting its efforts to develop handicrafts, tourism, etc and consequently problem of unemployment is increasing with each passing day. Our state government must ensure setting up of large and small scale leather industries. I request the business class of our state to come forward and play their role to ensure establishment of leather processing units. This sector has a lot of revenue generating capacity and above all it will open up many, many new job opportunities for a large chunk of our educated unemployed youth. I hope our state government will soon adapt a policy about establishing leather processing units in the state on much larger scale.

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
Gopalpora, Chadoora, Kashmir

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Impending Ecological Disaster From Loss of Forest Resources in Kashmir

Plunder of J&K Forest Wealth Unabated

Athar Parvaiz (Kashmir Times) provides a disturbing view

SRINAGAR, Jan 1: Forest fires, encroachments and illegal extraction of timber from the forests of the state have cumulatively inflicted a heavy damage on the forest resources of the state over the last many years. Apart from the loss of forest resources worth thousands of crores of Rupees, the damage inflicted on the forests has also resulted into a considerable devastation of other resources like water bodies.

The forest department has not worked out the total damage suffered by the forests in terms of money. However, the other statistics in the forest department, which Kashmir Times gained access to, indicate that the forests have suffered an overwhelming devastation owing to the encroachment of forest land, forest fires and illegal extraction of timber and pilferage of other products from forests. In addition to the direct economic loss, the damage caused to the forest resources by way of encroachments, forest fires and illegal deforestation, has also led to soil erosion on a large scale. According to the figures available with the department 9406.79 hectares of land was found to be encroached upon in the state in year 2002 with 6063.00 hectares of land encroached upon in Kashmir division and 3343.79 hectares in Jammu region. In 2003, the figure rose upto 9697.53 hectares for the entire J & K and in 2004, it further rose to a whopping 12654.90 hectares. The figures of last two years are being worked out, said an official in the Forest Department.

Similarly the increasing forest fires and illegal extraction of timber from forests have also laid their impact on the river apart from resulting into loss of green gold worth thousands of crores of rupees. As per the figures available in the department forest resources spread over 873.10 hectares of forest land were burnt down during 117 fire incidents in forest areas in year 2001-2002. In year 2002-2003, forest resources on 3192.20 hectares of land got reduced to ashes during 432 fire incidents; in the 2003-04, the resources on 1116.61 hectares of land in 104 fire incidents got burnt down; in year 2004-05 the fire engulfed resources on 10288.60 hectares of land inflicting heavy damage.

Surprisingly, despite the fact that about 60 percent of the area of J & K comprises of forests (according to the latest report released by the Remote Sensing Department), no effective controlling measures have been evolved for controlling fires in the forests of the state. Forest fires take place every year in the state allegedly because of the mafia operations (wherein timber smugglers set forest areas ablaze) as also due to the natural reasons. In the modern times, some effective controlling measures have been developed by some countries which include gas sprays, artificial precipitation and creation of timely artificial barriers for preventing the spread of fire. But our state has got none of these modern tools.

No records were available in the Forest Department regarding the illegal extraction of timber from the forests since the department only records the extraction of trees which are marked by the employees of the department for extraction owing to their decadence or damage caused to them during snowfall in winters. However the number of cases the department has registered against the offenders gives some idea about the illegal extraction of timber from the forests. For example as many as 143061 cases registered by the forest department against the offenders were pending till the end of 2004-05. More and more cases get added to the list with each passing month and year.

Experts say that the damage caused to the forests over the years has led to excessive soil erosion which in turn has led to heavy siltation in the River Jhelum and its tributaries. "During the precipitation, the eroded soil gets dumped into tributaries of river Jhelum which ultimately find their way into Jhelum causing heavy siltation in the river. same is the case with the rest of the streams and the rivulets", says Dr Mohammad Sultan who teaches Geography in the Kashmir University. The experts opine that the trend needs to be curbed as early as possible, lest the state would lose forest and other resources in abundance.