Introduction to 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.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

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.

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