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.

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Friendly Note to Houseboat Owners: Charity Begins at Home

Aleem Akhtar to concerned houseboat owners: Doctor, Heal Thyself.

(Aleem Ibne Akhtar, 23, was born and brought up in Srinagar. He did his schooling at the Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School and his B.A. (Economics) from Fergusson College, Pune. He went for higher studies in U.K., completing his Master's degree in Economics from the University of Essex last September, and is currently enrolled at the same University for a doctorate in Development Economics. His interests are minority empowerment in India, and everything to do with Kashmir.)

This is in response to the ‘awareness’ rally carried out by the House Boat Owners Association regarding the preservation of the Dal Lake. To raise awareness amongst the masses, highlighting the poignant condition of the lake, is a noble cause but seems somewhat ironic for the House Boat owners to protest against the Government and other polluters of the lake. It is indeed the sewage of the House Boats that has been and still is the major factor responsible for the lake’s rotten condition. If anyone at all needs to be educated about the conservation of the lake, it is the house Boat owners! Not only because of being primary contributors to the Lake’s pollution but also because they are the only living beneficiaries of the Lake!

House Boats in Kashmir gained prominence as a result of a ban imposed by the Maharaja which prohibited the ownership of land in Kashmir by non state subjects. In the wake of this, House Boats became a prominent haven for the visiting British tourists, offering luxury five star abodes to them. House Boats became mascots of Kashmir tourism and gained a world wide acclaim.

However the British during their time had ensured two things. One, the House Boats would not permanently stay on the Dal. They would move to Jehlum in the lean season. Second, scavengers would clean the toilets and take night soil away from the lake. This ensured that the Dal water remained as pure with the tourists as it was without them.

However after 1975, the House Boats monopolized the Dal waters and now they are not allowing the authorities even to re adjust their mooring in accordance with the High Court order. And about the human waste disposal, less said the better. All the toilets open directly into the lake, making its water not just shitty but a breading ground for all kinds of weed and disease. The open drains from the city of course compliment the contribution of the House Boats in making Dal world’s most beautiful latrine.

Average cost of a House Boat is in no case less than one crore these days. But, ask any house boat owner to use a green toilet which should not cost more that Rupees two lacs and they would demand subsidies and raise a banner of revolt against any such suggestion.

I hope at least one well meaning House Boat owner takes the initiative of going Green and installing a Green Toilet as has been promised by Laloo Yadav in his latest budget for the Indian Railways. This is a very cost effective and easy solution to neutralize the impact of houseboats which otherwise would be increasingly seen as the chief destroyers of Dal lake. In fact others living on the water body itself could take a queue from this and save their habitat. That small initiative would be worth a million shouts on the Boulevard.

No comments: