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.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Exposing the Hollowness of Claims Being Made by the J&K Government

Syed Basharat reports on how a social activist hit a dead end when seeking information under the RTI

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 28, 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.

Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, 33, was born in Wathoora village in the Budgam district and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial High School in 1993. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Dental Surgery from from the Karnatka University in 2000. He has a private dental practice in Chandoora and is a social activist dedicated to educating public on the Right To Information legislation.)

What transpired between CM's & Governor's office?

SRINAGAR, Apr 1: The officials at the helm of affairs in Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's office have failed to respond to an application submitted by an activist under Right To Information Act (RTI) seeking the information that transpired between the CM's and the Governor's offices regarding enactment of Jammu and Kashmir RTI Amendment bill 2007.

"On February 26, 2008 I submitted an application each to CM and the Governor with requisite fee under treasury receipt number 108 and 106. I had sought the information about the correspondence transpired between the two constitutional positions with regard to enactment of RTI amendment bill 2007. As per RTI Act the applicant is supposed to receive the reply within 30 days but over a month has passed now, I have not received any reply from both the offices," said Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat RTI activist in Kashmir. Dr Bhat added that he has not even received acknowledgement cards which he had attached with his applications, which compelled him to file an appeal under RTI provision. "If the people don't get response from the Governor or Chief Minister what can we expect from the lower rung officials," he stated.

Dr Bhat observed that "on the one hand the Chief Minister claims that he has launched a Jehad against corruption but on the other hand the laws which could curb the corruption are totally being ignored by the officials of CM secretariat and Governor's office."The J&K RTI Act amendment bill was introduced in assembly in October 2007 but the Governor withheld his assent 'as the amendment bill had not included all the provisions which could have made it powerful and workable as Central RTI Act 2005.

'In February 2008 this bill was given assent by the Governor as a money bill, but the provisions which makes a bill as a money bill were absent and in this context Dr Muzaffar said, he had sought information from CM's and Governor's office."RTI Act is the only weapon which can help our CM to eradicate corruption from this state," Dr Bhat said and added that an electoral democracy should be transformed into participatory democracy which is only possible when Jammu and Kashmir has a strong RTI legislation.

It is pertinent to mention here that the legislature of Jammu and Kashmir passed the Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act (J&K RTI Act or principal Act) in December 2003. It was notified in the Official Gazette in 2004. Rules for implementing this Act were notified by the state government in 2005. This law is closely modeled on the erstwhile Freedom of Information Act (FOI Act) passed by the Indian Parliament in 2002 (but never operationalised). In May 2005, Parliament repealed the FOI Act and replaced it with a much stronger Right to Information Act (Central RTI Act) with the intention of bringing in transparency in government at all levels. This law was gazetted in June and came into full force in October the same year.

On August 31, the state government tabled a set of amendments to the J&K RTI Act in the legislative assembly. The Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2007 (J&K RTI{A} Bill) was tabled on the recommendation of the Governor. The Bill also contained a financial memorandum indicating an expenditure of Rs. 20 lakhs per annum likely to be incurred on account of the establishment of the State Information Commission.

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