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.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Kashmiri Genius at Work Helping Local Industry and Jobs

Afsana describes an indigenous innovation that could revolutionize the walnut industry

(Ms. Afsana Rasheed, 29, was born and raised in Srinagar and attended the Minto Circle High School. She graduated from the Government College for Women with a Bachelor's degree in science, and completed her post-graduation degree from the University of Kashmir, obtaining her Master's Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. She has received numerous world-wide recognition and awards for covering economic depravation and gender sensitive issues in Kashmiri journals, which include Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award, Bhorukha Trust Media Award 2007, and the 2006-07 UNFPA-Ladli Media Award. Her work on "Impact of conflict on subsistence livelihood of marginalised communities in Kashmir and Alternatives", was recognized by Action Aid India in 2005-06. She has travelled abroad attending a workshop on "conflict Reporting" by Thomson Foundation, Cardiff, UK, and a seminar for women in conflict areas by IKV Pax Christi, Netherlands. In February 2008, she compiled a book, "Waiting for Justice: Widows and Half-widows.")

Innovation Tipped to Revive Valley's Walnut Industry

Srinagar: The innovation is expected to revive the walnut industry of Valley. Designed by a Kashmiri, the walnut cracker will replace the traditional cumbersome manual process involved before its marketing. Powered by electricity, the walnut cracker devised by Mushtaq Ahmad Dar has a throughput capacity of 250-300 walnuts per minute.“

Its throughput can however be increased. Dar’s walnut cracker was crude and used two wooden drums. Our team along with Dar used iron drums with appropriate structures to enhance the efficiency of the machine and increase its throughput,” said G M Bhat, Director University Science Instrumentation Centre (USIC) and Advisor Entrepreneurship Development Cell (EDC), University of Kashmir.“

It would require many employees still the throughput would be less. Such walnut cracker is not available even in China, where walnut industry flourishes. Presently, it is a rough model but it can be modified at the latter stage. However, it is in the working condition now,” he added.

Hailing from Dooru, Kreeri-Baramulla, Dar belongs to economically weak section of the society. Once the idea of walnut cracker struck him, Dar started looking for various agencies as he himself had no resources to give a practical shape to his idea. “We met Dar in a workshop at Ahmedabad where he approached us. We found the idea good and invited him to Kashmir University. We offered workshop facility at the campus. Later we spoke to one of the funding agencies, Grassroot Innovation Augmentation Network (GAIN), sister organization of NFI and they offered Rs 35,000 as assistance. Later the model was created and we offered honorarium to Dar,” Bhat said. Dar’s patent (certificate of security from Government of India to protect right of innovator for making and selling the machine) is under process.

Stating that the future of walnut cracker is bright, director USIC said, “Many people from Uttranchal have approached us. Besides, there may be many countries interested in the innovation.”

“Once the innovation would be in the market, its cost would vary between Rs 5000 to Rs 6000, even below that,” he added. Stressing the need for investment to put the innovation in the market, Director USIC said, “the cracker needs investment, but Dar can not afford it himself. We need investors who will put the innovation in market and will pay royalty to the inventor,” he added. When asked about its advantage, Bhat said that it can increase throughput and rejuvenate walnut industry.“

Although some apprehend it can enhance unemployment, but that is not a valid argument,” he added. When asked if the absence of electricity will render the machine lame, he said, “So far the idea did not click us but then we can modify it. Paddles can be introduced at the lower side of machine. Basically, if there is any such unit, government provides subsidy for generators and that would cater to the absence of electricity.”

When asked what assistance University offers to Dar besides providing workshop facility, Bhat said a proposal titled “Technology Incubation Cell” has been sent to the University authorities, which is under consideration. “We will develop the hidden talent of people with innovative ideas and pay them honorarium as well,” he said.

“Besides, GAIN cell Jammu and Kashmir will be established here to promote such activities and many problems will be automatically sorted out,” he added. Welcoming the persons with innovative ideas, Director USIC said, “Anyone who has good and workable idea can approach the department and we can offer him/her the workshop facility. The idea should simply be commercial.”

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