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.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hands that make masterpieces, fail to earn decent living

Ahsana describes how poverty plagues handicraft artisans as middlemen grow rich-n-fat

The tragic story of Kashmiri artisans

Ahsana Rashid (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Government’s loud rhetoric about the potential of handicrafts sector as viable economic activity aside, the unfortunate reality is that poor artisans who carve out masterpieces of Kashmir art are unable to earn a square meal for them and their families.

Despite toiling for hours together, these artisans yearn for a rewarding treatment and a single moment of anxiety–free environment while the real rewards of their workmanship are reaped by top businessmen and middle-men. Dejected by the profession, Mahnaz, a young weaver looks at the contemporary state of the profession as unrewarding.Gloomily, Mahnaz sums up her agonies: “Sometimes I feel like giving up this work but then looking at the requirements of the family, I change the idea. Definitely, this is an artistic job but the benefits are always reaped by those placed towards the apex of the industry.”And Mehnaz obviously regrets that despite putting in hard labour, the poor artisans fails to reap the appropriate benefits “which I believe are due to them”.

Lack of proper infrastructure results in the insufficient growth of the sector, believes Bashir Ahmad, a businessman. Infrastructure circle includes problems in procurement of proper raw materials, lack of publicity, lack of literacy and marketing skills, he informs, adding no attempts have so far been taken to introduce innovations and improvements in traditional designs “that have led to monotony in the quality of products”.

This fact needs to be seriously looked into and use of outdated tools needs to be minimized, he suggests. Although the artisans could be better off if they could somehow manage to bypass the middle-men and touts, but lack of capital to go about their business on their own is a big hurdle.

Lack of capital and lack of marketing strategy often leads to dumping of goods in one area while they are unavailable in another. Artisans simply go on producing goods on the demands of merchants who then decide where to sell these products.

Here come the middlemen into picture, who thrive at the expense of both the consumers and the artisans.They not only artificially hike the prices but also sell fake products in the name of originals. The artisans normally lack the avenues to directly approach the customers.

Obviously here, the self-employment schemes could be of great help, for it will not only provide employment to unemployed youth but also boost the handicraft sector in the broader terms. If the facilities are created whereby the producers (artisans) can have direct access to the market, it will not only benefit artisans but also make available the genuine and cheaper products to the customers.

Government needs to intervene for the betterment of the local artisans and the crafts people so that the sector flourishes in a better way. Even non-governmental organizations can play their role provided they are sincere in this regard, suggests Amir, a businessman. Biggest problem staring Kashmiri artisans right in their faces is that machine-made goods are being faked and sold as a hand-made ones.

Mohammed Amin of Hawal in Srinagar, who has been in the profession for the past over 50 years says, “Right from my childhood I have been embroidering shawls but I don’t think a person in contemporary times can earn his living by doing this work.”

Comparing his hand-embroidered products with the machine–made ones, Mohammed Amin says the advent of machine-made products as replacement for handmade ones have made going tough for the artisans like hum. Though there is fairly good number of customers for genuine products as well, but Mohammed Amin and many like him say the lack of direct link between artisans and buyers makes the role of middlemen more vital.“It de-links us from our potential customers,” he says to sums up the plight of artisans associated with Kashmir handicraft business.

Meanwhile, an editorial highlights the broader issue (but why blame the central government - should not the blame fall squarely on the state government?) .......

Why this apathy?

(Greater Kashmir)

The handicrafts sector of the state that once upon a time supported and sustained about two million artisans and made a significant contribution to the state’s Gross Domestic Product is today on cross roads if the recent revelations are to be believed.

The decline in the number of artisans involved in handicrafts production has plummeted over the years is only due to the official apathy the handicrafts sector has faced. Today their numbers are said to be around three lac compared to 15 lac in early seventies of the last century should not surprise any one who is well versed with the sector. The poor artisans have been all through the past sixty-one years of so called democratic rule in the state suffering from abject neglect, exploitation by various forces and patently wrong policies of the government.

Irony of the fate is that the government of India has claimed the earnings from the Kashmir handicrafts sector to the tune of Rs1500 crores. This is despite the fact that the government of India fully knows the fact that there has been a subtle intrusion in to the sector. Had the figure been based on facts the plight of the artisans would not have been as sad as it is today. The flight of human resource from the sector would not have been there at all had the fortune reached the artisans.

It is unfortunate that the state government is doing nothing to have a solid and concrete industrial policy in place that would prevent sale of the Kashmir brand name by others. It is an admitted fact that over the centuries Kashmiri artisans and craftsmen because of their hard work, instincts and intelligence could produce world’s best of the handicrafts that earned a name to the place and its people.

Today Kashmir sells world over because of the fair amount of good will and fame earned by the artisans with magical touch. However the sharks in the trade at home and elsewhere exploited these poor artisans to the hilt. Today a shawl produced in Amritsar and elsewhere is sold in the name of Kashmir shawl. There are similar intrusions in other handicrafts as well. The state government knows it full well yet it has failed to take note of the situation.

The Federation Chamber of Industry, Kashmir is justified to criticize the government. Its accusation that the production in all handicraft segments has reduced from previous figures if the inflation was taken into account is not for heresy. It is substantiated fully by the ground situation. More than 70% of the artisans in making or even fully skilled craftsmen were forced to look for alternate jobs, as they no more could eke out a living out of the handicrafts production. And the FCIK is within its rights to attribute the decrease in employment and production in the handicraft sector to ‘non-serious and half-hearted government policies, which had failed to support and encourage artisans in order to make them comfortable’.

The government that has been making tall claims on working with all seriousness to address the growing un-employment problem, is seen ignoring the sector that offers more than a million jobs at a time when other sources are drying or have come to the saturation level.

To make a beginning the government could think of setting up of temporary crafts bazaars across India with facilities for the artisans and craftsmen to demonstrate their skills, empower them to sell their produce directly to the potential consumers and help them get the brands registered. The government’s efforts to organize the craftsmen and artisans in to cooperatives have been meek and lacked determination. The Induscos as these cooperatives were known did make some gains but then were dumped as non-entities.

The FCIK can also contribute its mite in organizing the artisans and craftsmen in to cooperatives or self-help groups to empower them. However the success of every such effort will depend on a sound and vibrant industrial policy. If we can not have heavy, large and medium industries we certainly can have small industries which offer a vast potential of jobs.

Another editorial takes the high road and looks for optimism .......

Entrepreneurs and artisans need to develop connections with markets across the globe

(Rising Kashmir)

The 54th Industrial and Handicrafts Exhibition has begun at Kashmir Haat. The exhibition is organised by Kashmir Department of Industries and Directorate Industries and Commerce, in collaboration with the Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) and the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI). The idea of providing the local artisans a chance to showcase their products is commendable.

It will enable them to introduce their craft to the larger market. It is a known fact that unless artisans and entrepreneurs are well connected with the market, these activities never prove economically viable. All those government departments and independent association that are concerned with industries and handicrafts need to maximise their efforts to open up market avenues for entrepreneurs and artisans.

In Kashmir the Industrial sector has always remained a non starter. Among many other reasons disconnect between industrial activity and market has largely contributed to that. Since there have been no consistent efforts, on part of the state government, to provide newer markets to our state based Industries, it has made our industrial sector inward looking. Our Industries in most of the cases totally rely on the local market which in no way is as big as could sustain the economic viability of our industries.

Keeping this thing in view an element of urgency needs to be infused in the attempts to explore and expand the market for our industries. If activities like Industrial and Handicraft Exhibition can prove a step in that direction, it will end up as a successful event. If it fails to bring our industries closer to market then all the pomp and show that surrounds it is absolutely of no benefit. Like industries, our handicrafts are also in need of bigger market opportunities.

Although individual efforts by the big handicraft houses of Kashmir have already introduced the creative work of our artisans to the big markets, not just in India but globally, but there is a need of making it more organised. Pertinent to underline is the fact that the hands that create beautiful pieces of art are the last beneficiaries.

By bringing the market closer to their doors, artisans can be made the first line beneficiaries of their craft. By giving them a chance to showcase their own products, authorities have done a commendable job. But it must not stop here only.

There is a world beyond Exhibition. Concerned agencies need to guide them in the bigger markets around the world. Moreover, both industries and handicrafts need governmental support to provide them chances to showcase their products at the exhibitions at national and international level. Once this sector gets introduced to markets at global level, the economic spin off will set in, giving industries and handicrafts the required boost.

So the need of the hour is that government and trade associations make this exhibition an opportunity to step into the larger world of business and trade.

Some Snippets from the International Seminar on Regional Economic Integration at the Kashmir University

Three aspects dealing with promises, data and challenges at the two day international seminar on Regional Economic Integration among South East Asian Countries at the University of Kashmir University organized by its Department of Economics in collaboration with International Institute for Development Studies (IIDS) Kolkata. The symposium was held on May 27-29, 2008.

Srinagar: In his welcome address G M Bhat Head department of Economics, University of Kashmir said that the importance of Regional Trade Agreements, role of FDI in economic growth, contribution of SAARC consortium prompted the department to organize a seminar where eminent economists could give their viewpoints. He added that today countries continue to remain integrated intraregional and interregional and good economics should be supported by good politics.

Vice-Chancellor Kashmir University, Riyaz Punjabi, while expressing his pleasure over holding of such a mega event said that in the backdrop of globalization which has unleashed a powerful competition of market forces, the theme of the seminar has a significant relevance and importance. Referring to the growing phenomenon of globalization Punjabi said that at cognitive levels globalization is affecting us and today we need greater economic integration in the region which will lead us into an era of progress and prosperity.

Punjabi said in view of its historical trade relations with Central Asia and other neighboring countries, Jammu and Kashmir has the potential to emerge as a hub of commercial activities for greater Asian economic integration. He hoped that that the special session on “Trans border Indo Pak Trading” would come out with relevant and appropriate inputs for the policy makers particularly in view of the pressing economic needs of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. R.K.Sen managing trustee IIDS during his address said “Integration of Asian countries is a must to meet the challenges of globalization.”

The Directorate of Economics and Statistics, Planning & Development Department of J&K, has for the first time compiled the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) of J&K which was released by the Governor J&K, S.K. Sinha at the international seminar on Regional Economic Integration among South East Asian Countries.

The Index of Industrial Production for the three consecutive years, i.e, 2004-05 to 2006-07, has been prepared after subsidizing the unavailability of monthly production data from different industrial units. The Annual Index of the three years for the J&K State has been reported to be 100.87,109.46 and 108.82 respectively which is very low than other states of India which has crossed the 200 mark.

"Although J&K Government is making sustained efforts for intensification and expanding the industrial base of the State but still J&K has not been able to attract investments in industrial sector and continues to remain an industrially backward state," says G.A. Qureshi, Director Directorate of Economics and Statistics.

"We hope that this index of Industrial Production (IIP) of the J&K from 2007-2008 under the proper consultation of IS-wing of Central Statistical Organization (CSO), Kolkata will be brought on monthly basis," Qureshi said.

The report shows that the index of manufacturing sector in J&K has increased from 94.35 in 2004-05 to 109.962 in 2005-06 and 102.09 in 2006-2007 registering an annual growth of 9.25 per cent in 2005-2006 with the negative growth of -0.96 per cent in 2006-07.

The manufacturing of electrical machinery and apparatus recorder 35.65 per cent growth followed by manufacturing of fabricated metal products with 18.45 per cent , textiles 8.63 per cent, chemical products 6.90 per cent and rubber and other plastic products 2.13 per cent. The other manufacturing of machinery and equipments, food products and beverages, wood products and other non-metallic mineral products recorded a total negative growth.

The Index of electricity sector showed an increase from 116.8 in 2004-05 to 136.35 in 2005-06 and 147.45 in 2006-2007 with an annual growth of 16.73 per cent and 8.14 per cent respectively.

The Index of mining and Quarrying sector showed a decrease from 123.44 in 2004-05 to 106.04 in 2005-06 and 90.44 in 2006-07 registering the negative growth of -13.45 and -15.35 respectively.

Finally, the challenge .....

President Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK) Shakeel Qalander on said that Cross LoC trade should act a platform to solve the ultimate Kashmir problem otherwise it is not useful. Qalander stressed on the basics of trade saying “We have to look for three aspects of the cross LoC trade; what to trade, how to trade, why to trade, it will clear our vision regarding this cross LoC trade” “We are not clear about the profit and modalities are also not finalized, and when we are not self sufficient how can this trade be profitable for us” said Qalander. Showing the pessimistic attitude towards the cross LoC trade Qalander said “This trade will fulfill the political designs and nothing else.” “If this trade will help in solving the broader conflict then the business community of Kashmir is ready to co-operate” said Qalander.

However, President Kashmir Chamber Of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), Mubeen Shah, while presenting his paper said “Cross LoC trade is a good step and it will have a positive effect on the business of Kashmir as whole.”“Kashmir should be recognized as Special Economic Zone in order to get benefits from changing economic scenario” said Mubeen Shah. “We can concentrate on horticulture, handicrafts, silk producing expertise in order to reach to the inaccessible markets of Pakistan and Iran” said KCCI president.

First it was spurious drugs and now it is tainted blood

The depth of depravity is directly related to the age of the victim - in this case the baby is yet to be born and already merchants of death are dancing in the major maternity hospital in Srinagar

4 Charge-Sheeted in Lal Ded Blood Scam

Srinagar: The crime branch of the state police has filed a charge sheet against four employees said to be involved in a sensational case of adulterating blood in the blood bank of the Lal Ded hospital.

The crime branch has asked people to exercise extreme caution in obtaining blood from the Lal Ded blood bank.

The crime branch had received complaints that blood stored in the lal Ded blood bank was being mixed with an agent known as saline and then provided to patients.

On investigations, the crime branch found that two employees, technician Muhammad Amin and nursing orderly Nazeer Ahmad Bhat were involved in the case.

The duo were said to have been dividing a blood unit into two parts, adding saline and then giving it to patients needing transfusion.

The sensational racket had come to light on September 11, 2007 when a doctor refused to use a blood sample saying that it was adulterated.

On being tested, the blood was found to have an Hb value of 4.7 and mixed with saline.
The crime branch found that the blood had been collected on August 18, and blood from the same bag number had been given to another patient on September 5.

The investigations also revealed that two units of blood under bag numbers 1734 and1737 had been obtained through technician Muhammad Sadiq, and nursing orderly.

Both units were of the same blood group, and on testing proved positive with the deadly Hepatitis B virus.

The crime branch said that actually only blood unit number 1734 had been collected, and then divided into two parts, making a false entry under number 1737 after adulterating it with saline.
All the four employees were arrested for endangering human lives, and yesterday charge-sheeted before a magistrate.

(Kashmir Observer)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

An Undeniable Fact: The state continues to neglect its horticulture and agriculture sectors

Tarigami expresses concern over negligence of horticulture and agriculture sector and demands introduction of Crop Insurance Scheme in the state

(Mr. Mohammed Yusuf Rather, 59, was born in Tarigam village in Kulgam area of Anantnag district. He usually goes by the name Yusuf Tarigami. He is a two-time member of the J&K Legislative Assembly, and was elected from Kulgam in 1996. Mr. Tarigami is the secretary of the J&K branch of the Communist Party-Marxist, and a member of its national Central Committee.)

Srinagar: Expressing deep concern over the negligence of agriculture and horticulture sector by the successive governments and plunging it into ever greater crises, State Secretary CPI (M) and MLA, Kulgam M. Y Tarigami has said that lack of modern infrastructure and updated technical know how has rendered this core sector as most primitive thereby adding to the miseries of ruralites and those involved in it.

Mr. Tarigami while addressing a public rally at Shopian said that continuing neglect of agriculture and horticulture sector would be a costly folly which could plunge the entire state into deep economic crisis and social unrest. He said that despite tall claims by the government the agriculture and horticulture production remains stagnant. “We are yet to achieve self sufficiency in food grains, vegetables, fish, meat, milk and other commodities and even the horticulture produce is dwindling day by day,” Tarigami exclaimed and said that world famous apple, almond, walnut, Ladakhi apricot and even saffron crop do not with stand world market competitiveness for the incentives and technological aid is not provided to the growers and their interests not safeguarded.

Tarigami urged upon the government to introduce special Crop Insurance Scheme (CIS) for all types of crops, provide quality seeds, pesticides and fertilizers to farmers, rural infrastructure and incentives to marginal fruit growers, introduce Marketing Information System (MIS), promotion of horticulture, floriculture, pesiculture, epiculture and storage and transport facilities for the export of Kashmiri fruit. He said that due to intermittent calamities horticulture and agriculture produce gets damaged that makes the farmers and orchardists worrisome. He said that to save the farming community from the adversities of natural calamity introduction of CIS was inevitable.

Addressing the rally senior CPI (M) leader G. N. Malik and Ab. Khaliq Rather said that successive regimes in the state have been making tall claims to put an end to the rampant corruption in the state, but the graph of this curse has been rising instead of showing any decline. Today, it has assumed the proportions of an epidemic, which is contributing to the chaos afflicting the state today. They demanded that the Accountability Commission should be given free hand in dealing with the subject without any political intervention.

Youth leader Mohammad Abdullah Wani, while addressing the rally highlighted the problems facing the youth and demanded unemployment allowance for educated youth till they are provided suitable jobs. He dwelt upon the bankrupt policies of successive governments in the state and the centre, which had generated joblessness and desperation among the youth forcing them to resort to violence.

Women Empowerment Through Women's Self-Awareness

They are the members of the larger family known as humanity. God created them as inferior to none. Then why does our society deny justice to women? Fareeda Shouq tries to find an answer to the disturbing question of gender discrimination

Justice Beyond Gender

Srinagar: Women’s God’s most beautiful creation on earth. It is a symbol of wisdom, origin, motherhood, energy and nectar. And it is only the combination of these qualities that makes the sun of a nation rise. Everything good in this world comes from woman.

The origin of the child is mother; a woman. Schiller has rightly said, “Woman is a beautiful creature - a consumer and a producer, a protector and a provider, a power of tolerance, an embodiment of love and affection and epitome of integrity and understanding, all the qualities wrapped in one.” Women constitute only one half of world but without their presence the survival of the world is unimaginable.

If women will be given an opportunity, they could be successful in any field. But it is very sad to find out that women are subjected to torture and atrocities. Why there is large scale discrimination against women? Why is the desire for a son so strong in every family! Even we deny the girl child the right to be born! And her only crime is that SHE IS A GIRL! Is girlhood a stigma? Can we dream of a society with just only male members? It is a matter of shame and for our society that we keep hearing news about rape, molestation, burning and teasing of women.

It is clearly pointed out that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. The UN-charter of human rights states that there should be no discrimination on the ground of religion, race, sex or place of birth. No one shall be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman treatment or punishment. Sadly enough, for three billion of the world’s women, human rights seem mainly linked with one gender only, male.

Today the atrocities against women start even before they are born. With the connivance of greedy doctors, scores of parents in certain parts of the country in their eagerness to have sons only, get rid of daughters through sex determination test, indulging in the crime of female foeticide.

In India, discrimination in the education of a girl is more common in rural areas and urban slums. In many countries we have heard of killing, burning and kidnapping of women and girls. In India, according to the National Commission for Women (NCW) the crime graph against the women continues to be on the upswing. Home, sweet home is usually regarded as the safe and comfortable heaven for women and child but here too women find life nightmarish with the very husbands supposed to protect them making life miserable for many of them.

Under the ‘Cradle Baby’ scheme in Tamil Nadu cradles are kept in public health centers and the parents who do not want a female baby could put her into the cradle and walk off. Cases of wife beating and bride burning have become common. Development of women who represent 48.2% of the total Indian population has been receiving the attention of both plans and policy makers since independence.

The need to bring women folk into the mainstream of national development has now become a major concern. Does it mean that there are no rules or laws relating to the protection of women? No absolutely not. We have countless laws at our disposal for women. The constitution of India under article 14 guarantees equal pay for equal work for both male and female The state has enacted various legislative measures to provide protection to women against the social discrimination, violence, atrocities to prevent child marriage, dowry etc. by passing various acts. Efforts have been made to raise the status of women in the fields of health and family welfare, education, employment and training.

Thus the common question would be that what is the reason behind the rise of crime and violence against women? The main reason for the oppression of women, their exploitation and their inability to get protection and justice is neither the non-availability of law nor the non-availability of sympathetic organizations. There are considerable amount of constitutional, legislative, educational, and social action that has gone into it, but still in majority of the cases of crime against women, justice is a rarity. Almost 70% of the crime against women goes unreported whether inside or outside a family. The simple reason is reluctance on part of women to report such crimes due to social or domestic pressure.

We are ourselves giving boost to this criminality by maintaining silence either due to unawareness or due to domestic pressures. We are ourselves giving boost to this injustice by maintaining silence either due to unawareness or due to domestic or social pressure. We prefer to maintain silence and this way allow the criminal element to go unpunished. In the present situation, the law enforcing agencies alone can not be blamed. They too function under certain constraints and a lack of co-operation is their major handicap. Unless a women herself reports, the situation will not improve and exploitation will continue. They are ignorant of their own rights and privileges and have no access to justice. There is public non-cooperation in a majority of cases. Public usually do not bother to help the law enforcing agencies in collection of evidences. In case a woman dies in the premises of her in-laws, the compliant are made by her parents. They are not able to collect any evidence to substantiate their allegations due to the non-cooperation of the people in the vicinity of the crime.

Thus the need of the hour is social awareness among the women folk. The spread of legal literacy among them is extremely important and then procedures would go a long way towards meeting out justice to women. A well administered and socially relevant legal education is a pre-requisite for a proper dispensation of justice. There is to be greater emphasis on creating awareness amongst women on issue relating to her rights and social justice. Legal education and media awareness is very important. They have to fight it out. There active attitude can be of real help to them in distress and will only happen when women recognize their own strength.

(Rising Kashmir)

Only in Kashmir: At a College Convocation, the Chief Minister reminds students to join protest marches for employment

Mr. Azad tells students, "Today many students received degrees but unfortunately many among them would join the youth demonstrating outside the Secretariat and seeking absorption under Rehbar-e-Zerat for a meager sum of Rs 1500." The real misfortune is that the concern regarding haphazard rezoning of farm land for housing and industrial use was not adequately highlighted

‘Shrinking agri-land a grave issue’


JAMMU: Governor Lt Gen S K Sinha and Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad have described shrinking agricultural land in the state a grave issue and emphasized the need to go for research-oriented agri-practices to increase productivity.

While addressing to second convocation of SKUAST-J, Chief Minister, who is also the Pro- Chancellor of the varsity, maintained that in J&K, there is great scope for agriculture but unfortunately, the land-holdings here are almost negligible. “Almost 75 percent of the area comes under forests and hills. Even out of the available 25 percent land, the maximum land is being utilized for constructions. The land is shrinking as the population is increasing. Colleges, hospitals, buildings etc are being constructed on the agricultural land. Moreover J&K does not come under surplus food category states. The number of agricultural labourers is also on decline,” he stated.

Pointing towards the grave problem of unemployment in the state, Azad maintained, “Today many students received degrees but unfortunately many among them would join the youth demonstrating outside the Secretariat and seeking absorption under Rehbar-e- Zerat for a meager sum of Rs 1500. Reason being majority of them would prefer off-farming jobs as their career. So the emphasis should be to make agriculture a viable profession.”

Chief Minister impressed upon the agricultural scientists to come out with extensive research for tackling the problem of shrinking agriculture land leading to decline in food grain production all across the globe. He said the massive infrastructural development as well as improved living standards of people have resulted in encroachment over farm land leading to global food crises.

Expressing concern over the looming food grain crises, Azad said that Prime Minister has announced Rs. 5000 crore Food Security Mission and Rs. 25,000 crore Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana for focusing on bringing about a second Green Revolution. He said that optimum utilization of agricultural land, improved seeds, better water management and scientific farming are the key areas which the agriculture researcher should target.

He also called for diversification of agriculture as the state boasts of immense potential in horticulture and floriculture. Recalling the increase in suicide rates amongst farmers, Azad said that the agriculture universities should aim at transforming agriculture into an attractive and viable employment ventures. Chief Minister said that research should be linked with ground realities so that optimum yield from squeezed farm land can be achieved. Besides, youth should be channelized to agroeconomic viable ventures, he added.

Sinha, who is also the Chancellor of the SKUASTJammu, recalled the growth of the university from an embryonic state when he took over 5 years ago to a vibrant university fostering research and new advancement in agriculture and veterinary sciences. Repeating Malthus Principle “Population increases in geometric proportion while food production increases in arithmetic proportion’, he said that the mantle lies on the shoulders of our scientists to meet the increasing demand of food grains through concerted and dedicated research.

Sinha asked the scientists and graduates of the university to accept the challenge and come out with strategies for boosting farm produce through better crop management and agriculture practices. Earlier welcoming the President on her maiden visit to the state, the Chief Minister said that it is for the first time that any president of India has come to the state on a 5-day tour and traversed its different regions. He said that addressing the convocations of 3 prestigious universities of the state apart from inaugurating a campus of Jammu University at Bhaderwah is not a small feat and brings out her unparallel interest in the growth of higher education in the state. “This happened because our President is a woman,” Azad maintained.

He also appreciated the strenuous efforts of Chancellor and Governor for showing exceptional interest in capacity and skill building initiatives taken by different universities and organizing convocations regularly from time to time to inspire budding minds to strive for perfection in respective fields.The Chief Minister also congratulated noted economist Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Dr Montek Singh Ahluwalia and President Veterinary Council of India, Dr. A.L Chowdhary for receiving Award of Doctorate of Science- Honoris Causa by chief guest stating that contribution in their respective fields is exemplary.

He specially appreciated the role of Montek Singh Ahluwalia who is an eminent economist occupying a key position in the Government of India as Deputy Chairman Planning Commission for liberal grants in favour of J&K state which have speeded the pace of infrastructural development of the state.

Earlier, the President awarded Doctorate of Science Honoris Causa to Deputy Chairman Planning Commission, Government of India, Montek Singh Ahluwalia and President Veterinary council of India, Dr. A.L Chowdhary and to Secretary, DARE and Director General ICAR, Government of India, Dr Mangla Rai in absentia. Besides the gold medals and PhD degrees were also awarded to students of Agriculture and BVSc and Animal Husbandry. Vice Chancellor SKAUST-J, Nagendra Sharma presented the report of the university highlighting the programmes and infrastructure in advancement registered by the university.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

When public funds vanish surreptitiously at the source (Srinagar and Jammu cities) there is not much left to develop far-flung hamlets

One has to wonder: with an annual state budget of around Rs. 20,000 crores, why do villages like Patwari never see any progress?

In "Khush-hal" Kashmir, Handwara village lacks all facilities

Ashiq Hussain (Kashmir Images)

Handwara: While development and prosperity have become buzz words of officialdom here, at least 1800 souls inhabiting Patwari village, merely ten kilometers from Handwara township are deprived of basic amenities of life. The village has no road; no pure drinking water and no electricity.

As if this was not enough, the poor village is also debarred of a health center as well and the only educational institution -a primary school – is housed in two rooms. Feeling ignored on part of authorities, the village people allege that the official apathy has rendered their lives miserable and that in this hi-tech world, they were living a nomadic life.

The disgruntled villagers maintain that in the recent past, two sick persons Mohammed Sultan Bhat and Abdul Gani Sheikh died as they couldn’t reach Handwara hospital well in time. Mohammad Sultan had fallen down from a tree and according to locals due to non-availability of road; they carried him on shoulders (on Charpai) but he succumbed to injuries in the half way en-route to hospital. The locals maintain that seriously ailing, Abdul Gani also died as they failed to rush him to the hospital in time. It is to mention that in absence of a health center in the area, the locals have to avail even the first aid facilities from district hospital Handwara. And due to non-availability of road facility, the ailing people suffer the most.

The problems of poor villagers do not end here. There is no water supply facility and the women folk have to walk miles to fetch water from Nallah Kehmil. And when it downpours, the locals are forced to consume contaminated water from open Nallah, which is the only source of water in the area. “Our women leave homes early to fetch water and it takes them hours to get a bucket of water. The only source of water is Nallah Kehmil and when it rains, the locals are forced to consume muddy waters from the Nallah," said Mohammad Dilawar, a local.

The village is also debarred of electricity facility since years. The electric lines lying suspended on poplar and other trees for last many years are being used by locals for drying up clothes. The residents still illuminate their houses by kerosene run chimneys and candles. “It was in 1996 that PDD tied lines not on electric poles but on trees. However, it proved to be an exercise in deception as village has never seen electricity till date,” said another local, adding, the residents even made many representations to the executive engineer, PDD Handwara for the facility but to no avail.

When asked for his comments, DC Kupwara, Khan Isfandyar Kachoo told Kashmir Images that he has already received complaints from the village people and he will pay a visit to the village to see for himself what could be done.“I will pay a visit to the village soon and also a meeting with Tehsildar and other officers will be held to actually explore the possibilities to establish a road connectivity to the village. The village was part of Magam and later has become a separate village and that is why it is not in the eyes of administration,” Kachoo said.

The announcement of government to go for e-governance disappeared like the Right To Information Act in the thin air of heartless administration

An editorial in the Daily Etalaat says it the way it is. Can you handle the truth?

The Kingdom of Babus

As on paper and according to law books many government departments have been created to serve the public and make the life of people easier. But the departments are nothing more than parasites which are feeding on the blood of people. Even if the government takes any action once in a blue moon on some department, the victim of the Muhammad Tagaluki type of decisions has always been the departmental heads or someone disliked by the local MLA or any other politician of influence.

The one important factor that has always been ignored in streamlining the administration has been the growing mafia of clerks who virtually have become the unnoticed bosses of different departmental units. The clerks have developed a mafia where it is not possible even for the minster to do anything leave aside the common man who, if he happens to be in front of clerk, loses all his self-respect when some obscure thing is pointed out with none or little resemblance with the case in hand.

Recently a man from a far-flung area was asked to bring his wedding invitation card as an evidence of his marriage which had been solemnized some 25 years ago. The poor fellow abandoned his idea of getting a Below Poverty Card as he thought the process of getting the Card will end up making him poorer than he already is. The clerks have a typical way of dealing with the things. Even if you are a person of influence he will convince or coerce you into paying the bribe and if you refuse to go by his dictates he has an uncanny ability to create trouble for you.

The clerks can manage the disappearance of files, burn some, or just take away an important document that will delay the process inordinately, troubling the applicant. The applicant’s only mistake is that he has not paid any thing to them, and has gone directly to the department head.

These babus of kingdom always manipulate the king (read officers) using different methods. The king, sensing rightly that he is at their mercy like the last emperors of Mughal Empire, cooperates and goes by the advice (rather dictates) of these babus. The clerks have the ability to disturb the family life of their officers who dare to go by the voice of their conscience by sending a well thought out gift to his wife or something for the kids. In fact this attack at the home front has been used countless number of times with an astonishing success rate.

It can be attributed to their luck that policymakers have never paid attention to part of governance as the clerks manage always behind the screen position where they are hardly noticed. The clerks have managed their stay at a particular place for decades and seen many department heads pass before them. Some clerks are at their places for more than 15 years and this long period of stay at one place is attributed to their experience on that particular chair.

The announcement of government to go for e-governance disappeared like the Right To Information Act in the thin air of heartless administration.

Kashmir Hopes to Regain its Multi-dimensional Personality one Student at a Time

The Institute of Kashmir Studies (IKS), that was set up by the University of Kashmir three years back as the Centre for Kashmir Studies, receives international recognition and funding from the South Asia Foundation to promote composite culture of the state

Notable extracts from speeches made on the inauguration day, May 26, 2008.

State Governor and the University of Kashmir Chancellor, Retired General S.K. Sinha:

Today from the ancient city of Srinagar founded by Emperor Ashoka, the unique Prince of Peace in the history of mankind and from the city where the great liberal and popular Budshah ruled, we are striving to get that light of hope to illuminate the world.

Institute of Kashmir Studies will promote the spirit of Kashmiriyat and strive for disseminating this message not only in South Asia but the world over. Rs 1 crore has been obtained from the Centre for the purpose. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed with the South Asian Foundation (SAF), which has promised a grant of Rs 4 crores. The Centre has been registered as an autonomous institution and re-designated as the Institute of Kashmir Studies.

Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh:

I hope the institute contributes to strengthening the composite culture of the state. The institute is primarily designed to promote 'Kashmiriyat', based on the state's age-old 'Bhakti-sufi-Rishi' traditions and culture. This unique electism in Kashmiri tradition and natural beauty of the area has not only made Kashmir a 'paradise on earth', but also a microcosm of the secular, pluralist traditions of India.

The initiative to resuscitate the age old traditions of Kashmir by setting up an institution like this was very well-timed as it would serve as a melting pot of ideas and learning not only from different parts of the country but also from the neighbouring countries.

President, Pratibha Patil:

Kashmir has had a rich and vibrant cultural history and a tradition of learning and scholarly pursuit since times immemorial. Its enchanting beauty has attracted thinkers and philosophers, seers and sages, kings and noblemen, travelers and traders, from far and wide. Through the ages, it has been a melting pot of ideas, which have been distilled into the finest traditions of learning, tolerance and cultural cohesion.

I am confident that our unity in diversity will lead the country to greater glory. I am also confident that the spirit of Kashmiriyat will flourish and the fragrance of mutual love and affection will spread beyond the precincts of Jammu and Kashmir. Kashmiriyat is a living legend that is an amalgam of pristine beauty, enchanting landscape, rich culture, seat of learning and a melting pot of ideas. Kashmir has lived as the finest centre of learning, tolerance and cultural cohesion be it Islam, Hinduism, Sikhism or Budhism, all these religions have for centuries been a part of the spiritual landscape of the state and evolved into the unique concept of cohesive historical-cultural identity of the people of the state, which represents the ethos of liberal values, religious and social harmony, mutual co-existence and brotherhood. It reflects the contributions made by thinkers and men of letters like Charak, Bhartrihari, Bilhana and Kalhana and saints and sages called Rishis and Sufis, in whose name Kashmir is still known as ‘Reshiwari’ or abode of Rishis.

In the words of poet Ghulam Mohammad Mehjoor: "Vwolo haa baagvaano, navbahaaruk shaan paadaa kar, phwlon gul gath karan bulbul tithe saamaan paadaa kar (O gardener, create the glory of spring, make the flowers bloom and the birds sing, create such haunts).

Spiritual thinkers such as Lal Ded and Nund Rishi spread the message of love, tolerance and compassion, which left a deep imprint on the lives of the people of J&K. Their legacy, over a period of time has etched itself so much into the collective consciousness of the region, that it cannot be eroded. Kashmiriyat is a living legacy. It has withstood the test of time, and it is now for us to continue to nurture it so that it is preserved for future generations.

The Institute of Kashmir Studies, in a sense, continues this rich tradition of learning and scholarship.

Monday, May 26, 2008

It was a different evening at the foothills of Zabarwan---- Junoon filled the air waves

Basharat experienced it first hand .... a musical Junoon like no other

(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.)

Sayonee… evokes musical Junoon of Kashmiris

SRINAGAR: With its scintillating performance on the banks of Dal Lake, one of South Asia's hottest rock band Junoon on May 25, 2008 evoked passion among the Kashmiri audience in a sufi-rock peace concert strengthening its claim as the most popular group ever in the history of Pakistani music. The concert was organized by the South Asia Foundation (SAF), with its chairman of India chapter inaugurating the concert.

Songwriter Salman Ahmad, who is also a guitar virtuoso with expertise evident in songs like Sayonee, enthralled the audience compelling them to sing along with the rock stars. Performing in Srinagar has always been one of the band's goals, said Salman before singing this number. "It is a 10 years long tryst with destiny," he said, adding that it was in May 1998, when he first went to India where he wished to perform in Srinagar. "But the common perception was that I would not be able to perform here in his lifetime.

"Majority in the audience comprising women and school children said they came to hear Sayonee, which is one of the most magnificent compositions and truly one of the many highlights of Junoon's albums. This song is a rage among Asians. Within a month of its release, Junoon sold over 2.5 lakh cassettes and till date it is climbing the charts.The song remained at the number one slot in Pakistan as well as in India for several weeks. The lyrics, vocals, hold a lot of depth and meaning, and the song once again helped elevate the listeners into the summit of spirituality, which was evident from the audience reciting it repeatedly even after they left the venue.

"I wish the musical vibrations full of love rebound in this valley spreading the message of peace in entire sub continent," Salman said while singing Bulle Shah's Sufi poetry. Among the audience, some music lovers observed that Junoon has created universal appeal by incorporating rock and has yet retained its essence of sub-continental South Asian classical music. "I am really enthralled with this mesmerising music," said Jehangir Ahmad who had managed to sneak inside the VIP gallery to watch his favourite rock star performing very closely.

The group Junoon (which means passion), from Pakistan created a distinct identity in a plethora of fusion bands, Jehangir observed adding that their style of music is a rich blend of Western rock with Sindhi, Punjabi folk and Sufi qawaali, although they sing mostly in Urdu.

On the one hand, the performance captivated the audience including women and children, the scenic Kashmir; South Asia's Sufi heartland, bewitched the rock band, with Salman on stage saying that he was himself soothed by performing in valley. "I have performed in many parts of the world but the satisfaction I got here is unmatched. I am really soothed," he observed.

Later he sang, "Khudi ko kar buland itna ki har taqdeer se pehle" a poem written by renowned poet Allama Iqbal, carrying the audience to another world full of optimism and wisdom. Salam has beautifully composed this poem applying a modern musical approach.

Commemorating late Ustad Nustrat Fateh Ali Khan, Salaman had the audience on their toes with a captivating song "Dama dam mast Qalander". It really created such a magic that audience was swayed into another world, freeing themselves from worldly bothers of this conflict zone.
Before Junoon group, Jeet Singh's Avant-Garde band rocked mesmerized the audience with its English songs.

Former Sri Lankan president Chandrakumari Ranatunga, Afghanistan's minister for women affairs Hassan Bano, Afghanistan Ambassador to new Delhi Syed Makhdoom, union minister for Panchayti Raj Mani Shankar Aiyar, union minister for water resources Saif-u-Din Soz, former chief minister Farooq Abdullah, minister for health Mangat Ram Sharma, minister for agriculture Abdul Aziz Zargar were among the few prominent people present on the occasion.

Full of zeal, zest, and enthusiasm, Junoon really created Junoon (Passion) among its fans who were eagerly waiting hours together in the scorching sunlight for the sufi-rock band which tried its best to convey a musical messageof peace and love.

SASB Must Ensure Economic Spinoff for Locals While Minimizing Damage to Environment

Editorial in Rising Kashmir reminds Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) that locals in the Pahalgam area need to benefit from Pilgrim Tourism

Ignoring locals: Pilgrim tourism must have an economic spin off for locals

Pilgrim tourism has of late received considerable attention and is being promoted by the Sate government with full gusto and force. The recent row over the tourism business getting hit in Pahalgam again points out to the biased handling of Tourism sector by the government.

The deputations of traders, hotel associations, ponywalas, citizen council, beopar mandal and taxi union of Pahalgam have been running from pillar to post on issue of frisking and security arrangements in view of the ensuing Amarnath Yatra. Even educational institutions and locals have been advised to avoid picnic trips to this world famous health resort. Given this situation the business at this picnic spot is bound to suffer .

The Shri Amarnath Shrine Board (SASB) has also been playing a negative role in development of business for the local populace there. The board supplies tents and other requisite things to persons who undertake yatra thereby competing directly with the business of all the sections directly involved with tourism industry. SASB has been time and again commending people for their cooperation but on ground it does little to benefit the local economy. Allotting parking area to local or management of housekeeping of prefabricated shelter huts here and there or engaging ponies and labour class does not mean involving local economy in naïve sense of the term.

If SASB really intends to benefit the local economy then establishments dealing with handicrafts, hotel, lodges and all those connected with tourism need to be actively involved and brought into loop before the start of yatra. The yatra has more negative externalities involved than the positive ones leaving aside the ill effects to the environment.

The state departments also incur expenses on account of yatra and there have been instances of huts getting damaged during the yatra. The annual yatra attracts more than 3 lakh yatris and the waste disposal from these many persons is bound to affect the ecology and environ of this famous trekking place. There have been apprehensions raised from non profit organizations, civil society and environmental organizations about destroying of some of the most important water bodies and the natural settings.

Tourism of any form in J&K is recognized as one of the vital sectors and regarded as major engine of growth at least that is what official documents and policies spell. Further the industry has segmented into leisure, adventure and pilgrim tourism. The industry generates not only financial benefits but also community benefits and countries and regions with tourism potential are taking advantage of this. The case of Mata Vaishno Devi pilgrimage which generates economic activity of Rs 470 crore annually where on an average 5.79 lakh yatris visit is a case in point.

It is more than important to have an economic spin off of tourism to locals with environmental protection at the core.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Last Seen: The Ship of Fools is Sailing Down the Jhelum

Afshana looks around at jokers plying their trades and sees a theater of the absurd!

(Ms. Syeda Afshana, 34, was born in Srinagar. She attended the Vishwa Bharti High School in Rainawari, Srinagar, and the Government Women's College in Srinagar where she received a B.Sc. degree. She completed her Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 1999 and was the Gold Medallist (first position holder) in her graduating class. She is currently a Lecturer in the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University and pursuing her doctorate on the role of internet after 9/11.)

We: The Bunch of Fools!

“No pity, Lord could
change the heart
From red with wrong
to white as wool:
The rod must heal the sin;
but, Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!....
‘Tis not by guilt
the onward sweep
Of truth and right,
O lord, we stay;
Tis by our follies
that so long
We hold the earth
from heaven away….
Our faults no tenderness
should ask,
The chastening stripes
must cleanse them all;
But for our blunders –
oh, in shame
Before the eyes
of heaven we fall….
Earth bears no
balsam for mistakes;
Men crown the Knave,
and scourge the tool
That did his will;
but Thou, O Lord,
Be merciful to me, a fool!”….
(The Jester’s Prayer by Edward Rowland)

In 1494, a German humanist and satirist Sebastian Brant wrote a famous allegory, 'The Ship of Fools," wherein he depicted 110 varied follies and vices, each undertaken by a different fool. A ship encumbered with fools and steered by fools to the fools’ paradise unites a common theme, shaping a long moralistic poem that lashes at the medieval grotesqueries, especially the abuses in the church.

Since fools have a place in world, Brant satirized through them. They form a vital character that melts the toughness of world by maintaining dual realistic and fantastic perspective.

Perhaps, human beings need the fool. He is, at times, a subtle teacher and a real instructor. Tickling and amusing, he supposedly thwarts situations that are outrageous and atrocious to survive. As pointed in Cervantes’ Don Quixote:-

“O sir!...may God forgive you for the wrong you have done in robbing the world of the most diverting madman who was ever seen. Is it not plain, sir, that his cure can never benefit mankind half as much as the pleasure he affords by his eccentricities?”

Even the Shakespearean fool is an influential character. He usually speaks nonsense and yet divulges the truth. When all others live in distortion, it’s his distorted world that turns out to be a reality.

The most famous fool of Shakespeare is ‘The Fool’ in King Lear, the character with no name other than fool. When Lear is deserted by his unfaithful daughters, it’s only The Fool who accompanies the King as his only courtier. Similarly, when the King steadily slides into lunacy, he and his fool change places. Paradoxically, The Fool incessantly tells him sense—

‘Have more than thou showest,
Speak less than thou knowest,
Lend less than thou owest,
Ride more than thou goest,
Learn more than thou trowest
Set less than you throwest.
(King Lear)

Literary instances apart, the fact is that fools are not the only ‘foolish’. A person happens to be a fool when he does a foolish act. Stupidity cannot be limited to any particular group of people. Every so often, the people we look up to most make the biggest fools of themselves. Their buffoonery does not carry any covert sense. They are out-and-out idiots.

Politicians of all hues form the major lot and so do their blind followers. Both hoodwink the realities foolishly. Leaders shout and people sway. Empty slogans and pipe dreams, leaders sell them off mindlessly. Gullible masses take them flatly. Rationale and reason is bogged down by silliness.

Public mind is generally listless because of life pressures. It stops analysis and assessment after a certain period. More so, conflict of any kind makes it comatose. The level of timidity slowly droops into foolishness.

Like Brant’s voyage to fools’ paradise, people yearn and wait for things impossible. Leaders wish to become national heroes. Politicos feel to be godfathers. Doctors crave to be Hippocrates. Engineers hope to be booming builders. Lawyers pine to be just winners. Businessmen desire to be millionaires. Bosses aspire to be demigods. Teachers long to be role-models. Students want to be all-time achievers …blah blah.

Of course, all these high goals are not apparently unattainable but what makes them so is the corruption of mind that aims tall. When the basic standard of morality decays, the human mind loses its right to think big. And if it still does, it smacks of thorough foolishness. This is where the irony begins. People start carrying bloated misconceptions about themselves. They conceive to be the wisest of all! And this happens to be the chronic symptom of their foolishness—

“The fool doth think himself wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool” (As You Like It).
The follies are committed by everyone. Prudent people learn from them. Fools do not. They goof unremittingly.

And imagine some of such fools becoming the vanguards of any nation. It is no less than any cataclysm. And more deplorable is the presence of foolish followers, the incredulous and naïve ones who shout and scream for things absolutely incomprehensible and unfathomable to them.

O Lord, be merciful to us, the fools!

The Flip Side of Progress in Ladakh: Increasing Crime

Crime Making Steady Inroads in Ladakh

Leh: Once a crime free society, the largely insulated Himalayan region of Ladakh has now become a haven for most serious illegalities, with the crime graph surging alarmingly over the past three years.

The police holds elements who head for the forbidding region to work in development projects and the industrial sector responsible for the worsening crime situation.

Nearly 300 contractual projects are underway in Ladakh at present, and each contractor employs 150 to 300 labourers. Besides, a large number of non-state subjects are working in the industrial sector.

Law enforcement agencies believe that the opening of the Kulu-Manali Highway too has contributed to the influx of criminal elements into Ladakh.

The senior superintendent of police for Leh says that crime like murder, abduction, rape, theft and drugs was unheard of in Ladakh until recently, but the heavy ingress of non-state labour after a road link was established with Himachal Pradesh had turned the situation alarming.

Last week the local police registered the first murder case of the year after an unidentified body was recovered behind the old bus stand.

The station house officer of the Leh police station says that 301 crime-related cases were registered last year, while the crime graph was almost non-existent just three years ago.
The police says that even tourists visiting the region are apprehensive of thefts, because robberies are reported with regularity from hotels and guest houses.

Even until 2006, the area was so safe from crime that residents would leave their homes unlocked when going out, but today no one dares to take the risk leaving his house unattended or unlocked.

Absolutely Brilliant: An Idea called the Srinagar Stock Exchange

Aaatif wonders if J&K Government is serious enough about improving state's economy to try a radically different approach

(Mr. Aaatif Ahmad Mehjoor, 25, was born in Srinagar. He received his primary education in London and Srinagar, with the final two years at the Burn Hall School. He attended Ernest Blevin College London in 1999-2001, King's College London in 2001-2004, and the University of Oxford in 2004-2005. A lawyer by profession, he has received academic awards from the Arts and Humanities Board for Post-graduate Study, and the Judges & Silks Award for Highest Honours in the LLB. He is an Associate of the Securities and Investment Institute, London, and Barrister of Lincoln's Inn. His personal interests are: financial markets & investment, Kashmir, cricket, and ancient history & archaeology.)

Srinagar Stock Exchange

Economic development and job creation would be top priorities for any government that comes to power in the upcoming elections. However, hardly any of the major political parties have come up with any fresh, innovative ideas about overhauling Kashmir’s ailing economy. The focus is on job creation and reducing unemployment amongst Kashmir’s English-speaking graduates and post-graduates. Yet, nearly all the parties are still trapped in the outdated economic thinking that has prevented Kashmir’s economy from growing as fast as it could.

Creating more government jobs that are paid for by Indian money is not the way to reduce unemployment or uplift the economy. It is the private sector that needs to grow.

There is one important sector in which Kashmir could excel. It is the financial services industry. At the moment, the major financial centres in India are Mumbai and Delhi and it is not my suggestion that Kashmir should aim to match these cities. However, there are certain areas in which Kashmir can carve out a niche for itself, much like the off-shore jurisdictions. Thus, in Europe, London and Frankfurt are major mainstream financial centres. However, this does not stop other countries such as Ireland and Switzerland from specialising in offering services that London and Frankfurt cannot or do not wish to offer.

The key to establishing Kashmir as a financial centre is to enable it to be used for “regulatory arbitrage”. This term refers to the practice of companies and firms whereby they choose to locate their establishments in those countries where the regulations are minimal. Take for example India. The financial services industry is heavily regulated. The stock markets are regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) which prescribes stringent criteria for the listing of securities and other financial instruments on the exchanges. This makes it difficult for companies in India to raise finance. By contrast, the London Stock Exchange has standards and rules that are less strict and easier to comply with. This is why a large number of foreign companies (including companies from India) have been raising finance in London. There are also stock exchanges that cater for complex, thinly traded instruments such as the Irish or Luxembourg stock exchanges.

Hence, the key to establishing Srinagar as a financial centre is to enact regulations that make Srinagar more attractive. These regulations can cover not just rules governing the establishment of financial institutions, but also rules governing the admission of securities for listing. Furthermore, fiscal and other incentives can be given to make establishing companies in Kashmir more attractive (e.g. if a company has to pay, say, 20% tax in Mumbai on profits charge only 10% here).

To kick start this process, the government should first establish a stock exchange in Srinagar. There is already enormous appetite for trading and investing in stocks in Kashmir with tens of crores worth of securities traded every day. This offers the government an opportunity to tap into the public’s savings for the purpose of overhauling ailing government-owned enterprises. Already, the government has decided to offer shares in the Power Development Corporation to the public. By establishing a stock exchange where government-owned (and private) enterprises can be listed, the government will find it much easier to raise capital for the purposes of turning loss-making government companies into profit-making ones.

The government will obviously have to negotiate with SEBI and look into the legislative powers of the J&K State Legislature. However, under Article 370 of the Indian constitution and the Instrument of Accession, the regulation and setting up of capital markets and exchanges is not something within India’s jurisdiction. Currency is of course a Central subject and a Srinagar Stock Exchange would have to comply with the foreign exchange regulations of the Reserve Bank of India. This means that Srinagar, as a financial centre, will be unable to compete with the rest of the world. However, this should not stop it from competing against other financial centres in India and taking business away from them. It should also not stop the J&K Government from setting up a system for raising capital from the public.

Therefore, I would urge the current government (or any political party participating in elections) to set up a working group to explore the idea of setting up a financial centre in Kashmir. This group could be manned by experts and would then submit proposals to the government.

Is Work Culture in J&K Government Possible?

Rising Kashmir sought comments from common people whether the work culture in government offices has shown any signs of improvement. Most of them said ‘No’.

Has work culture in government offices improved?

Attaullah Guroo, Businessman: I don’t think the work culture in government offices has improved. Instead it is deteriorating with each passing day, causing grave hardships for the commoners. I am a businessman and have no direct dealing with the government offices but still at times when I visit the offices, I feel ashamed of the work culture prevalent there. The corruption is rampant in the government offices and this hampers the work in offices and ultimately people suffer.

Khalid Omar, Student: In Kashmir, nothing has changed. Infact, the work culture in government offices has worsened. Senior officers in most of the government offices are corrupt and instead of helping people, they are bent on looting the people, who visit their offices. There is a conception among the officers and clerks that they are not accountable to anybody and as such they don’t do the work that they are supposed to do in their offices.

Mansoor Ali, KU Student: The tall claims of improvement in work culture in government offices by chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad is proving to be a hoax. In government offices, poor people are crushed by the officials and forced to pay through their nose. The poor people are the worst hit as the officials and clerks refuse to do their work unless they grease their palms. The work culture in almost all the government offices has been deteriorating. The government should conduct surprise checks to monitor the working culture in the offices.

Abrar Ahmad, Businessman: Unfortunately, on the pretext of militancy, the officials and clerks in government offices have not been carrying out their work satisfactorily. The government employees are enjoying unending holidays in the names of strikes and bandhs and this has made them lazy. These bandhs and strikes have impacted the work culture in government offices. Besides, the officials and clerks are not accountable to anybody and as such continue to do things on their own liking.

Altaf Hussain, Shopkeeper: Chief Minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad claims that work culture in government offices has improved and officials are helping people is a hoax. After the coalition government took over reigns of state, no improvement has taken in the work culture in government offices. This is because of the reason that we are born corrupt. The officials and clerks in offices have no sense of responsibility and are accountable neither to their conscience nor to their bosses. They have only one concern and that is money. People visiting the government offices are being treated badly and harshly by the officials.

Zahid Lone, Student: Work culture has only improved in Secretariat. In other government offices, the work culture has been deteriorating, much to the concern of common man. It takes days for a commoner to get his file moved from one table to another in any government office. A lot of effort and monitoring is needed to improve the work culture in the government offices. The government has to act forcefully to make the officers and clerks work.

Javaid Chopan, Labourer: The government employees sit idle in the offices and under such a situation, the work culture cannot improve. The government employees have become lazy and don’t perform their duties with sincerity and dedication. We, Kashmiris are so lazy and selfish that we don’t take our responsibilities seriously. We go on destroying the public property for our vested interests. Government has to play a vital role in improving the work culture in offices. This can be done by setting up special squads to conduct surprise checks of offices.

Nasrullah Ahmad, Student: Mohammad Javaid Chopan/ Labourer.In my opinion, there is definitely a change in work culture in government offices. The system is still in a vague state. I think conditions will transcend only when the officials and men in government offices realize their responsibility towards the people and do their work fairly. In my opinion, the uncanny nature of the higher authorities is responsible for the rise in the corruption levels in state. The government should devise a mechanism to monitor the activities of its officials and men.

Leather Business in J&K is Booming

Good times return for leather business

Srinagar: Leather entrepreneurs in the Kashmir Valley are a happy lot these days, as the rawhide business is experiencing a boom.

Engaged in the rawhide business since generations and living in the downtown Srinagar localities of Jamalatta and Nawa Bazaar, they constitute a very small number of people. They said that the daily turnover figures are a statistical evidence of the profitability of their business.

According to Mehrajuddin Kawa, the President of the Raw Hide Traders Association, the annual overall turnover in this business is worth millions of rupees. "If we talk about Kashmir Valley only, then at least 200-250 families are involved in this business, and that means at east 1,000 people are involved in it. The price of raw hide of sheep and goat that is being transported to other cities in the country per annum is about 200,000," Kawa claimed.

Rawhide dealers collect hides of various animals like sheep, goat, and cattle mostly from abattoirs in Srinagar and also from villages. Raw hides are tanned with a coat of non-iodised salt and other materials at various storage points from where they are segregated and transported to various places outside Kashmir. And not only those engaged in the raw hides business directly are reaping the benefits but also those ranging from the salt merchants to the transporters, everybody in the valley is banking the profits.

"The rates of Kashmiri hide are different and the hide that is available in Delhi, its rates are different. It is of two types, hide of male and hide of female. The rates of hides of both male and female are different. The rates of the hide of goat are different. A number of young people like me are involved in this business," said Manzoor Ahmad, a rawhide dealer.

Around three million pieces of rawhide are transported to different tanneries and leather factories in Delhi, Kanpur, Agra and Chennai where various leather products like jackets, boots, wallets, purses and belts are designed and made. Of course, voracious meat-eating habit of the people in the valley plays a key role in the regular supply of huge number of raw hides. Kashmir valley boasts of maximum ratio of non-vegetarians in India.

Two Ninth Grade Students From Anantnag Make National News for Their Cool Invention

Tehrim Kaiser and her class mate Omar Ali invent a food storage system

Kashmir students devise innovative food storage system

Anantnag: "It is not an alternative to a refrigerator which can even freeze things but our model is good enough to help in storing perishables like cooked food, milk and vegetables for more than a day," Kaiser and Ali said.

Two high school students in this South Kashmir town have made a 'cool' invention - a food storage system that does not need electricity, is environment friendly and costs just Rs 100.
Tehrim Kaiser, a ninth grade student, and her schoolmate Omar Ali have together put in place the system that works on the simple principle of 'evaporation causes cooling'.

"It is not an alternative to a refrigerator which can even freeze things but our model is good enough to help in storing perishables like cooked food, milk and vegetables for more than a day," Kaiser and Ali, who are students of Rosy Tots School here, said.

"In Kashmir, we don't need to freeze things to keep them edible. The model we have put together can bring the temperature inside the cabin down by at least six degrees at the moment which is good enough to preserve the food items for more than one day," she said.

The model of Kaiser and Ali was adjudged the best innovative work at the state level science festival held recently. Since it does not consume any energy, it also does not emit anything but heat and that too naturally.

The invention does not emit harmful cholo-floro-carbons which refrigerators running on electricity emit.

So what does this food storage system look like?

The exterior of the storage compartment and the interior of the inner compartment are covered in a cotton lining. The outermost jacket and innermost compartment are then filled with water which takes away the heat from the storage compartment, bringing down the inside temperature, she added.

The innovation has been tested by experts who have given it a thumbs up.
An official of the Kashmir University's Science Instrumentation Centre (USIC) said besides being environment friendly, the invention also is very affordable. "The model prepared by the students does not cost more than Rs 100," he said.

Another student of the school has developed a irrigation pump which uses the potential energy of water to lift water from low lying areas to high altitudes without using any fuel.
The irrigation pump, which has been named High Altitude Irrigation System, is a conveyor belt which pulls up bucketfuls of water to higher altitude using the energy generated by the fast moving water in a river or a stream.

"It is similar to the equipment used in rural areas of Punjab. The only difference is that instead of using a camel or a bull, the potential energy of the water is used to lift the water to higher altitudes," Najmus Saqib Wani, a ninth grade student, who has devised this pump, said. The Automatic High Altitude Irrigation System was adjudged the best innovation at last year's science festival held in Srinagar and Jammu, Gulzar Ahmad Khaki, principal of the school, said.
Khaki said since most of the students come from rural areas and poor families, they think of ways and means to improve their lives.

"These are not chance innovations ... these students are a thinking lot who are guided by our Director, Academics, Bashir Ahmad Talib in seeking excellence in the field of science," he added.
Asked if the school was thinking of applying for a patent for these innovations, Khaki said "at the moment, both the projects are just miniature models. We would like these students to improve upon their work so that they can be used for practical purposes."

Khaki claimed that Talib had recently got a patent for developing an iron which operates on liquefied petroleum gas instead of electricity. "He holds the patent for this invention for 20 years."

And that is not all. A fifth grade student of the school, Saim Dawood, has also claimed to have developed a chart on which you can test any mathematical formula. "There is an outer steel jacket which has pores in the upper half. Then there is the main storage compartment made of copper and another inner copper compartment which acts as the cooler," Kaiser said.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Finally a State Subject Makes up the Tallest Mountain

Ram Singh is first State citizen to unfurl the flag of Jammu and Kashmir at the top of Mount Everest

SRINAGAR: Director General of Police (DGP), Kuldeep Khoda on Thursday congratulated Constable Ram Singh of Jammu and Kashmir Police (JKP) for accomplishing the mission of scaling world’s highest peak, Mount Everest and unfurling the flag of Jammu and Kashmir Police at the top.

Greeting the team members of Indian Mount Everest North Col Expedition and Constable Ram Singh, Khoda said that it is like a dream come true for JKP that Ram Singh conquered the highest peak in the world. He said it is a moment of honour and pride not only for JKP but for the whole State of Jammu and Kashmir.

Khoda said after conquering the Nun Peak in 2007, the JKP today created history by conquering the world’s highest peak Mount Everest. He said Ram Singh and Sajjad Haider of JKP were put on intensive training, along with a group of police personnel under the aegis of Ministry of Home Affairs. He informed that on Thursday in the morning at 6 AM. Constable Ram Singh was successful in climbing up to the Mount Everest and Constable Sajjad Haider made it to the Advance Camp with the group. The Director General of Police said JKP besides combating insurgency has proved its worth in all other activities especially sports.

Previously JKP successfully climbed Nun Peak in the year 2007 and now the velour’s of JKP have became a part of this prestigious expedition. The success of the mountaineers of JKP has opened the doors for a full fledged police team for conquering the Everest on its own, he added. The Expedition Team was flagged off by the Director General of Police on 19th March at an impressive function held at PHQ Jammu.

(State Times)

October 8, 2005 brought about tremors of the mind as well

Afsana describes how the big earthquake shook the lid on social stigma associated with mental health but families need to provide support and not shun victims

(Ms. Afsana Rashid, 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. Ms. Rashid works as a senior journalist in the Daily Etalaat. 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.")

'Need for integration of psychatric services in primary health care'

Srinagar: Strongly opposing setting up of psychiatric hospitals, Director and Vice Chancellor, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Dr Nagaraja, has called for integration of psychiatric services into primary health services.

"It would be then easily accessible and affordable," he said.

He stressed community support backed by government adding "it would make the programme effective." He also suggested non-government organizations (NGOs) to come up with long term facilities.

When asked about conflict-psychiatric problems relationship here, he said, "It is not illness but natural reaction in abnormal proportion. There are two types of patients - those with severe mental disorder and others suffering from anxiety and depression. However, it can be more frequent here than in undisturbed areas.""If severe mental disorders can be treated early the outcome can be better. He said that in most of the psychiatric hospitals in India there is no psychiatrist and normally the medical officers run the psychiatric hospital," he added.

According to him, 90-95 patients cannot afford to go to private psychiatrist for treatment and even if they go most of them visit only once, but it requires treatment on long term basis. "In India, 110 to 120 psychiatric post graduates pass out and out of them more than 50 per cent move outside India and those who stay back generally prefer private practice," he said. He said there is severe shortage of psychiatrists in India including Kashmir. "Both shortage and mal-distribution of psychiatrists has severe effect. With present mechanism, problem can not be solved for another 50 years." He added that in the western countries the concept is to take such patients out of the family, but that can not be afforded in the Indian set-up. "Infact, it is no solution for India. Existing social support can be utilized to manage the affairs. We are not advocating a concept of growth of psychiatric hospitals. However, they can be there for the rarest cases," said Dr Nagaraja.

Reacting to social stigma attached with such patients and their lack of acceptability in a family, Dr. Nagaraja attributed it to ignorance on part of the people. "Besides," he said, "most people can not afford the tablets that are given free in the hospitals." He added the problem can be reasonably solved if the service is made available in villages. When asked about the possibility of such situation at the grass root level, he replied every state can afford it. "Simply, families need financial support," he said. When asked about his observations regarding stress related problems in the quake-ravaged areas in post earthquake scenario based on NIMHANS survey, he said the number has gone down. He attributed time factor and social support system within the community as reasons responsible for improved situation in the areas. He termed the situation arising out of October 8, 2005 earthquake as "exaggerated normal reaction" due to a natural calamity and not illness.

"It does not require medication, only small percentage needs. Basically, it is the social fabric torn into pieces, family support damaged and death of a leading person in the community. All this put people under stress." He assured regrouping of quake-victims in the community can turn the situation normal.

A Timely Primer on Democracy and the Role of Leaders

Ajaz reminds politicians that Democracy is all about people and not power or privilege

(The columnist, 37, writes under the name Ajaz Ahmad and lives in Srinagar.)

Rulers not Leaders!

Democracy prides itself on being a system of government which is all about self-rule. In fact, in a strict sense of the meaning the very word ‘rule’ is alien to the ethos of democracy. Ideally speaking there are no ‘ruled’ in a democracy, consequently there are no ‘rulers’. In a democratic set-up it is the people themselves who rule over their own selves – which just means that they live their lives according to a set of ‘rules’ (or the more canonized form of ‘laws’!) laid down by general consensus. Against this background it would constitute mere distribution of work, rather than a matter of privilege, to be involved in the enactment, regulation or implementation of theses rules or laws.

A ‘ruler’, in a conventional sense of the term, evokes the vision of a despotic monarch who lords over the less privileged, the less powerful and the less fortunate. That’s why the lexicon of democracy generally uses a more benign term of ‘leader’ for those at the helm of affairs. The main distinction between a ‘ruler’ and a ‘leader’ would be that whereas the former would use a set of rules or laws primarily to exert control over their underlings, the latter would use their capacity of leadership to lead their fellow men towards a better life. The most benevolent of rulers would live and make others live by his determined set of rules, which howsoever benevolent, would make a distinction between the ruler and the ruled not surprisingly to the advantage of the former. A leader on the other hand would be expected to ensure that he as well as others live by a set of rules that are there by general consensus and apply equally to all.

Given that the ‘ruled’ and the ‘rulers’ lived life by completely different criteria it wasn’t unusual for them to be out of sync with each others life style. Thus we have the classical quote attributed to Marie Antoinette about advising people to eat cake when they complained about the paucity of bread. Leaders, one would expect, would be more aware of the state of affairs because it would be about them only, as they are themselves part of the multitude, as common as the rest of the commoners. However such a distinction between ‘rulers’ and ‘leaders’ exists only in the realm of theory and philosophy, in reality as we all know, the demarcation is much blurred, that is presuming that it exists in the first place.

Our leaders have inherited all the traits of erstwhile ‘rulers’, including despotism and in most cases even a propensity to maintain a hereditary ‘line of succession’. Even the various ‘developmental’ works taken up by our leaders more often than not manifest their aristocratic mind set. The leaders of today are as blind to the needs and requirements of the people as Marie Antoinette must have been in her own time. They appear to be preoccupied with grandeur and treat the mundane with disdain, this perhaps being a direct fallout of their aristocratic leanings.
How many schools – the much needed primary and secondary level ones – could be established with say a capital of 25 crore rupees? And when one talks of schools, it is not the bare buildings that one refers to, the sort that are inaugurated by some dignitary even before they are anywhere near completion, sometimes even at the ‘foundation stone’ laying stage, which is where they stay. A school would mean a complete unit with a building (complete with doors and windows!) and at least a semblance of basic furniture and teaching aids not to speak of teachers. The only problem it seems is that a score of such units if ever they came up with this amount of capital would be too drab an enterprise and not at all anywhere near the grandeur of say a golf course!

Majestic kings in ancient times used to lay beautiful gardens whenever the fancy overtook them, leaders today are no less majestic in their vision it would seem. Such ventures provide employment, the very act of laying them and then of course the maintenance etc., is a common enough contention. Indeed so did the laying of gardens in those old days. Only one wonders that couldn’t it be that the very king who commissioned the laying down of a huge wall around his city ostensibly to create employment for a famine stricken people would have instead enlisted their labour to build respectable dwellings for them, complete with say a school and a hospital or whatever passed for these in those days? Is seems silly to expect such a thing from a monarch even benevolent enough to be moved by the plight of a famine-stricken people. But then given the present scenario it would seem sillier perhaps to expect something of the sort from the present day ‘leader-rulers’!

Indeed how many hospitals have we witnessed coming up in recent times? In fact the main hospital – a much overburdened and hardly a-state-of-the-art institution – in our valley is a legacy from an erstwhile ‘despotic monarch’. There is very little than has been done to improve its lot, leave alone multiplying this facility to cater to the needs of an increasing population. The only worthwhile schools in our valley are again a legacy of our so-called colonial masters, remnants from the past, well before ‘democracy’ had descended upon us. A prototype of a present day ‘government’ (established and run by the ‘government of the people, by the people, for the people’!) school is a shoddily built building, and a half finished one at that sans the very basic facilities, that is wherever such schools exist in the first place.

Not that there are no constructive projects undertaken by the government these days. Crores of rupees are spent on palatial buildings to suitably house the representatives of the people, ostensibly an honour done to the people themselves whom these worthy men represent! Sometimes a more benevolent leader even throws open the manicured lawns of his official palace to the children of the laity, a grand and noble gesture suitably highlighted in the media. It is not that the ‘royal’ handouts of our worthy leaders are altogether absent in our day to day life. An occasional ambulance can be seen with a boldly painted legend on its sides proclaiming the fact of its being ‘donated’ to the public by some worthy public representative, ‘donated’ out of public funds, that is!

All the above outlined traits do seem to belong more to ‘rulers’ rather than ‘leaders’! Moreover the origins of the word ‘ruler’ in fact has something to do with a ‘straight stick’ and considering that it is easier for us to associate our leaders with baton sticks than with anything else, the word ‘ruler’ does seem more appropriate than ‘leader’.

Kashmir has a unique strain of cancer among the 20 to 30 patients who die daily

The Kangri Cancer is fortunately showing a downward trend

The Bad News: 20-30 people die of cancer daily in Kashmir

The Good News: 15 of these can be saved with proper awareness and cure

Reyaz Ahmed (Kashmir Images)

Sopore: Deadly cancer is spreading its tentacles fast in Valley and available data suggests around 20-30 patients are claimed on daily basis by the dreaded disease. Horrifying it sounds, and indeed it really is; however, the saving grace is that if people are educated about the menace and provided medicare at various stages of the disease, almost 50 percent of the patients dying of cancer can be saved.

These details were shared by some leading oncologists here other day during the 'Cancer Awareness Conference’ and ‘Practitioner's Meet' held at north Kashmir's Sopore township in Baramulla district. Doctors and medical practitioners working in different urban and rural districts of north Kashmir participated in the conference organized here for the first time by Hakim Sanaullah Cancer Center Sopore in collaboration with Rajiv Ghandhi Cancer Institute New Delhi.

"It has been found that there are 110-120 new cases present in one lakh of populace and so far as the Kashmir valley is concerned, at least 40 new cases are detected every day and almost 20-30 patients die daily due to this deadly disease," said Dr. Shad Salim Akhtar. He said that at least 15 cases are preventable but it needs painstaking efforts.

The conference with the theme of ‘Cancer Awareness', focused on the management of cancer in countries with limited resources.The speakers stressed upon all the doctors and medicos to work for educating masses about cancer prevention activities and asked them to pool their efforts to fight the deadly disease. When asked about the genetic factor of cancer, Dr. Shaoib Zaidi, who is a Consultant Surgical Oncologist at Batra Hospital New Dehli said there are some kinds of cancer like in breast and uterus and other organs, which have genetic origin. Replying to question about the Kangri Cancer cases in the Valley, Dr. Zaidi said earlier such cancer cases was rampant in the Valley but now as people has curtailed the use of Kangri, the incidence of Kangri Cancer cases too has decreased.

During the conference, various practicing physicians and doctors deliberated upon varied topics related cancer. Emphasizing the importance of awareness and education about cancer among health-care providers and the general population, oncologists said that it has become necessary for “all of us” to create an atmosphere for cancer care and cure facilities so that people living in far-off villages can get benefit as they don’t have not access to the high-profile and expensive hospitals.

Open Letter to Kashmir's NGO's: Address the two top social issues facing the society today

Environment and Women Rights are the two top most issues highlighted in the following two messages

Restoring the glory of Detoriating Dal Lake:

This refers to the timely and detailed obituary on the deteriorating condition of Dal Lake. This is a timely warning, but for whom? Neither our politicians nor do our crusaders of Azadi care about the environment. In fact history shows that they were overtly or covertly involved in the pollution of Dal. Corrupt bureaucracy represented by LAWDA, and others have cashed on every aspect of Dal.

However, despite the fact that Dal has shrunken from 75 km to present 11-15 sq km, it is nature which resuscitates it with the help of sub-terrain on hydrology which emanates from Himalayan ranges of Kun/Nun, a Brankton Glacier forming the outer circle of the lake. It is followed by the inner circle of glacier of Harmukh, Chanderwari, Hari, Gulal, Sar followed by Gangabal and Sheshnag besides river Jehlum. In 1966 springs oozing within were 17 in number which were reduced to 7 in 2007. At present discharge of silt is at 80,000 tones, nitrogen 244 tones and phosphorus 156 tones, resulting in the ammonical nitrogen cover of 1.50 mgl followed by chemical oxygen demand at 40o mgl in the Dal Lake.

The underground flow of glacier through creeps shall sustain Dal till an honest politician and bureaucrat takes the control of preserving it for our future generation. During my recent European tour to various universities and laboratories I have carried samples of Algae with me and I am proud to report that bio-fuel experiment has been successfully carried out on these parasites, details of which shall be disclosed soon.

Haji Abdul Majid Butt
Geo Scientist
Ellahi Bagh, Buchhpora, Srinagar

Battered womanhood:

This is in reference to a very emotional write up on battered womanhood. The writer made a very sincere attempt to expose the double standards of our society that glorifies woman in theory but in practice treats her nothing more than a machine.

Ours is the society where man can possess and dispose her off like a personal property. It is a very unfortunate reality that our society is by and large very insensitive to the issues of women, although the touching account of the doctors, who were so compassionate to that woman, is still there to leave us with some amount of optimism.

Need of the hour is to recognize the place that a woman deserves in our society and give her the rights she deserves. At the same time our men folk should be more receptive to the problems of women so that they can identify with them in a better way. We should extend all possible moral and social support to such woman who suffers with such biological disadvantage.

Shazia Saleem
Student, Government Woman’s College
M A Road, Srinagar

(Two letters in the Greater Kashmir)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Please Privatize the Government, Sir

A truly enlightened citizen - God bless you Ali Ahmar - writes an open letter to the CM to hand over the state government to private managers

Respected Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad Sahib,

Truth is not always violated by falsehood, it may equally be outraged by silence. Therefore, I am picking up courage to present a few bare facts about the state government you lead before you.

Sir, I am a responsible tax paying citizen of your state who lives a life virtually deprived of all essential services that any government is supposed to provide to its masses – water, power, education, healthcare, law enforcement and public transport to name a few. As we approach elections later this year, I have a sure recipe that will win you the forthcoming polls hands down – Make privatization of government part of your election manifesto and you will win a comfortable majority.

Sir, I have installed an acqua guard water purifier at my home as the quality of water provided by Water Works Department is so muddy and grubby that I can’t risk making my family vulnerable to various water-borne diseases as your healthcare services are literally defunct. Your doctors and allied medical staff are notorious for playing truant from hospitals and public health centres. In the summer capital, more children are now born in private nursing homes than your LD Hospital where rats gnaw at newly-born infants and child swapping is a frequent affair. DNA fingerprinting will reveal many untold truths and sadly break up a number of families.

Sir, I had to raise a bank loan under Pachies 99 scheme to buy a new car as your public transport system is a commuters’ hell. As regards the role of Traffic Police, the less said the better. Rather than putting pressure on the drivers, they are exerting the same on their protruding tummies which is bursting at their seams. Besides paying for riding these mobile torture chambers, you have to develop tons of patience to travel at a snail’s pace. Result – your roads are cluttered that lead to frequent traffic jams. Do you know Sir that it takes you far less time to reach Delhi from Srinagar than me when I travel from Lal Chowk to Hazratbal, a distance of just 12 km! I am sure more people will now buy the 1 lakh car – Nano - for which I would like to specially thank Ratan Tataji as it will help victims of public transport to escape daily torture sessions.

Sir, let us not dwell on rising crime graph and the role of police in controlling it. Eve teasing, rape, murder, burglaries are now routine acts that occur more frequently. One place people are still afraid to go to is your Police Station.

Sir, since I am among one of the nearly 20 million tax payers in the country, which I pay for my maintenance and also the upkeep of remaining 90 per cent non-tax payers, I reserve the right to ask you why your government fails to provide satisfactory services and why should you not handover the baton of power to the private sector?

Sir, I have a special request to you to kindly discontinue the telecast of your Assembly session proceedings on the television as they are mere exercises in washing your dirty linen in public. Your government has appended another inglorious chapter to the famous adage of Sex, Lies & Videotapes.

Sir, I hope hon’ble MP Madan Lal Sharma has responded to Soniaji’s show cause notice. I am also forced to write because sugar coated pills of tall claims of moral uprightness by your cabinet colleagues is giving me diabetes.

Sir, if an MLA had to pay Rs.40,000 to one of your very own ministers to get his sister appointed as teacher in the education department, I can imagine what an ordinary person has to cough up to get similar jobs done. Since, it has taken us to the issue of corruption, I am still awaiting the list of 100 odd officers you promised to announce for termination by declaring them as deadwood for the acts of omission and commission they committed while dissemination of official duties. I am sure if you would have sought the help of a private detective firm, you would have been able to keep your promise to the people of this State.

Sir, being the most corrupt state in the country, in the alternative I suggest a J&K State Bribe Index to help the people of this state to know the rate card and cuts your officers usually demand in various offices so that they pay the money to get their legitimate jobs done. The Bribe Index should be displayed at appropriate places in all the departments along side the Citizens’ Charter so that the people are properly facilitated!! Sir, also please stop making public references to cracking down on corruption as the babus are now demanding additional “risk allowance” besides the usual cut in case they are caught.

Sir, I am sure you remember Rajivji’s famous statement when he said that only 16 paisa reaches the target when a whole rupee travels from the Centre. Sir in all this please don’t forget my suggestion about the need of J&K Bribe Index, which will also accept cuts/percentage payments in favour of the government employees through credit cards.

Sir, because of the pathetic condition of your government schools, I was forced to admit my daughter in a private school, which, however, has been a blessing in disguise. Even though they took a hefty donation, they have ensured that they focus on her education at an individual level so that she is able to compete in all benchmarks and come out a good student. Better than your government schools where teachers far outnumber the wards giving especially our lady teachers ample time to carry out extended sessions in knitwear.

Sir, since you belong to the Congress party which is ruling the coalition at the Centre, I am forced to ask on what basis is the Central government considering 42 per cent rise in salaries of government employees by way of the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission, which will add a further burden of Rs.46,100 crore on all the State governments across the country annually? Is it for the endless meetings they convene in which minutes are kept and hours are lost just for the sake of having some fun and feast.

Sir, since the announcement of pay hike across the country and thanks to the loan-waiving Budget that includes a farm loan waiver of nearly Rs. 60,000 crore, I am reeling under the impact of inflation, which is much higher than what it was in the last three years. Inflation stood at 19.3% in case of edible oil and the inflation rate for other essential commodities is fast approaching double digit levels. Sir I am not an economist who understands WPI (Wholesale Price Index) and the issue of making rupee stronger against the dollar and suspending exports to control inflation. I only ‘beg’ of you to use your good offices with the Centre and help bring down the prices of essential commodities so that it doesn’t make a big hole in my pocket.

Sir, since you cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today, time has come for you to float national and international tenders for taking over of various government departments by private managers who will ensure better, faster and quality delivery of official services to the deserving and tax paying citizens of this beautiful state. Please privatize the government and see the difference!

Since, we have a separate Constitution, let us table an amendment in the Legislative Assembly and pass it so that the foundation stone of a corporate government is laid in the most corrupt state in the country, for the benefit of its victimized masses.

Sincerely yours

Ali Ahmar