Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

A Note to the J&K Government - Child Labor is bad for Tourism

Child Labor Rampant in Gulmarg

Srinagar: Child labour is assuming the proportions of an epidemic in the famed tourist resort of Gulmarg where an increasing number of children is being pushed to work as pony-wallahs and labourers at a very tender age.

On the one hand the tourism department is trying hard to attract tourists the world over to the Kashmir Valley, but on the other local, domestic and foreign tourists visiting Gulmarg get an alarming impression of Kashmir.

Many tourists in Gulmarg were heard making negative comments on seeing small children engaged as labourers in the scenic spot.

Scores of children are seen conducting tourists as pony-wallahs and labourers around Gulmarg, and a good number of kids works in hotels and restaurants, while still others are seen acting as vendors.

Eleven-year-old pony wallah, Arshad Ahmad Bhat, said that he works with horses throughout the day, earning Rs 150 on an average that is sufficient to meet his family’s needs.
Reports said that most of these children give up school and take to child labour because of familial conditions.

Several people in the area said that child labour was at peak in Gulmarg because no official of the labour department was posted there.

Despite a national ban on child labour, the practice continues with impunity in Gulmarg and the situation is growing more serious with each passing day, they say.
A noted educationist of Tangmarg, Syed Muzaffar, said that if child labour was not curbed in time, most children would give up school to join the trade, and that would sully the fair name of Gulmarg.

“Gulmarg is totally hidden from the sights of the government so far as child labour is concerned. It is being intensely felt that children must be drawn to education instead of labour so that misimpressions don’t spread to others,” he said.

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