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.

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

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