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 3, 2008

When the State is Soft on Corruption, the Virus Spreads Everywhere

An Editorial and Three stories - each distinct from the other - demonstrate how wide and deep corruption has seeped into Kashmiri society

Editorial: Cleaning Public Life

It is now for five years and six months that the Congress - Peoples Democratic Party coalition has been in power in the state. It is a long period for building infrastructure for development and changing economic landscape of a small state like Jammu and Kashmir where a very low percentage of people live below the poverty line.

Notwithstanding the lofty claims made by the government for receiving packages after package and liberal assistance from New Delhi, no perceptible development has taken place. The lack of accountability in administration, hegemonic pampered bureaucracy, deterioration in health sector, mess in education institutions and alarming unemployment problems tell a horrendous tales about the performance of the government in power.

Common people have been denied bare minimum facilities like improving sanitation and giving them good roads. No attention has been paid towards the development of rural areas and the capital city of Srinagar for political expediencies has been allowed to sink. There can be no denying that there has been multiplication of schools and colleges during the past few years but the glaring truth is that the newly started colleges have no infrastructure and teachers.

The government during its tenure in office has failed to prepare a comprehensive employment problem. Its approach in addressing the problems confronted by people has either been ad hoc and parochial. Not to speak of building of infrastructures for bringing in sustainable development in the State the coalition has failed to live up to its own agenda of eradicating corruption in the government and public life.

In its common minimum programme at the commencement of its innings in October 2007, it announced that the coalition would wage a war against corruption in the state. It also announced that the political leaders, public representatives, legislators, ministers including Chief Minister were also not brought under the dragnet of the anti-corruption net if found guilty.

True, the state established an Accountability Commission for looking into corruption charges against ministers and other public figures but so far this institution has failed to live upto its charter of duties. Like many other commissions instituted in the past its approach towards growing corruption in public life has been cosmetic. During the past two years eighteen cases of misuse of power and corruption have been registered against some ministers and legislators and out of which it has dismissed three cases and the rest are awaiting adjudication. Deciding fifteen cases is not a Himalayan uphill task that it could not have performed during the past three years.

Equally, there are some cases registered in the state vigilance organization against some public figures for the past many years. It seems both the Accountability Commission and the vigilance organization have been allowing the cases of corruption against ministers and public figures to gather dust under political expediencies. There have been reports that the cases against some ministers awaiting judgment in the commission have been proved but under direction from people at the top the commission has withheld passing of orders on them.

The Commission has an important role in cleaning public life of moral and material corruption. It is high time for the commission to decide all the cases pending with it. Seventy percent cases pending with it are against some sitting and former ministers who shall be again contesting the coming elections. The commission needs to decide corruption cases against ministers and other legislators before the issuance of notification for the elections. To ensure clean public life it needs to debar all those found guilty from contesting the 2008 elections. (Greater Kashmir)

JK Bank turns into illegal money changer

Srinagar: State’s premier financial institute, Jammu and Kashmir Bank Ltd. has come under scanner with the exposé that some of its branches are indulging in illegal money exchanging. And the story doesn’t end here – the reports suggest that the exchange is being done to finance the militant groups.

A local news agency KNS reported that several people, including some Bank officials have been arrested in this connections and further investigations may find some ‘big’ heads rolling. KNS reports said that police was probing the inputs that some people were exchanging currency illegally in Dangiwacha branch of J&K Bank in Baramulla district to arrange finances for the militant groups. Reports said that it was Euro that was being changed into Indian currency.

Following the inputs police arrested Mohammed Ramzan Lone, son of Khazir Mohammed Lone; Nazir Ahmed Lone, son of Ghulam Mohammed, both residents of Sadnaar, Dangiwacha and Fayaz Ahmed Mir, son of Abdul Rehman of Sheikhpora. Following the preliminary investigations, police also arrested the Branch Manager of the Bank, identified as Naseer Ahmed Shah, son of Ghulam Ahmed of Ashapeer Sopore and the owner of the building, the houses the Bank, Inaytullah, son of Assadullah.

While confirming the arrests, SSP Baramulla, Anan Jain told KNS that preliminary investigations have revealed that currency worth 18 lakh rupees has been exchanged illegally and the police was checking the Bank records for further details. SSP said that the exchanged money would be deposited into the accounts of three of the arrested persons which later would be delivered to militants. He added that more exposures and arrests were expected. A case, in this regard, has been registered with police station Dangiwacha under number 8/2008 under sections 17, 18, 19 and 22 (unlawful act). Dy SP DR Baramulla is investigating the case, sources said. (Kashmir Images)

Fake firms offering loans on minimal interest

Srinagar: Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Registrar of companies on Monday declared two Kashmir based Non-Banking Finance Companies (NBFCs) Arsh Traders and Gousia Associates as fake and advised the people to refrain from investing in these firms.

“These companies (Arsh Traders and Gousia Associates) claiming to be Master Direct Marketing Agents (DMA) are not registered with RBI and have been functioning illegally. State government should look into the matter and take notice of the transactions being carried out by these companies. People should refrain from investing in these companies,” O P Aggarwal, Regional Director, RBI told Rising Kashmir over phone from Jammu.

He added, “If RBI comes across such cases, it will file a written complaint and the further investigations would be conducted by the IG Railways and Crime.”

Aggarwal said that for a company to function as DMA one of the major requirements is that it should be registered under the Registrar of Companies Act 1956. “For getting such companies registered the owners first have to sign a memorandum with a clause that allows them to conduct financial activities,” Aggarwal said, adding, “After registration these companies need to get the NBFC license from the RBI.”

When contacted, Registrar of Companies O P Sharma said that if both these companies are registered with us then their names will figure on the website of corporate affairs www.mca, “If the names of these companies figure on the website then these companies are registered, if their names are not there then these companies are not registered with us.”

However, the names of both the companies don’t figure on the website, when the Registrar of Companies was informed that there is no mention of these two companies on the website, he said, “Then both these companies are functioning illegally.”

Both these companies are lending and collecting money from people, despite State’s CID department carrying out investigations. “State Government has taken no action against these companies despite they promoting their business through advertisements in the leading newspapers of the Valley. They are calling people to come and avail loan facilities with minimum formalities.

According to the experts both these firms have been advancing loans that include, education loans, personal loans, commercial loans, agriculture loans, project loans as well as home loans at flat rates. “Arsh traders has been claiming through advertisements that it’s registered with RBI while the fact is that it is not registered with the RBI.”

“The company is providing loans to customers at 5.25 percent flat rate and has opened 12 different branches in the Valley. On the other hand Gousia Traders has been advancing loans at 4 percent flat rate,” said another expert.

When contacted the proprietor of Gousia Associates said, “I have a registration from the labour department and I don’t think I need any other registration. We ask for a guarantor if the borrower asks for more than Rs 5 lakhs as loan. Our procedures are simple and the interest rate we charge is quite low.”

While Gousia Associates claims to be the DMA of Metro Financial Services, Arsh traders, claims to be the DMA of Jay Cee Finances Limited. Both these companies have been asking for only one guarantor who is a Government employee while leading banks ask for at least two guarantors.

Commenting on this matter G Q Wani, Director of Finance said, “The Labour commission has nothing to do with financial institutions registration. These firms are illegal and such cases have surfaced many times in the past also. They simply loot the people and they are behind all types of illegal activities that even includes illegal trafficking of money”.He also said that RBI guidelines need to be followed.

Although Gousia Associates has a board displayed outside their office, Arsh traders does not even have a clear sign board that displays their companies name.

The Senior Superintendent of Police, Crime Branch, Abdul Gafar Malik said, “This is a very complicated issue and all the aspects need to be taken into consideration. Somebody has to file a complaint and definitely after taking all aspects into consideration we would take the action”. (Rising Kashmir)

Rs 5.2 Crore Drug Haul In Srinagar

Srinagar: In a major operation, drug control authorities seized sub-standard and addictive pharmaceuticals worth Rs 5.2 crore in Srinagar today, and put two persons involved in the illegal trade behind bars.

Acting on tip-off, a team from the department of drug and food control conducted a raid in the Balgardan area of Srinagar and seized a large quantity of sub-standard and addictive drugs from a godown.

The cache was said to have been stored by Sajjad Hussain Bhat of Karan Nagar, and Javed Iqbal Bhat.

The drug control team, led by the deputy drug controller, Nazir Ahmad Wani, and the station house officer (SHO) of the Shaheed Gunj police station, arrested both the racketeers on the spot.
The drug haul is said to be valued at Rs 5.2 crore.

The drugs were meant to be supplied to youth and unlicensed dealers.

Sources said that the drug control department had been receiving complaints of a large scale racket in sub standard drugs in the area. A case under the Drug Act 1940 has been registered.

A pharmacy under the name and style of "Al Shifa," which was allegedly being used to sell the sub-standard drugs, has been sealed by the authorities. (Kashmir Observer)

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