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, June 29, 2008

Please Shed a Tear for Kashmir's Disappearing Grasslands

Prof. Kak pleads to scientists of all spheres, NGO's and the interested locals of the state to come forward and work for the protection of our grasslands as well their wealth (flora and fauna)

(Dr. A. Majeed Kak, 62, was born and in Nowhatta, Srinagar. He received his primary education from the Government Middle School in Nowhatta and his secondary school education from Bagi Dilawar Khan Higher Secondary School in Fateh Kadal. He completed his college education at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. In 1977 he was the first candidate from the University of Kashmir to be selected by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of the Government of India for a doctoral research scholarship at the university leading to a Ph.D. in Botany in 1980. He is currently the Research Coordinator in the Department of Botany at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. Dr. Kak has over 35 years of teaching experience and research experience of over 25 years. He has received numerous research awards resulting in publication of 70 research papers and has authored two books on Botany. He is presently engaged in promoting and strengthening local and regional museums, a project supported by a grant from the Ministry of Culture, New Delhi.)

Vanishing grass lands of the valley once supporting excellent ground flora

Kashmir is world famous for many things besides fine grassy meadows, pasturelands, grasslands, arable and wastelands. All these alpine and other meadows are situated in the lap or on the top of the hefty mountains spreading along vast tracts, attracting aesthetic naturalists, poets, scientists and the people of other fields. Many such meadows have turned into tourist places because of being lovely attractive and soothing to eyes and having abundant green turf and flowers of visible spectrum. These are locally known as "Margs" and "Nais". Many such meadows have attained the world famous names like Sona marg,Shaji marg, Gul marg, Yus marg, providing mental solace, spiritual feast and refreshing atmosphere for the visitors at various altitudes. Margs in the valley are of three distinct types these have been named as temperate margs; sub alpine margs and alpine margs.

1) Temperate margs range from 2000-2500 m above sea level and are formed on the flat plateau especially at the foothills of mountains. These extensive lovely meadows support beautiful turf of many nutritive herbs and fodder grasses.
2.) Sub alpine margs are existing in between 2500-3000 m above sea level especially on the ridges and inner mountain ranges. These are also extensive but are sloppy; often inhabited by plants of stunted bushy habit, under which a rich carpet of grasses and sedges in association with lovely sub alpine medicinal herbs are existing.
3.) Alpine pastures are situated between 3200 m up to snow line, forming a distinct belt beholding innumerable handsome herbs, nestling sometimes in accessible places or growing under the shady thickest of lush green forest. These lovely, rich pasturelands support large herds of our wild migratory herbivores and domesticated animals of our villagers and nomads (Gujjars and Bakerwalls), who solely depend on their livestock roaming along with them from one pastureland to the other during summer and winter months, providing flesh, milk, wool and hide locally. Thus playing a key role in developing the economy of the state to a great extent. Many grassland along with marginal lands locally called "Chariae"or gassae chariae (free grazing lands) are almost neglected by the concerned authorities and are at the verge of vanishing. Part of them have been encroached, fenced and planted with timber trees by the locals or at places residential houses have been illegally constructed with the result many of them have almost shrunk and squeezed. Sub alpine pasturelands too have totally changed in their form, because of the felling of forest trees, bushes and rushes for the construction of residential houses and other commercial 3-7 star hotels and guest houses, as the people desire to spend their holidays in solitude away from public noise and other such disturbances. Large tracts of our grasslands are converted into arable and brought under cultivation of cereal grasses like wheat, barley, maize; oats etc. at places rice is cultivated in the terraced fields changing the grass lands into paddy fields. Free access of the tourists without any proper waste disposal system and strict check on eco degradation has played havoc, construction of golf courses, recreation and children parks in these margs have also squeezed them and reduced the biodiversity by carpeting with the artificial grasses.

Alpine meadows were supporting huge number of medicinal herbs besides other fodder grasses, are unrestrictedly grazed by sheep and goats that has resulted in the replacement and proliferation of number of useless and obnoxious weeds that are not edible but poisonous and harmful to the livestock, besides exterminating other nutritive alpine herbs. The unregulated and uncontrolled grazing and felling of the trees is responsible for the destruction of many rare and endemic grass species, where no chance is given to the seedling to regenerate due to over grazing by the local flocks. The deleterious effect on the quality of pasturelands by the spread of obnoxious, useless and poisonous weeds is of great concern and are the areas of much interest for the botanist because they provide excellent examples of the effect of competition and selection and of the development of a different local flora. In Malkha area (largest grave yard of Muslims at the foot hill of Hari Parbat Fort) which was once supporting the flora of its own including medicinal plants like Tetwen, isband, tseri tamool, lossi gassae etc. in abundance has now been totally replaced by thick covers of thorny bush from Rajasthan brought here through sheep.

The condition of our vast spread grasslands and meadows is pitiable because of the mismanagement, overgrazing, erosion of the land and the illegal encroachment for the construction of the residential houses, guesthouses, restaurants and the lands leased for the construction of 5 or 7 star hotels. Now even sold to the shrine board for the increase of pollution and filth and for the construction of the latrines and other such barracks. Vast tracts have been converted into national and international golf fields and public parks. Heavy rush of the local and foreign visitors now reaching up to the snow peak zones by chair lifts locally called Gondola or by trekking and trespassing has affected ecologically sensitive varieties that are taking their last breaths, changing the whole biodiversity of our naturally rich meadows.

Large proportion of our village population is associated with pastoral activities directly dependant on them for their livelihood. Gujjars and Bakerwalls, Pahul (Shepherds) utilize the green and nutritious grasses of these meadows for their live stock feeding. It is beyond doubt that grass lands such as margs are major consumers of the increased level of carbon dioxide and keeps the global warming under control also the depletion of water resources day by day, margs are sure water sheds which guarantees the perennial flow of our down stream water bodies. These are actual gold mines for the medicinal, Ethnobotanical and aromatic plants which can acquire rich economic dividends for commercial exploitation by the pharmaceutical industry.

Our grasslands have received no attention either by state or by the central government. These have been neglected particularly for the last one or two decades because of the prevailing conditions in the state. Thick forests of Pinus, Deodar, Betula, Paratiopsis Juglans have been cleared and the wood smuggled. Unauthorized felling has created exposure and erosion that has over all effected both the environ as well domesticated flock. Their number is declining which in due course of time will affect our state economy on large scale.

God has been kind enough by providing such climatic and edaphic conditions particularly in the surrounding high lands that favour the growth of temperate and alpine species of grasses and medicinal herbs. These pasturelands if tendered properly can be of immense economic significance to the various departments, like sheep wool and animal husbandry, where borine population acutely faces winter feeding and scarcity of fodders. Raring suitable and adaptive breeds feeding on local available fodder can achieve best translucent pastoral economy.
All communities (Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and many Buddhist etc,) in Kashmir are non vegetarians; a huge amount is spent annually for the import of mutton from other states. The availability of local pastureland may sustain and help a lot in raring of domesticated animals to a large extent that may help to improve the social conditions of our people residing in the remote and hilly areas. Some grasses are more readily grazed than others and no doubt have attractive flavour or scent. The excellent fodder available to our sheep industry helps to increase the wool production which is considered one of the best qualities of putto (a woolen blanket) and was once famous outside the state and country, beside the increase in the flesh production along with palatable excellent taste.

Scientists of all spheres, NGO and the interested locals of the state should come forward and work for the protection of our grasslands as well their wealth (flora and fauna). They should take steps to protect the remains of both high and low altitudinal meadows like Kungwatan (Aharabal), Zagiinarg(Noor abad), Raineur (Saidew), Gudhar (Kulgam) Chrari Shrief (Yusmarg); Gulmarg, Sona marg, Thajwas,Shopian Feroizpur Nallah and low altitudinal areas of the villages and towns like Gogji pathur. Tosa maiden, Pahalgam, Shankeracharya, Zabarwan, Ningle nallah, Baba Reshi, Hari parbhat Fort, and should, identify the existing members of this vast group in the form of fodders that are highly nutritious and palatable to our domesticated animals. In order to raise their number and to increase their flesh.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Investigative Journalism is Here to Stay, but Will it Ever Make it to Kashmir?

Afshana looks at how far journalism has progressed in the rest of the world and wonders why Kashmiri journalism is still hostage to press releases and shutdowns

(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.)

Social reportage in Kashmir

‘It’s a revolutionary
moment in journalism.
There is room for
all kinds of
experimentation now’ (Sheila Coronel, Manila July-07)

Presently heading Centre for Investigative Journalism, Columbia University , United States , Sheila Coronel was speaking to a group of journalists during her presentation on new trends in investigative reporting.

Referring to New Journalism, she said that the power to act as information’s gatekeeper is devolving increasingly to the audience, involving their greater participation and thus breaking down the monopoly of news managers and editors. “We don’t exactly know where things are going,” she said, adding that the source of news and information is currently shaped by both the press and the consumers every second.

As such, the increased interactivity is the biggest challenge in journalism. From anachronistic snail mail to advanced email and the spread of digital mobile phones, blogs and social networking, the popularly known User Generated Content (UGC) is making deep inroads in this profession. Whether it were blogs of 9/11 or mobile phone images of July 7 London bombing, the participation of audience is turning active. The phenomenon called as Citizen Journalism which contests the idea of who the journalist is because of the makeover of the audience from being just a consumer to a producer of stories.

This is already happening abroad rigorously. In India , newspapers are faintly opening up to it. However, television news channels are encouraging this development, though the change is yet not so discernible.

Coming to Kashmir , media landscape is quite different. Things in journalism here are unusual from whatever is prevalent outside. The reasons can be many. Lack of media culture or little history of independent media combined with the political instability of the place, Kashmir is yet to earn a mention for vigorous journalism even if we may claim ‘conflict reporting’ as our proud feat. And that too just because of the ‘conflict sensitive journalism’ of last two decades that has not succeeded to move beyond just reporting the conflict than intervening to help it avert or resolve.

Additionally, with dearth of big business houses resulting in economic dependence of news organizations, and presence of somewhat passive audience, a complacent media culture is getting perpetuated. Vernacular press has stereotyped into a classic tradition of just filling the newsprint, without any serious effort to project the ground realities in-depth. As far as English press, reporting has not completely come out of the confines of ‘causalities’ and ‘press releases’. The meaningful engagement with the new technology is yet to develop. Almost all of the newspaper sites are still just online versions of the print copies. There is no improving upon online content using various software and internet technologies like podcasting and videocasting, something that is getting too imperative for journalists to exercise the world over.

As per the recent European Digital Journalism Study , blogs have become a staple part of the journalist’s newsgathering process. Among 347 journalists surveyed in nine European countries, around a quarter regularly quoted from blogs and used them to source their stories. The survey report revealed that journalists in UK are leading the way with blogging and production of video content as part of their workload.

Unfortunately, the endeavour of keeping tune with the latest innovations in this profession has not matured here so far. This can also be one of the causes for ignoring or under-reporting the disconcerting offshoots of conflict. That’s why investigative journalism too is a distant idea to stumble upon.

Again, use of social media tools is an alien concept, though the same is becoming quite popular in certain reputed news organizations world over. The BBC’s coverage of election in Turkey last year by reporter Ben Hammersley was termed as the first ‘social media experiment’ of the Beeb.

Hammersley filed his personal blog, uploaded photos to Flickr, video to YouTube , posted snippets of text to Twitter and networked with people through Facebook— the social media forums used to distribute the content and reach new and wider audience. The project was guided by the BBC’s 15 web principles, the fifth of which states -- “Treat the entire web as a creative canvas: don’t restrict your creativity to your own site”.

Viewing the scenario in Kashmir , outreaching our stories to bigger audience is a less important issue in comparison to identifying and reporting the real issues confronting us distressingly.

The absolute change in our social fabric has a lot to divulge than what meets the eye. Apart from the social re-location due to calamities and catastrophes other than conflict, the upheaval because of continuous turmoil is very critical. The Social Dimension of conflict is the worst hit part of overlooked reportage. Rising crime and daily offense is not reported beyond mere stats and eyewitness accounts, if any. Mutations in social structures, engineered or otherwise, have not been exposed beyond headlines and quotes.

The reportage that entails in-depth investigation, explanation and, of course, a point of view is missing. Digging out the motives and meanings behind the events has slipped out in the daily drama of conflict and struggle, which is invariably becoming a commonplace thing to highlight and report here.

Repercussion of such ‘reportage-maltreatment’ may not be clearly perceptible right now, but the precarious undercurrent is already set in. Just watch out the City Page for abductions, disappearances, rapes, and murders. Half-widows and orphans are fading out.

Revolutionary moment in our journalism is yet to arrive!

Friday, June 27, 2008

An Academic from the University of Jammu reminds her colleagues up north that we live in the Age of Reason

Prof. Chowdhary says what saner elements of the Civil Society in the Valley should have said days back. Having an uniformly single point of view is like being elected by 100% of electorate - it has no credibility

(Prof. Rekha Chowdhary, 55, was born in Jammu and has been a university teacher for the past 30 years. She is currently the Professor of Political Science, University of Jammu. During her distinguished teaching career, she was the visiting Fellow under a Ford Foundation grant at the Queen Elizabeth House, Oxford, in 1992-1993; winner of the Commonwealth Award availed at the University of Oxford, 1997-1998; and the Fulbright Fellow availed at the School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) at the Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC, in 2005.)

The need to assert the middle ground

It has happened once again! The politics that generally lies at the fringes and the margins, has assumed the centre space. It is a frenzy that seems to have swayed everyone. As a consequence the sensitivities have increased, the emotions have been amplified and the identities have been sharpened. No more the people are seen the citizens of the state. Their identity has been reduced to being 'Hindus' of Jammu or 'Muslims' of Kashmir - 'Hindus' and 'Muslims' who are living with the fear of loss of identity at the hands of each other. The polarisation that has taken place in last few days over the issue of land transfer to the SASB has generated a divisive politics of 'we' and 'they'. This politics not only draws a clear distinction between 'us' the and 'them' , but also carries the burden of holding 'them' responsible for all 'our' fears and phobias associated with the loss of identity.

The political discourse of last few days is clearly reflective of all this happening. While in Kashmir, it is the fear of the loss of the Muslim majority character of the state, the 'cultural and religious aggression' - in Jammu, it is the fear of endangering the religious sentiments of Hindus, the assault on their right to pilgrimage. The fear is being used by the political actors in both the places to raise emotions and in the process to raise mutually exclusive and contradictory demands.

This is a very perilous situation - not only because it raises sectarian emotions, but because it is a trap for most of the political actors. In a situation when politics gets to be controlled and defined by the sectarian elements lying at the extreme, the non-sectarian political actors find no option but to follow the suit. It is not a matter of conviction but of compulsion. When passions are raised, no one wants to take the risk of going against the stream and taking a contradictory position. Not only it might mean being 'unpopular' at the moment but also might result in being pushed to political wilderness for ever. So rather than taking a principled position emanating from one's ideological stance, the political parties and groups tend to join the bandwagon and play to the gallery the emotive politics -stretching the issue to the very extreme, in the process.

It is very unfortunate that the regional and communal polarization is taking place at this time. During last two decades of conflict, we have gone through various kinds of situations but have emerged unscathed, without falling prey to communal and chauvinist politics. There have been all kinds of provocations with a deliberate attempt to communalise the conflict. But we have not only survived but also proved that despite ethno-cultural differences; divergent nature of political aspirations and; multiple identity politics, we value the integrity and plurality of this state. We have beaten all kinds of divisive tendencies and made irrelevant the idea of division of state on communal lines. The evidence lies in the failure of both the kinds of politics - of Chenab Formula on the one hand and the politics of Trifurcation of the State on the other.

So, there is a need to introspect, at this juncture, as to where are we going now. Why are we allowing the politics to take this kind of polarised direction - where we are facing each other in confrontationist manner; where one kind of sectarianism is being responded by another kind of sectarianism; where shrill is suppressing all voices of reason.

Certainly, we have failed at one point. We have learnt to live very well with the cultural and political differences but we have not invested our energies in building the middle ground, especially in the context of regionally divided politics of the state. We have come to reconcile the 'other' and even acknowledged the space for divergent political aspirations but we have not gone beyond that. A number of times, in the last few years, the political class at all levels of politics (whether in the genre of mainstream politics or the separatist politics) has been talking of the need to have intra-state and inter-regional dialogues. Some efforts have been made in this direction as well, but not enough to break the exclusive nature of regional politics.

Regional chauvinism, in this state, has every danger of becoming communally chauvinist. And we have seen very often, in such like situation as it has evolved now, it takes only a momentary provocation to flare up regional and communal emotions. The last time it was the issue of the State Subject of Women, and earlier the Resettlement Bill - which brought us to the brink of emotionally surcharged politics. Such politics, as we see, does not have a long life and passes and normalcy is restored. This will happen this time also. This storm will pass and normalcy will be restored. But it brings us to face the reality - behind the surface, there lies this possibility of sharply divided, mutually exclusive regional politics which can assert itself any moment, thereby upsetting all our claims of maintaining the plural and secular traditions.

While plurality and secular ethos are to be found in our lived realities - the realities of our mixed living and of exemplary inter-community relations - we have ignored the need to build the common political spaces. The politics of this state is still based upon regionally carved political constituencies with no common middle ground. Thus there is a dominant logic of 'Kashmiri' politics as well as of 'Jammu' politics which is not only defined by its exclusivity but also by its zero-sum relationship with the other. However, there is not much politics which finds commonalities between Kashmir and Jammu, which emphasises common bonds, and which makes a deliberate attempt at building bridges between the two. While people speak as Kashmiris and Jammuites, there are not many who speak as citizens of the State of Jammu and Kashmir. At the political subconscious level, it is an almost established fact that the future of the state lies in its integrity, in its plurality and in its secular ethos. But at the conscious political level, the appreciation of this point has not been translated into deliberate efforts of overcoming the exclusive agendas of pursuing a Kashmiri versus Jammu and Jammu versus Kashmiri politics and building a politics that is inclusive of both Kashmiris and Jammuites.

This is the failure that we need to capture at this moment of crisis. We shall certainly overcome the quandary that we are in, sooner or later. But this is the lesson that we need to learn - that we need to make a very deliberate attempt at creating a more inclusive politics. Whether it is the political class, the media, the intellectuals or other opinion makers - they have to take the responsibility of evolving a political discourse that connects the people of one region with those of the other. They have to change the logic of exclusive identity politics which has always the danger of being appropriated by those holding extreme positions.

Broken Logic and Misplaced Zeal

The same hotheads who are denouncing potential ecological damage elsewhere are doing real ecological damage closer to home

Badmawari ransacked

Srinagar: Protestors on 25th June ransacked the recently opened Badamwari at Hawal in old city here. Protestors barged into the park and destroyed everything that came in their way. Systems at the ticket counters, large flower vases, wood work at the entrance and dozens of bulbs were damaged to its full.

Protestors in one voice said, “This park has become the centre stage of immorality and waywardness and it needs to be destroyed.”

One of the protestor wearing a mask said, “It is an answer to Ghulam Nabi Azad who wants to distract people from the resistance by opening parks at different places.”Protestors uprooted all the boards of Badamwari and also put the huts there on fire.

Thousands of protestors then moved on to Nowhatta and continued peacefully towards Lal Chowk.

(Rising Kashmir)

International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is a Local Reality in Kashmir

Afsana shares a deadly reminder about a silent menance stalking our young on 25th June which is observed as the International Day against Drug Abuse

(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.")

Drug menace goes unnoticed, entangles Valley youth

Srinagar, June 25: International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking is being observed today. Over the years, Kashmir valley has witnessed increase in the number of drug addicts.

Going by the statistics, the problem has gone worse from bad. Some pockets have been found particularly vulnerable.In a survey conducted by a city based de-addiction and rehabilitation centre, 70 per cent of youth in Mehjoor Nagar locality of Srinagar city are drug-addicts, out of which 26 per cent are females in the age-group of 18-22, and rest are males within the age-group 18-32.

“As per the findings drug-addiction seems to have become a fashion among girls, which was quite unexpected,” says Dr Syed Shabir, founder chairman De-addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Charitable Centre, Raj Bagh.Shabir says that more than 400 drug addicts have been treated at the centre since December last year including both men and women.

The centre has organized de-addiction camps in areas like Raj Bagh, Nowgam, Nowhatta, Mehjoor Nagar, Dalgate, Budgam, Ganderbal, Pampore, Jawahar Nagar, Lal Mandi, Shopian and Pattan.

According to Dr. Shabir, more drug addicts are found in these areas. “Mostly youth were found addicted to various forms of drugs. However, the age-group was found between s18-50,” he says.Various substances like morphine, talgesic, fortvin, brown sugar, corex, synthetic, narcotic, alcohol, charas, gsssanja, analgesics, volatile (polish, computer ink, perfume etc) are consumed by addicts.

Based on the survey, Dr. Shabir says that unemployment, depression, anxiety, household disputes, bad company and failure in love-affair are some of the major reasons leading to drug addiction. Quoting another survey, he says that out of 172 calls (toll free calls) that the centre received from drug-addicts, 154 were satisfied on-phone whereas others were asked to report at the centre for treatment “Helpline has turned effective as some drug-addicts are shy to come to centre and share their experiences. As such, they seek assistance without visiting the centre,” Dr. Shabir adds. He says that people who were affected due to drug addiction and have been counseled and treated at de-addiction centre have now assumed a new role in the form of volunteers. “They have turned better counselors as they have themselves suffered at certain point of time,” adds Shabir.

Today is a Special Day (Actually Night) for the University of Kashmir With the Telecast of Video Digest "Quest"

The video digest is the brainchild of Mr. Shahid Rasool Bhat, director of EMMRC and the recently appointed head of the MERC, with Abdullah Danish in the anchor chair

(Mr. Abdullah Danish Shervani, 25, a native of Baramulla, was born in the city of Khamees Mushayt, Saudi Arabia. As a child of expatriate parents in the Gulf, his early education was in schools run by the Indian Embassy in cities like Abha, Taif, and Jeddah. He graduated from high school in Aligarh before moving back to Baramulla where he pursued a B.Sc. degree in Mass communication and Multimedia Production from the local degree college. Currently, he is doing post-graduate studies in mass communication at the Media Education Researh Centre (MERC) of the Kashmir University. He is also a budding journalist, covering the campus beat for the newest city newspaper, The Daily Rising Kashmir. His interests include documentary film making, clearing misconceptions about Islam, and in general trying to make the world a better place to live in.)

KU to start university video digest ‘Quest’

Srinagar: Kashmir University, will start a 20 minute fortnightly video Digest “quest” to be telecast on Doordarshan Srinagar and its Kashmir Channel at 8.30 p.m every second and fourth Friday. The first episode of the quest, produced by Educational Multi Media Research Centre (EMMRC) will be telecast on 27th June at 8.30 p.m.

Vice chancellor, Kashmir University, in his message congratulated EMMRC for the production of the programme and said, “KU is the only university in India which produces both Radio and TV digest to highlight their activities. The aim of such programmes is to connect the University with then society. The digest will help society to know about our activities and the contributions we are making to shape the society for better.”

At a preview session held at EMMRC, chaired by dean academics Prof Aziz-ul-Aziz, Director Doordarshan, Dr Rafeeq Msudi, member advisory board of the digest said that he would look forward to more collaborations between EMMRC and Media education Research Centre (MERC) the two prestigious departments of the University.

The digest is produced by noted cinematographer Shafqat Habib of EMMRC and Prof Mohammad Yousuf, Prof M M Masudi, Prof Syed Fayaz Registrar, Shahid Rasool, director EMMRC and head MERC , Showkat Shafi, PRO KU , are in the advisory board of the digest.

The segments of the digest will range from university functions, university Seminars , campus buzz , media report, Sheikiul Alam sayings, Kalami Iqbal, meet the scholar, career counseling, and meet the visiting scholar to other important segments .Episode will start with the logo of the University followed by the montage. The anchor person will introduce the episode and the programme series . Noted graphic designer Akhtar Rasool will be the visual director of the programme and Danish Abdullah will anchor the programme . Shahid Rasool, director EMMRC and head MERC is coordinating the programme.

(Daily Etalaat)

Should Businessmen be Mixing Business With Street Politics?

Price of mixing politics with business extracts a heavy toll in Kashmir, but FCIK and KCCI shamelessly co-sponsor most hartals and shutdowns while keeping their hands stretched out for more government aid

Local industry incurred losses over Rs 10000 crores: FCIK

Industrial sector of Kashmir requires edge: KCCI

Srinagar: Putting the losses incurred by local industry at over Rs 10,000 crores over the last two decades, Shakeel Qalander, President of Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir (FCIK), said that the domestic industry requires protection in terms of pre and post facilitation which are essential for the industrial sector to function.

“Our local industry has suffered losses worth over Rs 10,000 crores with over 20,000 industrial units turning sick out of 40,000 units across the valley. We require an industrial policy that would attract new entrepreneurs to establish their units in Kashmir instead of government jobs. We need better facilities, better road connectivity and basic infrastructure, to be provided by the government by virtue of pre facilitation”, Qalander said.

With respect to investments coming to the State, Qalander said that despite a uniform industrial policy across the State the focus of infrastructural development remains towards Jammu and Kathua, while the rest of the State is ignored.“There should be a differential policy for all the backward districts so that infrastructural development takes place there as well,” Qalander said.

In terms of post facilitation Qalander said that once products are manufactured by the local entrepreneurs, there is a requirement for post production marketing cover from the government. “Our State has an annual budget of Rs 9000 crores for development purpose out of which Rs 3600 crores are spent on required purchases per annum. If government makes purchases from the local producers, the industry here would greatly benefit. ,” Qalander said.

Stating a requirement for an edge rather than protection, president Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries (KCCI), Mubeen Shah said, “We would like to have an edge rather that protection for our State’s industries. Protections should be restricted to only export of raw material which can help the local industry grow and the only thing we need is expertise.” He said that why should the people pay more, just because of inefficiency of the local industry. “Rather than diversity of production, there is a requirement for focusing on a niche market that would provide an edge in the global market and would help the industry grow due to less competition”, Shah said, adding a requirement for price protection that should be automatically be implemented, besides requirement for establishment of basic infrastructure and imperative facilities like power.

(Rising Kashmir)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Unparadise

Nida Shiekh takes a critical look at a place like no other

(Ms. Nida Rafiq Shiekh, 22, was born in Srinagar. She passed her Matriculation from the Presentation Convent High School and completed her 12th grade from the Mallinson Girls High School, both with distinction. She recently graduated from the Women's College, Srinagar, and is enrolled in the Media Education Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir pursuing a Master's degree in mass communication. She is a free lance writer who likes writing about the Kashmir issue and other topics like communal violence that have torn apart the Kashmiri society with tragic consequences. She loves writing and reading, and hopes to become a serious journalist and a documentary film maker some day.)

Welcome to Kashmir…….The Rule Free Zone

> East or west JK Police is the best……..

The general perception of the people in India is that the police is always late and all Hindi films support this fact but, our police is one step ahead. They are never late because they just don’t bother to come and even if they do then it’s of no use because they are such capable people that they don’t bother to solve small cases such as little Mehrans case. Another thing is that the uniform is an important part of a police officers life. Here in Kashmir also all police officers revere their uniforms but, a very strange thing that I recently observed was that I saw a police officer on duty wearing his complete uniform but he just didn’t bother to put on his socks. It is not true for everybody but for some.

> Dogs dogs everywhere.

Wherever you go, they are there to welcome you. These poor creatures are not be blamed for enjoying freedom. It’s those who unleash them against humans. Sstrange Kashmir University too is not a dog free zone. Beware they are making their presense felt in the campus too.

> The work culture in Kashmir is completely different.

It’s a proven fact now. If God forbid any common man has any work in any of the government offices in Kashmir then just be prepared and practice walking and standing before hand because all the people who work in these offices know very well the rules of the game “office office” and they want to have a healthy society in Kashmir so, they make sure that you go through a lot of physical exertion so that you are physically fit. Now isn’t it different?

> Power of Kashmir is cheap.

The power that is the hydroelectricity produced by the natural resources of Kashmir is cheap for everybody except the Kashmiris.

> Kashmir has the highest number of official holidays.

Out of the total 365 days in a year, 250 have been declared as holidays. The only difference is that we don’t have a perfect calendar to say which dates exactly these holidays will fall on. Just wait for any event to happen in any corner of the world and we in Kashmir celebrate that day as a Hartal.

> Kashmir lost by just one place to stand first.

It’s sad that Kashmir lost just by one place and stood second in being the best in petty corruption. But, the way the people are working hard we will soon beat all records and stand first. Bravo!

> Uncles are much needed in Kashmir.

If you are unemployed or you want any of your work done in Kashmir, all you need is an uncle in that office and your job will be done. So, have as many uncles as you can.

> Kashmiri culture preserved.

All the past governments including the present one have done their best in preserving our traditional roads. Roads of Kashmir have been declared as our cultural heritages. The government doesn’t want to damage this heritage which our ancestors have given us. They are preserving their width so that they don’t disrespect our ancestors who left this world with the present status of roads.

> Path breaking channel.

Kashir channel is a channel with a difference and have taken a pledge to be as outdated as possible even in the 21st century. It wants to have the same content and same programmes till the end of times. They have the record viewership of 50 Kashmiris all whom work in that channel.

> Kashmiri people are very rare.

Hangul and Kashmiris were the two endangered species of Kashmir. But, being endangered for the last eighteen years they are now declared as rare species. So, let’s protect them from extinction.

> Kashmiri language is safely passed onto the next generation.

All Kashmiri people love their language and have indeed successfully carried it to their next generations such that all the Kashmiri children in the age group of 4-8 know at least two words of the language. More that two words are not allowed because then their mothers will not be able to face our so called modern society.

> Environment in Kashmir is safe.

Except for the pollution of air, water, soil and noise, Kashmir is free from pollution. So what if Dal, Nigeen, Manasbal and Wular are dying. Anchar is already dead. When these rivers will die we will have more land to show the world that we are a fast developing state. The word sustainable development is not in our dictionary.

> Coffee shops in Kashmir.

From a cultural standpoint, coffeehouses largely serve as centers of social interaction: the coffeehouse provides social members with a place to congregate, talk, write, read, entertain one another, or pass the time, whether individually or in small groups. But, in Kashmir everything except these things is done in these so called coffee houses.

> Smoking is not banned in public places.

You must be wondering when did the rules change but they haven’t changed. It’s just that they were never implemented here in Kashmir. Here one can smoke anywhere anytime, be it in public transport or public places.

There are a lot other things that we can write about but for now my pen stops here. Until next time keep thinking……….

Monday, June 23, 2008

It is Election Time and Kashmiri Politics Goes From Sublime to the Ridiculous

Zahid Muhammad makes light of the mockery that conveniently passes off as a Kashmiri politician

(Mr. Z. G. Mohammad, 59, was born and raised in Srinagar. He earned his Master's degree in English literature from the Kashmir University and has completed a course in Mass Communication from Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He is a writer and a journalist who has written for many newspapers, including the Statesman, the Sunday, and the Kashmir Times. He currently works for the Greater Kashmir.)

Of Puppet shows called Cabinets


Newspapers tell me, the state has a council of ministers. It has a cabinet. It has a Chief Minister. It has a Deputy Chief Minister. Many times I feel it is a magic realism that our broad sheets talk about – yes I believe it is magic realism where illogical scenarios appear in an otherwise realistic or even “normal” setting. Many times, I believe it was about some imaginary world about which ‘Shah of Blah’ talked about to his son ‘Harun’. Honestly, many ministers are like “Water Genie” to me that Harun had never seen.

I do not know if it is my ignorance that despite being in print media, I do not know names of majority of the ministers. Or it has been deliberate effort on my part not to burden my memory cells with unnecessary information about people of no consequences or value and leave space inside cranium for retaining something valuable and of some worth. I might not have seen even pictures of majority of ministers, so can be true about ninety nine percent population of Kashmir.
Other than Chief Minister whose pictures often hog the headlines or for his being my contemporary in the campus who was distinct for his demeanor and had friends in the arts block, it is only a few ministers – those who like wasps have been flitting from party to party in search of nectar for past thirty years whose faces are a bit familiar to me.

The question that haunts my mind is why I and millions others in the state do not know or remember names or faces of the Cabinet Minister, why the council of ministers is not of any importance and relevance to us- the common people. It may be a subject for scholars in universities both within and outside the state engaged in preparing briefs for New Delhi about Kashmir situation to identify why the cabinet and council of ministers are of no relevance to the common people in the state. It may be a good subject for institutes like Centre for Policy Research to conduct studies, if the state cabinet or the council of ministers is of any consequences to common people in the state. Without getting embroiled in academic jargons, trite and hackneyed phrases that many of my scholars in the Universities are obsessed with, I believe that it is lack of credibility of the government that makes the cabinet and council of ministers of no consequences to the masses. The people are not bothered who lives in huge bungalows behind concrete and sandbagged bunkers, who moves in tinted window cars amidst armored cars and who sit in revolving “musical” chairs in the grey building that for its architecture also looks alien to surroundings.

It is true, I have not often but more than often looking at the state cabinet as puppet show with some one outside playing at the strings. And whenever some one tried to snatch those strings and play on them on his own he was shown the door. It was not only Sheikh Abdullah who for trying to be “puppet show master” himself, was not shown the door but incarcerated for eleven years for nursing the feeling of being a master of his own shown but even trusted Ghulam Muhammad Bakshi was thrown in the dustbin of history like a useless cog once he denied signing on the dotted line for changing nomenclature of from Prime Minister to Chief Minister. G.M. Sadiq survived as Chief Minister till he breathed his last because he signed on every dotted line to erode state’s autonomy, weaken the state constitution and integrate the state more intimately with Indian union. It has been perhaps for these ‘puppet shows’ that have taken a permanent niche in my consciousness that I and millions others in the state do not believe that the council of ministers and cabinets were of any consequences to the people.

Honestly, it has been the transfer of eight hundred Kanals of precious forest land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and debate it generated in the state that reminded me that the state has cabinet and a council of ministers that can decide on such issues that have the potential of snowballing into a major political crisis in the state. And can give birth to movements like the 1965- civil disobedience movement or intifada of Palestinians. It was decision that makes me believe that it has the potential of creating a spark that can set everything around ablaze.

I do not who are these Muzzafar Hussain Baigs and Qazi Muhmmad Afzals – what is their background, who brought them in politics and how they catapulted to such positions where they can take decide about future of the state people. It were there statements that made me think about them and there politics—for — peanuts.

Let me quote the statements of these “ministers” to understand the psyche, behaviour and duplicity of these proverbial “pack of nodding goats”.

On June 13, 2008, Qazi Afazal belonging to party that has been orchestrating demilitarization of the state and pleading for introduction of duel currency talking to Jammu newspaper said: “the decision of transferring 39.88 hectares of forest land to SASB at Baltal falling under Block Kukllan of the Sindh Forest Division was a well thought of decision and had been taken after considering all related issues” “An un-necessary controversy has been created from the issue and some elements are indulging in politicking while trying to undermine the facts to suit them. Efforts are being made to politicize the decision intentionally without actually understanding it”

“ SASB is fulfilling all the conditions laid down for the transfer of land at Baltal, which inter-alia include payment of Rs 2.31 crores. Besides, the Board had also agreed in principle to pay Rs 19.94 lakh on account of compensatory Afforestation to be carried over 79 hectares of land”.

Muzzafar Hussain Baig said on Sunday 15 June 2008 to a local news agency at Srinagar: “PDP was blackmailed by Congress forcing it to enter into a “give and take agreement” with which the Congress allowed completion of work on the Mughal Road and the PDP transferred the land to the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.” “Congress ministers Gulchain Singh Charak and Mangat Ram Sharma insisted that land be transferred to SASB if PDP wants work on the Mughal Road to continue.” “we finally agreed to Congress’ decision to allot land to SASB”

On Monday 18 June 2008, he said at a meeting with Mr. A.K. Antony India’s Defence Minister, “The issue of transfer of land to SASB had taken a critical shape with hitherto divided Hurriyat preparing for unity that can send wrong signal.. There was need for countering propaganda” On Thursday 19 June 2008 he said: “The property status of the forest land shall remain unchanged and forest land so diverted shall be utilized only for the purpose for which it has been diverted.”

If one looks at these statements- without reading them between the lines they expose the politics of duplicity- that is being trumpeted by the party these ministers belong to. Duplicity is not politics- as many whose mentor has been Maulana Masoodi believed it is a willful deceit. It is a double edged weapon that is certain to cut the wielder- and cut him badly.

Whether the SASB spark “rejuvenates” the movement as believed by many observers of Kashmir or not, but it is certain to take toll of the politics that was born out of New Delhi urge for changing face of Kashmir politics- as it believed that that the face of the ‘1996 beloved’ had become uglier and repugnant with lots of pox marks on her face.

Kashmir University Takes a Big Step in Promoting Women Science Scholars

A Red Letter day for women scientists and technologists in Kashmir

KU Scholars Excel in “National Women Scientist Scheme”

Srinagar: Vice chancellor Kashmir University Prof. Riyaz Punjabi Saturday called upon Kashmiri women scientists to bring about significant change by working at the grass root level especially outside Srinagar city for women's empowerment and inspire other women to take up science as their field of research.

The participation of women in the dynamic field of science is central not only in our efforts for gender equality, but also to make women stakeholders of the future construct of the world, VC told a gathering comprising young women scientists at the committee Room of the University of Kashmir here at Kashmir University campus .

The event chaired by the Vice chancellor was an interactive meeting between the department of science and technology Government of India (DST-GOI) and the women scientists University of Kashmir and was part of the women scientist scheme which encourages women for research in basic and applied sciences.

The confirmation letters for approved research proposals to 10 Kashmiri women scientists amounting to Rs 1.40 crore were handed over to them on spot by VC, KU Prof Riyaz Punjab . Dr H B Singh officer in charge women scientist scheme DST-GOI and coordinator and liaison officer for the scheme for Kashmir division Prof A. H. Munshi was also present at the function besides top officials and senior teachers of the University. Earlier a national women sensitization meeting was held at Banaras Hindu University Varanasi on 2nd and 3rd May this year where 14 research projects from women scientists from University of Kashmir were presented out of which 10 proposals were sanctioned .

“A big achievement “ responded KU VC , Prof Riyaz Punjabi on the occasion and added that he is overwhelmed to learn that ten of our students from Kashmir have made it to the scheme . He congratulated and thanked Prof H U Munshi and Dr H B Singh for their efforts. He asked the participants to broaden their activities as a “ women scientific community” and reach country side to spread the message of importance of science in our lives and inspire others women to take up science for their research.VC said that we must discuss the gender issues, which hinder growth of women as a scientist to create awareness regarding available government schemes for promoting science careers for women. VC said that by all means we got to address the issues pertaining to encouraging women to take up science and provideOpportunities to them to go ahead.

Women scientist scheme department of science and technology Government of India is aimed to provide opportunities to women scientists and technologists for perusing research in frontier areas of science and engineering. A special provision has been made under this scheme to encourage those women scientists who have had breaks in their careers Prof . H U .Munshi of the department of botany at KU and the local coordinator for (WOS-A)says that the e scheme provides a research grant with an upper limit of Rs 17 lac for a well defined project proposal for a period of three years. This grant includes the fellowship of the applicant and costs of small equipments contingencies, travel, consumables etc.

Trust a budding Management Guru to speak about work ethic in Kashmir

Feroz discusses the need for better performance in the work place

(Mr. Feroz Ahmad Paray, 22, was born in Kalampora in Pulwama District. He completed his B.Sc. degree (pre-medical stream) from the Government College in Pulwama, and is currently pursuing post graduation in Business Economics from Wigan & Leigh College in Srinagar. His personal interests vary from writing poems and playing cricket to net surfing and shopping. His favorite author is Khalil Gibran.)


No one is infallible, everybody makes mistakes. Moreover, it is easy, in fact far too easy, to find fault. If you look hard enough, you can make persons bad at many things. Change, competition, instability and unrest are common at today’s work place. Despite these factors, an organization will try to reach great heights. But this is possible only with the help of employees who make exceptional contributions for the progress of their organization. It has often been noticed that managers feel a sense of ownership over the resources in their departments, refusing to allow their best and brightest staff to be shifted to another division. They feel threatened by apparent employee’s disloyalty and may hold back internal mobility by vetoing the move or even punish workers for contemplating the move.

It is a known fact that the lure of greener pastures beckons even the most satisfied employees every now and then. The management has to establish a sense of importance and urgency among employees in whatever they do so that the employees do not get into a comfort zone and lose their motivation. The management should be innovative and provide a challenging work environment to employees to ascertain sustained effort and action.

Every organization, big or small, has targets to achieve and every employee of the organization has his important role to play in the process. The role of dedicated and diligent employees, who accomplish the targets for their organizations, some times at the cost of their interests, is overwhelming. Today, it is not uncommon for people from four different generations to cohabit work place, and expectedly the resulting clash of communication styles over all aspects of work including learning and training needs. However, there are certain factors that influence the performance and behavior of employees. These factors must be given attention to push employees to play their role effectively. Along with compatibility with the organization, employees must be compatible with each other. It is up to the employees to identify their needs and reach out for matching opportunities on their own. This approach limits the effectiveness of internal recruitment. The best employees may either be unaware of the vacancy or reluctant to pursue the same. They may find it easier to sale at similar opportunities outside the companies than within.

In India, in some companies, promotions are made on the basis of merits, potential and seniority. Internal promotions are also granted, from the existing lower cadre on the basis of seniority and merit. In public sector organizations, elaborate rules exist for regulating the seniority of employees in different service cadres. Promotions are made from this list. But often, due to political pressures, the rules are violated and the person standing much lower in the list is given priority over the senior-most men. In the private sector enterprises, the promotions are generally not based on any clear-cut rule. Efficiency is the main consideration.

In a developing economy like India, with rapid technological advances and need for training and education, it is not always possible to promote the older workers who can neither be adequately trained nor are willing to be exposed to new concepts, ideas and methods of work. As far the higher level promotions, only in large organization can a policy of promotions from within be practicable, but even there such promotions can not be confined entirely to the existing personnel of the organization, unless management development and career planning are an essential part of the company’s promotion policy.

Another Promise Being Made, Another Promise That Will be Broken

If history is any guide, YDA will go the way of Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA)

J&K Govt to spend 2.5 crore for Yousmarg

Yousmarg, a picturesque tourist resort in Budgam district of Jammu and Kashmir, is all set for a facelift with Yousmarg Development Authority (YDA) planning to spend rupees 2.5 crore on various development works in the resort.

An amount of rupees 53 lakh has been spent on different development works during the year 2007-08, said the chairman of state legislative council Ghulam Nabi Lone during his visit to the tourist resort on Friday.

Lone stressed on the creation of basic infrastructure and other necessary facilities for the visitors, which will boost tourism potential of the place.

He also directed the forests and tourism department officials to sort out petty issues and review the ongoing projects and action plan for the current financial year.

He directed the officials to complete the ongoing works within a stipulated time frame.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Babu Raj may be loosening its grip elsewhere, but in Kashmir it is a different story

Arjimand does a post-mortem on the economic debacle in Kashmir

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 33, is from Srinagar and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University. He is also an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit. His forthcoming books: " Kashmir: Towards a New Political Economy", and "Water: Spark for another Indo-Pak War?" are scheduled for release in 2008.)

J&K’s rank 11 on EFI raises some serious questions

Arjimand Hussain Talib

Srinagar: J&K State has come on the radar of economic freedom. In the Economic Freedom Index (EFI) prepared for twenty Indian States by the Canada-based Fraser Institute, our State has been put at rank 11. In other words, our State is a middle-category State in terms of economic freedom, based on the parameters which the Fraser Institute has chosen to consider.

The ranking of our State, the parameters having been considered and the methodology so adopted raise more questions than answers. In the course of the discussions at the workshop organised jointly by the Islamic University of Science and Technology and the Fredrich Naumann Stiftung here on Thursday though the discussions have been rich, yet there is a big scope to enlarge the terms of the discourse surrounding J&K’s EFI to make it more credible and reliable.

On the face of it, it seems that the compilation and the analysis of some limited parameters leading to J&K’s ranking have been done in a hasty manner. There are a number of factors which need to be taken into consideration while considering an EFI for J&K State. It cannot be simply a copy-pasting of the parameters and approaches used for the rest of the States of India. For the sake of credibility, every discourse surrounding J&K’s political economy has to delve deep and go beyond the simplistic notions which are reflected in a select group of State’s policies and practices. Let us do not forget the fate of the Ambani Group’s proposal for an IT University in Srinagar and the “barter” agreement on the Mughal Road (isn’t that a component of economic freedom?) between the PDP and the Congress Party!

In J&K’s case, the EFI has considered only three parameters, namely the size of government, legal structure and regulation of credit, labor and business.

The original Economic Freedom Index (EFI) measures the degree of economic freedom in five areas viz; size of government, legal structure, access to spend money, freedom of international trade, and regulation of credit, labor, and business. These broad categories are further divided into 42 sub-components, which take into account other factors which go beyond the broad simplistic categories stated above. It is these sub categories which have a far greater relevance to J&K than the ones having been considered. The Global Competitiveness Report looks at several other factors that also affect economic growth such as infrastructure, health, and education. So where a credible EFI on J&K has to look?

Firstly, an EFI of J&K State has to take into account the dilution of the special political and constitutional status of J&K as enshrined by the Article 370 of the Indian constitution and the various provisions of J&K’s own Constitution which provided for a different economic governance regime, which have been put into a kind of suspended animation.

Secondly, the EFI for J&K State has to take into account the limitations put on free trade, movement of labor, goods and capital due to the geo-political divisions created based on political considerations. Considering the restraints on traditional roads and movement of goods and labor is equally important.

Thirdly, the EFI has to evaluate in depth the implications of various extra constitutional laws, State checks and balances, written and unwritten policies which inhibit political freedom, creation of islands of political influence within this State, which have a negative cumulative effect on economic freedom. What is important to note that such factors – which are of immense importance – shall not reflect in the governmental data on the parameters which the Fraser Institute chooses to focus on.

Fourth, outside research institutions, which tend to solely rely on official data for such studies, need to know that there are serious discrepancies and flaws with the system of official data collection and compilation due to many reasons in this State. For any credible economic index, evaluation of the baseline data and the validation of the existing official data at a non-governmental level is a must.

Jammu & Kashmir State has very little economic space where economic growth could be driven largely by individual economic freedoms and actions based on unrestrained economic choices, rather than public expenditure. Though our economic growth is put in rosy colors, EFI on J&K must analyse the components and drivers of this economic growth in detail.

While speaking at the workshop, Economic Advisor to J&K Government and J&K Bank Chairman – Dr. Haseeb Drabu - has made a pertinent point when he said that political freedom was a pre-requisite for economic freedom. He also added that it was basically the State which was facilitating and promoting business in J&K but there was no pro-active private business in the State. I think we need to appreciate that the reason there have been no takers for government’s offer for private investment in power sector has nothing to do with a dearth of capital but the political position of the State, the centre-State relations and the highly regulated economic and political environment. We need to analyse why has there been reluctance by private entrepreneurs to invest.

Basically, it has something to do with the enabling environment, the petty regional and communal inter play of politics in our State – where the criteria is not economic development or growth but consolidation of regional, communal and ethnic electoral constituencies. We also cannot ignore to see to what degree the unwritten policies and non statutory bodies of the State in J&K are supportive of economic freedom. One of the main factors of economic freedom is freedom from government and investment freedom. In J&K, an over-arching an onmi-present State, coupled with extra legal State regulatory mechanisms (like regional political power play between the politicians of Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh and even at sub-regional levels) have destroyed the economic potential of this State. Sadly, inter-regional and partisan power plays have over-time shaped into some kind of instruments of State policy which have serious undermined economic freedom here.

Unemployment is another factor which needs serious consideration in the EFI on J&K. Similarly, the State policies which inhibit private investment in areas where government has retained monopoly even when India as a whole has opened up considerably, need an analysis. The State-promotion of inferior State education system, while discouraging private participation in higher education, and promotion of the notion of “one government job for every family” have seriously undermined private initiative and economic choices in J&K State.

The State-promoted notion of “balanced development of all the three regions of the State”, framing of policies and creation of political and governance structures which create checks and balances in running of trade and conduction of commercial activities across these regions also require in an depth analysis. The world has been since long kept ignorant about the manner economic freedom has been undermined in J&K. The rosy picture of public expenditure is often misleading. An EFI, based on a rigorous analysis, could help establish J&K’s true state of economic freedom. One hopes the people doing it would in future go beyond symbolism.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The News That Matters: University Inaugurates a Silk Weaving Unit to Pursue Academic Research

Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKAUST) takes another positive leap in the research od silk reeling and weaving

V-C, SKUAST inaugurates silk reeling, weaving unit

Srinagar: Prof Anwar Alam, Vice-chancellor, SKUAST-K accompanied by Dr A R Trag Director Research visited Division of Sericulture, Mirgund on June 18, 2008 to review teaching, research and extension activities being carried at the Division especially the work on Silk Reeling and Weaving .

The Vice-Chancellor inaugurated Silk Weaving Unit, the first of its kind in the Indian Agricultural Universities. By the establishment of this unit, the university has acquired capacity of assessing silk quality as influenced by factors like mulberry leaves and strain of the worms used will also pave way for many reelers to have easy access to reeling and weaving equipment to enrich their knowledge in the field of silk reeling and weaving but also help in long way to motivate them to take up value addition activities beyond cocoon production and thus generate rural employment besides producing high value products.

Dr. Afifa S. Kamili, Head of the Division and the scientists and other staff warmly received the Vice-Chancellor. The team along with the Head of the Division and scientists later on had a round of the experimental farm and saw the mulberry plantation laid down at the campus spread over an area of 28 ha of land and low cost cocoon production unit.Vice-Chancellor, Director Research and Head of the Division also planted saplings of the hybrid promising varieties of mulbery races in the field launching transplantation of nursery raised.

Vice-Chancellor, Alam also had an interactive session with the scientists and staff. HOD presented the research, teaching and extension activities and special attainments towards increasing cocoon productivity and promotion of double cropping being carried out. Alam appreciated the good work done by the scientists and simultaneously exhorted upon them to come up with the more creative research which people value and appreciate. He also advised them to mobilise their scientific acumen and intellect to seek more and more externally funded projects and tap the research funds that are available in our country. He also advised that wild mulberry which has little value in sericulture need to be removed for which legal ways should be found.

Dr. A.R. Trag. Director Research while speaking highlighted the landmark achievements made in the sericulture sector during the last 25 years of its existence and exhorted upon the scientists to come up with the new mulberry varieties. He emphasized on increasing productivity.

On the occasion, Vice-Chancellor also inaugurated the Guest House facility at the Station to comfortably accommodate the visiting scientists from outside who visit the University in connection with teaching, research and extension activities. The guesthouse is well equipped - a good addition at the Division.

Vice-chancellor expressed his satisfaction on the commendable job done by the researchers under the supervision of Dr. Afifa S. Kamili, Head of the Division and complimented her and other staff for establishing the Reeling and Weaving Unit.

(Daily Etalaat)

A Special Sufi Festival Held in the Valley

While demoguoges are busily engaged in communal sniping, lucky are those who can shut them out with soothing music of brotherhood and unity

3-day Sufi festival begins;Kashmir an abode of Sufis, Saints

SRINAGAR: A scintillating and heart rendering performance by artists from Kashmir, Delhi and Egypt mesmerised the audience on the first day of a three-day Sufi festival that started at Sher-i-Kashmir International Convocation Complex (SKICC) on 19th June, 2008. The festival being jointly organised by Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB), Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and J and K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL), while Doordarshan Kendra Srinagar, J&K Tourism Department and J&K Information Departments were collaborating with the festival.

The ambience of the conference hall with rich spiritual music and dance took the audience into ecstasy and heavenly bliss. The festival has been organised to commemorate the 50 years of the establishment of J KAACL and to bring home the message that Kashmir, which over the ages has symbolised peace, mutual harmony and togetherness still has the image of being an abode of Rishis, Sufis and Munis. Kashmir always accepted the message of peace and love through any faith that ever preached it.

On the occasion, Governor Lt. Gen. (Retd) S.K Sinha while highlighting the importance of music in our daily lives said that it believes in no boundaries and has the capacity to transcend all barriers to reach hearts and souls. He said that Sufism links the souls with the creator and spreads the messages of brotherhood, peace, amity and tolerance. This spirit has connected people together and helped in creating harmony in society, he added.

The Governor described Kashmir as an abode of saints and Sufis and said its glorious ethos makes it unique and district in the world. He said that the Amarnath Yatra is a unique symbol of Kashmir's rich pluralistic ethos, through which the message of togetherness and peace spreads all along. He said that the artists of the Central Asia are also participating in the 3-day musical bonanza while the artists of Pakistan have been performing since the inception of this event.

On the occasion, Chief Minister (CM) Ghulam Nabi Azad highlighted the initiatives taken by the Governor over last four years for inviting different artists and cultural troops from neighbouring countries and Central Asia for showcasing their culture. He said that the main motive for organising such festivals was to highlight the concept of love, peace and patience which was the intrinsic essence of Sufism.

The three day International Sufi Festival concluded here on June 21, 2008 with the sizzling performance by the artists from Syria and Uzbekistan followed by performance of internationally acclaimed Pakistan's Ajoka theatre group's landmark production "Bullah" a famous play depicting the life and message of sufi saint Hazrat Baba Bullah Shah .

The final day cultural extravaganza commenced with the Sufi dance of Uzbek in which one dozen artists enthralled the audience presenting 10 dance performances showcasing the sufi tradition popular in central Asia .The performance was highly appreciated by the audience.

The Uzbek dance comes from an Islamic culture and North Indian court dance springs from Hindu roots. These diverse forms interacted and evolved under the Mughal dynasty founded by the 16th century emperor, Babur. For Uzbeks, Babur is a much- admired hero and poet; for Indians, he is remembered as a cruel conqueror. But from either perspective, Babur is recognized as the founder of the Mughal dynasty that blended Central Asian Islamic culture with North Indian Hindu traditions.

Earlier welcoming the guests, Zaffar Iqbal Manhas Secretary, Cultural Academy said that the festival will be remembered for decades together for its vibrant and theme oriented presentations. "About 100 artists from five countries of the world including Pakistan , Egypt, Uzbekistan, Syria and India were our guests for three days and in future we are inviting prominent Sufi singer from Pakistan, Abida Parveen with the help of ICCR New Delhi in September this year," he added.

After Sufi dances, a play directed by Madeeha Gohar was staged. As per story line the play started with the funeral procession of Bulleh Shah. The religious head refuses to grant permission for burial in the Muslim graveyard unless it is established that Bullha died a Muslim. Qazi narrates the misdeeds of Bullaha in the court room and the story of Bulleh Shah is revealed in a series of flashbacks. The play is narrated by Sona and Chandi who move in and out of the flashback to carry the storyline forward.

(State Times and Daily Excelsior)

Election Time Mania in Kashmir: Politicians and Print Media Whip up Communal Hysteria

What are exact terms of the State land transfer to the Sri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB)? The answer is in the State Cabinet Decision 94/7 dated 20th May 2008

Cabinet decision clear about land transfer

Srinagar : The Cabinet decision number 94/7 dated May 20,2008 clearly mentions that sanction is accorded to the diversion of forest land measuring 39.88 hectares falling under compartment No 63/Sindh, in Block Kullan, Range Sindh, Sindh Forest Division for raising pre-fabricated structures only for camping purposes of pilgrims, without going in for construction of permanent structures, at Baltal and Domail by SASB.

The decision further said the proprietary status of forest land shall remain unchanged, land so diverted shall be utilised only for the purpose for which it has been diverted, it shall not be transferred to any other agency without approval of the Forest Department. The land shall not be mortgaged, reassigned or sub-leased by user agency in any manner to any other agency.

The Cabinet decision said the SASB shall pay net present value of the forest land to the tune of Rs 2,31,30,400 as calculated by the concerned DFO as per the Supreme Court Order dated 30-10-2002 in I A number 566 in Writ Petition (Civil) number 202 of 1995 T N Godavarman Thirumalpad V/S Union of India. It said user agency shall pay Rs 19,94,000 on account of Compensatory Afforestation to be carried over 79.76 hecters.

The user agency shall take fullproof measures on modern scientific lines to ensure that water of nearby Sindh Nallah does not get polluted. Any damage done to the forest by the user agency, its employees contractors people employed by them shall be charged from the user agency at the rate of ten times the standard rate of 1992. The forest land so diverted shall return to the Forest Department free of any encumbrances when it is no loger required by the User Agency.

The SASB shall construct complete retaining breast walls on the both sides of the road, railway line, earthy work and tunneling and take other necessary steps, so as to minimize soil erosion and land slips. The decision said the SASB shall seek technical guidance from Director, state Soil Conservation Department and it shall also pay any other amount which will become payable as per orders of the Supreme Court or state government or Forest Department and it shall be responsible to get requisite clearance under any other relevant law in vogue.

The SASB shall take all possible environmental safe guards in consultation with the State Pollution Control Board prior to erection of the pre-fabricated structures and their use by the pilgrims ensure that no damage is caused to ecology of the area.

The proposal stands cleared by the Advisory Committee in its 39th meeting held under the Chairmanship of the Chief Secretary on July 12, 2007, the cabinet decision said.

(Kashmir Monitor)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

No, it does not have the media appeal of IKS or SASB, but few issues have a greater impact on the daily life in Kashmir than RTI

Muzaffar Bhat has a word of caution for State bureaucrats and politicians trying to restrict freedom of information in J&K

(Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat, 33, was born in Wathoora village in the Budgam district and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial High School in 1993. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Dental Surgery from from the Karnatka University in 2000. He has a private dental practice in Chandoora and is a social activist dedicated to educating public on the Right To Information legislation.)

Media and Right to Information (RTI)

The Press Council of India in March 2001, had stated that the Right to Information Legislation is an important tool in the hands of media. It stated that at present, one of the stumbling blocks in the path of investigative, analytical and popular journalism is the difficulty in getting access to the official information. Bureaucracy, Police, Army, Judiciary and even the Legislature guard information regarding even the most mundane subjects.

Few journalists are able to break this iron curtain of the official non-cooperation. The right to Information will encourage journalists and society at large to be more questioning about the state of affairs and will be powerful tool to check the unmitigated goings-on in the public realm and will also promote accountability. No longer will scribes have to depend on conjecture, rumour, leaks and ‘sources’. The legislation will pose an antidote to vested interests which try to conceal or misinterpret information or which try to manipulate media directly or indirectly to plant misinformation. Through this legislation, transparency in public, professional, social and personal sphere can be achieved.

It is really surprising that such an accurate evaluation by the Press Council was not given any importance by the media, both print and electronic, at that time. The media could not even find time to welcome the implementation of the Information Act, officially. This was just believed to be the matter related to the farmers of Rajasthan and of the people of the slums of Delhi, or thought as the matter related to the people working with NGOs. Its use was far away from question. It was completely ignored by the media. While, on the other hand few people who used it as a weapon in journalism had an interesting experience and discovered new path as well.

Under section 19(1) (a) of the Indian Constitution, the citizens of India have been given the right to freedom of speech and expression but without access to information this right is incomplete. Right to Information is nothing but the access to information. Evaluation of public authorities is incomplete without access to information.

The privatization of Delhi Jal Board (Dehi Water Board) was started with the help of the World Bank. A local voluntary organization, Parivartan scrutinized the documents which were obtained under Right to Information from the Water Board. These documents contained more than four thousand pages. The facts indicated a frightening truth. It was revealed that in order to give the work to the multinational company, Price Waterhouse Cooper (PWC) the World Bank had forced the Delhi Jal Board and the Delhi government to agree on disgraceful terms. Other concerning facts also came out. The cost of the water would have risen by six times if this plan has been implemented. The water would have been provided to only those areas were people would voluntarily agree to lay down the pipelines at their own expense.

This example states that media can write about things by studying the concerned documents seriously. Earlier it was impossible. Therefore, a basic difference can be seen between the journalism before and after the arrival of Right to Information Act. This difference can be clearly comprehended by understanding the differences between the provisions of the Official Secrets Act and the Right to Information. The Official Secret Act can make most of the information secret, while the RTI act discloses almost all the information.

The right to Information has enabled a new kind of journalism. Its examples can be heard in different parts of the world.

The Guardian published a report that after Second World War, Britain had made a secret jail in Germany for two years. This information was possible by the use of Right to Information. The Nazis were tortured mercilessly. This information was procured from one of the files of the foreign department of Britain, which was prepared by Tom Havard, inspector of Scotland Police.

The Indian Express revealed the truth of the promises made in the rail budget. This was also exposed through the help of RTI. According to the reports published on 25th February 2006 by Ritu Sarin, around forty seven crores plan is still pending which was announced earlier. The government was forced to withdraw its decision of privatizing the Delhi Jal Board. This is one of the major achievements of Right to Information.

We the people of Jammu Kashmir have always been subjected to step-motherly treatment from Centre as well as State governments. Under Article 370 no Central law finds its automatic extension to Jammu and Kashmir unless ratified by the State legislature. The Central RTI Act could not be extended to J&K in view of the special constitutional status conferred to J&K. Then how did Government of India extended Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) to J&K? Our State Government passed J&K Right to Information Act 2004.This act is much weaker than its Central version. This act is nothing but the blueprint of erstwhile Freedom of Information Act 2002 of Govt of India (this act was never operationalised). The J&K RTI Act 2004 has lots of loopholes and it lacks many important provisions which are contained in Central act. For example if an official denies information under Central RTI Act or if he gives incomplete of false information the official is liable to a fine of Rs 250 per day that is to be deducted from his monthly salary. There is no such provision in J&K RTI Act. Similarly in Central RTI Act, under section 7(1) if a person is being arrested by some security agency the information is to be given within 48 hours to his relatives. J&K RTI Act 2004 lacks this important provision.

Now the government is planning to go for further amendments in J&K RTI Act 2004, in the upcoming Assembly session. We hope that this important legislation is made at par or stronger than Central act. It is the media who ought to play an important role in order to impress upon State Government to strengthen J&K Right to Information Act so that there is transparency and accountability in our administration.

Government officials and politicians must know that they are the servants of people not their masters. It is the common people who pay taxes out of which politicians and bureaucrats get hefty salaries. So why shall we be denied the information about the public funds? Our politicians must refrain from vote-bank politics and they must transform this mere electoral democracy into participatory democracy.

Meanwhile, in India RTI is making a real difference ......

RTI Act, the Good Samaritan

It has been hailed as a landmark achievement of the UPA government and rightfully so. There has never been an example in Independent India that a single Act has led to so much churning in the bureaucracy and for the benefit of the common man. The Right to Information Act is not an ordinary law, but a law that has ensured openness and transparency much to the detriment of those who had a vested interest in keeping things under wraps. Going by the success stories, it seems that the Act is a Good Samaritan as it has worked wonders across the country, bringing joy to a large number of people.

Thanks to RTI Act, thousands of Indian Railway pensioners will at last get their outstanding dues. Indian Railway Pensioners Association Bhavnagar Division of Western Railway, over the years, submitted hundreds of representations to GM Western Railway & DRM Bhavnager to get the payment in the above cases. 137 specific cases of non-payment were filed in the pension Adalat held on 15th of December, 2006 but nothing happened. When on 16th of March, 2007, a request under RTI ACT 2005 was submitted to CPIO Western Railway for disclosing the reasons for not implementing the judgment of the Apex court, things started moving. Sh. S.R. Ghosal Dy. General Manager Western Railway through his letter dated 3rd of May, 2007 with reference to request under RTI Act, accepted the liability for making payment and all the Divisions of Western Railway were advised to take immediate steps for making payment. The Pensioners, in the twilight hours of their lives, can also use RTI Act and get the entire working sheet regarding calculation of pension. This can be verified to point out any error in calculation of pension and gratuity.

Another noteworthy case relates to problems faced by MTNL subscribers in Mumbai.Even after surrendering their phones, they have had to wait for months and years together to get the refund of their deposit. Moreover, MTNL did not pay the interest accrued on the deposit to its subscribers. But the Right to Information Act (RTI) came to their rescue after one such harassed subscriber in Mumbai used the Act to get his interest accrued on the refund within 20 days of filing the RTI query. Kishore Chitalia, a Santacruz resident, was using MTNL's Garuda mobile phone till April last year. After he surrendered the phone, he applied for the refund. "Inspite of following it up with various MTNL authorities, right up to the general manager level, and sending e-mails, there was no response from them for months together," said Chitalia. He added that whenever he spoke to an officer in one department, he was asked to speak to another person in yet another department. "I must have made at least 50 calls, but I always got an answer that the matter is under process," he said. Ultimately, in January this year, Chitalia received the deposit refund cheque of Rs 3,000, but he realised that they had not paid any interest for keeping his amount in their kitty for nine months.

A few weeks later, he filed an RTI query on the issue. He asked about the stipulated time in which the refunds have to be paid and the interest that is to be paid in case of delay. But instead of getting a reply from MTNL, he got a cheque for the accrued interest. Later he also got a reply from MTNL informing him that the stipulated time period was two months and in case of a delay, the deposit attracted an interest of 10%. Thus, there have been several stories of citizens using the RTI Act to make the administration work according to rule. These stories show how powerful RTI can be in the hands of well meaning citizens who wish to make the system work in favour of the underprivileged. The basic object of the Right to Information Act is to empower the citizens, promote transparency and accountability in the working of the Government, contain corruption, and make our democracy work for the people in real sense. An informed citizenry will be better equipped to keep necessary vigil on the instruments of governance and make the government more accountable to the governed. The Act has created a practical regime through which the citizens of the country may have access to information under the control of public authorities.

A citizen has a right to seek such information from a public authority which is held by itself or which is held under its control. This right includes inspection of work, documents and records; taking notes, extracts or certified copies of documents or records; taking certified samples of material held by the public authority or held under the control of the public authority. Information is any material in any form. It includes records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form. It also includes information relating to any private body which can be accessed by the public authority under any law for the time being in force.

A citizen has a right to obtain information in the form of diskettes, floppies, tapes, video cassettes or in any other electronic mode or through print-outs provided information is already stored in a computer or in any other device from which the information may be transferred to diskettes etc. Further, the information to the applicant shall ordinarily be provided in the form in which it is sought.

It is important to note that the RTI Act gives the right to information only to the citizens of India. It does not make provision for giving information to Corporations, Associations, Companies etc., which are legal entities/persons, but not citizens. However, if an application is made by an employee or office-bearer of any Corporation, Association, Company, NGO etc. who is also a citizen of India, information shall be supplied to him/her, provided the applicant gives his/her full name. In such cases, it will be presumed that a citizen has sought information at the address of the Corporation etc. Further, the right to seek information from a public authority is not absolute. Sections 8 and 9 of the Act enumerate the categories of information which are exempt from disclosure. At the same time Schedule II of the Act contains the names of the Intelligence and Security Organisations, which are exempt from the purview of the Act. The exemption of the organisations, however, does not cover supply of information relating to allegations of corruption and human rights violations.

How exactly can a citizen seek information? A citizen who desires to obtain any information under the Act, should make an application to the Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) of the concerned public authority in writing in English or Hindi or in the official language of the area in which the application is made. All the central government public authorities have designated their Central Public Information Officers and have posted their particulars on their respective web sites. This information is also available on 'RTI PORTAL'. The applicant can send the application by post or through electronic means or can deliver it personally in the office of the public authority. The applicant, along with the application, should send a demand draft or a banker's cheque or an Indian Postal Order of Rs.10/- (Rupees ten), payable to the Accounts Officer of the public authority as fee prescribed for seeking information. The applicant may also be required to pay further fee towards the cost of providing the information. But, if the applicant belongs to below poverty line (BPL) category, he is not required to pay any fee. The CPIO shall render reasonable assistance to the persons seeking information.. For instance, if a person is unable to make a request in writing, he may seek the help of the CPIO to write his application. Similarly, where a decision is taken to give access to a sensorily disabled person to any document, the CPIO, shall provide such assistance to enable access to information, including providing such assistance to the person as may be appropriate for the inspection. While the above procedure is true for the authorities under the Central Government there are some differences across States with reference to seeking information from public authorities under the State Governments.

It may be noted that there is no prescribed form of application for seeking information. The application can be made on plain paper. The application should, however, have the name and complete postal address of the applicant. Even in cases where the information is sought electronically, the application should contain name and postal address of the applicant. Further, the information seeker is not required to give reasons for seeking information. The CPIO is required to provide information to the applicant within thirty days of the receipt of a valid application. If the information sought for concerns the life or liberty of a person, the information shall be provided within forty-eight hours of the receipt of the request.

If the CPIO is of the view that the information sought for cannot be supplied under the provisions of the Act, he would reject the application. However, while rejecting the application, he shall inform the applicant the reasons for such rejection and the particulars of the appellate authority. If any person is unable to submit a request to a CPIO either by reason that such an officer has not been appointed by the concerned public authority; or the Assistantship has refused to accept his or her application or appeal for forwarding the same to the CPIO or the appellate authority, as the case may be; or he has been refused access to any information requested by him under the RTI Act; or he has not been given a response to a request for information within the time limit specified in the Act; or he has been required to pay an amount of fee which he considers unreasonable; or he believes that he has been given incomplete, misleading or false information, he can make a complaint to the Central Information Commission. The Central Information Commission decides the appeals and complaints and conveys its decision to the appellant/complainant and first appellate authority/CPIO. The Commission may decide an appeal/complaint after hearing the parties to the appeal/complaint or by inspection of documents produced by the appellant/complainant and CPIO or such senior officer of the public authority who decided the first appeal. If the Commission chooses to hear the parties before deciding the appeal or the complaint, the Commission will inform of the date of hearing to the appellant or the complainant at least seven clear days before the date of hearing. The appellant/complainant has the discretion to be present in person or through his authorized representative at the time of hearing or may opt not to be present.

The citizens must make use of the revolutionary RTI Act to make their lives and lives of their fellow citizens better and to make the Government authorities increasingly accountable and effective.[

If Past History is any Guide, More Money for Ecology in Kashmir Translates into More Money in a few Bank Accounts of State Officials

There is neither lack of money nor lack of plans, Kashmir mostly lacks the will of purpose

Rs 98 cr plan on wetlands submitted to centre


Srinagar: A comprehensive plan of Rs 98 crore for preservation of 24 natural water bodies and wetlands of J&K has been submitted to the central government for approval.

This was revealed by Commissioner-Secretary General Administration department, Basharat Ahmad in his inaugural address at the 5-day long training workshop on ‘Wetland preservation and management’ at SKICC here today. Exuding confidence that nod to this ambition project will be accorded soon, he said all of us have to put in our best to preserve and conserve the water resources which play a pivotal role in maintaining ecological balance.

The workshop has been organized by the Union Ministry of Environment an Forests in collaboration with the Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun and state Wildlife Protection department. Wetland managers from Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Haryana, Chandigarh and Delhi are participating in the workshop. Union Secretary, Environment and Forests Ms. Meena Gupta was the chief guest at the function. Present among others were Director Union Ministry of Environment and Forests Dr. S. Koul, Chief Wildlife Warden A.K. Srivastava and other central and state officers.

Addressing the workshop, Union Secretary, Environment and Forests said that the workshop which was to be organized at Dehradun was decided to be held at Srinagar keeping in view the abundance of wetlands and waterbodies available in Jammu and Kashmir. He expressed hope that the state government would leave no stone unturned to ensure preservation and conservation of world famous Dal lake and other water bodies, for which central government would provide adequate funds. He said the water bodies in Kashmir are major source of attraction for tourists also.

On the occasion, the speakers highlighted the importance of preservation of wetlands adding these are vuluable assets as these constitute the habitat of hundreds of water birds besides being the eco friendly and increasing food production.