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.

Friday, June 6, 2008

People Seek Environmental Protection Through Laws Currently on the Books in a Land of Sycophants

Afsana speaks to a legal expert about a growing environmental and social problem in the state. Sadly, the real answer lies with the Chief Minister. Three related stories

(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.")

Experts concerned over diminishing of Agri land

Afsana Rashid reports from Srinagar

Concerned about the conversion of agriculture land into residential plots, experts have warned of serious ramifications if the trend is not stopped forthwith.

Dr. Mohammad Ayub of Kashmir University's Law department while referring to Section 133 of the Land Revenue Act said that the use of agriculture land other than agricultural purposes is prohibited. "if the land is converted the way the trend is presently going on, it's bound to consume a major chunk of land that is productive and may accordingly lead to serious ramifications."

"The land used for paddy cultivation is being replaced for the construction purposes and within the passage of time; the land may diminish from the scene. Consequently, the entire species of paddy is on the verge of extinction," says Dr Ayub.

The phenomenon of change in land usage occurs very much under the nose of the concerned departments and it seems that it would probably take another century for them to wake up from the deep slumber.Referring to some species of paddy that grew over specific land, Dr Ayub says, "Since that land is nowhere now, so automatically those varieties have vanished. According to him, basmati originally belongs to the state. "Other species of paddy also fear extinction on the same lines if timely measures are not taken", he warns. This, he emphasizes, is the loss irrespective of the local environment values in the state.

He further stresses that it is the duty of the revenue people, especially patwaris, to report such cases. Quoting an example, he said, almost a decade ago, the entire land along the peripheries of the road running from Bhagat to Budgam was meant for agriculture and now it has been fast converted into residential areas.

Mass Media Officer, Directorate of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing, Gurcharan Singh says that Kashmir valley depends on the canal-irrigation for agricultural production and the use of groundwater for agriculture is less. However, he says, groundwater is depleting and the production has definitely been affected. "Wetlands used to recharge the groundwater but as the wetlands have been affected, recharging of the groundwater has also gone down," he added.

Reports reveal that the same has resulted in the decline of paddy cultivation and various species of paddy have already become extinct. If the same is allowed to continue there is every possibility that both land resources and water reserviours would be declared "endangered". Singh says that Water level not only goes down but its availability also gets affected. Besides, he says, availability of the food stuff also gets affected severely.

Experts in the field however, believe that the government needs to intervene in the matter at the earliest otherwise that time is not far away when such "unchecked" activities would invite trouble for the entire community.

Conversion of agri land for commercial buildings poses food problems

Shabir Ali reports from Anantnag

With Government watching as a mute spectator, the conversion of fertile agricultural land into a base for commercial structures is going unabated in south Kashmir. This has posed a serious threat to agriculture sector here even when food crisis all over the globe has assumed mammoth proportions.

Experts have warned of a food disaster in Kashmir if this conversion trend goes on at the same pace.In violation of the revenue act that bars conversion of land under cultivation of crops like paddy, maize, saffron or vegetables into any other form, the residential houses, shopping complexes, nursing homes, schools and brick kilns continue to come up on thousands of kanals of pure agricultural land in many areas of Anantnag, Kulgam and Pulwama districts of South Kashmir.

In Bijbehara, Betangoo and along Khanabal-Pahalgam road in District Anantnag construction of the residential houses and commercial establishments on the agricultural land go unabated.

In Khudwani, Wanpoo and Mirbazar areas of District Kulgam many brick kilns have come up on the agricultural land and a big portion of this fertile land has turned into residential colonies.

This situation shall lead to serious food shortages if concrete steps are not taken at this juncture.

"We many a times objected to the trend and wrote to the revenue authorities but they never responded positively" said an officer at chief agriculture office Anantnag, adding that government should either come up with a policy that stops this conversion trend or be ready to face the consequences as such a situation might lead to a serious food availability problems.

Talking to Rising Kashmir, Director Agriculture Manzoor Ahmad said that "It is the revenue authorities who are responsible for the whole mess as they (revenue authorities) grant permission to every one for construction on the agricultural land."

"Revenue officials must asses and check properly before they grant permission for any construction and permit the construction only on the land unfit for cultivation, Director added".

When contacted assistant commissioner revenue Anantnag Gh.Mohi-u-din Rather admitted that "People construct houses on agricultural land in violation of the revenue act but we don't grant them permission."

When asked why the revenue department watches as a mute spectator if revenue act is violated, Rather said "this conversion of land with out permission is not only going on in Anantnag or Kulgam but for that matter in Srinagar and other districts also." (Rising Kashmir)

Meanwhile, the Chief Minister says ....

Criminals and land grabbers dominate J&K politics

Srinagar: “Jammu Kashmir is third on the list of the states after Bihar and Uttar Pradesh where the criminals and land grabbers find their way into politics,” Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad said on June 5, 2008.“The state politics,” he said, “is fast turning into the asylum for the criminal and land grabbers who have joined politics to save their skin from the law enforcing agencies.”

Speaking at a seminar at University of Kashmir on the occasion of World Environment Day, Azad said that the political future of the state was “under dark clouds as the criminals-turned-politicians are indulging in such activities that are putting the state’s environment in jeopardy.”

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