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.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Are Kashmiris Obsessively into Excessive Socialization?

Personally I do not think so, but Afshana thinks otherwise and seems to have lined up some good reasons

(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.)

Whiling away time is unpardonable

Life just seems
so full of
Most of the time
we don’t even pay
attention to the
depth of life.
We only see
flat surfaces.
(Colin Neenan)

The bug is here! A niggling and nagging one. Too trenchant and troublesome. And too domineering!

Life gets out of gear just because you are supposed to ‘socialize’. The bug drains you out in all ways. Energy, Time, Money—you are clutched to cry hoarse and collapse. They say socialization is a process by which we learn from others. A kind of social learning method that is based on experiences, usually the pleasurable ones. However, the same social learning turns painful when we accumulate bitter encounters of sham socialization.

Of course, we are ‘social savages’. We cannot afford living in isolation. But what sense it makes in thronging places/occasions where we get only appalling things to be weaved into our lives.

And do we necessarily need to be at every place, attending each and every social ceremony?

The reply is shrilling NO. In Kashmir, this answer may invite brickbats. You have high chances of being labeled as ‘social outcast’, the one who is a downright kill-joy, swarming with ‘unsocial attitude’.

Nonetheless, the fact is that we as a nation have yet a lot to learn and dispense rightfully. Our priorities are never set and we have enough time to squander in so-called socialization. We feel at leisure, waiting hours for that special lunch that becomes dinner because of its serving schedule. Wishing the host, with all your heart, in brief and rushing back to other business of life, is something that seems strange and shameful to us. We cannot skip talking endlessly here and there on such occasions, meddling in gossip and grapevine. Boring ourselves to death, we stay on, on and on.

Our events of marriage have turned into ostentatious walking and talking carnivals. We literally fritter away our brains and bucks at such social shopping sprees. Painfully even our deaths are an occasion for hosting wazwan, not to speak of Hajj and other similar occasions; and then you will have endless justifications, religious and otherwise, for all the mockery we make of such events.

And additionally, the baggage of false traditions, that we own so imprudently, leaves only the social mess behind. Nobody is happy with anyone. Host is annoyed. Invitees are irritated. Everyone is heated inside. Always and ever.

Still, the phony pleasantries and smiles greet everybody. We emerge as ‘natural social actors’, scoffed at nothing and fretting about everything! How shallow is our socialization! We go on just building the ‘connections’ without going into their soul, and as such fail to sustain such social relations that are unconditional, kind and thoughtful. We hardly try to discover and understand the skills most effective in guiding our socialization towards the valued goals.

By the way, do we have any “valued goals” at all? The type of socialization that can help alleviate some of our collective pain and allow us to build a more positive and creative future is badly missing. We socialize simply for time pass, freaking out; and easily pass over the serious matters at hand, rambling so casually over the realities.

How amazing that we atrociously waste the precious commodity called Time! People in developed nations cannot even imagine spending hours in social gatherings, not to speak of celebrating for several days altogether. Though their socializing ways may be different and also unacceptable to us, but we cannot deny their prodigious sense of valuing time.

Perhaps, people there understand and realize each others’ demands and priorities. Social relationships are limited but equally meaningful. Unlike here, they don’t pester and push people to attend each and every social function at length, recognizing and accepting gracefully that they may have other pressing tasks to carry out at that point of time.

This culture is not visible around. There is a need to cultivate it. We don’t have to be socially ‘nonconformists’. We cannot even afford that. However, what is required is to be pragmatic and try to assimilate appropriate role playing for every one.

Even the ‘excessive socialization’ has lessons for us, which can potentially lead us to alter our beliefs and personality. We can learn to capture time and set targets for greater good. We can track down output in our meaningful activities and get identified as result-oriented community.

Perhaps even those coming here on official visits as professionals and consultants are amazed at our working habits. And they too begin to take things as a matter of fact. Maybe this is one of the primary reasons why no major projects or schemes of vital importance are completed on time. Inertia and no prioritization of tasks put vital things in dock coupled with our comfortable complacency of wasting time over prolonged socialization.

Central Attitude Needs to Shift From "Delhi Durbar" to "Tough Love"

Farooq Jan is right about politicians attributing lack of development to so-called motherly treatment by New Delhi, when in fact those rascals in the state are pocketing those funds. But he misses an important point that it is up to state politicians - old and new - and not New Delhi to seize the opportunity for change from within. All politics is local

(Mr. Farooq Jan, 39, was born in Naira, Pulwama. He completed his graduate and posr graduate studies in Sociology and Management Studies from the University of Kashmir. He has been working for the J&K State Water & Sanitation Mission as Consultant on human resource development (HRD). He is also a founder member of the J&K Democratic Party led by Ghulam Hassan Mir and hopes to contest the forthcoming state elections from the Rajpora constitutency in the Pulwama district.)


Unlike most Kashmiri people a section of local populace, who of late has started to participate and believe in democratic processes to resolve long pending socio-political problems, somehow feel that a good majority of Indian intelligentsia, political leaders and policy makers are in favour of reducing the alienation of the people of J&K. This change of heart, maybe, has come about by several fast evolving democratic credentials across the country, symbolized by an atmosphere for its citizens to express themselves freely and a markedly congenial socio-economic environment for an overall human development.

There seems to be a modest realization and feeling of reparation in the Indian opinion making community about the political blunders that its leaders committed in past which subsequently had resulted in the estrangement and alienation of the Kashmiri people from India.

Yet unless New Delhi stops patronizing a local political class that is identified by a conspicuous knack for exploitation every resolve to redeem the integrity and credibility of the world’s largest democracy may go haywire. Their own trusted man and Chief Minister of J&K, Gh. Nabi Azad- in a seminar at University of Kashmir- has put across a point to ponder for all the Chanakyas that Politics in J&K is infested with criminals and land grabbers who pretend to be the saviors of this society but have vandalized resources for their vested interests. Generally, this self-interested group is corrupt, incapable and devoid of a bare minimum commitment to bring about any helpful change in the lives of the suffering masses. For various self-centric reasons these politicians are not able to bring about the basic transformations in an existing invalid delivery systems. Let alone mobilizing the local resources to improve the living standard of the people even the national level socio-economic reform measures are coming to nought in J&K.

Adding insult to the injury, to justify its ineptitude to work for the cause of people this shameless devil has created various myths in the minds of Kashmiris. To hoodwink the people they customarily would attribute lack of development in the State of J&K to a so-called step-motherly treatment by the authorities in New Delhi. Everybody in J&K doubts the integrity and ability of this political class to bring about any positive change and now more than two dozen of their ilk is indicted by their own watchdog organisations in frauds and corruption cases ranging from sex scandal to the hot forest scam. Nevertheless, this class to large extent has been successful in creating a pseudo impression in the minds of people that in spite of all their political misadventures they are destined to rule them because India (clandestinely with the help of her intelligence agencies) wants these people to be at the helm of their affairs.

As such, undermining the credibility and integrity of India in the minds of Kashmiri people, the present ruling edifice on which New Delhi is reposing its entire faith is in effect working against this newfound national interest. More importantly genuine people and particularly the youth, who certainly possess commitment and the capacity to represent our beleaguered people in an honest way, are discouraged from entering into the mainstream politics. The only way out of this mess is to clean up the political system of our State from top to bottom. A damage controlling option undoubtedly is to encourage and work towards building a new political structure based on sincerity, integrity and transparency. It, indeed, is a tall order but in any case is highly indispensable to replace a hollowed system undermined by wickedness and self-indulgence.

To maintain any semblance of credibility about a people friendly government in the State, it is imperative for New Delhi to work towards building a political environment wherein these myths are blown out entirely. Otherwise, Kashmiris have every reason to believe that both Pakistan and India - heedless of the legitimate aspirations and rights of the people of J&K- are fighting only for the territory of J&K and not for its people. The only difference being that Pakistan is doing it through a proxy war and India through a proxy political process.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Down the Memory Lane on May 27, 1964

Zahid Mohammad recalls that fateful day that did not seem all that fateful then

(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.)

Those days Nehru’s death meant holidays for us

Then it used to be bleak and desolate landscape- yes the streets beyond my school used to be empty with nothing attractive happening on them. The deathly silence of these streets would be punctured occasionally by a horn from a lonely bus that plied after yawning gaps between Lal Chowk and Soura, or honks from an old bus on it way to Kangan, or it would be a lonely single horse driven chariot (Tonga) that tore apart the serenity of these streets. There were clusters of houses around my Alma Mater; Islamia High School on three sides (north, west and east) but on the Northern side there were no houses but vast tracks of vegetation. Every Mohalla flanking my school had its own history- by and large the mohallas surrounding my school were named after the profession of the people living in a particular Mohalla. There were lots of weavers on the Western side, the tick-tack sounds emanating constantly out of striking of looms many times resonated in our classrooms, on the Eastern side, many a blacksmiths had their shops and houses- I on my way to home after school hours stopped near these shops and watched hot iron being beaten to different shapes by brawny blacksmiths.

Many boys from blacksmith families were my classmates, some of them made it to the top in medicine, engineering and administration and those who dropped from school took to their ancestral profession. On the Southern side there were many a mohallas inhabited by people from different professions, the most famous Mohalla was of bookbinders. Amidst verdant vast vegetable farms known in local parlance as “aaramwar”, there were only a few houses mostly belonging to the owners of these farms. Most of the houses on this side were open; there were no walls around their dusty compounds. The compounds would many a times look like red carpets with red chilies spread in tracts for drying up or green with huge tobacco leaves left being scorched to brown covering every nook of the compound. The spectacle that I liked to watch from a distance was women pounding dried up red chilies in huge wooden or limestone mortars. The rhythm of lifting and downing of massive wooden pestle mesmerized me. Women would often sing duets while pounding the chilies- many songs would be born on the spur of the moment. I do not know if any of our folk literature scholars have collected the songs that were sung while pounding chilies or paddy.

And beyond my school it was by and large barren landscapes in between punctuated by a house or two- I do not know why but areas beyond Gojawara was named as sirhad (Border) and people living their as sirhed. How and why the areas beyond my school were named as sirhad- when during the time of Sultans the capital of Kashmir was in Nowshara or the Moughals had set up walled city of Nagar Nagari in this area only. I think the area suffered a setback after the Sikhs set ablaze the capital built by Badshah. The area also suffered a set back after the Dogra rulers built their palaces on the banks of Jhelum near today Badshah Bridge. It was always a new experience for me and my friends to walk on often deserted streets beyond our school. Our school those days used to have a weekly holiday on Friday- it was one of the features that made our school distinct from others. On Friday’s we often walked through these deserted streets- and our destination most of the time used to be beautiful fresh water translucent Pukhrabal lagoon or shady willow tree banks of the Nallah near Amda Kadal.

Fishing at Pukhrabal or near Amda Kadal was our favorite pastime on all holidays particularly during fifteen days of summer holidays. It was beyond our means to buy a fishing tackle from the lonely fishing tackle shop on the Bund- perhaps belonging to some Munawar Shah. We made our own indigenous fishing tackles- it was equally a good time searching for long straight and strong willow branch, then buying a nylon line from Siraj Bazar in Zaina Kadal and buying hooks from blacksmith at Nowhatta or Naid Kadal. Armed to teeth for fishing we moved from homes in the wee morning hours- it was one and half mile distance that I had to cover for reaching the banks of the stream abounding in mirror carp fish. Sometimes we hired a small boat and an oar paying one rupee for the whole day. In this boat we moved up and down the stream. After anchoring our boat under some shade, we sat for hours together for catching the fish. Deena- as Ghulam Moh-u-Din’s was then called, a boy who was elder to me by a couple of years, was always lucky. He would often catch big fishes. I was a novice- I lacked accuracy in watching the sinker sinking and pulling the line faster as it dipped. After days of wait, I often returned home with one or two small catch while as Deena always carried a bagful.

The boatmen who passed through the stream often greeted each other louder- many times they laughed at my naivety in catching fish. The boatmen not only exchanged greetings but shared news about the happenings in the city. One day when I and my friends were looking pensively at the sinker, not showing even slightest dip, indicating that there were no fish around- a boatman informed another boatman, “ do you know Nehru died… I heard it from Radio Kashmir in the news—it has stopped playing film songs” Those days there used to be Urdu news from All India Radio at 2.10 PM.

I do not think I or my friends understood importance of the news- though we knew Sheikh Abdullah had been sent by Jawaharlal Nehru to Pakistan but we at that time did not realize the importance of the visit- nor the impact of Nehru’s death on this visit- Nehru’s death was important for us for the holidays that would be announced… I do not remember if our school was closed next day or not- let my contemporaries scratch their memory.

Can a Fox Guard a Chicken Coop? Because That is exactly how Kashmir's Forests are fast disappearing

Fayyaz in this investigative report finds the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) is also the Departmental Vigilance Officer (DVO)

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. He is the Srinagar bureau chief of Jammu & Kashmir's largest-circulated newspaper, Daily Excelsior. He is also a filmmaker and currently making a film on Kashmir's top pilgrim tourism destination of Chrar-e-Sharief, and about Sheikh-ul-Alam Sheikh Noor-ud-din Noorani, also known as Nund Rishi.)

In Governor’s rule, loot of forest continues under ‘Minister’s desire’

SRINAGAR: In hours of getting back the prestigious Forest portfolio from then Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad on January 1, 2008, Qazi Mohammad Afzal ordered a raid by Forest Protection Force (FPF) on compartment No: 66-B of Tangmarg in Gogaldara area of Pir Panjal Division. Qazi ordered the raid as he was flooded with complaints that a smuggler-official gang, headed by incharge Range Officer (RO) Gulmarg, Ishtiaq Ahmed Matoo, and Forester Feroz Ahmed Malik, had got hundreds of green Deodar and Kail trees felled in Gulmarg Range and smuggled it out to Srinagar and Pattan areas.

Even as information regarding the FPF raid seemed to have been leaked to the timber smugglers, the FPF team, headed by Deputy Director Gama Unit K-01 Srinagar Abdul Ahad Lone, found 14 freshly felled massive trees in compartment No: 66-B alone. Valued at around Rs 25 Lakh, 1107 cft of Deodar and 322 cft of Kail was found to have been felled in just one day. According to DD FPF’s letter No: 841/FPF/comp TT/K-01 Dated 4-01-2008, addressed to Joint Director FPF Kashmir Division, 792 cft of timber (Deodar 636 cft, Kail 156 cft) was seized on the spot. Rest of the 1429 cft, i.e. 237 cft, had already been removed and smuggled out of the area.

The FPF team did not only find the entire Forest Range and Block staff absent from duty but also observed that the officials, frantically engaged in removing the illegally felled timber, had also criminally kept the brand hammer in custody of some local helpers of the timber smugglers.
Working on Minister’s orders, coupled with communications from FPF, then Commissioner/Secretary Forest, Atul Duloo, ordered a thorough inquiry. According to Government Order No: 37-FST of 2008 Dated 20-01-2008, two-man commission of inquiry, comprising Project Coordinator North Jhelum Project Manzoor Ahmed Tak and DFO Urban Forestry, Abdul Rasheed Kakroo, were supposed to complete the investigation and submit a report to the Government within 30 days. One hundred and fifty-eight days on, the report is nowhere, making a mockery of the orders issued by Forest Department.

Under Minister’s verbal orders, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (PCCF), Irshad Ahmed Khan, ordered immediate suspension of the incharge RO (Ishtiaq Matoo) and Forester (Feroz Malik), pending inquiry against them both. Their replacement and reverting the "incharge" RO to his original rank of Forester was still not ordered.
In just two weeks of his joining in the most sensitive Pir Panjal Division, DFO Javed Andrabi escorted both the tainted officials to the offices of Minister and PCCF. He pleaded that both of the accused were "innocent". In a few days, PCCF Irshad Khan issued another order and reinstated both the tainted officials. He, however, recorded in the order that the officials were being reinstated "as desired by honourable Forest Minister".

Meaningfully, both Matoo and Malik are residents of Gulmarg Range and have been operating in their neighborhoods for several years. And, more interestingly, Matoo’s predecessor, Munshi Iqbal, had also been identically posted in his residential range of Gulmarg, found involved in massive felling of green trees and smuggling of timber to Srinagar and Pattan areas, placed under suspension and finally reinstated with honour. With additional honour, Munshi was sponsored for a training course in Dehradoon.

Immediately after resuming "duties" in Gulmarg Range, Matoo and Malik, with overt and covert support from DFO PP Division and other senior officials of Forest Department, resorted to felling of green conifer trees in the ecologically important Gogaldara-Gulmarg belt. Massive damage has been caused in compartment Nos 65, 66-A, 66-B, Badarkote and Pehjan in the last six months. In his SOS on 20-02-2008, JD FPF Kashmir has written to CF Srinagar: "The area in question is of great importance due to the massive tourist transit and as far as the beauty with respect to Forests is concerned. The damage to the green gold and negligence of duty by the Forest field staff is just a mockery to all those signboards seen all over the area boosting protection, beauty and sincerity towards the forest".

More interestingly, the dubiously reinstated RO Gulmarg, Matoo intercepted a truckload of the seized timber from FPF staff, waylaid it to DFO’s office in Budgam, kept it in illegal custody and finally released it after a week. There is no record or order of seizure or release from DFO PP Division. DD FPF Abdul Ahad Lone revealed that, after his reinstatement , Matoo snatched away another quantity of timber that had been seized by FPF and was being shifted to Gama Unit Srinagar for safe custody. "We complained the matter to higher authorities who forced SHO concerned to act. It was a Police Inspector who came to our rescue and got the vehicle and its timber released from Matoo’s custody" , Lone said.

Lone complained that a network of timber smugglers and Forest officials was enjoying a field day and the FPF had been rendered "totally ineffective". Residents of village Aboora insisted that placing Forest officials and reinstating them dubiously had become a "known business of senior officers and politicians". They claimed that all from Munshi to Matoo to Malik had been not only reinstated but also given prize postings in their residential areas after they "did the needful". According to them, booty of over Rs 5 Lakh was extorted from Matoo and Malik alone.
Asked why the 2-member inquiry had not submitted the report it was supposed to provide to the Government in 30 days in the last 158 days, CF level officer Manzoor Ahmed Tak said that it was ready and would be submitted "within 2-3 days". To a question over prima facie findings, Tak said it had been established during investigation that considerable damage had been caused to Gogaldara forests "before, during and after" the two officials’ suspension and reinstatement. He confirmed that timber smuggling activity was unabated in the area.

Asked how Matoo and Malik had been reinstated, pending inquiry, in days of their suspension, PCCF Irshad Khan pleaded that he had issued the order of reinstatement "under pressure" from then Forest Minister Qazi Mohammad Afzal. "We are anyway setting it all right in a couple of days", Khan asserted. Asked for his reaction to the PCCF’s averment—read accusation—, Qazi told EXCELSIOR: "I was approached and told by Forest officers that both the suspended officials were innocent. I said if it is so, let they be reinstated".

And, lastly ironically, DFO PP Division is also enjoying the designation of "Departmental Vigilance Officer" (DVO) who is supposed to keep an eye on the corrupt practices of all Government officials and provide a helping hand to State Vigilance Organisation in Budgam district!

Fighting Inflation by Setting a Personal Example

Dr. Beg suggests an old fashioned remedy to counter rising prices as the global economy sours

(Dr. Mirza Aslam Beg, 68, was born in Sarnal, Srinagar, and received his primary education from the Hanifa School in Sarnal and secondary education from the Government School in Anantnag. He went on to receive his pre-med education from the Government Degree College in Anantnag, and his medical M.B.B.S. degree from the University of Kashmir. Dr. Mirza completed a postgraduate diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Medical College Jammu (University of Jammu) in 1981. He joined the state health system after completing his medical degree and took positions of increasing responsibility until his retirement from the civil service. After his retirement, he worked in Saudi Arabia, and his last active position was that of the Project Medical Director working on a United Nations project on environmental and ecological impact of 1991 Gulf War in collaboration with the Johns Hopkins University, the University of South Florida and the Government of Saudi Arabia. He speaks Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English and Arabic, and his hobbies are freelancing and politics.)

Fighting Inflation

Recent increase in prices has put all categories of society under great pressure. No doubt the inflation has increased the world over but it has touched the skies in underdeveloped countries such as India and Pakistan. In India, financial experts were expecting a rise of 9% but it has reached a bone breaking level of 11.05% during the last couple of weeks. Thus, besides its controversial nuclear deal the price rise has put the future of UPA government in doldrums.

Inflation is generally connected with the rise of petrol prices in the world market. We need to understand why petrol prices go on increasing besides how a common can contribute to control the inflation. Every one of us knows that the invention of the wheel was the greatest scientific achievement of the modern world. The wheel revolutionized the world and it is an essential component of every machine. In order to keep the wheel rotating you need energy in some form. There are many sources of energy such as wind, solar, hydraulic, and nuclear and so on. Despite that, petrol still remains the major source used by mankind because it is comparatively easily harvested from its underground resources. Nature has reserved these treasures mainly in the Middle East. American aggression on Iraq is an attempt to occupy its oil reserves.

So the more we use petrol, the prices will increase accordingly. Here we need to know why we tend to increase the use of petrol. A long time back I was fascinated by a song by the band ABBA of UK, "Money Money Money… must be funny…in the rich man's world." We need to realize the fact that there is a nexus between the automobile manufacturers and the banks. One goes on manufacturing and the other supplies the money on interest to the buyer. Thus the automobile manufacturers and the usury lure the buyer when in fact he neither can afford it nor does he very often need it (that is one of the reasons usury is prohibited in Islam because it makes the rich richer and the poor poorer). People who have a keen observation can easily see that the number of smaller vehicles is increasing and that of the bigger vehicles is dying down. That way group travel, which is economical, is on the decline. The psyche of the common man is gradually being changed from a collective march to an individual's gallop for a rat race. That is how more vehicles are put on the road and thereby more fuel is consumed and the price rises. One sixty-seated bus can accommodate passengers from 8 sumos and thus reduce the load on our congested roads.

Though the number of vehicles has multiplied more than a thousand times over the last couple of decades, the road connectivity have not increased proportionately. With the result, there are traffic jams leading to wastage of more energy in terms of gasoline and tremendous loss of working hours. Here in Kashmir we could overcome this problem to a great extent by constructing short bypasses at bottlenecks such as those in Athwajan, Pampore, Khannabal, Bijbehara etc. We also need some pedestrian bridges in these satellite towns so that people can cross from one side of the road to another side safely. We have seen within a few years the use of bicycle that used to be a craze in my childhood has gone out of fashion. Hence we are caught up in a self generated cobweb. In the developed countries the younger generation is encouraged to walk the shorter distances such as within the university campuses and shopping malls etc; and bicycle is still a common mans transport over there. For making the bicycle a safe transport they have constructed separate tracks for the same. Commuting long distances through underground trains saves time and energy besides being safe. Haphazard bus stops are dangerous and time consuming. We could overcome some trafic related problems by having nonstop buses between two stations. That will save time and energy simultaneously.

Walking through market places one can easily see that agricultural production in terms of food grains, fruit, vegetable etc has increased manifolds and its domestic consumption too has increased accordingly. Because of its successful agriculture policy India has become self sufficient and exports for others on cheap and affordable rates. Hence George Bush's statement that the inflation is due to change in food habits of the Indian community is nothing but cheap talk.

One more reason for inflation is the nexus between the people printing the domestic currencies and their godfathers in the governments. This class of people pays randomly just on demands which has no relation with the actual cost of the commodity to be purchased. Costs are evaluated on the basis of working hours spent on the production of the said commodity plus type of expertise deployed and the type of material used. That is why manually made commodities become costlier than those of machine that take less time and produces in bulk.

Once interacting with a co-professional neighbor in Syracuse, NY who was expecting her second baby I was amazed to see she had preserved even the nappies of her first baby to be used for the newcomer. It thrilled me more when she told me she was in the dressing gown of her great grandmother. Wise people don't waste and that is why they don't feel the pinch of inflation that much.

Hoarding is definitely one more important cause of the intentionally created inflation. It may be at individual level or community level or the one created by the state. The tendency of keeping our wardrobes jam-packed like the Nawab Sahib of Hyderabad would do has become order of the day. Despite the fact we may not use some of these garments for the year round. Similarly keeping costly jewelry in bank lockers is another nuisance that stinks the way you store perishable fruit that rots if not consumed in time.

Besides all that every country is spending billions of dollars on the non-productive military establishment that goes on increasing every year. All these extravagancies add up to increase the inflation. The prices within India and Pakistan could be controlled to a great extent if the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline is made functional. That depends on Indo Pak relations, which are unlikely to stay smooth unless Kashmir issue is settled to the satisfaction of its people. Frivolous slogans are by no means an answer to the miseries of the common man. And yes, isn't it childish to deploy seven hundred thousand security forces to combat a few hundred rebels in J&K? It applies to the presence of allied forces in Afghanistan and US in Iraq too. That is how the prices increase.

At the end of the day we need to understand that no doubt the state is mainly responsible to check the inflation every individual can play his role by adopting a simple life style and constructive thinking to make the society comfortable.

Not a big surprise, Wullar Lake is also dying

Unchecked pollution, encroachment eat into Wuller's flora and fauna

Wullar’s fish, Nadru face extinction

Arif Shafi Wani (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Once famous for the largest fish production and rich flora and fauna, Wullar is gradually losing capacity to provide breeding space for fish species, Nadru and other water crops, mainly due to massive pollution and encroachments.

Blessed with a large expanse of pristine waters, Wullar some decades ago facilitated combination of capture and culture fisheries catering to over 50 per cent of Valley’s fish requirement. Besides its vegetation was considered a key component of the lake’s eco-system as it provided both ecological and economic benefits.

However, due to loss of critical habitat and alarming decrease in the water body’s area, propelled by the inflow of sewage, siltation and encroachments, the fish yield and water crops production, mainly Nadru, has witnessed a sharp decline.

According to a survey conducted by the global environmental consultancy, Wetland International South Asia, the resources mapping trends of Wullar indicate a steep decline in its fish catch over the past 50 years. “The total catch as extrapolated from the catch records from the surveyed villages has declined from 10,544 to 1476 metric tons per annum,” it states.

The survey states massive decrease of water level and its degradation has led to decline in economically native fish specie Schizotheorax and Nelumbo (Nadru) in the lake.

“Large quantities of sewage discharged from the Srinagar city and major towns flow into the lake resulting in increased euthrophication which has adverse impacts on the growth and development of the fisheries in general and sensitive species Schizotheorax in particular,” it states.

According to estimates, there are 2621 active fishers in Wullar and the rest are engaged in value addition processes like salting and drying fish. With manifold increase in population dependent of fisheries and decline in overall catch, the per capita income has gone down by 20 times.

Average annual household income from fisheries in Wullar is only Rs 22,528, which is insufficient to feed an average family of seven. “We are only at the verge of starvation. The fish production in Wullar has gone abruptly down due to pollution and dumping of polythene. Earlier, we used to catch upto 20 kilogram of fish in a day. Now, we hardly manage to catch 2-3 kilogram in a week. The alarming thing is most of the fish we catch are dead. Wullar has turned into a poison,” said Ghulam Muhammad, an aged fisherman.

The problems of the locals have been compounded by decline in production of Nadru. Analysis of trends on availability and dependence indicates drastic change in vegetational resources of Wullar over the past 50 years. Studies indicate abundance of vegetation particularly Nelumbo during 1950s which provided an income base to 75 – 80 per cent population.

“However, availability of Nelumbo (Nadru) has decreased by 56 per cent during the past 50 years owing to reduction in the lake area, siltation and decline in water quality,” experts opined.

Declining water resources has led to high levels of poverty within the communities. Population falling below poverty line around Wullar ranges between 41 to 52 per cent as compared to state average of 3.91 per cent. The most affected are fishermen of Watlab and Zurmanz areas. Due to the decline in fish catch, they are struggling to carry on their age-old trade. “Now we earn our livelihood by working as laborers. We are the first generation of fishermen of this area who have been forced to work as laborers for survival. We hold successive regimes responsible for Wullar’s deterioration as it facilitated its vandalization for political reasons,” said Haji Abdul Rehman a fishemen.

Exotic species such as Salvinia natana, Lemna and Azolla have profusely grown in the lake area and have assumed invasive character reaching nuisance proportions. “The lake is turning into a marsh. Fish and Nadru are vanishing fast. Due to heavy weed infestation and raising of lakebed due to siltation, it has become difficult to even row a boat. The lake is in its last throes, but who cares,” said Ghulam Rasool, a local.

Experts said the inflow of fertilizers and pesticides from nearby agricultural fields and orchards have speeded up deterioration of Wullar and its flora and fauna. “Absence of scientific management of Nelumbo (Nadru) and water chestnut in the lake coupled with deteriorating quality of its waters due to pollution ingress has badly affected the cash values and its crops. The level of pollution of Wullar has gone to the extent that carcasses of animals are frequently seen in its waters with stray dogs wading through to devour on them,” said Aijaz Rasool, who conducted surveys on Wullar for Wetland International.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Public ambivalence towards Gun Culture harms Kashmiris physically, financially, and emotionally

There is no such thing as a "good terrorist attack." Kashmiris have to abandon the selective manner in which they condemn one act of violence and glorify another - case in point: Gulmarg attack is widely condemned, and not a word about attack on Amarnath pilgrims in Handwara and Gandherbal - 3 reports below

Protests in Tangmarg, Gulmarg

Srinagar: All shops and business establishments in the Gulmarg and nearby Tangmarg township of Jammu and Kashmir today remained closed in protest against the yesterday's grenade attack, which left two persons dead. Traffic was off the roads and thousands of people poured on streets to mark their anguish, official sources said. The protesters said such attacks were harming the tourism industry which directly affected the livelihood of thousands of locals including tourist guides, shopkeepers, ponywallas, transporters and hoteliers. Two persons - a tourist from the Uttar Pradesh and an eight-year-old local boy -- were killed and five others were injured in a grenade explosion near the bus stop at Gulmarg.

With the sudden spurt in violence related incidents in the valley and particularly after the grenade attack at Sumo stand in the world famous tourist place Gulmarg that killed a tourist and civilian, there are reports that a large number of tourists are fleeing the valley. The renewed incidents of violence after a lull have given rise to a sense of insecurity among visitors. The hoteliers of Gulmarg and Srinagar said the visitors were busy packing their bags to leave the valley. "Majority of tourists have left Gulmarg after yesterday's violent incident," said a local hotelier of Gulmarg. The hoteliers said that the incident occurred at a time when large number of tourists had arrived in the valley. But after the incident, these tourists cut short their respective programmes and left from the state. The threat of cancellation of advance booking is also looming large after the violent incident at Gulmarg. A tourist official at Gulmarg said," We were expecting that atleast three to four lakh tourists will arrive at Gulmarg within couple of months time. The hopes are dashed as fear has created a situation where no tourist is in a position to stay at Gulmarg," the tourist official said.

Attempt to disrupt Yatra foiled; Two LeT ultras, HM commander killed

Srinagar: A Battalion Commander of Hizbul Muhajideen (HM) and two Lashkar-e-Toibia (LeT) terrorists have been killed in separate encounters in Srinagar. The Lashkar terrorists had a plot to target Shri Amarnath pilgrims. Handwara police and Army in a joint operation killed Battalion Commander of HM outfit while Ganderbal Police eliminated two militants of LeT outfit thereby foiling their attempts to disturb the yatra. Police cordoned off village Nagabal Derand of district Ganderbal on a tip off about the presence of militants who were planning to attack the Yatra convoy bound for Srinagar. Upon this a cordon and search operation was launched which led to the killing of two LeT cadre militants, identified as Syed Abid Ahmad alias Akasha, son of Mukhtar Ahmad, resident of Narowal Punjab Pakistan and Sageer Shah alias Garian, son of Hassan Shah, resident of Iptabad Suba, Sarah Pakistan. Both these Pakistani militants were operative in Ganderbal area and were involved in many civilian killings in the area. Recoveries made from the encounter side include two AK-47 assault rifles, 10 AK magazines, two grenades and 96 rounds. In another similar operation, the joint party of police and army killed Battalion Commander of HM militant outfit in Peth Waddar Bala area. The slain militant was identified as Abdul Ahad alias Haroon, son of Mohammad Maqbool Mir, resident of Path Waddar Rajwar. One AK 47 assault rifle, three AK magazines, two grenades and 15 AK rounds have been recovered from his possession.

Editorial in Kashmir Images

Blasting Tourism

The grenade blast at Gulmarg on Sunday evening has not only killed two humans and injured several others but has given a severe blow to the tourism industry that was earlier marred by land row agitations in Valley and Jammu.

Before the land row, tourism had started picking up on an enviable pace and people affiliated with the trade – from big hoteliers and travel agents to poor pony wallas and shikara pullers – had started making good money. Hotels had wonderful occupancy rates and almost all tourists resorts of the Valley were brimming with hoards of tourists. The controversy surrounding around the land that was diverted to Shree Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) in Pahalgam area saw people on the roads and the life here coming to a grinding halt. As the life was putout of gear because of continuous shut-downs, the tourists who got stuck here just managed to leave the ghost Valley and those who had planned their visits and made advance bookings cancelled their proposed trips. The aftermath of the revocation of the controversial land transfer order saw Jammu boiling and ensured further drop in the proposed visitors here.

Now that life had started limping back to normalcy, the attack at world famous tourist resort that left one tourist and a local youth dead and several others injured, has come as the deadliest blow to the prospectus of tourism here. It is the most unfortunate thing that could have happened to Kashmir and interesting thing is that such incidents do occur when tourism industry shows some signs of improvement. Out of all places why the grenade was exploded at Gulmarg only speaks volumes about the perpetrators of violence. The target was clear – tourism industry – an industry that feeds hundreds and thousands of Kashmiri inhabitants.

It is heartening to note that the people of Tangmarg have not taken the attack lying low. They have agitated and made their worried voice audible. As rightly pointed out by poor shopkeepers, pony wallas, tourist guides, coolies and others affiliated with the trade, some 40, 000 people of the catchments areas of Gulmarg depend on this tourist resort for their survival. They feel that the attack may have killed just two people but its impact is going to make the lives of 40, 000 souls miserable. A deserted Gulmarg may soothe the so called naturalists who don’t want to see crowds at ‘serene places’ but it would leave thousands of family without food. Agitated over the attack, these poor traders took to streets appealing all to ensure the safety of the tourists, who may come here just for picnicking but their very presence is the sources of income for thousands of locals.

While the agitation should be appreciated, it has put a big question mark over the credentials of industry’s ‘big guns’. The people who in fact milk the industry have no guts to come forward condemning such incidents and sending a message – to whosoever are behind such filthy acts – loud and clear that Kashmiris are not going to tolerate such anti-people incidents. Kashmiris, as a society, have to rise against such violent acts and discourage the perpetrators of such attacks. Otherwise, shut down the industry and forget!

Our mother tongue is expressive and melodious and yet it has no takers

Nida argues that Kashmiris stand to lose a lot if they let go of their mother tongue

(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.)

A language is a dynamic set of visual, auditory, or tactile symbols of communication and the elements used to manipulate them. Language can also refer to the use of such systems as a general phenomenon. Our language that is Kashmiri is also unique in itself. Kashmiri, popularly known as Koshur, is an Indo-Aryan language. Even the opponents of this linguistic classification of this language, grouped it with Dardi, Shrinya, Khowar dialects, which are spoken in the areas adjacent to the valley in its north and north-west.

Language historians and linguists have often, however, concurred on the theory that the above-mentioned dialects fall in the category of languages that bear resemblance to the Indo-Aryan as well as to the Indo-Iranian languages. In 1919 George Abraham Grierson wrote that “Kashmiri is the only one of the Dardic languages that has a literature”. Kashmiri literature dates back to over 750 years, this is, more-or-less, the age of many a modern literature including English. We are lucky to have such a wonderful language as our mother tongue.

Kashmiri language, at present is loosing its charm as the youth of the present day Kashmir hesitate in using it as a language for their normal communication. More than the youth, the children in schools and pre-schools are not even allowed to learn Kashmiri because their parents think if they will communicate in Kashmiri then they will not be regarded as children of good and educated families. “Not knowing our mother tongue” has become a status symbol for us which is very unfortunate. The first words that a child speaks are generally words from his mother tongue but, it’s not the case in Kashmir. Here, it is very embarrassing for a modern Kashmiri mummy if her children communicate in Kashmiri.

Language is a part of an identity of a human being in any part of the world and we Kashmiris are loosing an important part of our identity in the form of our native language. It is very important for the youth of any place to carry forward the traditions and culture of the particular place he belongs to. So, the Kashmiri youth should also play an important role in promoting the Kashmiri language. They have to stop looking down upon it and feel proud about not only their language but also about other indigenous things of Kashmir. That way we can preserve our culture and language.

The college and school students feel embarrassed to talk in Kashmiri with their friends and teachers. They normally speak in Urdu but, also communicate in English even informally. At least when people are chatting informally they should talk in their native language so that it doesn’t vanish from our state. We need to use it as often as we can so that it is carried on safely to the next generation.

There are people who go out of the state for their education or jobs and then even tend to forget the Kashmiri language. Some pretend they have forgotten it just to brag and boast that they have been working or studying outside state. If this attitude continues then things will really go worse as this clearly shows that there is a section of society who considers it thwarting to know their own language. They look down upon it and believe Kashmiri language is for the communication of uneducated and under-privileged people.

However, the reality is different. Kashmiri is a beautiful language and most importantly it belongs to us. So, it deserves respect from every Kashmiri since Language is something that everybody should respect and revere. We need to feel proud of it rather than look down upon it. Let’s speak Kashmiri and give it the same respect as other people give their respective languages. Let’s try to make it popular among all sections of society and make the use of Kashmiri language the style statement for today’s youth. Let all the modern Kashmiri mummy’s know that learning Kashmiri language is as important for their children as is learning other languages.

Why the J&K State Bank Needs to do a lot More Than Simply Build More Offices and Parks

Farooq Jan peels the gloss in the J&K State Bank's "feel-good" announcements and does a post-mortem on how poorly all banks operating in J&K do in serving needs of entrepreneurs and businesses

(Mr. Farooq Jan, 39, was born in Naira, Pulwama. He completed his graduate and posr graduate studies in Sociology and Management Studies from the University of Kashmir. He has been working for the J&K State Water & Sanitation Mission as Consultant on human resource development (HRD). He is also a founder member of the J&K Democratic Party led by Ghulam Hassan Mir and hopes to contest the forthcoming state elections from the Rajpora constitutency in the Pulwama district.)

Financial institutions in J&K are lagging behind in supporting business

In spite of being in the vortex of an inextricable dispute between two giant nations, J&K indisputably has scope for high industrial development and a sturdy economic growth, given the fact that there is a strong resource base in terms of both men and material. However, the only grey area is the lack of an immediate and adequate amount of capital.

Thus a lot of credit absorptive capacity remains untapped and under utilized, particularly by virtue of an apathetic attitude displayed by our banking institutions. While customers of the banks operating in the State expect from these banks huge lending to traders and to existing and potential entrepreneurs, so that it could have a helpful impact on our business and over all economy; these banks are only showing interest in receiving deposits which they are getting at large pace. Though banks operating here are attaining high deposits but their credit ratio is quite dismal. Banks are showing disappointing attitude towards the development of trade and industry in our State.

According to various trade federations the banks in J&K are only infrequently cooperating with local customers in terms of lending money for entrepreneurship or promotion of productive activities. Various traders' guilds have been sending reminders to the different banks to increase their CD ratios; regrettably these banks continue to show reluctance and inflexibility.

J&K is an average performing State as for as regulation of credit market is concerned. Banks operating here are on an expansion spree but sadly their focus is largely on getting deposits and as for as extending the advances is concerned they are resorting to negative tactics, doing everything to put off the trade and entrepreneurship instincts of our promising generation next. Ranging from exorbitant interest rates to stiff procedures regarding mortgages and guarantees everything is a morale damper.

During last month itself the banks have increased the Prime Lending Rate (PLR) by one percent. Now the best borrowers of the banks could borrow money at 14% interest. The interest rate is as high as 18% for those who do not qualify as best borrowers. Ironically it is the huge population of our unemployed youth who fall in this category. Consequently the enthusiasm, hope and dreams of our youth, coming out from various educational institutions/vocational colleges, to do something fruitful are often broken at the outset. Priority sector guidelines of RBI mandate banks to lend to those sectors that impact large sections of the population, the weaker sections and the sectors which are employment-intensive such as agriculture and tiny and small enterprises.

Domestic commercial banks are required to lend 40% of their Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC) to the priority sector; even foreign banks are required to lend 32% of their Adjusted Net Bank Credit (ANBC) to the priority sector activities identified by RBI. In J&K commercial banks and other financial institutions blissfully remain insensitive to the requirements of priority sector particularly the agricultural sector and the weaker sections of society – the manifestation of State governments indifference towards an ever increasing crisis of unemployment- which even the State owned Jammu & Kashmir Bank finds difficult to come out of.

According to a RBI release of December 2007, at All India level the Credit Deposit ratio of all scheduled banks as on last December 2007 stood at 73.4%. At group level foreign banks have a CD ratio of 81.5%; scheduled commercial banks, 74.6%; State Bank of India group, 74.4%; nationalized banks, 72.0%; regional rural banks, 61.8%. As on December 31, 2006 the CD ratio of various banking groups in Kerala was as follows: Regional rural banks 121.66%; private banks 69.78%, State Bank of India group 69.18%; nationalized banks 69.18%; foreign banks 50.78%. Over all CD ratios of commercial banks stood at 70.07%, CD ratio in rural areas stood at 71.97%. As on December 31, 2007 the Credit Deposit ratio of banks in Tamil Nadu stood at 111.1%, followed by Chandigarah 106.6%.

Against this, in J&K State the over all Credit Deposit ratio of the banks stood as low as 47.38% on 31st March 2008. For the financial year 2007-2008 the banks operating in J&K have made advances of Rs.13513.29 crores, out of this amount only Rs.5680.64 crores (42.03%) has gone to priority sector. A meager 4.29% has gone to small enterprises sector, 7.72% to weaker sections of the society, agriculture sector has received 2.74%, micro credit 1.93% and education sector has received a negligible amount of 0.43%.

The performance of banks operating in our State in achieving the targets under six major Government sponsored schemes, i.e. SGSY, PMRY, JKSES, SJSRY, SC/ST/OBC and KVIB/C is quite depressing. At the end of March 2008 the banks have only disbursed Rs. 153.27 crore under these schemes, thereby falling short by 41% from the target.

Hence it is unambiguously evident from the above statistics that the financial institutions operating in our State are not working with enough degree of social responsibility and fidelity. Banks have to show more dedication and commitment to the growth of industry and commerce in our State. To kick-start a worthwhile economic development in J&K it is critical that all the banking groups and financial institutions shoulder due responsibility in reaching out to priority sectors with readily available advance schemes.

Banks have a significant role in generating employment opportunities in all sectors of our economy. Thus financial institutions operating in J&K must adhere to the policy of productive employment generation and alleviation of poverty. Behaving in a more responsible manner the financial institutions need to work on a comprehensive policy for industrial and economic growth in the State. Banks should come up with inputs that would not only put our economy on a growth trajectory but also help it to gain momentum and sustainability.

The banks operating in J&K shall provide credit to farmers, craftsmen, traders, transporters and particularly to our promising young entrepreneurs on simple and reasonable terms as for as interest rates, mortgage and guarantee procedures are concerned so that they could get appropriate and opportune assistance to establish their business activities in full and without unnecessary hiccups and delays. Apart from easing out the neck breaking interest rates all kinds of processing regarding advances shall be made smooth.

To infuse expediency in the processes and thus help the existing and the potential borrowers avail well-timed loans the procedures should be simplified and rationalized. Documentation that banks prescribe for getting a loan is cumbersome and costly. Banks do not compromise on any kind of documentation and ascribe these stringent measures as per RBI lending norms. Though the banks operating in J&K are using modern technology and all existing marketing techniques to lure more and more depositors they, however, are not doing enough to make use of technology to speed up the disbursement of timely and adequate capital advances in favour of our business community. It is a matter of immediate attention and needs to be redressed at the earliest. To set up income generating units under different schemes sponsorship from banks should be ensured at the earliest so that the beneficiaries could get the necessary credit from these banks for setting up their units well in time.

Above all the banks operating in J&K should take up immediate and effective measures to increase their Credit Deposit ratios, however, the focus should be on the development of priority sector activities.To work up their trustworthiness and goodwill the banks must show more commitment to the cause of socio-economic development of the State. The banks operating here should in no way adhere to the Sahukari principle of making money only. Instead they shall work enthusiastically towards the economic empowerment of the people of J&K. The banks shall work with a renewed and optimum degree of commitment to help our society in moving forward to achieve the goal of economic freedom and self-reliance.

The banking sector is already helping out other States of India in augmenting their economic growth; therefore, it should play a similar role in our State as well. Nevertheless, Government also needs to be proactive in lending programmes and creating a favourable environment for reaching out to the needy masses with, proper, adequate and timely financial support.

"There is no other spot in Asia where the three cultural worlds of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam meet," so said Alexander Drew in 1877

Rauf profiles Garry Weare, a well known travel writer and explorer who spent best times of his life in Kashmir

(Mr. Rauf Tramboo, 50, was born and raised in Srinagar. He completed his school education at the Islamia High School located at Rajori Kadal, and his college degrees - B.Com. and LLB (Hons.) - from Islamia College of Science and Commerce located at Hawal. He is an Adventure Travel Consultant and an Adventure Tour Operator. His personal interests are reading, photography ane environmental advocacy.)

Travels with Garry Sahib, my Guru and friend

In the year 2004 I had a privilege of being the part of a long trekking expedition, traversing about 2500 Kms of Himalayan range from Gangotri (Uttrakhand) to Gangabal (Kashmir) with my Guru and a long time friend Garry Weare a well known travel writer and explorer who spent best times of his life in Kashmir which includes his thirty years living and trekking in the Himalayas.

Garry known as Garry Sahib among the tourism fraternity of Kashmir, He is also very well known in western Himalaya and in the Himalayan community in Australia as Guru and Raja Weare. Garry who is enigmatic and some times also funny has an enormous conscience with unconditional support and unlimited love of Kashmir. Garry is also the author of lonely planets comprehensive trekking guide book “Trekking in Indian Himalaya”, and brings into the story of his 2004 Himalayan traverse in a book titled “A Long walk in the Himalaya” which is a succession of vignettes about people’s lives that he meets along the way, with relevant history, natural observations with his inimitable sense of humor. In his book Garry by his own confession tells us of his six month long trek across some of the world’s most beautiful and rugged terrain, and his deep love and empathy for its culture and people and the warmth of his relationship with his Kashmiri friends and various other people from the trekking fraternity that adds a wonderful dimension to this journeyman’s tale.

Garry, who has a credit of exploring and pioneering some of the beautiful and classic treks in Kashmir and Ladakh in early seventies narrates his story when he and his fellow group members treaded into the territory of Ladakh without permission and were confined to the limits of a police station which he says was not the most auspicious start to his trekking career.

Garry writes:

"It is sometimes said that it is best to get the disasters over early in your life. I can appreciate that. In 1973, as a young man of twenty five, I arranged my first Himalayan trek to Kashmir in northern India. I had already trekked extensively in Kashmir and Nepal, but after spending two years teaching English in colleges in Yorkshire I had become increasingly restless to return. This would be my first venture into the heady world of adventure travel. Advertising in the personal columns of the Times I sought six hardy souls to share costs and undertake a trek from Kashmir to the Buddhist region of Ladakh. Rumor had it that the Indian government was about to de-restrict Ladakh, on the politically sensitive borderlands of Tibet, and permit foreigners to travel there for the first time since 1947. Since trekking in Kashmir in 1970 I had read as much a possible about Ladakh. From all accounts its culture and history were similar to that of Tibet, a land at the time completely off bounds to foreigner travelers. Ladakh also referred to as little Tibet would be a great alternative. I had little problem convincing a group of trekkers to join me.

Five months later we were all in jail. After traveling overland from London to Kashmir and spending a week trekking through the mountain valleys, we traversed a remote glacial pass and took our first steps into Ladakh. At first all went to plan. Reaching the first village the local police sergeant welcomed us. He assumed we had all the relevant documentation. The following day we wandered up a ridge and met a yak train of Buddhist trader’s intent on reaching the markets of Kargil, the largest town some 60 kilometers down the valley. On our return the sergeant was waiting for us. Sir, You are not allowed here, you must go back to Kashmir or come to Kargil. After considering the alternatives we decided on the Kargil option, Fair enough we thought, from there we might even be allowed to get a bus and visit Leh, the ancient capital of Ladakh. The following day after several hours march, we caught a ramshackle bus that five hours and one breakdown later trundled into the Kargil bazaar. This was where our luck ran out.

Arriving at the police station, we found the policeman brushing the dusty courtyard as if their lives depended on it. Our arrival coincided with the annual visit to Kargil by the Inspector General of Police for the state of Jammu and Kashmir. At 4 pm that afternoon a convoy of jeeps sped through the main bazaar to the station. A line of policemen stood attention as a kindly gentlemen, with twinkling eyes and a well-trimmed silver moustache stepped out of the first jeep, hushed voices informed him of our presence and, after a cursory inspection of his men, he approached us."

In 1995 while trekking in Gharwal Himalaya Garry got an idea of undertaking a long trek from Gangotri which is the sacred source of Ganges to Gangabal Kashmir and the following year, Garry discussed the plan with me when we met in Kathmandu and this was the time when I requested him to consider me a part of this prestigious expedition which he gladly accepted. Garry narrates, “It was during one of my treks in 1995 that I first toyed with the idea of undertaking an extended trek. I was within a day or so of the sacred source of the Ganges. It was a spectacular one week trek but for me it was far too short. I was only too aware that no sooner had I put on my boots than I was repacking my kitbag ad heading back home. I felt I needed a change. Why not, I thought, take a few months off and combine a series of treks into one big one? Before I knew it I was jotting down a list of the treks that I needed to research for the next edition of my guidebook. I then devised a route that would take me from the source of the Ganges to the Trans – Himalayan region of Ladakh, But why stop there, I mused? Why not continue and trek all the way to Kashmir? At first the prospect was daunting. How could I take five or six months off? How cold I say goodbye to m teenage daughter and my friends? Would I be fit enough? After all I was no longer in the prime of my youth. How would I organize the logistics? How much would it all cost? There were many good reasons to let my dream slip away. But it didn’t. I was determined to trek from Gaumukh, the sacred source of the Ganges to Gangabal Lake in Kashmir, one of the sacred sources of the Indus. It would provide a superb opportunity to re – discover a vast and varied mountainscape, from subtropical forests and verdant alpine meadows carpeted with wildflowers to an almost lunar geography north of the Himalayan divide. The trek would also enable me to explore three distinct cultural worlds."

"As Alexander Drew, at the time in the ‘service’ of the Maharajah of Kashmir, wrote in 1877 in his The Northern Barrier of India, there is no other spot in Asia where the three cultural worlds of Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam meet. That observation still holds true today. On the initial stages of my trek I would share trails with Hindu pilgrims and villagers before reaching the Buddhist land of Ladakh with its ancient monasteries perched on Sugarloaf Mountains and tiny whitewashed settlements nestled I the deepest gorges. A rugged region close to the borderlands of Tibet from where I would cross a further series of high passes to Kashmir – a fabled land of mosques and minarets – and my houseboat on Dal Lake.”

Garry’s narration of his long walk misses hardly any page in his book where one can not find the mention of Kashmir and its people. It defines his deep love and gratitude to the place he started his adventure career and bringing all the way the sacred waters of Ganges into a small container to empty it into the waters of sacred Gangabal lake shows his commitment of sorts to the six months long adventure he undertook. Once reaching the destination at Gangabal Lake, Garry writes, “It was late afternoon. I retrieved from my rucksack the plastic container of Sacred water that I had taken from the source of the Ganges when setting on my trek in May 2003. Heading around the shore of Nundkol, I ascended the grassy slope to Gangabal. The sun dipped below a mountain ridge, the silver waters of the lake rippled in the light breeze. I knelt alongside the stream where the waters flowed down to Nundkol and expressed silent thanks before pouring the milky water out of my container. In an instant it had swirled and merged with the swift current that would flow into the Kashmir valley and finally into the Indus.”

This book is a delightful read and a great inspiration to those who believe in adventure from a thorough gentleman and a kind hearted person I know and worked with.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Is Kashmir's Civil Society Finally Waking up to Dangers of Impending Ecological Disaster?

Two eminent writers - one a seasoned journalist and the other a retired senior bureaucrat - who were very vocal in their opposition to constructing brick and mortar comfort facilities for Hindu pilgrims trekking at 10,000 ft in unpredictable weather conditions turn their attention to serious ecological damage taking place in the valley, but lacking a religious angle is mostly ignored by the masses

India’s 120th rank in Environmental Performance Index (EPI) opens new debate


Kashmir has often been compared with Switzerland, unarguably for the right reasons. As times passed by, Kashmir’s murky power politics made its marketing USP to go haywire. When it comes to its brand value as a visitor’s destination, deplorably, we are talked about for wrong reasons. Slowly but surely Kashmir is turning into a cesspool, while Switzerland is making headlines for different reasons. Global environmental concerns are so grave today that the standard tool of measuring nations’ wealth and well being – Gross National Product – or GNP is being talked as “out-fashioned” nowadays. We have long stepped in an era wherein the human race is facing an existential threat – a sort of environmental catastrophe-in-the-making that is necessitating measuring nations’ wealth and well being with what is being called Green GNP.

A considerable beginning has already been made – in the form of global Environmental Performance Index (EPI), which has been jointly produced by the Yale’s Centre for Law and Environmental Policy and Columbia’s Centre for International Earth Science Information Network. The EPI idea has gone even further – it has just come up with a global index of countries based on their environmental performance. The findings have jolted the world. So guess who the top performers are, and who are the worst ones!

The EPI is said to reflect the best available data of all the world’s countries in 25 categories, which range from forests to water quality, fisheries to carbon emissions, assessing the hospitality of a nation’s environment to humans, and plants and animals. Generally, the small and wealthy Scandinavian countries of Europe are at the top of the index, while poor, war-torn African nations, including India, are at the bottom. In the index of 142 countries, India is at rank 120! Below it are some of the poorest and worst-governed countries of the world, mainly from Africa. Switzerland is at number one position, followed by Sweden, Norway, Finland and Costa Rica.

The United States has ranked 39th, while the only South Asian country to make it to the top 50s is Sri Lanka, which is at rank 50. Only three Muslim countries make it to the top 50 rankings, with Malaysia at an impressive 26th position, Albania 27th and Bosnia Herzegovina at 48th. Niger’s score is a mere 6 out of the EPI’s 100 point scale, which makes it the most inhospitable country on the planet to live on. When it comes to India, greater devil lies in the details of the EPI. Its air and water quality rankings have been rated as ‘poor’. On EPI, India scores a miserable 21 on sanitation, compared with 67 for the region and 48 for its income group. It is indeed hard to imagine that India’s 120th ranking is below all its income peers, except Angola and Cambodia – a position which stands in sharp contrast to its image of an emerging economic power house. The report has also noted that corruption and lack of accountability plague India’s efforts to enforce regulations and set priorities.

In its special report on India’s EPI last week, Newsweek, wrote, “If anybody needed a reminder of how crippling bureaucracy can be, consider the campaign to clean up the sacred Yamuna River in Delhi. The river oozes through town like a putrid ribbon of black sludge. Its level of faecal bacteria is 10,000 times higher than what’s deemed safe for bathing.” Beyond individual performance, the developers of the EPI have done some interesting comparative analysis as well. To assess how well countries are protecting biodiversity, they overlaid a map of national parks and other wildlife areas with satellite images, showing how much human encroachment had been forced upon these regions, allowing researchers to identify which countries have kept protected areas truly wild. The results showed the US, New Zealand and Botswana having done it well. And, yet again, India was found to have done poorly in preserving its protected areas.

Coming to Kashmir, the saddest part of the debate surrounding the Amarnath Yatra is that it has attained communal colors, when the question is fundamentally environmental. Kashmiri Muslims have exhausted their vocal chords telling the world and Hindu faithful that they are not communal, nor are they against the Yatra or their going on the pilgrimage. The environmental argument surrounding the Yatra has been lost in the communal din.

India’s EPI performance has also to be seen from the prism of its failure to make faith reconcile with nature. The country has lost most of its pristine natural reserves, particularly virgin rivers, streams, mountain eco systems and wildlife habitats to certain acts of faith, which were required to be reconciled to the imperatives of environmental preservation. Be it Gangotri, Yamuna, Ganga or other numerous places of faith falling in sensitive ecological areas, today’s ecological realities there are hardly heartening.

Promotion of large-scale and indiscriminate religious tourism in Kashmir – in disregard to the fragile ecology’s carrying capacity and the irreversible environmental loss – is self defeating. For the State to make laws which serve to destroy environment and ecology – rather than preserve them - is a great pity. Kashmir does not have an environmental policy, nor does it have policies for water and forests. If we do have some unwritten policies – they are at best paper-based documents of intent rather than implementable policy and practice guidelines.

One of the many misfortunes of Kashmir is that it has inherited the messy form of India’s democracy, where public good has gone into the drain of democratic anarchy. Byzantine bureaucracy and the overkill of democracy – basically a form of anarchy without responsibility – leave hardly any space for effective governance and laws based on common good. Abysmal governance is now being put to another test – a kind of faith which does not recognise and appreciate the God’s command to respect and protect Mother Nature.

The reason Kashmir and Switzerland can no longer be compared is that we are on two far divergent paths. The Alps are part of the whole Swiss mythology, just like Kashmir’s Pirpanjal, Zanaskar and Himalayas are rooted in our history and heritage. Swiss mythology promotes environmental protection, we are made to follow myths. Swiss can demand a referendum on the issues of their liking. They voted recently to construct world’s longest and deepest rail tunnel beneath the St. Gottard massif in the Alps – to divert heavy freight traffic off the roads. They also voted to ban heavy foreign trucks.

When Hans Peter Fricker, head of the Swiss office of the World Wide Fund for Nature was asked to comment on the country’s EPI distinction, he was quoted saying proudly, “You can swim in any of our lakes, and turn on any tap and drink the water with pleasure”. And Kashmir? At home we now drink bottled mineral water. Rivers and streams are drains for human excreta. Wild animals, like humans, are on the run. Air is turning toxic. There is a massive human onslaught on a small and beautiful vale which once upon a time we compared with Switzerland. Alas!

“Money-Minting Machine”
Mere admission of failure does not help restoration of the Dal Lake

M. Ashraf

On the World Environment Day, the former Chief Minister made a public admission of the failure of his Government to save the Dal Lake. He declared that the project to save the Lake had become a “Money-Minting Machine for the Politicians”. He failed to state that the “Machine” was a part of the set up of which he had been the Chief Executive. One cannot escape responsibility for any failure by simply admitting it. Morality demands that either the Chief Executive should summon the political will to immediately disband the corrupt “Machine” and handover the project of saving the Lake to some resourceful international agency on a turnkey basis or have the courage to resign from the post of the Chief Executive for his failure to save this living heritage of Kashmir! He did neither but ultimately had to go for some other reasons which among other things also included a major environmental disaster in the mountains! The declaration made by him on the World Environment Day appeared to be more emotional than rational. He could be held responsible only for last three years of inactivity in regard to the restoration of the Lake.

The former Chief Minister could be faulted for having been paralysed by political pulls and pushes preventing him from taking a decisive step at the highest level in handing over the Lake restoration to a resourceful international Consortium on a turnkey basis. Under the State Constitution he had all the residuary powers and could have taken a momentous decision if he had the will to do so! It must be emphasised that he did have a will to do things if he wanted. For his pet project of “Tulip Garden”, he paid almost 140 visits to the area. He was totally involved in setting up the Asia’s largest Tulip Garden and he made it a point to do so. He can take credit for having created an important tourist attraction for Srinagar. But what about Dal Lake? Why did not he have the same drive and enthusiasm for saving the Lake? Political compulsions or too many hassles! In any case, the Lake has been under restoration for more than 30 years and the failures too are that much old. The first failure occurred in 1977 itself. The best ever report for the restoration and conservation of Dal Lake was prepared in 1977 by a team of New Zealand consultants (Enex Consortium). The consultants had made some very practical recommendations for initiating measure to arrest the further deterioration in the condition of the Lake as also to restore it to previous glory. In a recent article, Mr.Rafique Khan from USA has detailed these recommendations.

These measures would have stopped accumulation of nutrients in the lake and over a period of time this would result in a net loss of nutrients that would in turn curb weed growth and thus improve the water quality. The Enex report provided cost estimates and based on analysis deemed the proposed improvements economically feasible. Unfortunately for some unknown reasons the Government of the time handed over the Enex Report to an “Expert Committee” which not only messed it up but totally retarded its implementation. It is said that the people not interested in taking responsibility and practical decisions always constitute committees. A committee is said to be a group of people who are incapable of taking individual decisions and reluctant to take collective responsibility! The greatest tragedy of Dal is the number of committees, expert groups, and consultants engaged for confirming a stark fact obtrusively visible to a common man that it is dying. Had the Enex report been implemented in true spirit by some resourceful agency, the Lake would have been fully restored by now. For some extraneous reasons another study was got conducted by Roorkee University. Then Austrians offered to take up the restoration with substantial assistance but their offer was spurned for some “understandable” reasons. Earlier the Overseas Development Agency of U.K. had also offered assistance but again it is reported to have been spurned. At one time the World Bank was also said to have agreed to provide Rs 250 crores for restoring the Lake but the fate of this offer is also not known. Recently, the University of Kashmir has offered to get actively involved in saving the Lake. However, once again it is going to be a survey and preparation of reports. Dal does not need studies or reports.

A simple drive along the Boulevard from SKICC to Nishat amply demonstrates that the Lake has already turned into a marsh! It needs action and that too drastic action and fast. For that we neither have the expertise nor the machinery and resources. LAWDA has been moving like a tortoise. To make it run like a hare it has to be overhauled and empowered. It is not functioning like a Statutory Authority, which normally it should have been, but as a normal Government Department under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. They are unable to take any independent action. The creation of a Statutory Authority is again a lengthy procedure. The Government needs to take direct action at the highest level. The ideal situation would be identification and constitution of a consortium (group) of multi-national companies having specialised expertise in all matters. These matters would include setting up of genuinely functioning STPs, drainage, sewerage, delisting, de-weeding, and also establishment of self-contained housing colonies on identified land for people to be taken out of the Lake. These companies would be able to work in unison on an accelerated pace within a given timeframe on a turnkey basis to implement the total project for the restoration of the Lake. The consortium should also have the responsibility of overseeing the Lake for at least ten years even after the completion of their initial turnkey project. There is no dearth of such companies in Europe, America or even in South East Asia such as South Korea and Japan. In fact all the non-resident Kashmiris who are very much concerned about the fate of the Lake can do the initial work of identifying the specialised agencies or companies that can undertake the project on a turnkey basis. They can even identify international investments for this globally important environmental project. The ultimate thing is the will of the highest political authority. Fortunately for us, at present all our politicians are on a forced holiday. There is only one single authority that has undoubtedly the will to do things, even the most difficult and impossible ones! Jagmohan is recalled for some bad patches in Kashmir’s history but he is also remembered for his fantastic town planning approach. The two roads which he tar macadamised during his first tenure namely Maulana Azad Road and the Boulevard Road have withstood travails of time for more than 20 years! Kashmiris in spite of his bad patch nostalgically recall his town planning acumen and vision.

The present Governor does not have any bad patches. However, he has a very short time as an independent decision making authority. Historical decisions do not need lots of time. These occur sometimes in a fraction of a second. If only he could engage himself in sorting out this most threatening environmental disaster facing Kashmir in consort with the highest authorities in the country, he will have his name carved in Golden letters in the history of Kashmir.

Preserving Kashmir's Heritage by Preserving its Monuments

Governor Vohra is on the Right Track

Heritage Monuments: Vohra asks for urgent steps to preserve glorious past

Srinagar: Governor N.N Vohra has indicated the urgent need for the enactment of a suitable framework for preserving and conserving heritage monuments in the state.

“The rich vernacular architecture has to be preserved for posterity to know about their glorious past, besides attracting a large number of tourists, both domestic as well as foreign,” the Governor observed yesterday while being briefed on the rich treasure of such buildings.
Vohra stressed the need for identifying heritage monuments and magnificent old buildings and observed that, in the first instance, effective time-bound steps would need to be taken for their conservation and preservation of the surroundings.

He was informed that, presently, there was no law for listing or protecting heritage buildings.
The Governor called for the formulation of a master plan in this regard and indicated that implementation of the conservation programme must be carried out within a specified time frame.

He sought the preparation of a calendar of all such activities and the same being monitored on a fortnightly basis.

Vohra suggested creation of a monumental corridor for incoming tourists with the facilities of guides and planned package tours. He also called for creating awareness among the people about the upkeep of the buildings having historical value.

“Such monuments may not be used as dwelling units by them presently; however, those who own such buildings must be made conscious of being the owners of the heritage bequeathed from their ancestors,” he added.

The Governor was given a detailed briefing on monumental buildings surveyed by the Jammu and Kashmir Chapter of INTACH and some of the conservation works undertaken during the past few years.

These include the Ali masjid in Srinagar and the ancient Shiva temple in Manasbal. He was also informed about the status of the first phase of conservation work on the Mubarak Mandi complex in Jammu taken up at a cost of Rs 4. 37 crore.

Vohra was also briefed about the futuristic plans of conserving various forts, buildings and monumental structures across the State and he desired to visit some of these in the coming days, along with all concerned officers.

(The Tribune)

When Gun Culture Morphs into Crime Culture

Afshana lists usual suspects for growing crime and violence in the valley, but neglects to cap it with the moral that one reaps what one sows

(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.)

High Alert
At the bar of justice
Innocence is
no bar to
to the junkyard of lost souls.
After the fall
we brand criminals,
demons one and all
once and for all.
Innocent? Too late,
Too good to be true
A technicality,
not fate
Not the real you.
We swallow our mistakes,
keep them
safe and warm
in the belly
of the beast
where they belong.
(Robert Johnson)

We live in crime. And now this is a reality. It has started enmeshing us badly. The gruesome murder of a young girl in a posh area; the abduction of a small kid Mehran; the cases of rape and slaying; the incidents of eve teasing; the reports of theft and robbery; Kashmir is fast catching up a moral turpitude.

It is an alarming situation. It wasn’t like this before. The unthinkable is turning fact. The unimaginable is becoming actual. As such, sense of security is waning among populace and fear is gripping us gradually. Kashmir is at a crossroad of rotting realities. Digging deep, the reasons for this moral cataclysm can be many. From easy bank loans, to fake currency, tax evasion and of course, growing corruption in public/private domains, the influx of money has created a class of its own. Urge to become much and much richer is being satiated by going crook all the way. This has widened the gap between haves and have-nots.

The neo-rich class of society, that suddenly made its appearance and shored up its roots since last two decades, has cheesed off the sanity of social fabric. The ostentatious lifestyles and pretentiously conceited traditions have frustrated the rest of the people. This ‘social tension’ at times props up in a criminal response to the state of affairs. The lined up luxury cars in the compound of a lush bungalow next door fiddles the logic of the person who slogs honestly to live a noble and decent life. The huge dowry, fulsome golden jewellery and ornate trousseau of a young bride hack off the one who lacks all this just to linger as a spinster.

In fact, crime takes roots when all other rational institutions of any society fail to deliver. Our homes—the best and ideal units—are already broken. The moral and religious bodies are fractured. The responsible citizenry is silent and shattered. The intellectuals are knocking around the wrong way. And the critical question arises as to what makes this so? Why are institutions losing their importance and fizzling out miserably?

Maybe the answer lies in the yesteryears of gore that went down as a saga of anarchy on the social front. With no answerability or accountability, the things just slipped off to an extreme where crime slowly became just an offshoot of the turmoil. The presence of alien people in a land that had its own mores and civilization can be other factor that added to a sort of moral contagion. Even the small symbols of aliens seem to have contaminated the accepted wisdom of natives. The empty whisky bottles’ dangling around the security bunkers is just a passing instance. Moving beyond symbols, the acts and behaviors too can be said to have altered the moral meanings of the place.

Though the influence of media can be universal to Kashmir as well, but the deliberate introduction of certain technology can also be blamed for this moral decadence. The mobile telephony has wreaked havoc with the set norms and boundaries of any moral discourse. Mobile mania is swiftly emerging as the ‘acceptable’ dialogue. The teenagers and young are enticed to land in a dangerous world where identities and characters are masked. And if at all they appear visible, it has been giving birth to a many moral maladies.

Again, the role of home, the subject of watchdog, the matter of right parenting turns up. With no genuine role-models or mentors in the surroundings, our youth is easily falling prey to depraved concepts and unscrupulous ways of life.

Equally vital reason for this whole mishmash is the increasing unemployment among a sizeable portion of our youth. The mounting anxieties and angst due to this wicked phenomenon has pushed them to the wall, causing a kind of rebel and outrage. The base alternatives become their only options. Disgusted and fretful, morals start losing sense to them. Again, this can be something that is wheedled to be like that, for the angry young mind is the most explosive element to rip off the foundations of any community.

Picasso said that ‘it takes a long time to grow young.’ Have our young grown in real sense, with their deck of “learning” too full, shuffling slower now to a state where difference between good and bad is diminishing unpleasantly? The honest answers may fidget all of us. This is the High Alert!

Before righteousness and decency is dumped in the junkyard of lost souls, and senses and sensibilities go down the bellies of beasts, let us wake up.

And lets sign off recalling the words of Joseph Conrad —“I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more --the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort--to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and expires --and expires, too soon, too soon --before life itself.”

People alone can eradicate corruption from society: Prof Punjabi

Congratulations are in order for the VC of the University of Kashmir for taking the case against corruption culture to the people and to the Blog journalist Nida who won the Second Prize

(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.)

Civil Society Debate on Corruption

Srinagar: The vice chancellor of Kashmir University Prof Riyaz Punjabi Saturday said that people alone could eradicate corruption from the society, if they decide to do so. Prof Punjabi who was speaking during 5th Annual IIPA Cup Inter-College/Deptt. Debate at Gandhi Bhawan said, “Eradication of corruption is achievable.”

The VC was happy with the success of the debate and said that society is not devoid of people who can articulate views. VC sounded highly optimistic after hearing the repertoire, which presented a resume of the daylong proceedings of the debate. He appealed the audience to play their role in this direction.

The daylong topic “It is the will of the people that can curb the menace of corruption in the society” was organized by Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA), J&K Regional Branch, in collaboration with the Department of Students welfare (DSW), Kashmir University and sponsored by state vigilance organization. 35 students from various affiliated colleges of the University and postgraduate departments participated in the debate. The speakers highlighted the role of the society and the Govt in fight against the corruption and bringing accountability and transparency in government working.

Those who spoke in favor of the motion gave examples from history and impressed on the civil society to use the provisions of Right To Information Act to ensure enforcement of accountability and redressal of grievances faced by general public. Those who spoke against the motion felt the people are helpless in fight against corruption. “The menace cannot be eradicated unless the transparency is enforced at the top,” they said that the delay in trial of corruption cases in the courts also encourages corruption. The speakers also attributed corruption to unequal distribution of wealth and mismanagement of finances in the country.

Islamia College lifted the IIPA Cup-2008. Mariya Rafeeqi of Government Degree College Nawakal won first prize (Rs. 2000), second prize (Rs 1500) went to Nida of MERC Department, KU while as the third (Rs 1000) was won by Abdul Basit of Islamia College. The two consolation prizes (Rs.500 each) were bagged by Nowsheen of Linguistics Department, KU and Naveed Iqbal, of Government College for Woman M A Road.