Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

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.

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