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, October 28, 2008

The Indifference Towards the Weak and the Meek Extends Beyond Religious Faultlines

Musavirr exposes the underbelly of a society used to sweeping inconveniences under a rug

(Mr. Musavirr Wani, 27, was born in Srinagar and attened the Burn Hall School. He graduated from the Meerut University and joined the Kashmir Times as a reporter. Loves driving his car and surfing internet to seek out workshops and fellowships so that he can travel and present the true picture of Kashmir.)

Facilities for Disabled Lacking in J&K

SRINAGAR: Constructing ramps at few places does not solve all the problems of the disabled community. Disabled-friendly constructions are vividly missing from the scene. Besides, the criteria of 40 percent and above disability required for reservation is also questioned by many.

Those with a disability below this required percentage are not entertained and on the other hand, people with higher degree of disability as well as those having multiple disabilities do not come under this purview. In most such cases, it has been seen that acutely disabled turn out to be a "burden" on the family as well as the society.

Post polio residual paralysis, locomotive disability, stammered voice and mental retardation mostly comprise the disabled population in the state. Those hit by the conflict too constitute a good number.

Though the official records put their number at more than three lakh which constitutes about three percent of the population, still much has not been done for their rehabilitation. To fill the basic formalities required for reservation, they are tossed from post to pillar, which starts from getting medical certificate from the concerned Chief Medical Officer (CMO). This is no less a testing time for them.

"We have to go to the CMOs office a number of times, at times to Deputy Commissioner's (DC's) office as well. The entire process is so hectic and cumbersome that at times people get dejected and leave the process midway. Rules ought to be made flexible and convenient for us so that we can pursue the cases ourselves without any hindrance," said Abdul Majid, a resident of Srinagar and a physically challenged fellow.

Even the institutions which provide these people with vocational or regular trainings or where they offer their services are not disabled-friendly. This is an open secret. They have to move inside the buildings, banks, educational institutions and other public places but without any facility being offered to them.

Till recently the concept of ramps was mostly missing but now it has started coming up. "A beginning has been made at some public offices. Constructions should be made in accordance with these facilities so that they do not suffer. It is not only ramps that would make a difference but other facilities too are to be provided simultaneously and at the earnest," said Shugufta Wani, a social worker.

"We face lot of difficulties while moving up and down the buildings, be it educational institutions, University or banks; an alternative has to be looked into," emphasised Kaiser Jan, a student who is physically challenged.

Long term training in terms of diploma courses in various streams and non-formal vocational courses in college and extension centres are offered by K. G. Polytechnic, Gogjibagh under Persons with Disability Scheme sponsored by Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).

The college provides ramps for their convenience but only at one or two places. Same holds true with other educational institutions including the University of Kashmir or for that matter any other department in the state. "At the outset, counseling is provided to them about which stream they should opt for. In all the five streams (diploma courses) 25 seats are reserved for them. 100 students are enrolled for short term courses offered in college and other extension centres at Bandipora, Pulwama, Shopian, Budgam and Srinagar. 40 percent disability is the only criteria in the short term courses except for courses involving computer education. Those with less disability, even say 39 percent, are not entertained," said Shaheen a counselor.

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