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.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Even the School Meal Program is Mired in Corruption

On one hand the school staff claim the meal assistance is trivial and on the other hand they are caught making money for personal gain

The drama called mid day meal scheme

Manohar Lalgami (Daily Etalaat)

Srinagar: Like many other schemes in fore in Jammu Kashmir , the mid day meals scheme in Primary and Middle Schools is running on proxy figures and no one in the department has bothered to relate the scheme with its purpose i.e. to decrease the drop out rate.

As the money for the scheme comes from union HRD ministry the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has observed that the state of J&K has not submitted the actual attendance data to the concerned authorities and has once again sought the devolution of funds on average attendance basis.

Like some other states in the Indian union Jammu & Kashmir state’s education department too has cooked up the attendance of school going children regarding mid day meal scheme.

Official sources told this news daily that cooked up attendance is a face saver for the department; as there is not much number present in government schools, especially in urban areas. The data available does not reflect the view of the department that mid day meals has increased the student attendance and drop out rates have come down.

An official of the department on the basis of anonymity told Etalaat that the department was in no way serious about the monitoring as that would expose the realities behind the ‘drama called mid day meal scheme’.

Recently Comptroller and Auditor General of India in a bid to tighten internal controls has observed that a dozen states including Jammu & Kashmir have not submitted the actual figures to Ministry of Human Resource Development viz number of school going children.

Insiders say that the scheme has not much bearing in the urban and sub urban areas as neither the teachers nor the students show much interest in the mid day meals provided in the school.

A teacher once associated with the mid day meal scheme told this news daily that the money provided for mid day meals is so meager that the scheme cannot be implemented honestly as the market prices are much higher than the estimates of HRD babus. ‘Money provided per student for providing ‘nutritious meals’ is not even worth the price of a candy of their children’, he said.

Interestingly the smallest chocolate available in the market costs not less than five Rupees.

Director Education Shugufta Parveen when contacted told this newspaper that she was not aware of any query regarding mid day meals from CAG, but confessed that she has been receiving complaints regarding mid day meal scheme and concerned district offices have been asked to keep a check on its implementation. However she was not able to say any thing about data regarding average and actual attendance provided to Human Resources Development Ministry.

Recently two School teachers were caught selling the rice meant for midday meals in J&K.

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