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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Kashmir's Political System Perpetuates Misgovernance

An Editorial in the Kashmir Times highlights the challenge

Political parties lack a clear vision and have vested interest to perpetuate misgovernance

One has been hearing the talk of providing good governance parroted by different political parties in the State for quite some time but unfortunately no political party or combination of parties has done any thing concrete and positive in this direction. Jammu and Kashmir is not only at the bottom of the corrupt states in India but has also earned notoriety for misgovernance or even non-governance, lack of democratic climate and temper. Election time provides a golden opportunity to the political parties to repeat their promise that after coming to power they will take steps to provide the people a clean, efficient, accountable and transparent governance, knowing fully well that such promises will never be fulfilled.

For these parties not only lack a clear vision about good governance but also have a vested interest to perpetuate miss-governance. That is the reason that the corruption is rampant from top to bottom and the vast administrative set up suffers from inefficiency and inertia.That good governance is necessary to fulfill the basic role of any democratic system to deliver essential public services to the citizens cannot be disputed. But unfortunately the essential pre-requisites of such a system of governance have always been elusive in this state suffering from maladministration.

The corruption, administrative inefficiency and inertia are the consequences of a highly centralized system of governance which denies people at the grassroot level adequate sense of participation and empowerment and lack of transparency and accountability at political and administrative levels.

The first and foremost need for good governance is to evolve a system of democratic decentralization. But unfortunately the politicians at the helm of affairs, motivated by narrow political considerations or due to self-interests, have always subverted moves for decentralizing the highly centralised political and administrative system.

Jammu and Kashmir is perhaps the only state in the country where even the panchayati raj system has not been established in letter and spirit. For decentralizing the system it is important to evolve a five-tier set up by creating units of self-governance at the state, regional, district, block and panchayat levels with a fair distribution of power, authority and allocation of funds at different levels.

For making the administration transparent it is necessary to ensure right to information for the people. Right to know about the working of the government is a fundamental right of the citizens in any democracy. But unfortunately this right has always been denied to the people in the State. The central Right to Information Act is not applicable to Jammu and Kashmir and the rulers in the State have failed so far to enforce such a law to enable people to have information about the working of the administration. The State's Right to Information Act passed by the legislature under the PDP-Congress coalition was rightly described by the Central Chief Information Commissioner as " illusory ". Even this law was never enforced with the result that unlike the citizens in other parts of the country the people in Jammu and Kashmir have been denied the right to information like other basic rights.

For making the governance accountable the State legislature had belatedly adopted the J&K Accountability Act but unfortunately it contains many retrogressive provisions which only defeated the very purpose of this law. Even the Accountability Commission set up under the Act was made redundant due to the hurdles created in its way by the powerfully entrenched political-bureaucratic nexus.

The working group for ensuring good governance, set up by the Prime Minister after the round table conference of the mainstream political parties had submitted a comprehensive report in March 2007 incorporating a number of suggestions for ensuring good governance in the State. The recommendations made by the group headed by N.C.Saxena, if implemented, in letter and spirit could have gone a long way in improving the administrative efficiency, removing the sources of corruption and making governance accountable and transparent.

It also suggested introduction of e- governance for improving efficiency, simplification of rules and procedures and evolution of a rational transfer and promotion policy. That report appears to have been kept in the cold storage. The powerfully-entrenched bureaucracy and politicians at helm have a vested interest to sabotage such sensible measures for providing the citizens good governance.

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