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.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Splitting Hairs Over Whether it is Expression for Development or Simply an Expression as Guaranteed in a Democracy

Sajjad travels the same narcissitic highway crowded by Kashmiris but asks the traveler to reflect on issues really important

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 44, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Khalsa high school and the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar. He received his bachelor's degree in Media and his master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. Mr. Bazaz has over two decades of experience in journalism (both print & electronic), and he is author of the book "Bankwatch" which is about a financial scenario with particular reference to the J&K state. He is currently incharge of corporate communications department in a leaduing financial instution in J&K. Mr. Bazaz likes to spend leisure time watching movies and enjoying company of his friends.)

Why waste it?

As this column reaches you, it will be a total siege. Courtesy Coordination Committee and government authorities. Yet another phase of Elections 2008 (fourth phase) is underway in 18 assembly constituencies in Budgam, Varmul, Udhampur and Reasi. However, without going into the traditional details of Kashmir issue, it is the governance part, which needs attention today. History is witness to the fact that one of the most visible failures of the governance in all regimes in the state has been on the unemployment front. Instead of curbing this nuisance, the State continues to be plagued with the ever-widening menace of unemployment.

We usually come across with a political thought that unemployment is also one of the reasons behind separatist movement in the State. Political analysts even call it a modern profession among Kashmiri youth today to join separatist ranks and say that like military, police and para-military forces of the State, militancy has also become a parallel underground profession for the youth. By virtue of this thought, we can only say that it is the bad governance, which has been responsible for not securing peace and prosperity of the state.

However, this political thought is also debatable. If government figures are to be believed, educated jobless in Jammu region is three times more than that of Kashmir. So, there is no question arising that youth have joined separatist movement because of unemployment.

Without politicizing the grave issues like unemployment, let us take the case of tourism and cottage industries like carpet weaving, food, dairy farming, silk, honey and Khadi industries, which have a huge potential to resolve the unemployment menace. Even as several government departments are in place in this regard, the available potential has been explored partially. Here the government should have not acted as an instrument of force, but should have acted as a cushion of encouragement for more activation of the people in solving their own problems.

There is an oft-quoted epitaph: "That government is best that governs the least." In other words, institutions and individuals other than belonging to the Government must be encouraged in employment generation. Here, the bureaucratic and other strings should not be attached. We have seen that the main industries of the State are largely dependent on governmental initiatives and are mostly subjected to red tape through the channels of bureaucracy and has been responsible for creating hurdles in exploring the full potential of the State even in the areas of tourism and cottage industries.

True, our state is having scant resources. But, at least, there is a scope to have an organised approach towards the available resources. Take the case of Darbar Move. Ours is the only state where government offices of all departments are shifted bi-annually. Financial experts say that Darbar Move has devoured billions of rupees from the state exchequer so far. This happens despite the fact that the State depends heavily on the financial resources from the central government. So, why can't we explore the possibility of saving these billions of rupees?

We have also an argument that most of the problems are there as a result of the state's accession controversy, which has seldom allowed the people of the J&K to focus on their development. The constitutional and historic differences have always come in the way of development in the state. As per the instrument of accession and Article 370, people of J&K are Indian citizens but all Indian citizens are not citizens of Jammu and Kashmir.

Both Central and the state Governments have been engaged more in offering subsidies to the people here instead of encouraging people to learn to stand on their own legs. Generally speaking, even for every routine things and needs, the people cannot look up beyond government. The problems compound further when the men in power care more for their own needs than those of the people.

It is necessary for the men in power to understand the value of sincerity, accountability and service to people. People here also need to realise that it is the government, which depends upon them. We have been talking of globalisation and we must understand that globalisation rests on good governance and fulfilling the basic needs of its people. If people do not get even their basic needs fulfilled, then it must be taken that there is something wrong with the government. There is need to introduce certain norms of professionalism where people will have to be provided for basic growth and development on an impartial basis.

We all know that our state is a very sensitive place, where basic needs can be fulfilled only when there is a great sense of self-respect and high regard for moral values. This is of utmost importance. That is why Nobel laureates Amartya Sen regards Development as Freedom. For him, a nation with people having widespread education, necessary leisure time, proper and fulsome food, electricity for everyone, shelter for all and clothing for everyone along with near complete human security and a great inner sense of security can be regarded as developed instead of a country having high GDP etc without the fulfillment of basic needs.

The state is in grip of violence and during the past two decades we have witnessed 'violence for violence attitude' as a measure to see an end to it. This attitude has to be done away with. Violence cannot be gunned down by violence. There is need to devise a policy (short, medium and long term) to deal with all aspects of development. Both Centre and the state governments have to be ready to deal with prospective eventualities and face the existing challenges of development, especially the unemployment problem. Channelising the energy of the youth force in the development of the State by way of creating employment opportunities can go a long way in bringing peace and prosperity to this beleaguered nation.

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