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, February 15, 2009

Throwing Good Money After the Bad: Will it Make any Difference?

Rs. 5,500 million are being lavished on the new city development plan, but will it make any difference? Two related reports on why Srinagar keeps getting uglier by the day

DCM spells out city development plan

Srinagar: Deputy chief minister, Tara Chand, Sunday said that Rs 5,500 million have been sanctioned for the development of the City.

“The government has sanctioned Rs 133 crore for up-gradation of sewerage and drainage system and Rs 148 crore for Tangnar Water Supply Scheme. Rs 33 crore have been already released by the government for various developmental works,” an official handout quoting the deputy chief minister’s address in Srinagar Municipal Corporation meeting said.

“Rs 16.53 crore have been sanctioned for the rehabilitation of the residents of Summerbug and Eidgah Wanganpora,” the statement said, adding, “Two committees, headed by respective Divisional Commissioners, have been constituted in Jammu and Srinagar to ensure coordination between various departments for executing development works.”

“He has ordered divisional commissioner, Kashmir, and district development commissioner, Srinagar, for enquiry into the encroachments in the green zone of the City and submit the report within 15 days. The City administration has been asked to intensify drive against illegal structures and encroachments,” it said

“He also asked the district development commissioner, Srinagar to enquire into the delay in the construction of Qamarabad-Qamarwari road,” it said.

The plight of the water-bodies in the City was also taken up with the participating corporators demanding immediate measures to clean these. Some cases of illegal structures in the green zone of the City were also brought to the notice of the minister, it said

The corporators highlighted the problem of shortage of Safai Karamcharis in the summer capital. There was a unanimous demand of increasing the number of Safai Karamcharis, it said. (Report from the Greater Kashmir)

City Master Plan Sans Progress

Srinagar: For want of proper coordination, the implementation of Srinagar city Master Plan has failed to take off. The Master Plan was prepared by Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) in 2003 to plan the development of the city for 20 years (2000-2021) keeping in view its fast pace expansion.

The plan proposed covering 126 villages in the city thereby increasing its area from 236 sq kms to 416 sq kms.

It also envisaged construction of new colonies through cooperatives, Housing Board and other urban local bodies to accommodate additional 8.5 lakh population.

However, as per sources, no progress has been made in the plan’s implementation on ground from the past seven years. Experts maintain that SDA has failed in forming a coordinating agency that could oversee the progress of the plan by consulting various government and private developmental agencies.

“No such committee or agency has been formed till date by SDA even though there is a proposal in the plan that a high level committee needs to be formulated which will oversee implementation of the plan,” sources said.

“There is also a provision of revision in the Master Plan. But it has also not been done as yet,” they added.

Moreover, different field agencies like R&B, UEED and others are reportedly carrying out developmental works in the city without consulting the plan.

Experts hold that apart from other benefits, under the implementation of Master Plan proposals, the city can benefit from Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) - a government of India (GoI) scheme for 68 cities including Srinagar and Jammu.

The scheme launched in 2005 is spread over the period of seven years and envisages Rs 800 crore annually for the development of a city. This means nearly Rs 5600 crores can be spent on Srinagar city’s redevelopment for seven years.

“The Master Plan is the last hope for city’s regeneration and renewal. It should be implemented in letter and spirit,” said Divisional Town Planner SDA, Ghulam Hassan Mir.

However, Chief Town Planner Kashmir, Iftikar Hakeem denied any role in implementing the plan.

“Our’s is an advisory body in the formation of Master Plan. We do not have any role as such in its implementation,” he said.

Secretary SDA, Abdul Aziz admitted that the coordinating agency for the Master Plan has not been constituted as yet.

“Actually we had to frame zonal plans first and we are busy with that. So there was a delay in the formation of a coordinating committee,” he said. “We have lot of time in hand to implement the Master plan in letter and spirit,” he added. (Report from the Rising Kashmir)

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