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, March 31, 2009

Decades of Indifference to Environment Comes Back to Haunt Houseboat Owners

Sajjad brings a reality check to unpleasant side of houseboat business

(Mr. Sajjad Bazaz, 45, 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.)

Houseboat owners cannot raise their economy at the cost of environment

J&K High Court while taking serious note of the state government’s failure to stop deterioration of water bodies has taken over the custody of four lakes, including Dal Lake. Earlier this month the court, in order to combat pollution in the Dal Lake, asked houseboat owners to suspend their operations until they make some alternate arrangement to their waste disposal. Following the court order, the government has asked houseboat owners to install sewage treatment units on their houseboats within 90 days - or face closure.

As the conflict seems to be ebbing for the time being, environmental issues marring the natural beauty of Kashmir have become main focus. High on the agenda is to fight out the pollution in Dal Lake, which has endangered the life of the lake. When we talk of pollution in Dal Lake, we cannot ignore the presence of houseboats, which have primarily harmed the lake, and this 150-year-old tradition is facing extinction today.

The Dal Lake is burdened with almost 60 hamlets with a population of around 70,000, many floating vegetable gardens, several hotels, guesthouses and lodges besides houseboats. We have seen that despite years of disturbances in Kashmir, tourists have still flocked to Dal Lake to stay in houseboats. But while it may appear idyllic, the volume of waste generated by this tourist heaven has turned the lake into a latrine. Millions of litres of raw sewerage are pumped into the lake everyday. The untreated sewerage and other chemicals in the water combinely act as a super-fertiliser and promotes the growth of ferns, duckweed and green and red algae. This in turn is killing other aquatic life in the lake.

In an attempt to save Dal from extinction, existence of houseboats is facing a serious challenge now. At the moment, it appears that houseboat being the flag bearer of Kashmiri tourism, is going to vanish. The blame is on houseboat owners who have never taken care of the Lake, which nourished them. They threatened its existence by pollution and now their own future is at stake. They never cared about waste management.

To put the things straight, the houseboat industry is dying with the passage of time. The environmental issue confronting the existence of houseboats is just adding pace to its extinction phase. Otherwise, the current generation running this industry has already lost interest in the trade. They see no future in the trade, as their activity is not having an industry status. Notably, while giving recommendations to aggressively reposition itself as a tourist destination riding on the back of the economic buoyancy around the world and in India, the Rangarajan Report had recommended to accelerate renovation and new constructions of house boats, hotels and shikaras, as a additional sum of Rs.30 crore may be allocated for immediate disbursement as soft loans with an appropriate monitoring mechanism.

But, today, a houseboat owner cannot even think to renovate his houseboat, as the permission is not granted in a hassle free manner. Since there is no dockyard facility, the renovation has to be carried out in Chinar Bagh area. To reach there, the Dal gate crossing needs permission, which is hardly granted. Another factor is that the life span of houseboats too has drastically gone down. In fresh waters, its life span is about 60 years. But in polluted water body, which is current situation here, the life span is hardly 40 years. Most of the 1,200 houseboats floating on the waters of Dal and Nigeen Lakes have completed their shelf life and could be put out of action for want of repairs.

Construction of new houseboat is economically unviable and has been stopped long back because of the unavailability of the rare cedar wood and lack of expert carpenters. Its construction would cost around Rs.1.00 crore. It is not only the cost factor that deters boatmen, the special cedar trees, which grow only at altitudes of 7000 feet in the forests of northwestern Kashmir, are fast depleting because of massive deforestation. A look at the past reveals that in 1980s Kashmiris used to export 3000 logs of cedar without realizing that they were seriously depleting a treasure which wasn't being renewed.

In the current market scenario, for a simple houseboat, 3000cft cedar wood is required, which means around Rs.10 lakhs of investment. The labour involved in its construction further requires around Rs.10 lakhs. In addition to this, interior fittings/decorations involve a cost of another Rs.10 lakhs and total financial involvement in construction of a houseboat comes Rs.1.00 crore approximately. The uncertain tourist inflow means that the investment of around Rs.1 crore in a houseboat construction would be unwise decision.

So, the focus should be to protect the existing houseboats. Plans should be devised to allow entry of tourists in to the Dal Lake in an organized manner and their stay in houseboats should be brought under time limit. On promotional front, the government should promote heritage tourism. An amalgamation of Buddhist monasteries and paintings of Ladakh, palaces and temples of Jammu, mountains and Sufi shrines of Kashmir, with each one having a distinct architecture, the state is rich and varies in this respect. Ironically, nothing much has happened on this front.

We have been exploring new tourist destinations as the State; particularly the Valley is full of scenic spots. But before this is being done, there is need to put a coordinated effort to preserve heritage site and promote them as tourist destinations. This will put some pressure off from the Dal Lake, as tourist would get engaged in exploring other destinations.

Meanwhile, the intervention of court was unavoidable and this is precisely a good move and houseboats have to adhere to the court ruling. They have to desist from discharging their effluents directly into the lake. They can't raise their economy at the cost of environment. However, government too has a responsibility. They should guide the houseboat owners to find alternatives to dumping discharge into the lake. Sewage treatment plants (STPs) should be encouraged in a very cost-effective manner.

Let us remember, the death of the houseboats would have a devastating effect on our tourism industry, which has been struggling for its revival. The houseboats are the heart of this industry. If they stop operations, the tourist trade will die its own death.

Srinagar International Airport Raises Expectations

The airport must become a gateway to new opportunities

International airport to boost flower export business

Srinagar: The opening of an international airport has buoyed the hopes of flower growers in Kashmir as avenues for selling their produce in international markets open up. Flower growers and exporters are anticipating a huge boost in flower business, as they are hopeful to tap the international markets especially the Gulf countries where the demand for flowers is quite high.

Kashmir's floriculture department is quite upbeat about taking the state's flowers on international arena and will soon be imparting technical know how and providing other help to the growers for expanding their business. "Very soon we will try and impart technical support and provide other know how like finance to our flower growers and encourage them in every possible way so that the flower business will get a good chance to grow and boom with the opening of this international airport," said G.S Naqash, Director, Floriculture Department, Kashmir.

The flower growers are also happy as they can now sell their produce in the international market at no extra cost. The freight charge paid by the flower growers to ship their flowers to Delhi is around 25 to 30 rupees freight per kilogram but for sending the same produce to Dubai, the freight will cost them only 10 rupees per kilogram because of the subsidy provided by the Agriculture Product Export Development Agency (APEDA). Also the reduction in freight time is an added advantage. "Earlier we used to worry about the flowers that we used to send from here as it used to rot in the transport time only. But now with the international airport, we can send across our flowers within few hours and this could benefit the flower growers a lot," said Nazir Ahmed, a flower grower.

Floriculture has evolved as lucrative employment option in Kashmir in the recent years. Gerbera, Lilium, Carnation, Marigold, Tulips are some of the flowers grown and exported from the valley. The state has a rich market of flowers worth over 100 million rupees.

(Kashmir Monitor)

Right to Infiormation (RTI) is the Right of Any Citizen

Sahil hopes the improved RTI law ushers a new era of transparency

(Mr. Sahil Showkat, 24, was born in Badripora Naina Sangam, near Awantipora, in Pulwama district. He graduated from the Government Degree College in Anantnag, and his post graduation in Political Science from the University of Kashmir. He is currently a M. Phil. scholar in the Department of Political Science, University of Kashmir.)

Must For Good Governance

The primary concern of the citizens in a good civil society is that their government must be fair and good. For this, it is essential that their systems and sub-systems of governance are efficient, economic, ethical and equitable. Besides, the governing process must also be just, reasonable, fair and citizen friendly. For all this, the administrative system must also be accountable and responsive besides promoting transparency and peoples’ participation. The test of good governance lies in the goals and objectives of government, in its policies and programmes, in the manner of their execution, in the general perception of the people about quality of functioning of various agencies, their attitude and behavior towards the people, their sincerity, honestly and commitment towards the public duties.

The state of Jammu and Kashmir passed the RTI, 2004 on 5 jan.2004 to secure right to information in favour of its citizens. However, the rules there under were published on 20 June 2005 after a lapse of about 18 months. The J and K RTI is based upon the repealed central freedom of information act 2002 which lacked proper assignment of responsibility to bureaucrat, proper appeals process against the denial of requests, direct penalty clause for offices who illegally with hold public information and proper notification in the gazette of India.

Nowadays various political and civil society organisations of the state have called for a public debate on the provisions of the JK RTI Act of 2008 vis-a-vis the Right to Information Act, 2005. The JK RTI 2005 under section 6 incorporates several exemptions for the refusal of information, the disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, security of state, conduct of international relations, including information exchanged in confidence between the two sets of govt, public safety and order, detention and investigation of an offence or which may lead to an incitement to commit an offence, cabinet papers, minutes of records or divice including legal advice or recommendation made by an officer during the decision making process prior to the executive decision / policy formulation, a disclosure which may result in the breach of privilege of parliament or state legislature or contravention of a lawful order of a court, information supplied by a person under the guarantee of confidentially and when she / he has not consented to its disclosure.

The Right to Information (Amendment) Act 2008 is a good move towards the building of governance in the state. But the condition is peaceful negotiation, consensus and also requires good attention of political parties to clauses that can help in safeguarding the life and property of the people, looking towards the present situation of the state in terms of need and importance of good governance. Lack of revenue records, misuse of govt. funds, disappearances etc. compels us to implement the RTI in an effective manner so that the common man can get benefit more and more. This can only happen when the citizen's of Jammu and Kashmir can fully enjoy the right to information about the revenue records and other govt. departments and the people will exactly know what is going on and what is the rationale of the decisions taken by the govt. or it's functionaries at different levels. The great democratizing power of information will give the people of the state all the chances to effect change and alleviate poverty in ways as they can like.

This is the age of information affluences, technology, with it's capacity for storing, simplifying and communicating information with astonishing speed, has more than ever put information at the centre of development. Information is a global resource of unlimited potential for all. Govt. is a vast store house of this resource. The information kept by govt. holds the memory on the nation and provides a full portrait of it' activities, performance and future plans. In fact information is a public good like air and drinking water. It belongs not to the state, to the govt of the day, but to the public.

The people have right to know every public Act, every thing is done in a public way, by their functionaries. The responsibility of officials to explain their act's is the chief safeguard against oppression and corruption, otherwise lack of information denies people the opportunities to develop their potential to the fullest and realize the full range of their human rights. Individual personality, political and social identity and economic capability are all shaped by the information that is available to each person and to the society at large.

So to conclude we can say drastic changes are needed in the J& K. RTI 2005 to make it more stringent to ensure the dawn of new era in our processes of governance and era of performance and efficiency, an era which will ensure the benefits of growth flow to all sections of our society, an area which will eliminate the corruption, an era which will bring the common man's concern to the heart of all processes.

Agrarian Economy Takes a Downturn

Misplaced priorities are causing havoc to Kashmir's socio-eeconomic life

Agriculture declining in Jammu and Kashmir: Report

Though Agriculture and allied sector contribute 27 per cent to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) during the last five years, it got the least attention from Jammu and Kashmir government. Revealing this, a latest audit scrutiny by Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has pointed out that the net sown area in Jammu and Kashmir declined by 11,000 hectares and irrigated area by 2,000 hectares from 2004-05 to 2006-07. However, instead of initiating any action to arrest this trend, the state government spent on establishment nearly 85 per cent of the Rs 550.68 crore expenditure (excluding centrally sponsored schemes) incurred in Agriculture sector during 2003-08.

“This exorbitant cost of establishment prevented any significant expenditure on crucial areas of agricultural production, thereby affecting the development of agriculture in the state” CAG observed in its latest audit report.

Significantly, this had been so even when agriculture and allied sector contributed 27 per cent to Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP). Of this, agriculture alone accounted for 8-9 per cent of the GSDP during 2006-07.

Pointing out that Director Agriculture in Kashmir attributed the decline in net sown area and irrigated area to urbanization, coming up of railway/road projects and construction of complexes etc, it observed that no steps had been taken by government to increase it.

Even the plan allocation under agriculture and allied services was meagre and it declined further from 9.42 per cent in 2003-04 to 6.03 per cent in 2006-07. The allocation under agriculture sector alone declined from 1.89 to 1.46 per cent during this period.

However, despite the decline in plan allocation in agriculture sector, the funds provided under centrally sponsored schemes were not fully utilized. Citing an instance, it pointed out that under the centrally sponsored integrated scheme of oil seeds, pulses, oil palm and maize, the Government of India had released Rs 85 lakh in May 2004 and Rs 1.43 crore in May 2005. These funds were required by executing agencies during the sowing period (1st and 2nd quarter of the year).

The audit scrutiny revealed that these funds were released by Directors in Jammu and Kashmir Valley after a delay of 4-6 months. As a result, the executing agencies could spend only Rs 1.57 crore thereby leaving an unutilized balance of Rs 70.49 lakh. Consequently, the second instalment of Rs 2.27 crore could not be availed by the department for these years, though an action plan for its release was submitted on time.

Similarly to provide irrigation facilities to the saffron growing area in Konibal and seed multiplication farm at Allowpora in Pulwama district, Rs 22.44 lakh were advanced to Ground Water Division for drilling of tube wells. However, the work has not started as of March 2008, with Director Agriculture Kashmir saying that a team of officers was being constituted to look into the matter and select a suitable piece of land for drilling tube wells.

Even the targets set by Agriculture Department were far below the 10th Plan targets which, as per the National Agriculture Policy 2000 aimed at a growth rate of 4 per cent during the period. Though no reasons were assigned for lowering the targets for the year 2006-07 in respect of wheat and maize, the CAG’s audit scrutiny attributed it to shortfall in distribution of high yielding variety seeds, decline in the rate of yield, poor performance of seed farms, decline in net sown area, non-availability of irrigation facilities etc.

The shortfall in distribution of high yielding varieties of seeds, according to the audit scrutiny, ranged between 49 to 86 per cent in respect of the main crops like paddy, maize and wheat.

The honey production also declined from 6,834.51 quintals in 2004-05 to 2,336.92 quintals in 2006-07 registering a shortfall of 77 per cent in targets fixed for the 10th Plan. Against the targeted distribution of 66,000 bottles of spawn (mushroom) by the department’s laboratory at Jammu during the 10th Plan, their distribution declined from 33,534 bottles in 2003-04 to 30,702 bottled in 2006-07. The decline continued despite department incurring an expenditure of Rs 83.36 lakh on the activities of the laboratory during 2004-07, CAG pointed out.

It further pointed out that the Centre approved establishment of an integrated unit for mushroom development at Jammu under the centrally sponsored Technology Mission with a final ceiling of Rs 50 lakh. The entire amount was released in advance in July 2004. However, a year later, the department approached the National Sericulture Project Division (NSPD) and JK Project Construction Corporation (JKPCC) to take up the work.

The NSPD in March 2006 submitted an estimate of Rs 65.62 lakh for the work, with department finally allotting it to Horticulture Department’s executive engineer in September 2007. This inordinate delay in identifying the executing agency for undertaking the work led to non-establishment of the mushroom farm.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Dying Cricket bat Industry in J&K

The J&K Government can and must do more

Cricket bat industry dying a slow death

Jammu: The cricket bat industry is battling for survival in the state. Jammu region, which boasted of 77 cricket bat manufacturing units a few years back, now, has mere 10 units, while the scenario in Kashmir valley is no different.

One of the strong reasons for the downfall of the prestigious industry in the state, according to exports, is the smuggling of willow and its abundant use in plywood units.

The shortage of willow has increased its prices making it unaffordable for the manufacturing units, experts said.

Another major reason for the closure of the units, the experts said, is the “illegal bat manufacturing units” in and outside the state.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, president, Jammu Sports Good Manufacturers Association, Bansi Lal Gupta said the slump in the trade was due to smuggling of willow, and its excessive use by the plywood units.

“As per the norms willow can only be used for making cricket bats, but the plywood units are using it, throwing all the norms to wind,” he added.

According to him, the shortage of willow has led to sharp increase in its prices. “A truckload of willow that cost Rs 1.5 lakh a year back today comes at Rs 3 lakh,” Gupta said. He said the cricket bat units working legally are on the verge of closure while those operating illegally are thriving in the state.

He rued that the unit holders had engaged their literate children in this trade, but their lives had been ruined.

He said the people, who earlier used to grow willow on their land, are now opting for ‘safeda’ (eucalyptus) as it takes only 7 to 8 years to grow as compared to willows that take 20 years.

He said if the government supports cricket bat industry it can reduce the unemployment problem in the state by 25 per cent. “On top of it, these are not polluting industries. It is entirely hand work,” he averred.

He said the National Conference government under Farooq Abdullah had imposed a ban on export of willow from the state, but the ban remained effective only for a couple of months. Later, smuggling of willow undid all the government’s effort to promote the industry. “There is nothing left for our next generation. There is nobody to listen to our woes,” he said.

Nazir Ahmed Salroo, President of Cricket Bat Manufacturers Association, revealed out of a total of 300 cricket bat manufacturing units in Kashmir valley, half of them have shut their units.

He lamented that the plywood units were not even allowing willow trees to attain the size necessary for manufacture of cricket bats, while the government has failed to initiate any action against them.

He said the plywood units should use poplar wood for manufacturing purpose. He alleged that the government had no policy for the industry, adding that if corrective measures were not taken the remaining units would also meet the same fate.

Muhammad Majid of Sports Good Manufacturers Association too blamed the “rampant smuggling” of willow and the plywood factories for the plight of the cricket bat industry. “We have no alternative to Kashmir willow, which is second only to the one found in England. However, the way willow is being plundered in the valley our trade would not survive for more than one or two years,” he added.

Majid said on one hand, the state government is making tall claims of promoting the industry, and on the other, it has no plantation programme.

“Thousands of acres of forest land are lying vacant which can brought under willow plantation,” he said.

He said chief minister Omar Abdullah should come forward to rescue the dying industry, which was once considered to be the image of the state.

(Greater Kashmir)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Kashmir's Roads are a Disgrace - CM Reacts

The new Administration seems to be listening

CM forms task force for speedy work of city roads

Jammu: Chief minister (CM) Omar Abdullah has set up a task force headed by Cabinet minister Ali Muhammad Sagar to gear up the work on road projects in Srinagar City.

An official handout said the task force would monitor “acquisition of land and structures and to facilitate removal of other bottlenecks in the construction, up-gradation and improvement of ongoing R&B projects in the summer capital, especially Syed Mirakshah and Khaniyar-Zadibal-Pandach roads.”

Abdullah was reviewing progress of these projects at a high-level meeting which among others was attended by Sagar.

Abdullah said the expansion of twin cities of Srinagar and Jammu calls for a holistic and integrated approach to address the civic demands, upgrading basic amenities and managing traffic and transport.

“A scientific approach is required to be taken to address all issues that have crept in by unbalanced growth and extension of cities during last many years”, he said, adding a policy to correct the wrongs and accommodate justified demands should be put into place to manage the affairs of providing basic amenities to the citizens.

“We have to think of satellite cities for Srinagar and Jammu to accommodate the futuristic civic requirements and the growth of population and economic activities”, he added.

While executing road projects, a realistic approach should be adopted for providing compensation to the affected even as their rehabilitation should be a priority, the CM told R&B officials.

A separate Collector will be exclusively provided for Syed Mirakshah road so that compensation cases could be cleared within shortest possible time and work on road projects is carried forward meticulously.

Earlier, Sagar highlighted the need for early completion of various road projects launched in the City some years back. He said the work on various such projects has either come to the standstill or is going at a snail’s pace.

“The need of hour is that the work on these projects is accelerated to complete these in shortest possible time”, Sagar said, adding ample funds are already available for such projects and there is a need to put in efforts by the concerned agencies to speed up the work.

The meeting among others was attended by financial commissioner, Planning and Development, S. L. Bhat, principal secretary to CM, Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, commissioner/secretary, Finance, Sudhanshu Pandey, commissioner/ secretary, R&B, Mehboob Iqbal, commissioner/secretary, Housing and Urban Development, Naseema Lanker, chief engineer, R&B, Kashmir, Mohammad Shafi Mir.

The chief engineer, R&B gave detailed status of these road projects and said that Syed Mirakshah Road Project from Dalgate to Zakura is being executed in seven sectors namely Dalgate-Khonekhan, Khonekhan-Rainawari, Rainawari-Saidakadal, Saidakadal-Ashaibagh, Ashaibagh-Hazratbal, Hazratbal-Habak and Habak to Zakura Crossing.

He said Rs 55 crore have been released to R&B Department for the construction of this road project.

● Omar chairs high-level meet
● Cabinet minister Ali Muhammad
● Sagar speaks of snail pace, standstill on road projects
● Is made to head Task Force for monitoring
● Separate collector for Syed Mirakh Shah road compensation cases

(Greater Kashmir)

Can This "Patient" be Revived?

An editorial in the Greater Kashmir restates what should be the number one challenge in the valley but always gets second billing

Calling Civil Society

The most vexed problem after the “Kashmir issue” the state is confronted with is preserving the Dal Lake. Is talking about its preservation whipping a dead horse? Reams and reams of newsprint might have been consumed during the past three decades for highlighting the threats of extinction that most of our bodies have been facing. Scores of NGO’s might have been formed and funded by various ministries during the period for launching campaigns for the protection of Dal, Nageen and other lakes in and around Srinagar city but nothing seems to be working for initiating a peoples movement for the protection of water bodies. The government undoubtedly created an authority for protection of the lakes and the water bodies and pumped billions of the rupees in these projects but seen in right perspective the authority as well as other organizations have so far failed in protecting them. A couple of years back the Jammu and Kashmir High Court intervened in a big way and made the government to take some drastic measures for ensuring preservation and protection of the Dal Lake. There can be no denying that initially the government launched a massive drive for removing the illegal structures around and inside the lake but as time ticked on the drive not only lost its inertia but slowed down to a naught. And in the wake of agitation over the allotment of land to Amarnath Shrine Board reconstruction of unauthorized and illegal structures was started and it continued till it came under media gaze. Had the state administration shown will and determination of launching a ‘willing-campaign’ after being fully empowered by the court there would have been no further encroachments inside and around the lake and by now some portion of the encroached lake would have been restored.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court on Monday broadened the scope of the Dal Lake case and passed a series of orders directing the government to come up with detailed reports about four lakes of Srinagar city that include Dal, Nageen, Anchar and Khushalsar. What speaks volumes about the nonchalance of the organization and authorities that they have not so far provided the basic data about these water bodies to the court and whatever information has been provided is archival? It is astonishing that the state government is relying on a survey conducted in 1986 which states that there are 6000 families and 2500 structures inside the lake. The Dal Development Authority in routine should have computed the latest figures and placed before the court the existing position. As is indicative from the elaborate court directions the court intends to take a comprehensive view not only of the Dal Lake but all other water bodies in the city. Truth, while Dal and Nageen lake are gasping for breaths the Anchar, Khushalsar and Barinambal are as good as dead. While the court ‘has not issued any fresh directions on the encroachments but has directed that any officer would be directed sternly if found permitting people to raise any construction in breach of court direction’ what is required is the pro-active role by the civil society for preserving and protecting the water bodies. It cannot be denied that the corruption in the administration has played a devastating role in the destruction of the lakes but lack of civic sense has also contributed to the problem in a big way. The print and electronic media has been playing a substantive role in the spread of environmental consciousness in people but in our society the pulpit continues to influence the society. Both the civil society and the pulpit will have to play a role in saving the water bodies of the state.

Saving Kashmir's Forests

Jehangir examines a sad reality in Kashmir

(Mr. Jehangir Rashid Malik, 36, was born in Srinagar, and did his primary schooling at the Green Land Educational Institute in Hawal, Srinagar. He studies at the Sri Partap Higher Secondary School for classes XI and XII, and completed his Bachelor's degree through distance mode from the University of Kashmir. He subsequently graduated from the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir with a Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. As a journalist, he is associated with the Civil Society, a New Delhi magazine, and is the Editor of Kashmir Plus, a news and feature based portal of Srinagar. He began his career in journalism as a correspondent with the Kashmir Times, and later worked at the Daily Etalaat (English) and as a news editor with the Daily Khidmat (English). He has been awarded the Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award for story writing by the Charkha Development Network, New Delhi, and has received fellowships from the Action Aid India, the Centre for Science and Environment, and the National Foundation for India, all based in New Delhi. In his leisure time, Mr. Malik likes watching cricket and listening to radio programs especially old melodies sung by legends, Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar Ganguly.)

Preserving the Forests

Timber smuggling has always been an issue in the forests as well as wildlife areas of Kashmir valley. There are instances where the people living adjacent to the forests or wildlife areas have prevailed upon the Department of Wildlife Protection to take over the possession of forests or wildlife so that the trees are not cut anymore.

Achabal wildlife sanctuary is a very good example in this respect. The people living around this sanctuary impressed upon the wildlife officials to play their part in taking back the wildlife area which was lying with the Forests Department. “When the Department of Wildlife Protection came into existence this sanctuary forming part of the huge wildlife as well as forest cover was taken over by them. However, due to some reasons known to the government, the possession of sanctuary was handed over to Department of Forests,” says Abdul Razaq, a senior citizen of Achabal.

After observing that damage has been caused to trees in the wildlife area, the residents of the area approached the government. The government took a serious note of the same and following this the possession of demarcated wildlife area was handed back to Department of Wildlife Protection, Razaq adds.“The Forest Department has the authority to sanction timber to the people and it is here the problem lies. The animals present in Achabal wildlife sanctuary would have come down in the human habitation once the trees would have been cut. That would have caused havoc in the area, but I am glad the government has done the needful by handing back the possession of wildlife sanctuary to the Department of Forest Protection,” said Ghulam Mohi-ud-din, another senior citizen of the area.

Praising the role of Imtiyaz Lone, Wildlife Warden-South Kashmir, Abdul Rehman Raina, an employee of Department of Wildlife Protection says that Lone played a pivotal role in restoring the status of Achabal wildlife sanctuary. “Very few people were ready to take back the possession of Achabal wildlife sanctuary going by the damage caused to the trees. However, it goes to the credit of our wildlife warden who took this bold step.” Says Raina.

Ghulam Qadir, a forest guard at Overa wildlife sanctuary in Islamabad district says that during the initial years of militancy the timber smugglers visited the area and cut the trees. He added that the situation improved once the things started to fall at right places. “Due to fear and apprehension in the beginning of militancy very few people would visit the wildlife sanctuary, but this provided a chance to the elements who wanted to cause damage to forest cover. It was at that time most of the trees came down in the wildlife areas, not to talk of forest areas,” said Qadir.

Some people living in the vicinity of wildlife areas think that trees and other kinds of plantation belong to them. They would not bother about the consequences associated with the cutting of trees and would cut them whenever they get a chance. “See we would cooperate with you at every moment, but when it comes to our need we would not hesitate in cutting down the trees. We have been living in this area for centuries and we have been cutting down trees for our own needs as and when required,” says Mohammad Azim, who lives near the Lachipora wildlife sanctuary in North Kashmir while talking to the guards of the sanctuary. Like Azim there are many others who think that it is the government which has to be blamed for the mess vis-à-vis cutting of trees in forests as well as wildlife areas.

“Well the government does not provide any source of energy, like kerosene, to us and in absence of the same how can we cook our meals. We are forced to cut down trees and this would continue unless and until we are provided with alternative sources of energy. The matters have been made worse due to lack of electricity in areas falling close to forests and wildlife areas,” say a group of residents of Limber.

Giving a new dimension to timber smuggling issue and cutting of trees, Mohammad Amin Wani, forest guard at Achabal wildlife sanctuary says that people are forced to resort to malpractices as they don’t get the timber at their doorsteps. “The forest department has the mandate of sanctioning the timber in favour of people, but it has been observed only the blue-eyed persons get the timber from depots at cheap rates. The ones who are left out have to look for options and they would not hesitate in approaching people who are on a lookout for cutting the trees in forests,” said Amin.

Mohammad Akbar Lone, a resident of Baba Gail the last village near the Limber wildlife sanctuary feels that people should not be blamed for cutting of trees. He cites the non-availability of energy sources as the reason and wants the government to do something in this respect.

“Basically most of the people living close to forests and wildlife areas are illiterate and very few among them know the importance of forest cover. If the government provides them the alternative sources of energy they may get motivated to save forests,” says Akbar.

Abdul Rashid Lone, a resident of this village says that ever since the wildlife department has taken over the control of wildlife much of the forest cover has been preserved. He says that the field staff of the forest department used to mislead the people that it would be difficult for them to move in wildlife areas since wild animals would pose a threat.

“This is a myth, but believe me there are still many who believe in this. However, the situation has improved as the literacy rate has gone up, but still a lot has to be done. Some unscrupulous forest department officials who were posted here and did not get any chance to lay hands at the green gold have launched a disinformation campaign against the wildlife department and their officials,” he said.

Breaking the Gender Ceiling

Kavita discusses the UGC’s initiative on nurturing women managers in higher education in the State

(Dr. Kavita Suri was born in Jammu and did her primary schooling there. She received two Bachelor's degrees from the University of Jammu, one in Science from the the Government Women's College, and the other in Education from the Government College of Education. She completed Master's degrees in Education, followed by English (both from the University of Jammu), and in Masss Communication from Guru Jambeshwar University in Hisar. She finished her doctorate degree from the Department of Education of the University of Jammu. In between she also pursued diploma courses in creative writing, business management, journalism and distance education from the Indira Gandhi National Open University. She started his journalism career with the Daily Excelsior, and over the years worked at various print media newspapers like the Kashmir Times, The Tribune, and more recently, at the Statesman. She is currently the assistant director of the Centre for Adult and Continuing Education and Extension at the University of Jammu. She has written a book, entitled, "Impact of Violence on Girls' Education in Kashmir", as well as contributed articles to changing political landscapes and gender inequalities in Jammu and Kashmir. She has received the British Chevening Print Journalists'fellowship, Charkha-Sanjoy Ghose media fellowship, and the U.S. State Department International Visitors Exchange fellowship. She has made numerous presentations, conducted multiple workshops, and is affiliated with numerous social organizations.)

Gender-just system

Only few days ago, India celebrated International Women’s Day with much fanfare. Sadly, March 8, perhaps is the only day when the Indian planners and policy makers think about the betterment of Indian women. Women issues are still not on the priority list of the government in India.

In case if higher education things are clearly indicating that women are not getting their due share. While in rest of the world, women occupy 50 % of the positions in higher education, in India, the figures have gone up from mere 10 % to 40 % in the past few years. So there is still much that needs to be done in this regard.

Perhaps it is in this backdrop that the University Grants Commission (UGC) has started SAM (Sensitization, Awareness and Motivation) workshops for “Capacity Building of Women Managers in Higher Education”, all over the country in the institutes of higher learning since 2002. The objective is to train women holding middle level and higher positions in higher education in the five day workshop, so that they could catalyze the system to move towards a gender-just system, by bringing their perspectives into decision-making.

In Jammu & Kashmir, where there are hardly few women at the higher level in higher education, a five day UGC SAM (Sensitizing, creating Awareness and building Motivation (SAM), for women teachers in higher education workshop on the theme “Capacity building of Women Managers in Higher Education” was recently organized by the Centre for Women’s Studies and P.G Home Science (CRM&E), Government College for Women, Parade, Jammu.

The participants constituted middle level women in higher education who have the potential to occupy such positions in the near future. A total of 35 participants drawn from universities and colleges of Northern India, mainly Jammu region, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab were sensitized and empowered through this workshop. Dr. Pam Rajput and Professor Sushila Kaushik who represented UGC as the Member National Consultative Committee were the Core Group Resource Persons of the workshop. Dr. Poonam Dhawan, Director, Centre for Women Studies, University of Jammu was the Regional Coordinator (NWR) and Dr. Shashi Kaul was the local Coordinator. The objective of the workshop was focused by Prof. Reicha Tanwar, Regional Coordinator North Zone who emphasized on the contribution of women faculty in higher education to become competent managers and to facilitate girls to pursue higher education in a conducive and gender sensitive environment

“The University Grants Commission has been emphasizing gender equity and inclusion in higher education policies and curricula, and this is clearly articulated in the XIth Plan of the UGC. To achieve this objective, one area of concern is the need to increase the number of women in decision-making positions in higher education and develop a gender friendly environment,” informed Dr Shashi Kaul while elaborating on the objective of the workshop.

The scenario is grim for women in higher education in India. There are still many biases against women. Of the total 1, 25,212 academic positions in Indian universities, only 28,310 have been occupied by women in India while in Commonwealth countries, out of a total of 602 Vice Chancellors, 54 are women. Though Southern India has still some women VCs, northern India has none.

“If this is the scenario, we should talk more about women in higher education,” asserts Prof Pam Rajput adding that the trained women managers in higher education institutions could well complement the efforts of men for a qualitative development of the system and ensure gender equity.

The UGC has received one crore as additional grant for carrying forward this programme to every nook and corner of the country which has been divided into nine regional centres, each headed by CGRP who is experienced in the field of women studies,” informs Prof. Susheela Kaushik, Core Group Resource Person (CGRP), National Consultative Committee, UGC while elaborating over the measures taken country-wise for the capacity building of women managers in higher education.

The UGC took the initiative in 1997; first workshop was conducted in 2003 and till now already 129 workshops have been conducted all over the country. From October 2008 to March 31, 2009, the UGC intends to conduct 50 more workshops

“We have a set of manuals for SAM Workshops which have been fully contextualized and rewritten from an earlier exercise done by the Commonwealth Secretariat, London, for the Commonwealth higher education institutions, which also face a similar glass ceiling. The substantive manuals include Women’s Perspectives, Women and Governance, Women and Academic Leadership, Women and Personal and Professional Roles and Women and Research,” informs Professor Poonam Dhawan.

“Through these workshops, we also identify some of them as future trainers so that they can take on the role of coordinators and trainers,” adds Assistant Coordinator Prof. Nidhi Kotwal .

The SAM workshops are followed by ToTs (training of the trainers). From among the participants of the SAM Workshops, some of them are selected as ‘potential’ trainers. They undergo a programme of Training of Trainers (ToTs) on the participative methodology in transacting the above manuals to be applied by them when they themselves have to conduct the Workshops.

Can Kashmir Valley Become Another Silicon Valley?

Shahid hosts an important 2-day meeting bringing Indian expertise (NASSCOM) and Kashmiri finance (J&K Bank) together to develop an ambitious plan to equip 5000 students for global IT industry every year

(Dr. Shahid Rasool Bhat, 44, was born in Handwara. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Science from the University of Kashmir, and Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Department of Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir. Subsequently, he joined the University staff and with funding from the University Grants Commission (UGC), created numerous educational documentaries. He was selected as a Fullbright Scholar by the U.S. government in 1998 and completed a Master's degree in Communication Technology from the Syracuse University, New York, in 1999. He completed his Ph.D. in Mass Communication from the University of Kashmir in 2008. In May 2005 he took over as the Director of the Educational Multi Media Research Centre (EMMRC), and now is also the head of the MERC. He has numerous publications and documentaries to his credit, and has spoken at numerous seminars and workshops related to audio-visual and media advances. He has also received numerous awards related to his work.)

Final Day: JK Bank offers Citizens’ Initiative to redefine IT policy for the State

Suhail Ahmad (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Revealing its “Mission Kashmir”, IT consortium National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) on the concluding day of the J&K IT Conclave reiterated its commitment to equip Kashmiri youth with skills needed to succeed in services sector like IT, tourism, health services, finance, and education. The assertion was followed with an offer from J&K Bank to sponsor a “Citizens’ Initiative” involving Kashmir University, NASSCOM and J&K Bank to redefine the IT policy for the State

The two-day conclave was organized by NASSCOM in collaboration with Kashmir University’s Electronic Multimedia Research Centre (EMMRC) and Media Education Research Centre (MERC).

In his keynote address, Chairman NASSCOM, Dr Ganesh Natarajan said J&K holds enormous potential. “And I am 100 per cent sure that the potential can be tapped,” Natarajan said. “Our plan is to see that every year at least 5000 students from the State join the international IT industry,” he said.

He said NASSCOM endeavours to equip Kashmiri youth with skills needed to succeed in services sector like IT, tourism, health services, finance, education, BPO's etc.
“This is our real Mission Kashmir,” he said.

Chairman J&K Bank, Dr Haseeb Drabu in his presidential address expressed concern that the State has not been able to make much head way despite some good initiatives regarding the skill development and employment of local youth.

He attributed the failure to the pre-conceived notion that the models successful elsewhere could be employed as much effectively in the State. Dr Drabu said unfortunately the companies have announced plans without making efforts to understand the state as an economy and as a civil society. “The companies come here with the promise of providing thousands of jobs. How will they create so many jobs in a short span without considering specific requirements of the place,” he said.

He also warned against the “trivialization of technology” saying that the technology has become almost synonymous with employment. “IT needs to be looked as a process rather than as an industry. It needs to be looked as an enabler of business,” Drabu said.

Stating that J&K Bank is the only listed company in the State, Drabu said the other industries have not grown over the years due to ad hoc measures for their upgradation. “We need to know why our businesses do not grow beyond a point, he asked “We don’t need to invest in business of technology. Rather we should invest in technology of business,” he said.

Stressing on the need assessment of the State, Drabu said, “Need of the hour is to help the small and medium businesses in Kashmir to grow.”

While listing the steps taken by J&K Bank in creating an enabling atmosphere for the purpose, Drabu offered to sponsor a “Citizens’ Initiative” involving KU, NASSCOM and J&K Bank to redefine the IT policy for the State.

Earlier, welcoming the participants, Director EMMRC and Head MERC, Shahid Rasool said the use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in higher education is imperative in contemporary times.

He said the academia and industry should join hands for mutual good and for the good of society. “Announcing new universities and colleges is not enough, it is to be matched with creation of quality infrastructure and capable and trained manpower,” Shahid said, adding, “We must make use of new technology, for taking quality education to the students especially in the rural areas.”

In his address, Registrar KU, Prof Syed Fayaz Ahmad said the aim of the programme is to make education economically relevant, and to make it an engine of change and development in true sense. He stressed the need to bridge the gap between the education system and the need of the times. “Industry is moving ahead but the education system is not able to catch up with it. In fact education should be ahead of the times,” Fayaz said. “The purpose of the conclave was to formulate strategy to transform educational system with industry and government support,” he added.

The programme will be implemented right from framing the courses in view of the industry demands, providing the students industry exposure coupled with skill development and training to placement in the companies. He said the programme will not be confined to the Kashmir University, and will be extended throughout the State.

Kashmir University has been chosen as the nodal agency by NASSCOM and the State government for programme implementation. “KU will be playing pivotal role in bringing the transformation in the society,” Fayaz said.

Speaking about the potential of IT, chairman NASSCOM said the 64 billion dollar industry, which constitutes about 6 per cent of India’s GDP, has grown 15 times in the last 10 years.

Stating that IT sector provides a level playing field, he said, “There is disparity within India with south ahead of north India as far as growth is concerned. But the IT sector provides the opportunity to equalize this growth.”

Natarajan said during a business conclave held in Mumbai some time back J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah had told the industry leaders though time has not come for them to invest in J&K, but he wants them to come to Kashmir and groom the skills of the youth.

Mumbai based film-maker of Kashmiri origin, Ashok Koul turned nostalgic reciting some verses about his attachment with Kashmir and its people. Koul’s presentation focussed on Animation and Gaming as career opportunities. He said animation finds use in entertainment, engineering, aviation, health care, advertising and other fields, and thereby provides good employment opportunities. “According to the latest survey, animation industry will grow from the current Rs 12,000 crore to Rs 40,000 crore. Global animation market is worth 50-70 billion dollars, while Indian market is to touch 1.5 billion dollars,” he said.

Rajesh Gopal, vice president MeritTrac, a skills assessment company, talked about the need for enhancing employability skills.

His presentation deliberated about NAC-Tech, a skills assessment programme for engineering students devised by the IT industry to benchmark entry-level skills. The programme evaluates candidates on their foundation skills like communication, analytical abilities as well as technical skills.

The NAC-Tech programme is aimed at addressing the demand-supply gap by helping students understand the requirements of the industry, assess and improve their skills, and tap employment opportunities.

Dr Uma Ganesh, CEO- Global talent Track spoke about the use of IT potential by integrating skills with education curriculum “so that by the time student come out of institutes, they are already equipped with necessary set of skills needed for employment.”

Producer EMMRC, Ajaz-ul-Haque anchored the proceedings.

First day: NASSCOM to enhance employability of Kashmiri youth

Srinagar: Information Technology (IT) sector may well pave way for solution to the unemployment crisis in Jammu and Kashmir. NASSCOM (National Association of Software and Services Companies) is all set to undertake a comprehensive project to hone the skills of Kashmiri youth and also prepare them for employment in the IT and IT enabled service sectors.

According to NASSCOM chairman Dr Ganesh Natarajan, the global trade body aims to benefit as many people as possible in Kashmir with its employability training programmes.

“Over the next few months, we will set up a format for the programme. To begin with we will take 500 students for training and placement. In July we will meet chief minister Omar Abdullah and brief him about the action taken report,” he said during his key-note address at the inaugural function of the two-day J&K IT Conclave organized in collaboration with Kashmir University’s Electronic Multimedia Research Centre (EMMRC) and Media Education Research Centre (MERC) here on Monday.

Deliberating on the status of IT industry in India and its unparalleled growth, he said the sector has employed 22 lakh people directly, and 60 lakh through indirect employment.

Stating that IT and IT enabled services constitute 5.5 per cent to India’s GDP, he went on to say that the sector can still employ four to five times more youth in future.

Natarajan expressed hope for development of Srinagar and Jammu on the pattern of Pune and Hyderabad, which are known for their industrial growth especially in software sector.

“I would like to see Srinagar as part of the next phase of IT growth,” he said.
NASSCOM chairman also deliberated on the “learner centric” model of programme implementation explaining the awareness, employability, employment and professional development stages.

While highlighting the benefits of dual vocational system, he emphasised on the internship programmes by which the students can be groomed for various industries even while they are studying.

Earlier, welcoming the participants Director EMMRC and Head MERC, Dr Shahid Rasool emphasised the need for linkages between industry and academia to help hone the talent of student youth and also help them secure employment.

“Institutes cannot expect to excel or even survive by remaining isolated. Interaction between institutes and industry is imperative for the benefit of both,” he said.

Registrar of Kashmir University, Prof Syed Fayaz Ahmad informed the gathering that the idea for industry-academia collaboration was mooted by chief minister Omar Abdullah, and thanked NASSCOM for responding to the call. “NASSCOM and the state government have chosen Kashmir University as a nodal agency for the programme, and we will extend the benefits to other institutes as well,” he said.

Earlier in the day, NASSCOM team interacted with the varsity officials about the various aspects of the programme.

Other members of the visiting team also addressed the inaugural session of the conclave. CEO Harvard Research Centre, Anjali Raina spoke about the need for bridging the gap between learning and employability by “accelerating the learning.”

Rajesh Gopal, vice president MeritTrac, a skills assessment company, deliberated on the employability enhancement model.

Lavanya Jayaram, India Country Head- Zensar Technologies also spoke about the IT potential of India adding that 2.23 lakh jobs were added in the sector in 2008 alone, and 60 lakh more jobs will be added by 2020. She also deliberated on the use of technology for producing more trained workforce

Eishan Raina and Sandhya Chintala also spoke on the occasion.

NASSCOM is a global trade body with more than 1200 members, which include both Indian and multinational companies. NASSCOM's member and associate member companies are broadly in the business of software development, software services, software products, consulting services, BPO services, e-commerce and web services, engineering services offshoring and animation and gaming. NASSCOM’s membership base constitutes over 95 per cent of the industry revenues in India and employs over 2.24 million professionals.

Archeological Discoveries on the Banks of Lidder

Iqbal shows how Pahalgam is indeed special

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 48, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numastics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Terracotta’s of Pahalgam

The picturesque Pahalgam valley was the first place of Kashmir which had revealed evidences of earliest human existences, besides the early Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim monuments

Pahalgam means village of shepherds. It is the most significant tourist resort of south Kashmir situated at the upper coarse of Nallah Lidder. For general tourists, Pahalgam is a treasure of natural heritages where gushing Nallahs, pine trees, evergreen forests, glorious meadows and slopes offer superb enjoyment to lakhs of tourists every year. However, for tourists of intellectual taste Pahalgam offers something more in terms of its history and archaeology. It is the first place of Kashmir where from geologists and archaeologists have found the earliest evidences of human civilizations. The first archaeological survey of this valley was undertaken in 1928. It was a European traveler called Grinliton a German national. He came across a hand made boulder on the Lidder bed.

This traveler was followed by another two experts, Peterra and Paterson in the year 1935. Prof. H.D. Samkaliya who explored this valley in 1969 discovered the first Paleolithic evidences at Pahalgam. The Pahalgam valley proved more historic in 1979, when Fida Mohammad Hassnain (noted historian and then Director Archaeology) and Mohammad Hussain Makhdoomi, his assistant found or Buddhist site of Kushan period at Liddro, on the outskirts of Pahalgam town.

The discovery was made on the left bank of Nallah Lidder in a forest plateau called locally Hionar. The excavator of the site writes in his excavation note, “The three dome shaped structures represent the remains of stupas which show that they formed part of the structural accompaniments in baked bricks indicating an extensive Buddhist settlement of an earlier period. The upper layer of one of the remains carried burnt earth which points to the burning of the edifice during ancient times.”

Prof. S.L. Shali in his monumental book, Kashmir history and archaeology through the ages writes about this site, “Though none of the remains have been excavated, probably from the surface or from the exposure of the pavement around these stupas, some moulded terracotta tiles have been recovered. The tiles carry motifs and forms of expression which are of far reaching implicating so far as the motifs on such tiles of Harwan are concerned. The human figures, animal and other motifs are crude, devoid of luster and skill which takes the site earlier than the known and famous site of Harwan.”

The motifs stamped on these tiles, besides charka (wheel of law), the symbol of Buddhist philosophy, the other motifs being unique in their character are the human beings in their usual Kushana dress and in their jovial mood with hands raised up in token of their happiness over the hunt which includes the running deer after it has been struck by the former. The other representation is of winged lions in combat.

During the trial of the site in 1979, the tiles and pavement were recovered at the site. The site was identified as a Buddhist site built here during the period of Kanishka the famous Kushan king. Researches believe that this Buddhist site has been burnt down by Huns who followed Kushans.

The numismatic evidences recovered from this area suggest that, like other parts of Kashmir valley, Huns had not speared the Pahalgam valley. Archaeologists have come a across evidences of ancient coins of Tormana, the Hun king from the Pahalgam valley. The finding of Toermana copper coins from Pahalgam valley suggests the existence of triple power in the area.

Besides, Hionar, the Kushana evidences have also been found from Mamal and Donipathar sites of Pahalgam valley. All these artifacts have been preserved in SPS Museum at Lal Mandi, Srinagar. Most of the finds of Pahalgam valley and its find spots are undocumented and are still to face any systematic excavations. If systematic excavation of Pahalgam valley are undertaken it is expected that many mysteries of its cultural past would be solved.

The artifacts already found from this valley should also be documented and catalogued. Once there was a proposal before the state authorities to set up an archaeological site museum at Pahalgam which could house and exhibit the heritage of the Pahalgam valley and of its archaeological and architectural sites, but due to reasons best known to authorities the Pahalgam site museum could not get materialised.

This is despite the fact that Pahalgam valley is the first place of Kashmir which had revealed evidences of earliest human existences, besides the early Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim monuments.

Can Education Lead to Moral and Ethical Decay?

Javaid examines the dilemma facing the contemporary society in Kashmir

(Professor Javaid Iqbal Bhat, 30, was born in Anantnag. He completed his Bachelor's degree from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar, and his M.A. and M. Phil. from the Centre for English Studies in the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He was nominated for the President of India Gold Medal for the highest Final Grade Point Average (FGPA) in the Masters Programme, and got Distinction for his M. Phil. dissertation on Salman Rushdie's "Shalimar the Clown." He currently teaches as a permanent faculty in the Post Graduate Department of English at the South Campus of the University of Kashmir.)

Ethics and Education

Kashmir is sitting on the cusp of acceptance in the field of education. The map has already been drawn out, our region and population was missing. Not long back acceptance was rarely heard, and cusp-what is that? The only way neurons connected to literacy and education were awakened was when in the Morning Assemblies of schools question was tossed; which state of India has the highest literacy rate?

The answer Kerala was preceded by a stupid self demeaning giggle and followed by, how much? And hundred percent alerted both ears of the shocked listeners. Hundred percent?! Interiorly the voices knocking hard were; how much then is the literacy rate here? And why that much only? The search for answers naturally induced a sweet sleep as the passage was made through the ‘musical notes’ of the conflict, and a host of other (usual) excuses. (By the way ten cheers for one who said we live in a paradise of excuses. Excusistan, he might have said with a bit of hint.)

Finally, though the acceptance and recognition is near. The clouds are receding, and light has come to shine on the roofs of schools. From a flimsy percentage hovering in the region between thirty and forty, the rate of literacy has nearly doubled. Earlier the “literate” label was more or less limited to the landed, clerical gentry and their blue eyed wards. With the redistribution of land and the widespread diffusion of scriptures, the label too saw a vertical and horizontal expansion across class and caste divides. No less significant role in this regard was performed by the missionary schools, and the diverse school networks functioning under various persuasions. That is why the percentage of literates has risen sharply to around sixty five percent. As per the National Sample Survey the figure for 2008 and 2009 might be far higher than above. Something around seventy five percent. This is also because “93 percent of the population of Jammu and Kashmir has access to a school within the range of one kilometer,” as per the Director of School Education.

Broadly, the sweeping shift from a half hearted movement towards the institutes which return the members of a community with the “literate” tag to a full blooded embrace of the institutional framework should be linked with the spirit of liberalization.(Also in that is hidden the story of the degraded teacher, and his profession. Money entered in a big way after the onset of liberalization. He saw himself bound by compulsions of alary as a next door clerk hoarded sackfuls.) That unleashed the freedom of choice with the help of a market that knew few rules other than its own. Nevertheless the acceptance border has been breached. The state can proudly count herself as one of the frontline states in the sector of education. The density of English medium schools is more than most of the other states of India. Fine to this extent. But has this bourgeoning rise been consistent with the growth of ethical component? In other words does Kashmir sit on the cusp of ethical acceptance?

Why am I asking this question? Remember, to begin with, the use here is being made of ethics and not morality. For morality is specific, ethics is inclined towards ‘general’. Morality is particular; ethics is oriented towards the abstract. Morality is exclusive while as ethics is inclusive. Hence ethics and not the rigid, fixed morality. This ‘common minimum’ constituting the ethics has always found a good company with education. From Plato’s idealistic romance to our own age education has chosen to sit close to the appeal of ethics. Even the Latin origin of education i.e. educare means “to guide”, “to train.” This is especially so in our society where the ethical demand on education has never ceased to grow weak. Remove ethics and education becomes the sum total of isolated, disjointed mechanical acts. The blood is squeezed out and nerves throb with air. That is precisely the case in the paradigm of our huge leap in the field of education. More the number of schools even more is the deschooling with reference to the fundamental ethics. Crime far from being the exception is the norm. Crookedness is the reigning currency in the officialdom. Education is now another name for assimilating the skills of mean short cuts. Of ruining the system from within. How fast you can turn the tables (leave alone the technique used. Those questions pester the illiterates!) and earn the pearls of glory and reputation to be subsequently flaunted before the family, friends and relatives, and of course the “losers” and unlettered wayfarers, is the gripping preoccupation. That makes so many ask whether illiteracy and uneducatedness was not far pleasing than the stinking cesspool of education? To what avail is education when it cannot impart bare minimum of good behavior? Less aware one is, lesser still is the chance of refined manipulation of the system. This is not a futile intervention, given the deep ethical decomposition surrounding us from all sides. If the encirclement of pessimism is stopped there, then there is a reason to ask why the ethical dimension is so narrow as to evoke plain rejection of the pattern of education.

The thing is that ethics does not work on spontaneous principles. It needs to be activated, operated and implemented. Similarly education on her side cannot work independently to improve the ethical content of the society. The connecting element between the two is the due process of law. Such a due process of law in line with the core infrastructure of education and the commonly shared ethical framework can lend meaning and purpose to words like order and discipline. When freed from the “burden” of punishment arising from the rule of law, ethics and education are subjected to individual interpretations. Fracturing the trinity of Law, Ethics and Education into mutually exclusive spheres is a sure way leading inside the realm of anxiety and confusion.

So the point is clear. Education is a gift, not a guarantee. It is a parcel holding the promise of a good future but not a prize that should carry away the mind into cartwheels of giddy pomp and show. It is not an automatic ticket leading to the affirmation and consolidation of basic ethical principles. It has to coalesce with other areas to deliver in a meaningful manner. It is no good having seventy percent literacy and thirty percent order and discipline (and may be, if you will, ten per cent goodness).The other way round is then far more savorable. And something which ought to be emphatically encouraged. For education and intelligence are poor substitutes for goodness, charity and kindness. Had education and intelligence on her own packed human beings with humane qualities then Hitler’s Final Solution would not have been written by people holding doctoral degrees. It has to be necessarily beefed up by a sound ethical and judicial system.

Saving the Kashmiri Stag also known as "Hangul"

Hangul population has dwindled from 3,000-5,000 in early 1900's, to 150 today

Govt starts census on endangered Hangul

Srinagar: The Government has started a fresh census on the Kashmir stag or Hangul which is on the verge of extinction mainly due to human interference in its habitat.

The census is considered to be imperative to identify threats to the Hangul and formulate a strategy to save the animal. Scientifically known as Cervus elaphus hanglu, Hangul is one of the world’s most endangered species. It is the only surviving race of the Red Deer family of Europe in the sub-continent. The animal is battling for its survival in its last bastion, the Dachigam National Park and its adjoining forest ranges.

Popular for its magnificent antlers with 11 to 16 points, Hangul’s population has diminished from 3000-5000 in from early 1900s to below 150.

The Department of Wildlife in technical collaboration with the Wildlife Trust of India and the Wildlife SOS has started the census in Zabarwan and adjoining forest ranges. The census is being assisted by experts and volunteers from Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences, Veterinary College of Science Shuhama, Zoology department of Kashmir University, Forestry College Wadoora and an NGO named Peace.

Officials said the Hangul population estimation is being conducted in Dachigam National Park, Dara, Nishat, Brain, Cheshmashahi, Khonmoh, Khrew, Wangath wildlife areas besides adjoining forest areas like Akhal, Najwan, Surfrao, Kulan, Mammar, Ganiwan falling in Sindh Forest Division.

The Wildlife Warden, Central, Rashid Naqash, said the population size of a specie is like a currency by which the success of many management programmes ultimately is judged. “Therefore, it is important to have multiple counts in same area at different times or different habitats of an area and repeat these counts in different years to get a trend of population, sex ratio etc. It is the trend of population which would enable the management to comprehend the pulse of a population and thereby making right decision at appropriate time,” Naqash said.

At present the viable population of Hangul occurs only in Dachigam National Park and a few isolated populations in the adjoining areas. “We will trace indirect and direct evidence like antlers and wool for presence of Hanguls in the forests. This will help us to develop a consensus over their population,” he added.

Last year the Wildlife department prepared an action plan for Hangul conservation. The plan envisages captive breeding, in-situ enclosure upbringing, census, radioactive collars, anti-poaching, anti-grazing measures and habitat improvement.

The Kashmir’s shikar map prepared by Maharaja Hari Singh depicts distribution of Hangul in a radius of 40 kilometres spreading from Keran in Kishenganga catchments over to Dorus in Lolab Valley, Erin catchments in Bandipora to Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh through Baltal to Aru, Tral, and Kishtwar. Gradually, the population declined to about 1,000-2,000 in 1947 and subsequently as low as 250 in ‘70s.

The researchers said Hangul is confronted by disease transmissions from various animals leading to vulnerability of the species due to health problems.
In view of threats to the Hangul, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of threatened species categorized as it as endangered in 1996.

Taking Hangul’s current population structure, distribution, area of occupancy, number of maturing individuals, fluctuations in the number of mature individuals, the scientists recommend its inclusion into IUCN’s critical endangered category.
Researchers point out that the upper Dachigam area which is the ideal and traditional summer habitat of the animal has been abandoned by it due to human interference. They blamed the disturbances to livestock and the grazers who camp in the upper Dachigam during summer besides frequent uncontrolled fires and deforestation in the recent years for decrease in Hangul population.

(Greater Kashmir)

Kashmir's Loss is India's Gain

For internally displaced Pandits, parting with their sacred books is almost like giving away a treasure

Kashmir’s tribute enriches country’s manuscript coffers

Nearly three decades ago, when the militant struggle in Kashmir made fleeing an honourable option, Dr B N Kalla came to live in Delhi with his family and many prized manuscripts that had been passed down by his father, a Sanskrit scholar.
Today, Dr Kalla is among an army of Kashmiri pandits, whose manuscripts — pages of history that have captured the social and religious mores of a race — are the biggest contributors to the National Mission for Manuscripts. Not any other ethnic community, a survey held by by the Mission declared recently.

Its Assistant Director Dilip Kumar Rana said some Kashmiri families have had these manuscripts for centuries. “They are also worshipped,” he added.

Manuscripts from Kashmir were written in the Sharda script, seen as a predecessor to Gurmukhi, the script of Punjab. It is older than Devnagari and is the predominant source of the region’s history for researchers. Some in Kalla’s collection — among the biggest in the city — are from the 12th Century which talk about religious pilgrimages of those days.

Kalla has not counted the pages with him but they fill up a big almirah. Recently, in order to facilitate research, he donated nearly eight from his personal collection to the Mission.

Sarbanand Kole, who passed away last year, has also left behind a wealth of the past with his family in Safdarjung Enclave.

There are many more, who might not have a substantial collection like Kalla and Kole, but the few threads they cherish bind them strongly to their roots. Aswaita Vadini Kaul works at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts and has at least four miniature paintings of gods and goddesses that are almost 200 years old. The paintings have been with her family for as long as she can remember and are now worshipped.

S S Toshkhani, of Vasant Kunj, came to Delhi in 1984 and brought along with him two or three manuscripts. He worships them too.

But it has been an uphill struggle to preserve the pages of time. Several have been lost in transition, to accidents and even to termites. B N Kalla’s son Kiran said: “We put up in rented accommodations in the early years. We gave away several trunks full of manuscripts to relatives for lack of space. Many have been lost. Some were ruined by termites, and some we burnt to save other manuscripts from getting spoilt.”


Kashmir University Hosts a Civil Society Initiative Against Torture

Basharat reports on a workshop on custodial torture held in the Department of Law

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 29, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

Experts call for constructive initiatives within civil society

SRINAGAR: In what can be called a pragmatic approach to deal with the different facets of a conflict, a prominent human rights worker Kirty Roy today observed that people of Kashmir must take initiatives to redress the problems of victims of human rights violations and not make their support conditional to the final settlement of Kashmir issue.

Roy's observation came in his inaugural address at a two-day workshop on custodial torture held at the department of Law in Kashmir University. The workshop has been organised by the Human Rights Law Network in collaboration with MASUM (Manav Adhikar Suraksha Manch), a West Bengal based NGO working against torture in India.

Stressing on the documentation of cases of human rights violations in Kashmir, Roy who is also the president of MASUM, said that hurdles which come in way of justice can only be removed once a proper documentation of human rights violation is obtained. "The data speaks for itself," Roy said and added that it was not impossible to get justice once the perpetrators of human rights violations get exposed at various fronts.

He further deliberated upon manifestations of custodial torture, highlighting various laws which deal with the subject. Roy said that he was perturbed by the incidents of human rights violations particularly torture incidents which took place in Kashmir.

Parveena Ahangar president of Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP) while narrating a painful story of resilience and struggle against the enforced disappearance said that the government must come clean on the issue of disappearances and if serious to redress the issue, it should establish an impartial commission that will come up with the facts.

"I have resolved that our struggle will not culminate unless we know facts about our missing sons," Parveena said. She further narrated an ordeal of mental trauma she had undergone since her son's disappearance in 1990. "Since 1997, I am waiting for sanction of prosecution against the army personnel involved in enforced disappearance of my son," she added further.

Parveena said that nobody except a few conscious people in the society came to the help of families associated with her organisation APDP. "There are many mothers associated with the APDP who are not in a position to feed themselves. In this situation what has kept them alive is the hope that their missing sons will return one day," she observed.

Prof. Syed Afzal Qadri who was present on this occasion said that the impunity provided by various laws enforced in Jammu and Kashmir has barred the judiciary to deliver justice to the victims of human rights violations. "Similarly section 197 CRPC is hurdle in way of central government sanction of prosecution against the accused army personnel," Prof. Qadri added.

Besides, Advocate Hanjura, academician Qurat-ul-ain, Advocate Faisal Qadri, Advocate Narjees Qadri, Advocate Mir Hafeez-ullah, Dr Muzaffar Bhat, Dr Ghulam Rasool, many victims of torture and students of law participated in the workshop.

Is Saffron Production Droping due to Government Apathy or Climate Change?

It is both, say experts

Govt neglect shrinking saffron fields, declining productivity

Pampore: Saffronologists in Kashmir blame the decline in saffron production in the Valley on government’s neglect and absence of technological interventions. On the contrary saffron production in Iran, Kashmir’s one time competitor in the production of the rare herb, has risen steeply.

Muntazir Ahmed who has a saffron field in Pampore, the saffron heartland of Kashmir is anguished over the dwindling production of the herb although the per kg price of Kashmiri saffron has risen to Rs 3.5 lakh.

“People attribute the significant fall in production to climatic change and pollution. However the reality is that the government and experts have failed to intervene,” he said.

Shafiq Ahmed, another saffron grower, who has an acre of saffron field said his annual yield had decreased from 2.5 kg to a mere 1.5 kg.

Leading saffronologist, Firdous Ahmed Nehvi of the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Kashmir, said technology had not trickled down to farmers, resulting in the poor harvest.

According to official figures, over the past 10 years, the annual saffron yield in Kashmir has fallen from 16 metric tonnes to six metric tonnes while the saffron production in Iran during this period has steeply risen to 238 metric tonnes.

Besides, the area under saffron cultivation in Kashmir has gone down from 5707 hectares in 1997 to 2010 hectares in 2007.

In the same period Iran has emerged as the world leader in saffron production and extended its saffron fields from 21,000 hectares to 47,000 hectares.

Experts said scientific inputs and government support had made Iran as the leader in saffron production followed by Spain. Kashmir that had the privilege of producing the best saffron quality with unique aroma has vanished from the world scene, they said.

The incidence of rot, a disease that deteriorates the rhizome of the plant has also gone up to 47 percent from 14 percent during the past 10 years. “The disease has denuded large swathes of the spice herb,” the experts said.

"We approached the government but they showed scanty willingness to the save the cultural crop of Kashmir,” said Ali Ahmed, another farmer.

Prof Anwar Alam, Vice Chancellor of SKUAST, Kashmir revealed that countries leading saffron production get an annual saffron yield of 5.5 to 6 kg per hectare. “However, in Kashmir, the lack of irrigation, nutrients and disease corm rot has lead to the abysmal productivity,” he said. “Research and development at the university has given us clues to increase saffron productivity and achieve quality in post harvest handling, packaging and storage.”

Saffronologist Nahvi said SKUAST Kashmir with the aid of Indian Council of Agricultural Research has launched a ‘major project’ to improve production and involve 250 farmers at the grass root level.

Our effort at refinement of validation of the technologies in the farmers’ field in a holistic manner will help bring the production to international standards within four years, he said. “A brand will also be assigned to the product.”

(Rising Kashmir)

Kashmir's Roads are a Disgrace

Shoddy construction combined with rampant corruption are turning roads into a mess

Dilapidated roads deflate govt claims

Gowhar Bhat (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Dilapidated city roads have deflated the tall claims of the government about spending crores of rupees on developmental works every year.

Sources told Greater Kashmir on Sunday the contractors use “sub standard material” to macadamize the roads. “If standard material is used for black-topping the roads, it would last for decades, but our roads get damaged within six months and cannot withstand wear and tear,” they added.

In past one decade Dalgate-Hazratbal and Sonawar-Panthachowk road had been macadamized on numerous occasions, sources said. “Both these roads in past years have got worn off within few months.”

“Surprisingly the Roads and Buildings (R&B) department has not taken any action against the contractors whose works are not up to the mark. Neither have they been penalized nor black listed,” sources said, adding, “As per the guidelines the percentage of tar coal has to be at 3.5 kilograms per cubic meter but in most of the cases it ranges from 1.9 to 2.1. Instead of using the diesel mixture, it has been observed that contractors use kerosene to cut the cost.”

When contacted the chief engineer R&B, Muhammad Shafi Mir denied that his department was responsible for the city roads being in a mess and he passed the buck, saying, “There is a lack of coordination between the various government departments. Once a road is blacktopped, the men from the water works, telecom and other departments dig it to repair the water supply lines, telephone connections or something else. We are at the receiving end for no fault of ours. It’s others who damage the roads not us.”

To overcome this problem, Mir said that R&B had signed a memorandum of understanding with other departments. “Whoever digs open the road in future will have to restore it.”

Asked about the allegations about the use of “sub-standard” material and the damages caused to the newly black-topped roads, he said, “If the road gets damaged due to the use of sub-standard material, the contractor has to repair it on his own and we make sure that such contractors get black listed.”

Asked why the Dalgate- Hazratbal road had been repaired many times in past one decade, he said, “ It has been dug open several times for one or the other reason.”

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Meaning of Azadi in a Land of Indulgence

Firdous examines the empty half of the glass

(Mr. Firdous Syed, 43, was born in Bhaderwah, Doda, and had his schooling in Jammu. He is currently the Chairman of the "Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies," and associated with the J&K National Conference. Between 1989 and 1991, he led the Moslem Janbaaz Force, a militant group, and was jailed from 1991 through 1994. In 1996, he publicly renounced the gun culture, and has since joined mainstream politics and is an active member of the Kashmir civil society.)

What does Azadi mean?

The idea of Azadi, irrespective of age, gender and political belief, has an electrifying effect on the psychology of Kashmiri masses. In this conflict ridden, deeply divided society, if any thing has the potential to unite the Kashmiri people around one goal, it is their deep desire for Azadi. Idea of Azadi has been pursued vigorously by generation after generation here, in the process incurring enormous costs. The blood-soaked Kashmir bears testimony to the profound desire of the Kashmiri people for Azadi. However even after a prolonged spell of great hardships and sacrifices, Azadi still eludes Kashmir. Why Azadi remains a distant dream?

Although word Azadi stimulates the fading spirits, what does Azadi ultimately mean is yet to be fully defined? Is Azadi an idea of change or simply a struggle for the end of Indian rule in Kashmir? Idea of Azadi excites us, but are we aware of ideals of Azadi also? It seems to be the worst irony that three generations have sacrificed tens of thousands of lives in pursuit of Azadi, we are yet to fully embrace the ideals of Azadi.

Is it freedom from India alone, we seek? Or freedom also means end of, inequality, injustice, hunger and poverty. Will Azadi also harbinger a social revolution bringing to end evils like dishonesty, deceit, hypocrisy, untruthfulness, corruption, egoism, sluggish attitudes and sinful extravagance. Is freedom for us means to end or an end in itself?

Suppose, one fine morning we wake-up and find that all Indian forces have left Kashmir, literally marking the end of Indian rule. Apart from a psychological sense of achievement, what qualitatively would have changed on the ground? Restoration of political rights is itself a huge achievement. But political empowerment alone does not feed empty stomachs; insure speedy justice and above all bring peace and tranquility in the society. For this to happen, society needs institutions and foremost a culture to be able to sustain the processes of change in the society. What comes first, Azadi or institutions? It seems to be a typical egg and hen situation.

Agreed, suppressed cannot create institutions while they struggle for their political rights. But it is also true that, struggling masses imbibe into them the very ideals of change, based upon their ideology. Freedom struggle is a way of life; true revolution is not possible without honest, truthful, sincere and committed cadres. Selflessness, cooperation, fraternity and above all sense of belonging with the people and land are some of the ingrained characteristics of freedom fighters.

But an avowed supporter of Azadi may term this entire discussion about the prospects of change, a bit premature. His counter argument could be-- we will also undergo a process of change. First things come first; let there be Azadi, change will follow, subsequently. Accepted, but provided we believe in an idea of Azadi and have also truly adopted ideals of Azadi.

But critics may again (rightly) point out--- completely peaceful, harmonious society free from all vices, injustice, hunger and violence is notion of a prefect society. No human society has ever been a prefect society. Day drowns in night and dawn breaks from darkness. Struggle between good and evil is unending, good may prevail, however evil can never be destroyed eternally. Every single human being in a society cannot be truthful, committed, sincere and driven by a cause. Every society has its high and lows; it’s a package consisting of good and bad people. Furthermore degeneration of ethics and erosion of value systems is a universal phenomenon; this is not only exceptional to our society.

True every society has its share of heroes and villains but why our society is unique. Why we have very few heroes and many, many villains around? Despite diminishing trend of value systems, societies still are able to maintain a certain degree of sanity and adherers some core values. What are our core values? We may practice lot of lip service, but do we really believe in some values? We have turned-out to be a sick society.

Leave aside lofty ideals. Even in practical issues, our responses are quiet inadequate, even belying the conventional wisdom. Freedom movement cannot be visualized without unity, cooperation and sense of belonging with the cause, people and the land. But separatist leaders here have invariably failed to rise above their self at every critical juncture. Due to ego clashes and personal vested interests, none of the separatist organization is free from factionalism. Hurrayat conference is divided into two, Peoples League into seven or eight, JKLF three or four and Jamat Islami supposedly cadre based disciplined organization is also not free from internal wrangling. We are not divided in politics alone; we are averse to share even grief collectively---Association of Parents of Disappeared has two factions.

There are scores of separatist organizations and dozens of smalltime leaders masquerading as freedom fighters. All these proclaim to be engaged in a freedom struggle. But why there is scarcely any body among them, whom we can emulate and follow with closed eyes. Can we trust any of these leaders?

Why blame political activists, they are also part and parcel of this society. While we do not miss any opportunity to criticize politicians, but our behavior also has been far from satisfactory, on the contrary disastrous. We may spend millions on marriages and construction of new houses, but widows and orphans of the martyrs continue to suffer, because of our callous attitude. While we are being killed--- a doctor, engineer, teacher clerk and trader continue to fleece people. Who are they and who are we, all Kashmiri’s. Who is dying—a Kashmiri and who is cheating, a fellow Kashmiri. It is like cutting off our nose to spite our face.

We may take pride for being inhabitant of this beautiful place, but who has destroyed paddy fields, cut forests indiscriminately, and polluted water bodies. A Dull dweller knows, polluting Dull ultimately threatens his very existence; still Dull has been converted into a cesspool. Who is responsible government or our antipathy? Madness has a method, but our greed is totally illogical. We are best at spoiling and destroying our own habitat and heritage without any remorse or sense of responsibility towards coming generations. We are preparing ourselves for a slow death and collectively digging our graves. This is all sham that we love Kashmir; we do not have any sense of belonging with this place. This may sound to be harsh, but this is an irrefutable fact; we have proved to be morally a bankrupt society.

In the end, we pretend to believe that since occupation is ugly, resistance can’t be beautiful. We go on hitting the bechara (helpless) Lamppost endlessly. Beating lamppost will not give us Azadi, putting a searchlight within will. Sooner we understand the better—our iniquitous social behaviors are the main impediments towards the goal of Azadi, not the Indian forces alone.

Whosoever loves Azadi, obviously will struggle for Azadi. At the same time he will have to be truthful. And continue to strive for the eradication of social evils, moral and materiel corruption. He will also have to preserve ecology, environment, protect water bodies and forests. Quest for Azadi should also mean a goal to attain self-reliance. Let us excel in education, attain scientific know how and learn cutting edge technologies. Our endeavor should be to become a knowledge based society. While doing so we should also guard our paddy fields, orchards, handicrafts and heritage. Orphans and widows are our responsibility, if we are not sincere towards the fallen in the cause; we cannot be committed with the cause itself.

A Victim of the Urban-Rural Divide

Musavirr describes the tragedy of being born poor and helpless in the valley

(Mr. Musavirr Wani, 28, 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.)

Poor man's travails: Children with eye impairment and a blind administration

SRINAGAR: With both their children born with impairment in their eyes, there is no end of worries for Mohammad Sultan and his wife. The couple is barely in a position to bear the expenses incurred over the treatment of their children which has robbed the family of serenity and peace.

"We have already exhausted whatever resources we had," says Mohammad Sultan Chopan, father of the children. "I have already sold my house and the piece of landÿÿ for their treatment. Now, I live in a small shed. Sometimes there is nothing to keep the pots boiling in the kitchen," he adds.

The family lives at Baghna Noor Khah in Uri which is few kilometers away from the Line of Control. There is no end of hardships for them as they live in a village which remains cut off from the rest of Kashmir due to absence of road connectivity. The village also lacks basic amenities of life. Inspite of these hardships the couple managed to reach different hospitals for seeking treatment of their sick children but all in vain.

Sultan who works as a labourer says his monthly income is Rs. 700 and the cost of treatment of his children at Indore Eye Hospital, Amritsar figures in lakhs.

"I went to many medical institutions and hospitals here for the treatment of my kids but the doctors straightway expressed their helplessness. Then I explored other options and went to Amritsar where doctors told me that both children ought to be operated and the treatment would incur three lakh rupees," says Sultan.

Pointing towards his children, he says, "No one in our family faces such a problem". The family even approached faith healers but that proved to be a futile exercise.

Rukhsana Sultan (7) and Mohammad Musharraf (4), Sultan's two children, unaware of the happenings around, gave a patient hearing to their parents. "Musharraf's condition is more serious as his right eye often bleeds and that frustrates us more," says the father with tearful eyes.

While his father was expressing his feelings, Musharraf chipped in "there is a swelling in my eyes". On this account the grieved mother continues, "...Our troubles started when our daughter, Ruksana, was born with this impairment. We started her treatment when she was just two months old. When doctors in Srinagar failed to cure my daughterÿÿ we shifted her to Amritsar.

However, doctors charged hefty sum of Rs. two lakh which was beyond our income capacity. After some years our second child, Musharraf, too was born with same impairment and we went to Amritsar again where doctors told us that the cost of treatment is three lakhs. Condition of our son is worse,"

After a brief pause, Sultan picks up, "We approached Taj Mohi-ud-Din thrice; however, he out rightly rejected to offer any financial support to us."

"Three years ago, we approached Deputy Commissioner Baramulla for help. They have asked us to submit the total budget estimate of the treatment. However for this purpose, we have to move back to Amritsar and that too incurs Rs. 30,000 to 40,000 which is not manageable for us.
"Even for preparing an estimate I have to admit my children in Amritsar Hospital which is virtually impossible owing to lack of financial resources." Adding insult to injury, Social Welfare Department, in the name of helping the needful family has just sanctioned meager amount of Rs. 300 in favour of both children thus making it a case for mockery and ridicule.