Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, April 20, 2009

RTI Act is Only as Good as its Implementation

Abid reports on a seminar that emphasized the role of the civil society in maximizing benefits under the RTI Act

(Mr. Abid Bashir Wani, 27, was born in Srinagar. He attended the National School, Srinagar, and went for college studies to the Government Degree College, Srinagar. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Commerce from the University of Kashmir and then finished his Post Graduation in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), Kashmir branch. Mr. Wani was trained in journalism by his uncle (mother's brother) who is the head of the Jammu and Kashmir bureau of a national weekly magazine and was writing for a Pune based paper for some time. His own break came at the Rising Kashmir, where he joined as a staff reporter in 2008. In his leisure time he likes to read books and listen to music.)

New RTI Act holds troops accountable for HR abuses

Srinagar: For transparent and accountable governance in the State, members of civil society have advocated formation of a “pressure group” for effective implementation of Right to Information Act. They also hailed passing of RTI Bill in the assembly saying that it holds the troopers accountable for human rights violations.

They were speaking at a seminar “JKRTI—Role of Media and Civil Societies” organized by JK Right to Information Movement in collaboration with Action Aid International.
Social activist A R Hanjoora said the recently passed RTI Bill was the best ever law that the strife-torn state has had. “RTI Act 2004 was so weak. Now we have the same RTI as that of New Delhi. We have a strong Act now as far as bringing transparency and accountability is concerned,” he said.

“The need of the hour now is to form a pressure group so that the Act is implemented effectively,” he said.

He said the best thing about the new RTI Act was that it makes troopers accountable which was not possible under the earlier Act.

Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, a member of RTIM said under the new Act, a person can seek answers from the troopers, paramilitary CRPF and Police also.

“The new Act gives us the right to quiz any security agency in case they commit human rights violations. This is where media can chip in if the concerned security agency fails to share information,” he said.

“Media has been playing a vital role in highlighting the RTI Act is concerned. Without media, RTI can’t bear fruit,” he added.

Dr Rasool too supported the idea of forming a pressure group. “The group should have members from all sections—media, civil society and NGOs. Once a strong group is formed, this will help build pressure on the officers to share information,” he said.
Another social activist, Syed Yasin Andrabi said RTI is a revolutionary Act, but needs to be implemented in true letter and sprit.

“It is aimed to bring transparency and accountability, but I believe before these two things, there should be personal transparency. Officials at the helm of affairs should know the power of RTI. They should not treat the applicant as a layman and throw his application in the dustbin,” Andrabi said.

Hanjoora said there was a dire need of massive awareness campaign.

“First of all, officials, especially bureaucrats should make themselves aware about he power and need of RTI. This is must for the effective implementation of the Act,” he said.

Convener JKRTIM, Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat said officers and bureaucrats should understand that they are the government servants.

“Highhandedness of officers should end. Civil societies and media should highlight wherever there is stubbornness shown by any of the government officers when information is sought from them,” Bhat said.

He said the person who files application to seek information on any of the subject should be respected.

Bhat urged the government to finalize the rules of new Act so that it could benefit people of Kashmir.

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