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, June 29, 2009

For a Civil Society Obsessed With Politics, the Rest Does Not Matter

Shocking news of the day (but be forewarned that it is not about politics), followed by State government's approach - two stories

Kashmir is World's Top Opiate Consumer: Report

(Rising Kashmir News)

Srinagar: As International Day Against Drug Abuse is being observed on Friday, 26 June 2009, Kashmir has earned the dubious distinction of topping the world in using the Opiates related drugs with 3.8 percent leaving behind Iran where the percentage has been pegged at 2.81 only. Experts blame the Civil Society for not rising to the occasion to arrest the trend which is potent enough to derail the entire social fabric.

Concerned over the disturbing increase in the number of drug abusers, leading psychiatrist Mushtaq Margoob believes that this was the opportune time to formulate a comprehensive policy to counter the menace. “It is not the government only but the Civil Society has a potential role to play in making people aware what was happening” Dr Margoob, who has conducted extensive studies on the issue, told Rising Kashmir on Thursday. According to a survey conducted by him, the percentage is increasing in all the areas of drugs which are responsible for causing disturbances in a human mind.

The district wise survey shows startling results. While the Alcohol consumption is 0.7 percent, use of Cannabis has been put at 2.4 percent, Bzd at 0.87 percent, and Opiates at 3.8 percent. The cigarette smoking is still prevalent among 25 percent population of Valley with 10.63 percent resorting to other forms of smoking and 4.63 to smokeless tobacco. “The findings are certainly disturbing,” says Dr Margoob. Surprisingly the Opium related drugs are being used in Kashmir at a high level. “The percentage is highest in the world,” Dr Margoob says.

There are a few factors responsible for pushing the people into drug abuse in this fashion. And the first and foremost is the trauma the people have been facing on account of the turmoil since 1989. The situation has made people including women psychological wrecks due to loss of one or other family member. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is the main reason for driving people to drugs. “I have seen many such patients who have not been able to sleep because of trauma and they resort to easily available drugs in the market and then become dependent on them”, says Dr Margoob. This has emerged as a pattern among such cases as they are left in lurch by the society following their traumatic experiences. The conflict apart from other issues has contributed a lot to this situation which apparently is not comprehensible.

Likewise the youth in Kashmir is of late driven to drugs with codeine ingredients. Not only that many are using iodex, boot polish and fevicol as something to quench the thirst once they are pushed into this abuse. Not only the poor class which is most vulnerable but also the wards of rich and high profile are in the net. At the Advanced Institute of Management in Stress and Life Style Problems (AIMS) in Nigeen, Dr Margoob and his coulleagues treat scores of people who are coming with mixed reasons. “It is tough time to deal with them and many things are unimaginable” says Dr Surraiya at AIMS. Besides the drugs which are easily available in the market, other forms are smuggled from rest of the states. The wrong notion in India, according to experts is that the drugs only come from the area between Golden Triangle and Golden Crescent which they say is not true. “India is the only country where the opium is produced legally over 11000 kanals of land for making opium gum” says Dr Margoob adding “but most of it is diverted for drug abuse and those responsible for it do not agree and blame outsiders”.

In Kashmir the poppy and charas cultivation has been main concern and despite government claims to take on violators it is flourishing like an industry. Every other day police claims to have destroyed Fukki but who takes care of the bushes which are left in that process. If they are used for heroine production it will create havoc, experts opine.

The process to tackle the drug abuse in Kashmir is full of faults. Experts point out that the absence of drug policy in the state is the main reason for growth of this menace. Any person can get any medicine from the market without having a prescription from Registered Medical Practitioner. It is possible with the mushrooming of chemists, which have come up out of malpractices. “Unless we have a strong Drug policy and Drug Act we cannot control this,” said a senior doctor. “You have to crack a whip on this illegal industry”.

Inspector General of Police Crime, S M Sahai, agrees that the menace is growing but he says that government was putting its efforts to counter it at various levels. “We are looking at two aspects-reductions in demand and reduction in supply” he said adding “there are various agencies working and results are coming to the extent these agencies work”. But we need to do more, he adds.

Dr Margoob made a passionate appeal to the Civil Society to come forward and play the vital role in reaching to the people. “It is a multi-cornered responsibility and all the conscious people should play their role to save the society especially youth from drifting away,” he adds.

AT DRUG CONFERENCE, MINISTER SPILLS BEANS: Says for six decades JK has no drug policy

(Greater Kashmir News Network)

Srinagar: In Drug conference on 26 June 2008, the Health Minister, Sham Sharma, said the government has no drug policy for last six decades and accused the top officials of the state for exploiting the department for their own benefits.

He was speaking at a function, organized by the Jammu and Kashmir Police (Crime Branch) in connection with the observance of International Anti- narcotics Day here in B.Ed College.

Sharma said since 1950 the state government has no drug policy.

He however, said the government would come up with the policy within a month. He said the policy would help the government check the menace of over the counter sale of drugs which was major cause of medical opiates.

Sharma said rural and backward areas require attention and “it needs doctors who get reservations on backward category to render their service as a duty and commitment towards their people.” However he said the doctors who obtain the degrees on backward area certificates were preferring postings in cities rendering the whole concept of backward area useless.

He said the government spends crores on the doctors when they get selected for the MBBS and it was painful when after obtaining the degree they rush to foreign countries.

“The government might make it mandatory for student who qualifies MBBS and the post graduation to give an undertaking that after completing the degree they would work in the state at least for ten years,” the Minister said. The Minister said the Government might decide not issue passport to the doctors till they complete ten years of services in Kashmir. He said in case the professionals wish to have passport they should obtain the no-objection Objectionable Certificate (NOC) from heath department.

He stunned the audience saying that there are places where 40 doctors have been posted to treat 40 patients. He said 35 doctors were trained for the mental health programme and none of them were working in proper position. He said three doctors trained in the mental health were posted in Chanakyapuri in New Delhi. He said these people use connections to get away with everything.

Speaking on the occasion, Director General of Police, Kuldeep Khoda sought cooperation from all sections of the society to deal with this social problem subject. He said that Police Department has established a counselling and rehabilitation centre which is operating very successfully, adding the Centre is providing, free treatment and guidance to the drug abuse sufferers.

Clinical Psychologist Dr Muhammad Muzaffer Khan said Kashmir has witnessed turmoil for about two decades which had led to great increase in psychiatric illnesses and o
ther psychosocial disturbances.

“The alarming scenario of drug abuse in Kashmir has made the experts to comment, “we lost one generation to bullets and we may lose another generation to drugs”

He said the number of patients who visited drug de-addiction centre on daily basis is 2000 and number of registrations for inpatient treatment is 255.

“The Common drugs of abuse- Medicinal opiods and sedatives 75%, Alcohol increasing trend, Cannabis, and Volatile substance (correction fluid) alarming and often found in young school children .which is difficult to detect and more deadly,” he said. Dr Arshad Hussain, consultant psychiatric Disease Hospital also spoke on the occasion.

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