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, June 2, 2009

A State Infomatics Center Modeled after the National Infomatics Center (NIC)

Shakeel-ur-Rehman reacts to the announcement that J&K state plans to develop a State Infomatics Center

(Syed Shakeel-ul-Rehman, 32, was born in Qazipora, Tangmarg. He did his schooling at the Government Middle School in Katipora and at the Government Higher Secondary School in Chandilora, both in the Tangmarg Tehsil. He graduated in Social Work from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), being the first Kashmiri student to graduate with that major. He subsequently did his post graduate diploma in Journalism and Mass Communication from the same University. He has taken specialized courses in computer hardware and software technology. He worked as a columnist and correspondent for the Greater Kashmir daily newspaper until 2005 and is currently the Opinion Editor of the Kashmir Images daily newspaper. He also anchors Doordharshan Kendra Srinagar's live phone-in show called, "Hello DD" since April 2005. Mr. Shakeel-ur-Rehman holds the distinction of having interviewed prominent personalities in all major fields and walks of life, probably more than any other Kashmiri journalist.)

Informatics Service

There is finally some good news for Kashmir’s IT professionals. The state government has decided to constitute J&K Informatics Service on National Informatics Centre pattern.

This was long overdue as the IT professionals working in various government departments across the state were facing a bleak future in absence of rules regarding career progression. Now onwards they can hope for better job prospects.This government decision is an offshoot of the earlier decision taken by the government in January this year whereby an e-governance agency was set up in the state with the stated aim of attracting IT projects. The best thing about the e-governance agency, which has finally started functioning, is that besides streamlining governance, it would also work for creation of employment opportunities in the state. For computer knowing professionals, who are in abundance in Kashmir, the recent decision will open myriad career opportunities.

As far as IT knowing workforce working in various state departments is concerned, to date it has had to face lots of hardships largely because of absence of a proper ladder system. As on date there are some 2,000 computer trained personnel working in various government departments on posts ranging from computer operators to junior computer assistants to computer analysts; all of them having fewer career progression opportunities. It is this area that the e-governance agency should focus on. Only then will it serve any real and significant purpose.

Another area that the agency should focus on is employment creation. As we all know the problem of unemployment has aggravated over the years. This is because the valuable human resource has not been put to proper use over the years. This is sheer wasting of the youthful energy, especially in a developing state like ours. The teeming population means more mouths to feed and more hands to seek jobs. Amidst this situation, the government needs to change its employment strategy.

Promotion of use of computers at the grassroots level would go a long way in helping the government find jobs for state’s computer knowing workforce. Admittedly, computers have revolutionized the way of thinking of people so far as the technology is concerned. In a span of just a decade, almost the whole nation is covered with computer network. Some states like Andra Pradesh and Karnataka have done exceptionally well.

In these two states and in many others also, computers are extensively used in almost all probable sectors and more so in education. The growing use of computers in every sphere of life has made their knowledge indispensable. While it cannot be denied that computers are an integral part of modern life, it can also not be brushed aside that in an absolutely corrupt state like Jammu and Kashmir those abreast of IT and computers face a dark future. Lack of encadrement and absence of career progression avenues has marred the career of many youth in the state. It is this issue the e-governance agency will have to focus on if it intends to move ahead in real sense.

Govt to constitute JK Informatics Service on NIC pattern: Committee to draft proposal in 3 months

Keeping in tune with major strides made the world over in use of Information Technology (IT), the government today decided to constitute J&K Informatics Service (JKIS) in the State, on the pattern of National Informatics Centres (NIC) across the country.

This was stated in the first meeting of Board of Governors of Jammu and Kashmir e-Governance Agency (JaKeGA ), which was chaired by Chief Secretary, S. S. Kapur, here today.

It may be recalled that Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, immediately after assuming power, had on January 14, 2009 moved at top speed to set up JaKeGA with an empowered Board of Directors headed by the Chief Secretary.

Today’s meeting was attended by Financial Commissioner, Planning and Development, S.L. Bhat, Principal Secretary, Industries and Commerce, Anil Goswami, Principal Secretary, Information Technology, Dr. Arun Kumar, Principal Secretary to Chief Minister, Khurshid Ahmad Ganai, Principal Secretary, Law, Akhtar Hussain Kochak, Commissioner/Secretary, Power, S .K. Naik, Commissioner/Secretary, Roads and Buildings, Mehboob Iqbal and Director, DOEACC, Dr. A.H. Moon.

It was decided in the meeting that a Committee headed by Financial Commissioner, Planning and Development, with Principal Secretary, IT and Principal Secretary, Law, as Members will draft the proposal of the JKIS within three months. The Draft Proposal for JKIS will be placed on the website of IT Department for eliciting comments and suggestion from the general public.

The meeting was informed that the Central government has been liberal in supporting JaKeGA and has already released over Rs. 15 crore for the purpose. It was also stated that the released outlay is meant for establishing projects as Capacity Building, State Data Centres, Service Centres, State Services Delivery Gateway and State-Wide Areas Network. It was given out in the meeting that four consultants from Price Water House Coopers have already been deployed to assist JaKeGA for capacity building besides an ace private player in the field, Wipro, has been engaged by the department for preparing e-governance, capacity building roadmap and DPR for State Data Centre.

Kapur, while speaking on the occasion, asked for exploring every possibility so that e-governance reaches every part of the State and facilities get extended on priority in revenue-related matters, health, consumer affairs and municipalities so that people get firsthand information of day-to-day grievances. He said public-private partnership should also be encouraged to further the benefits of e-governance and stressed the need for involving all Administrative Departments to promote e-governance in their functioning.

Modelled on similar agencies working in many progressive States like Karnataka and Punjab, JaKeGA has been registered as a Society. This is supposed to provide the Agency with much-needed flexibility to implement IT-related projects throughout the State and to receive grants directly from the Central government and other donor agencies.

JaKeGA shall also take the single point responsibility for procuring all types of IT resources and services like hardware, power, printing and networking peripherals for government agencies which will help in streamlining IT-related activities of all departments and help save time and money.

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