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.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Oligarchy, Kashmiri Style

Javid describes how Kashmir's heavy hitters keep the pot boiling for obvious advantages

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 63, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

Kashmir’s Tryst with Dynasty

Kashmir’s tryst with dynasty other than autocratic started with Sheikh Abdullah, who rose to become a leader of his people in 1931 mostly due to his own efforts; however certain persons did help the launch. Mirwaiz Maulvi Yosuf Shah, the head of Kashmir’s premier religious family of preachers albeit with heavy political overtones was one such person. The two eventually fell out in a conflict of interests, partly ideological; religious conservatism v/s liberal political philosophy and partly personal.

The result was a political divide of which legends are made. Sher/Bakra conflict! The legend has it that it led to many a divorce, in the capital city of Srinagar, were the husband and the wife belong to either side of the divide. On the eve of partition, Maulvi Yosuf Shah opted for Pakistan; the Mirwaiz family went into a political oblivion, only to surface yet again in 1963 when the holy relic was stolen. A teenager, Maulvi Farooq emerged as the scion of the family.

To study democratic royalty, we don’t have to get mired in history. How we dare to deny that a million people attended the funeral ceremony of Sheikh Abdullah. A few years earlier Sheikh of Kashmir had anointed his son as his successor in an open Durbar. Farooq passed the baton to Omar in another open Durbar. Dr Farooq Abdullah’s coronation has another interesting analogy. Dr Bashar-al-Asad, the Syrian President was like him a practicing physician, an ophthalmologist in London, when he was called to stand in line to fill in the presidential office of his father, Hafiz-al-Asad. Father had opted for Rauf-al-Asad, the elder son, who died in a car crash. Rifat Asad, younger brother of Hafiz had served his brother faithfully as chief of security, however when it came to succession, it had to be the son. Rifat was eased out, much like Ghulam Mohammad Shah had served his father-in-law through thick and thin of political life. Farooq however was favoured being more popular. Shah was generally perceived to be too rigid for political comfort.

Kashmir’s two premier political families have had an acrimonious relationship over the years, although there have been times of the two tying up, double Farooq relationship, during a brief stint in eighties, being an example. The two had a confluence of interests during that time. The tragic assassination of Maulvi Farooq in 1990, led to the emergence of Maulvi Umar Farooq, like his father, he too was in his teens, when he took over the reins of his politico-religious office. He has had a baptism of fire in an era of intense conflict in Kashmir. To his credit, it must be said that in an era of changing loyalties, he has not only retained his flock of solid followers, but reached out to other constituencies too. Even in naming their off springs, the two families seem to be vying for political space, Farooq and Umar being the two attributes of Syedena Umar Farooq (RA), second of the sacred Caliphs, revered by Muslims. Omar Abdullah had a short but by all accounts a good innings as India’s Minister of state for External Affairs. The young man is in process of reviving the pivotal political role of his family, against heavy odds in his new avtar as chief minister of the State. It is indeed a matter of deep introspection, whether it could be a political necessity as well? Imagine India’s Congress party without the leadership of Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and now Rahul or National Conference in Kashmir without Dr Farooq Abdullah and Omar. The parties might fall apart. Amazing indeed! It would have to be studied as a subject of mass psychology.

In Kashmir, the emergence of two more families, Mufti’s and Lone’s in the recent past, has confirmed the overall South Asian trend-the Bhutto’s and Mian’s of Pakistan, Sheikh’s of Bangladesh, Badal’s of Punjab, Thackeray’s of Maharastra, Lalu’s of Bihar, Yadav’s of U.P, Scandia’s of Gwalior, the list gets wider by the day. Apart from Mirwaiz’s other politico-religious families of Kashmir are those of Agha Sahib’s of Badgam and Ansari’s. Maulvi Abbas Ansasri and Maulvi Iftikhar Ansari are cousins on opposite ends of political spectrum. The former is a separatist leader and latter a PDP leader, though he has been associated with National Conference and Congress in past. Agha’s and Ansari’s are the leaders of Shia community with a never wavering band of followers like Mirwaiz’s which gives them considerable political clout. Mirwaiz’s have a minor rival, Mirwaiz Hamdani, mostly tied to National conference.

Amongst the erstwhile political families of Kashmir, Bakhshi’s and Qara’s/Sadiq’s have opted out of political scene. Tariq Qara though, an important functionary of PDP and Bakshi Nazir Ahmad, joined PDP a few years back. It is believed to be a step to safeguard tourist trade, of which he is an important representative rather than an attempt to revive family fortunes. Bakshi family is however is still socially highly visible.

In Kashmiri context, many feel emotionally attached to one or another of political dynasties. Even the educated elite feel impressed by the televised interviews of Omar’s, Abdullah or Mirwaiz, Sajad Lone or Mahbooba Mufti. Highly telegenic, they look impressive, with their public school background and King’s English, an improvement on what their fathers and forefathers were in their heyday. Remember the punch line, telecast, so often, on NDTV 24/7, a few years back, attributed to Sajad Lone. It is almost a quotable quote “There is a problem, which needs to be solved.” Indeed Sajad, you have echoed strongly, what is widely felt, a note of consensus across political spectrum, from die-hard separatists like Syed Ali Geelani to mainstream politicians, like Mufti Syed and Farooq Abdullah. Purists apart, masses do not grudge the dynastic leadership role, obtained, as a family heirloom. However how does it help!? Discord rather than accord, amongst political icons keeps adding to perpetual sickness of Kashmir’s body-politic!!

Tailpiece: My young niece, pursuing a doctorate in journalism in London University suddenly asked me while discussing democratic dynastic polity “Uncle! Don’t you think, we have wrong people in right places for wrong reasons”?! Taken a back, I looked intensely at her, wondering whether, with all her intelligence, she hasn’t seen reason enough to live in an unreasonable world!!

Yaar Zinda Sohbat Baqi
(Re-union is subordinate to survival)

Implementing RTI in the Second Most Corrupt State is a Challenge

Basharat describes how simple inquiries are being stone-walled

(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.)

Instead of information, SWB furnishes queries after 2 months

Srinagar: The Jammu and Kashmir Social Welfare Board (SWB), which had earlier, rejected an application filed under RTI after 28 days by an RTI activist on ‘frivolous reasons’, has again posted an ambiguous reply to the applicant.

Dr Sheikh Ghulam Rasool, applicant had sought detailed information about funds received by registered NGOs from the Board. Besides, he had sought details of their (NGOs) area of work, impact of work and the amount sanctioned to them from 2005 till date.

Earlier, Dr Sheikh had filed his application under RTI Act before the Board on September 2, 2009 and the reply that he received vide number SWB/J&K/1276 on September 30, 2009, read: “With reference to your application, regarding above cited subject, it is to inform you that there is over writings in the application/ Format submitted by you. The over writings are not legible. You may therefore submit a fresh application for further necessary action at the Board office under relevant rules.”

But later when he filed his application afresh on October 23, 2009, he asked the same questions which he had mentioned in his previous application. Ironically, he received the reply vide number SWB/J&K/1636-39 dated October 30, 2009. “It is worth to be noted that I have received the reply on December 24 that too through speed post! I do not know whether this delay is deliberate on part of the Social welfare Board or any other agency but you can imagine the ‘speed of the speed post’,” he added.

The fresh reply from SWB reads: “I would request you to please deposit the fee prescribed by the government by virtue of rules notified under SRO-196 dated July 26, 2009. The information requisitioned by you is voluminous consuming hundreds of pages containing the information sought by you with regard to details of VOs and NGOs implementing various programmes of Central Social Welfare Board sponsored by the Ministry of Women and Child Development Government of India.”

Dr Sheikh questions the application of mind by the Assistant Information of Officer (AIO) of the SWB saying that he has not elaborated what he (AIO) says ‘voluminous information’ neither the AIO has talked about the amount to be paid as fee.

“As per RTI Act the government departments are supposed to digitize the records so that it is easy for them as well for the applicant to get any information. I want they should give me the information required by me in a Compact Disc or pen drive. They simply want to refuse the information sought by me. Because we have come to know that it will expose the Board’s performance,” Dr Sheikh added.

Elaborating his reason for seeking such information Dr Sheikh, says that he was perturbed by the work and style of working of NGO (registered) in the State. “There (NGOs) mushroom growth perturbs me,” he adds.

“There are some 3600 NGO working in the State and unconfirmed reports say that there number is some 20,000. People are aware that except for some NGO that have some mechanism of transparency and accountability of international standards work on the ground. But rest have turned this noble cause into a business,” Dr Sheikh opined.

Poor Kashmiri Work Ethic Created the Shopian Tragedy and Pulwama is Next

Astute observers may recall that it was the death of Shazia Akhtar due to negligence of Shopian doctors that set the stage for events a week later when bodies of Neelofar and Asiya turned up

6-month-old dies of doctors’ neglect

People protest against District Hospital Pulwama

Srinagar: Despite fifty-five doctors being posted here, the District Hospital Pulwama could not save the life of a six-months-old child who died for want of medical help during the preceding night.

Obviously then, irked by the neglect of the doctors and hospital administration, hundreds of people protested today against the hospital by blocking the Srinagar-Pulwama road for hours together, local news agency KNS reported.

According to the news agency, the angry protestors also attempted to set ablaze the hospital but it was owing to the timely intervention of the local elders that save it.

Giving details, the news agency reported that 6-months-old ailing son of one Javaid Ahmed Zargar was brought to the District Hospital Pulwama Monday night. However, there was no one there to help.

Zargar told KNS that only one doctor whom he identified as Dr. Abdul Gani was present in the hospital who refused to see his son citing that he was not a pediatrician.

After running from proverbial pillar to post crying for help, nobody in the hospital was ready to attend to the ailing child, Zargar said, adding that he moved from room to room trying to locate doctors or paramedics but nobody was ready to help him.

Zargar said he pleaded for an ambulance to rush his child to the Children’s Hospital in Srinagar but was denied even that.

It was only after some locals pleaded with the ambulance driver that Zargar was able to ferry his child to Srinagar but upon reaching the Children’s Hospital he was told by the doctors that he was late. His child had already died. They told him that the poor child could have been saved with timely medical help.

Tuesday morning hundreds of people came out on streets and protested against the hospital administration and absence of doctors. The protestor blocked the Srinagar-Pulwama road for hours.

It was only after Deputy Commissioner Pulwama reached the spot that the protestors could be pacified. He promised inquiry into the incident pledging that strict action would follow against the negligent hospital staff including the doctors.

KNS quoted DC Pulwama as confessing that the District hospital was plagued by severe indiscipline on part of doctors, who he said often remain absent from duties.

(Kashmir Images)

Kashmir is a Resource for Medicinal Plants

Medicinal plants can be a big business in Kashmir

Mother of Herbs, J&K can be Superpower Medicine and Perfumes

Jammu: More than 5000 aromatic/medicinal plants have been discovered in Jammu Kashmir till date. Scientific observations reveal that the state could become the super power in the future for Herbal Medicine and perfumes if the huge resources are exploited properly and effectively. Scientists have so for prioritized over seven hundred medicinal plants yielding high quality chemicals and other ingredients used in life saving medicaments and aromatherapy and in cosmetics.

People in the west have craze to spray their bedding with flavors before going to sleep. Aromatherapy is gaining laurels the world over with Kashmir Lavender being the crown in the world of aroma. How many people know world’s best aroma is produced in Gulmarg?
Rose of Tangmarg (Rosa Domascena) is the best rose of the world. This rose is resistant to all diseases and as such is the craze for aromatic industries. (Source: Dr. Bashir Ahmad, Gazetteer of India, State Gazetteer Unit, State Editor)
A plant commonly called as Soungul/Pooes-Tul (Taxus Baccata) collected by Dr Bashir is believed to yield some alkaloids that are used as anti-cancer drugs in the world of ailments. The plant needs to be studied seriously.

Vanwangan (Podophyllum Emodi) is found growing all over Kashmir from 6000-10000, especially in Fir forests of Gulmarg and Gurez valley. The root of the plant yields Podophyllum resin, which is very popular in modern medicine. It is a powerful purgative and its action somewhat corresponds to that of mercury, hence it is named Vegetable Calomel.

Dr Chopra of the Calcutta School of tropical Medicine comments on the Kashmir plant. “The resin obtained from the specimen sent from Kashmir generally looks somewhat different from that of the imported drug, but physiologically it is quite as effective. The percentage of resin obtainable from Kashmir rhizome is 10 to 12 percent as compared to the foreign varieties, which contain only 3 to 4 percent. The rhizome analyzed is of excellent quality and the possibilities of manufacture of the resin on commercial scale would be considering.” Dr Chopra made these observations in 1928. SN Kaul in his book Forest Products of Jammu Kashmir writes, “The drug was in great demand some time ago and large quantities were put into the market which resulted in considerable reduction in price. Kashmir has been exporting large quantities of the drug to England. The drug is so plentiful in Kashmir that the total demand of the market can be met from Kashmir alone.”

Another important plant is Kuth (Saussurea Lappa). The Sanskrit name of Kuth is Kashmirja, which means “produced in Kashmir”. Even today its growth is limited to Kashmir.

Kuth is used as an aromatic, stimulant, as a medicine for cough, asthma, fever, dyspepsia and skin diseases. It is also used in stimulating mixtures for Cholera and prescribed as a stomachic, tonic, for ulcers and in rheumatism. It is also used as a depurative and aphrodisiac.

According to Kaul, Kuth is a plant of great economic value. Stewart in his book on Punjab plants published in 1864 states that in the year 1837 7000 maunds of Kuth were exported via Calcutta to China.

The government has banned unauthorized possession of Kuth for obvious reasons. However, experts suggest extraction and export of the drug on a large scale for economic upliftment of the state.

Experts accuse the government of failure for ignoring these resources. They believe that Jammu Kashmir can find a place in the economic map of the world if appropriate measures are taken before it is too late.

(Early Times)

Has the Legislative Assembly Woken up From its Slumber?

A clear case of too little, too late .....

LA Committee Calls for Proper Environment Management

Jammu: Seeking its intervention, the Environment Committee of J&K Legislative Assembly (LA) today asked the Government to take up issues related to environment on priority, considering the significance and bearing environment has on the overall economy of the State and its geographical grandeur.

The Committee, which met here today under the Chairmanship of MLA Nizam-ud-Din Bhat, said that prior to submission of the final report to the House, some immediate measures are needed to be taken to save the State from economic and geographical disaster.

The Committee suggested that declining water table and natural beauty of the State, particularly, the Kashmir Valley demands focused attention also suggested that guidance should be sought from the Union Ministry of Environment, and efforts should also be made to find out models which can help the State in planning the environment management.
The Committee is submitting a comprehensive report based on the inputs received from various field agencies and through personal observations during its tenure and it would be impressed upon the House to ensure that environment is made a priority measure in the State without which, the Committee feels neither resources can be protected nor be productively enhanced and it was also not possible to have an ideal environmental atmosphere for posterity.

The Committee felt that enough wisdom and knowledge is available at global level on environment concerns and hoped that J&K State, for its past glory and unprecedented environmental personality, will not lag behind and sees the opportunity for making J&K an adequately environment friendly State.

Legislators, Rafi Ahmad Mir, Peer Mohammad Mansoor, Bimla Luthra, Krishen Chander, Mushtaq Ahmad and other concerned senior officers attended the meeting.

(Kashmir Images)

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Will the Sageer Report Gain Traction?

Sajjad thinks Justice Sageer's report will end up where the previous four reports of PM's Working Groups have landed

(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.)

Eliminating ‘Azadi’

In the name of inching closer to the resolution of Kashmir issue, yet another scene was created when the fifth working group on Jammu and Kashmir set up by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh submitted its report a few days back and has recommended that the people of the state decide whether it should retain the special status under Article 370 of the Constitution or not "to see the 60 year old matter being settled once and for all”. The group has also recommended that the "the question of autonomy and its demand can be examined in the light of the Kashmir Accord or in some other manner or on the basis of some other formula as the present Prime Minister may deem fit and appropriate so as to restore the autonomy to the extent possible".

The big surprise was that the report was submitted by Justice (retd) Sageer Ahmad, heading the working group, to Chief Minister Omar Abdullah instead of handing it over to the Prime Minster. And the most important message through this report is that ‘freedom’ is not only a distant dream, but impossible for Kashmir. Notably, the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had in 2006 set up five working groups on confidence building in Jammu and Kashmir and to improve relations between the state and the Central government. Four working groups appointed to develop an agreed vision of Jammu and Kashmir's future had presented their recommendations to the third round table conference. Now taking into the account the recommendations of all working groups, it is evident that these working groups have ducked hard political questions and their recommendations have maintained a significant distance in addressing the issues raised by the separatist cadres.

For example the National Minorities Commission chairman Muhammad Hamid Ansari's working group on confidence-building measures, had asserted that "certain laws made operational during the period of militancy (the Armed Forces Special Powers Act, the Disturbed Areas Act) impinge on [the] fundamental rights of citizens and adversely affect the public." It demands that the laws "should be reviewed and revoked." In addition, the working group had suggested that the "cases of all persons in jail should be reviewed, and a general amnesty given to those under trial for minor offences or who are innocent." What has happened in this regard is known to all. It ignited a debate which later on died down as the Government of India shelved the recommendations in the name of security to the national integrity.

Former Foreign Secretary M.K. Rasgotra's working group on strengthening cross-Line of Control relations, suggested that "a joint consultative group or committee of 10 members each of the legislatures of both sides may be constituted to exchange views periodically on social, economic, cultural and trade-related matters of mutual interest." In addition, "joint consultative groups of professionals may be set up for horticulture, tourism promotion and environment protection." The implementation of these recommendations too were ignored.

Even former Planning Commission member N.C. Saxena's working group on good governance noted that "the State Human Rights Commission requires strengthening" and calls for the creation of "a high-powered committee (including political representatives and civil society members) for enforcing human rights." Notably, despite strong recommendations of these working groups, repeal of special laws and respect for human rights continue to remain big issues.

Now the fifth group’s recommendations have pushed NC and PDP into the ring to battle for autonomy or self rule. Interestingly, the separatist cadres have been put outside the ring as mute spectators and their ‘azadi’ fantasy has been pushed out of the race. Here emerges a vital question. Is strengthening of state centre relation a solution to Kashmir problem. I don’t think so and I am sure it will further create dusty atmosphere and only prolong the sufferings of people. What to negotiate, what to demand, what to revive, are the questions that no party engaged in Kashmir affairs has been able to explain. This only reflects that confusion looms large at the cost of common Kashmiri comfort.

Remarkably, PDP has been playing its cards very cautiously and created waves when it suggested that the currencies of both India and Pakistan should be used in J&K and Pakistan administered Kashmir and there should be common control of India and Pakistan on certain subjects as would pertain to these two parts of Kashmir. This way PDP succeeded in sentimentally exploiting the Kashmiri masses. But at the same time PDP has defined the Self Rule flowing through Article 370 and instrument of Accession and the Constitution of India. Here self rule agenda is more directed to take PDP to international scene not much behind the separatists in the name of settlement of Kashmir dispute. But on thing is clear, PDP has so far succeeded in handling the Kashmiri masses emotionally.

Precisely, appointing committees and groups in the name of addressing the core Kashmir issue, has proved wastage of time. Most of the time, these groups and committees have ducked hard political questions. But in both cases autonomy and self rule - the basics of the Kashmir dispute remain unattended. In the first instance, I don’t see any such thing happening at the hands of Government of India as they have mastered to keep the tradition of betrayal and deceit alive here by promising world and then delivering nothing. If at all such a thing happens, joint mechanism or changing nomenclature from chief minister to prime minister is not what constitutes Kashmir dispute.

It is notable that autonomy or self rule did not need any participation of Pakistan. Nor did these issues need any participation of separatist elements. Article 370 so often comes in the news. The Sageer committee recommendations can also be taken as an indication that its abrogation cannot be ruled out in the name of strengthening the state-centre relation. Constitutionally it can be abrogated by the Parliament of India.

If Government of India is serious and above all sincere about resolution of Kashmir dispute, it must stop scripting anti people agenda. They should not undermine dissent and come out with initiatives not to drive the conflict but to ensure miseries and sufferings of Kashmiris are put to a halt. Deceit and betrayal will only lead to further destruction for both – oppressed and oppressor.

Recalling Heritage Through Ancient Coins

Iqbal laments on Kashmiri society's inability to appreciate and protect its rich heritage in ancient coins that are a source of history and through light on ancient numismatic technology

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

Preserving Ancient Coins

In numerous passages of the Rajatarangni and other chronicles of Jon raja, Srivara and Kshenedra, there are reference to term dinara which served as a monetary token in ancient Kashmir perhaps Kashmiri term dyar also reflected the same name when we say dyar-wol we means any person possessing huge sums. Dinar has been a popular term used in terms of monetary token in ancient Kashmir and its influence has been so strong that the term is still used. Scholars have been identifying this dinar with ancient gold coin, issued here by Kushana Princes in early centuries of the Christian era.

Although the term dinar later got wrongly used in literatures for mentioning of other coins too but the term actually refers to the Kushan gold coin. The copper coins of Kushans and Tetra dirham are commonly known from Kashmir.

Numismatists and Archaeologists have found thousands of Kushan dirham and Tetra dirham and several diners from various places of Kashmir.

There are several such types which have been found while few of others are viewed to have been exclusively issued to meet the currency requirements of this province. Such coins are known as provincial series coins, numismatists like Cunningham, Roshan Field, David Macdowell, Michel Mitchner and several others have got this view. I personally feel that such coin types as are found were not only current here but also minted somewhere within Kashmir borders.

One such earlier copper coin type of Kujula Kadphsis is of Bull and camel type depicting camel on one side and bull on the other side of the coin, perhaps, the earliest Kushan type coin found in Kashmir. This type has been found absent in the Kujulas Afghanistan. The study under taken by noted numismatists Dr. David Macdowell, he has came across few piece from Khotan region, G B Bleazby and R C Kak have recorded few pieces of this type from Kashmir. The type on obverse bears humped bull and on reverse humped camel.

In year 1987 state Archaeology Department came across three copper pieces of this earlier Kushan coin at village Maidan, Chagul in frontier district of Kupwara. These coins are in bad condition but could be deciphered as Bull Came type coins. Carrying the motif of humped Bull walking to right on obverse and camel as well walking to right on reverse. The letters of the Khroshti legend are partly visible. This discovery was followed by a remarkable purchase of small coins of this type called dirham by the state Museum authorities at Srinagar. About one hundred coins of Bull camel type coins were purchased by the Museum management in 1996. These coins could easily be denominated as drachms (dirham) and I am hundred percent sure that such coins were definitely minted to meet the domestic currency needs of Kashmir province. Not only this but such type was found absent in other finds of the empire and also assumed to have been minted somewhere in Kashmir. My investigations of few numismatics collections revealed number of such smaller Bull camel type coins. I could see them in several kgs once in the Zarab Khana Bazar of olden city of Srinagar.

My observations and investigations lead me to believe that as such coins were found exclusive in Kashmir hence had been minted in Kashmir. I could here also found several forgeries of this type, which speaks of the popularity of this type.

Unfortunately almost all the ancient coins found in Kashmir are uncatalogued and undocumented, ironically thousands of these are still undeciphered and even a simple list of such coins is not available any where. Despite the fact that about eighty thousand coins are reportedly housed in SPS museum at Lalmandi, Srinagar, besides archaeological department often finds coins during its respective archaeological surveys of the state. Despite this rich heritage no step is taken to document these collections, these coins do not only serve as a source to our history but also speaks volumes about ancient numismatic technology. Let the concerned authorities and experts come forward and save this heritage for the generation to come.

SHRC Suffers Under Benign State Neglect

There is no excuse for the J&K Government to marginalize the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC)

‘Toothless’ SHRC Seeks More Powers

Arif Shafi Wani (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: In a bid to ensure compliance of its recommendations and make itself a vibrant autonomous body, the State Human Rights Commission has sought more powers from the Government.

“I have written to the Governor, NN Vohra, Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, to grant more powers to the Commission,” the chairperson of SHRC, Justice (Retd) Bashiruddin told Greater Kashmir on Sunday.

Constituted in 1997 the SHRC is governed by Jammu and Kashmir Protection of Human Rights Act 1997. By virtue of the which, the Commission can order investigations in cases of human rights violations and recommend measures for effective implementation of laws and safeguards provided by the Constitution to protect the human rights.

“Without meaning to cast shadow on the Legislature in proclaiming the Commission’s autonomous character to safeguard, protect, spread and promote human rights, the provisions of the Act and rules in practice have not yielded desired results,” The chairperson said.

Elaborating he said, in many cases realization of human rights to life, liberty, opportunity and dignity has “remained illusory.” “Even public servants have not been made accountable for their omission and commissions.”

He said over a period of time, non-accountability of public servants combined with “lax attitude” had given currency to widespread impression that the Commission’s recommendations were not meant for compliance or implementation.

“Though the provisions of the Act at the first sight give an impression that the Commission is an autonomous body, but the it’s closer examination proves that it is not so. To make the Act effective and purpose oriented it needs to be amended to bring it with tune with times,” he said.

The Commission has sought amendment to section 12 of the Act which pertains to failure of the public authority to initiate action and complete follow up within stipulated time. “We should be empowered to take action against the officers who fail to implement our recommendations,” he said, “The Government should provide us with a nodal officer or authority to stall the attempts to kill or delay our time bound recommendations.”

The Commission has asked for appointment of its members and full powers and re-fixing of the chairperson’s term as per the provisions of Central Human Rights Act, 1993. Besides it has sought the Commission’s headquarters at Kashmir and Jammu for its wider reach.

It has also demanded amendment to section 22 for making grants instead of providing budget to the Commission.

Pertinently during the PDP-Congress alliance in 2006, Justice Ali Muhammad Mir had resigned as the chairperson of SHRC to protest against the non-implementation of the Commission’s recommendations. Mir’s resignation besides causing embarrassment to the Government, had propelled the then opposition National Conference, to accuse the coalition regime of failing to curb the rights abuses in the State.

► Powers To Punish Non-Complying Officials
► Nodal Officer To Follow Recommendations
► Funds As Grants Not As 'Budget'
► Headquarters At Srinagar, Jammu

Wildlife and Fisheries Department Spar While Wular Goes Barren

Actually, neither Department is right; Fish population is dying because Wular Lake is getting steadily polluted

Wildlife and Fisheries Deptt at loggerheads over dwindling fish population in Wular

Mir Tariq (Rising Kashmir)

Banadipora: The depletion in fish population in Asia’s famous Wular Lake has sparked a row between Fisheries and Wildlife Department. While the former has asserted that migratory birds feeding on lake’s fish have become a major cause of depleting fish population, Wildlife officials say that the number of fish-eating migratory birds has itself witnessed a decline during past few years.

After Rising Kashmir reported depleting fish habitat in Wular, officers in district fisheries office Bandipora have come up with a statement that the depletion is more pronounced in winter months - October to March during which the lake plays host to fish eating migratory birds.

“There is depletion in fish population due to two main reasons, one is growing pollution and another is arrival of migratory birds in Wular Lake” said District Fisheries Officer (DFO) Muhammad Sadeeq.

Officials say that they are making all out efforts to maintain the fish population in the Lake.
“Though the department is trying to enhance fish population by introducing resistant fish eggs in the Lake but we have not been able to cope up with the situation,” added Sadeeq.

“Controlling growing pollution and regulating the arrival of migratory birds can be effective in enhancing fish population,” the officer said.

However officers in the department of Wild Life say that less number of migratory birds visit wetlands of Kashmir now due to swift changes in climate.

In a telephonic interview, Wild Life Warden (WLW) North Kashmir Ghulam Muhammad denied fewer migratory birds as the cause of depleting fish population in Wular Lake.

According to WLW the migratory birds are fish eaters, but their number has gone down steeply in Wular wetland due to growing climatic changes. “Few thousand migratory birds cannot be blamed for the main cause of depleting fish population in Wular,” WLW said.

A field employee of Wild Life department deputed at Wular wet land said “I am working here for the past eight years and have noticed less number of migratory birds visiting this place.” “Though fish is the main food of these birds, but few thousand birds cannot reduce fish population to such an extent,” the employee adds.

Officials in Fisheries Department negate the point and say that even 20,000 birds are enough to have substantial affect on Lake’s fish population. “As per rough estimates, each bird eats nearly 25 fish every day and even if 5,000 of them stay here for six months, it adds up to nearly 45 lakh fish. This decline is consequential,” said Muhammad Sadeeq DFO Bandipora. “The condition is worsening due to growing pollution in the lake” DFO added.

Substantiating the repots of Fisheries department experts from Karnataka Veterinary and Fisheries University working on project “Depleting Fish and Pollution in Wular” said, “We have noticed that the fish population reduces to half during winter season and fish is the only food source for migratory birds who visit the Lake from September to March.”

“There is an immense influence of migratory birds on fish population in Wular Lake and it can be balanced only when Wildlife department participates in adding more fish seeds in the lake for consumption of migratory birds,” said a scholar Mansoor Ahmed Rather working on the project.

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Saghir Report on State-Center Relations Leaves a Lot to be Desired

Bukhari conducts a postmortem of the Justice Saghir's Report

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

WG report on autonomy is all bones no flesh

“The question of 'Autonomy' and its demand can be examined in the light of the 'Kashmir Accord' or in some other manner or on the basis of some other formula as the present Prime Minister may deem fit and appropriate so as to restore the 'Autonomy' to the extent possible” Justice (retd) Saghir Ahmad’s report on Working Group on Centre-State relations.

This recommendation by Justice (retd) Saghir does not merit any celebration. The casual approach with which he has addressed the most crucial part of five Working Groups constituted by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in May 2006, not only undermines the demand of Greater Autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir state as put forth by National Conference but further erodes New Delhi’s credibility vis-à-vis a serious and sincere effort to resolve the Kashmir issue.

After going through the summary of the report, as circulated by State Information department, it looks flawed, weak and superficial. Barring a few mentions which one could relate to centre-state relations, the rest of the report deals with insignificant issues like promotion of IT industry, revival of HMT and enhancing of wages. From a cursory look one can reach the conclusion that the retired Judge has been very unfair to his job.

His one line recommendation about Autonomy does not suggest anything, which should make a senior NC leader like Ali Mohammad Sagar happy to say that “we will have an action plan to implement autonomy”. What are the basis on which an action plan can be formulated? Justice Saghir has miserably failed in even discussing what Autonomy means and how it can be achieved. His “recommendation” only says that “it can be examined”. The fundamental question then arises that whether Justice Saghir’s Working Group is far more sacrosanct than State Assembly which unanimously passed a resolution for implementation of a comprehensive report prepared by NC stalwarts like Late Mohiuddin Shah and A R Rather. As such there is no framework or roadmap on which the retired Judge would have asked the Government of India to work towards the implementation. Justice Saghir was not heading any constitutional body so his recommendation in any case are not binding on the government, which summarily rejected the resolution passed by an assembly, which Government of India “sold” to rest of world as the “representative body” of people of Jammu and Kashmir in 1996.

Justice Saghir talks about “Kashmir Accord” as the basis for the Autonomy. But he must be aware of the fact that Kashmir Accord, which means Accord between Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah and Indira Gandhi in 1975 is not connected with the concept of Greater Autonomy. There is no mention of Greater Autonomy in that Accord. Except for the handing of power to Late Sheikh Abdullah nothing moved on that. The accord had talked about reviewing the central laws, which in any case are just part of the Greater Autonomy. And that also could not be achieved. The Committee headed by Late D D Thakur to look at those laws did not complete its task. In any case if Justice Saghir had to refer to any such agreement then Delhi Agreement of 1952 would have been the most befitting one which entirely deals with the Greater Autonomy to the state. It is pertinent to mention here what senior NC leader Sheikh Mustafa Kamal told this newspaper on December 5, 2009 about the Accord “There is no such accord. I mean to say this accord has never taken place. Has this accord passed in the assembly? No.

So where from comes the term 1975 accord. If this accord has taken place then why it took almost two years for New Delhi to withdraw its support to NC”. The accord, contrary to Sheikh Abdullah's wishes does not return to the position as it was before his dismissal in August 1953, contrariwise, it implies clearly that the accession of the state to India is final according to Indian view point.

Most amusing aspect of this report is that abrogation or continuance of Article 370 has been left to people of Jammu and Kashmir. How it can be done, is not known. Whether there should be a referendum or the State assembly should move a resolution to do that, nothing is specific. Does this kind of a flawed recommendation hold any water when people at large in Kashmir demand referendum for “Independence”. The best option for the Working Group should have been to examine all the documents made public from time to time vis a vis the issues related autonomy. In this backdrop a comparative study of Autonomy, Self Rule and Achievable Nationhood made by New Delhi based Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation is a significant attempt to untie the knot. “These documents converge on most of the issues related to empowerment” says the study adding “even on issues where there is difference of opinion between the three, elements can be deliberated upon and then the most apt one selected”. We also need to keep in mind the fate of recommendations made by four other Working Groups which were not touching the constitution.

Apart from the flawed recommendations, it is important to take into consideration the voices of dissent which have emerged from within the Group. Except for NC, all others have raised objection to the manner in which Justice Saghir “hurried” the submission of the report. PDP had initially voiced strong reservation but a day later it softened its stand saying that it was good beginning. At the same time there is agreement between PDP, CPI (M), BJP, Panther’s Party, Ladakh Union Territory Front and Panun Kashmir that the deliberations were never complete and they had been told that there will be another round before the recommendations are complete.

The timing of the report is also not out of place. It has been submitted at the time New Delhi claims to have set into motion “quiet dialogue” with separatists to find a solution. This, in that background looks putting a cart before the horse. In any sense it does not match with the realities and exigencies on the ground to offer an olive branch to a party, which is in power, without taking on board the alienated section which is in direct demand of Azadi. By offering Autonomy (which incase of Justice Saghir’s recommendation is not the case at all), Self Rule or any other solution to NC, PDP, Congress or any other pro India party New Delhi cannot set any course to settle the issue. It takes us back to notion that it is not sincere and serious in resolving the issue that is why the departures like this.

Real Azadi Should Also Bring Freedom From Within

Mr. Puri says what is the purpose of seeking freedom from outsiders when we are ruled autocratically from within

(Mr. Balraj Puri, 80, was born in Jammu city and attended the Ranbir High School and the Prince of Wales College in Jammu. He is a journalist, human rights activist and a writer who has been an eye witness to the turbulent history of the State. He has written 5 books, including the historical "5000 years of Kashmir" in 1997. He is the Convenor of the J&K State branch of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), and the Director of the Institute of Jammu and Kashmir Affairs, based in Jammu.)

Azadi, Autonomy and Self-Rule Vs Freedom

Home Minister P Chimbmaran has offered to have a quiet dialogue with all parties in Kashmir including who are demanding. Azadi, Autonomy and Self-rule, the three main categories in which the politics of he valley is divided. But none has spelled out broad outlines of the constitutional system within the state which would ensure rights of the people if they succeed in their objective. The votaries of restoration of pre-1953 statues for the state, for instance, when Supreme Court’s jurisdiction did not extend to the state, must realize if Supreme Court’s jurisdiction extended to the state in 1953, Sheikh Abdullah count not be dismissed and arrested under any law in force at that time.

When Sheikh Abdullah, the most popular leader Kashmir ever produced, assumed power after the state’s accession to India and end of Dogra rule he hailed it as Azadi of Kashmir after four centuries of slavery, having been ruled by Mughal, Afghan, Sikh and Dogra rulers one after the other. People enthusiastically celebrated the Kashmiri rule, as if the Sheikh was their own king.

However, neither the ruler nor the people bothered about freedom. Azadi is Urdu translation of two concepts in English viz independence and freedom. The people and leaders of Kashmir who demand Azadi never bothered about freedom. After Sheikh Abdullah came to power no dissenting voice was tolerated. The system was so regimented that the office bearers of the ruling National Conference were appointed as government officers and vice versa. The Sheikh dismissed my suggestion that government officer should not hold any office in the party by citing how successful the system was working in the Soviet Union, then his ideal.

I showed a copy of an order by the Deputy Commissioner of Doda dismissing tehsil committee of Kishtwar National Conference and appointing a new committee to the Prime Minister Nehru. I asked “Can such a regimented state remain a part of a democratic India”? He disapproved the practice but added “Our entire Kashmir policy revolves around the personality of Sheikh Abdullah. We cannot afford to oppose him.”

Gradually, discontent started brewing in the State, which was bound to grow even if it was ruled by angels. As all outlets of discontent were blocked, it sought a secessionist outlet in Kashmir. GM Karra , a legendary leader of the Quit Kashmir movement against the Dogra monarchy in 1946 who was, for some reason, sidelined by the new government, in sheer desperation, raised the slogan in favour of Pakistan in June 1952 as leader of the newly formed party, People’s Conference. He rejoined mainstream Janata Party in 1977, when outlet for an opposition party was available for the first time. In Jammu, discontent took the form of an agitation sponsored by Jana Sangh for “full integration” of the state. The Sheikh, to steal thunder of Karra and provoked by Jammu agitation started making anti-India noises.

Many international forces also played a role in aggravating differences between Nehru and the Sheikh, leading to dismissal and arrest of the latter in August 1953. I was one of the first persons outside the Valley to mobilize a campain against this action of the Government of India.

I also opposed the sweeping integration of the state with the rest of India during post Nehru phase which did offend popular sentiments in Kashmir. But I draw a distinction between two forms of central institutions. One that empower the executive authority. The other which are the autonomous institutions which act as a check on the executive authority of the centre and should act on undue encroachment in the affairs of the states and ensure rights of the people against repressive and undemocratic government of the state. Mere Azadi—independence, autonomy or self-rule from external power does not ensure freedom to the people. In fact local tyranny can be far worse than that of an outside power. particularly if the ruler happens to be far less popular and principled than Sheikh Abdullah was—which was a rare phenomenon in Kashmir.

Unfortunately the entire controversy over autonomy versus integration has been debated as Kashmir versus the nation. Let people of Kashmir debate and decide what is in their interest. They would not like, for instance, to be deprived of fundamental rights guaranteed in the constitution of India and safeguards that autonomous federal institutions like the Supreme Court, Election Commission and Auditor and Comptroller General provide against interference by the centre. Even today the state has more autonomy than other states of India. But it has been used in a manner that its people have less rights than those in other states. In the rest of India, for instance, district authorities are required to report to the National Human Rights Commission any incident of custodial death within 24 hours. But people of the state have been denied this right.

The State Human Rights Commission is a poor substitute of the NHRC as it has no independent investigation agency and many vacancies in it, including that of chairman, have not been filled for the last many years. Its former chairman described it as a toothless tiger.

The State Women Commission is defunct for the last many years since the terms of its members expired.

Under Article 370 of the Constitution, 73rd and 74th amendment did not apply to the state with the result that Panchayati Raj does not exist in the state. The state did enact its own Panchayati Raj Act, which has not been implemented, and under which District Boards were to be headed by ministers—unlike in the rest of the country where they are elected. There was no provision for Block Committees and even at Panchayat level there were nominations. Same was the case with central Rights to Information Act which was enacted in 2005. The state only recently passed such an act, though it is yet to be implemented. There are many progressive laws passed by Parliament which are not applicable to the state, nor the state legislature has adopted them.

If the state gets independence, will its constitution provide for these institutions which ensure freedom to the people? The present system in the state has many undemocratic features. But independence or autonomy which would deprive people even the freedom or democratic rights they enjoy today may lead to an authoritarian regime, which will be much worse than we what have today. Any proposal for independence or autonomy is worth considering only if it enlarges freedom and democratic rights to the people.

Moreover, the Kashmiri leaders have to decide whether they are concerned with the future of the Valley or that of the whole State. For ensuring unity of the State, a federal decentralized system is a necessity. Why can’t the decision jointly announced by Nehru and Abdullah in July 1952 for granting Regional Autonomy as proposed by me and a similar decision by the State People’s Convention, convened by Sheikh Abdullah in 1968 as leader of the Plebiscite Front for an internal constitution of the state, drafted by me and unanimously approved by all the participants who included Plebiscite Front, Jamat-e-Islami, Mirwaiz Farooq’s Awami Action Committee, Karra’s People’s Conference and personalities like Maulana Massoodi, PN Bazaz and Shamim Ahmad Shamim, be implemented before demanding Azadi, Autonomy or Self-rule. These agreed proposals provided for regional autonomy and further devolution of power at district, block and panchayat levels and transfer power to the people instead of concentrating in the rulers at the state level.. This could be a basis for evolving a composite and harmonious personality of as diverse a state as J&K and the first step towards any decision on external status of the state.

Social Reporting Strengthens the Civil Society

Shahid's Department puts emphasis on developing journalists that will look beyond the usual political reporting and address burning social issues of the day as well

(Dr. Shahid Rasool Bhat, 44, is the Director of the Educational Multimedia Research Centre (EMMRC) and head of the Media Educational Research Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir. He completed a B.Sc. degree with English, Zoology, Botany, Chemistry from the University of Kashmir, M.S. in Communication Technology from Newhouse School of Communication, Syracuse University (USA), with specialization in television and radio programme Production, and Ph.D in Mass Communication from the University of Kashmir. Dr. Bhat received the US Fulbright Professional Fellowship in New Communication Technology in 1998-99.)

BBC, KU project on social reporting concludes

Etalaat News Services

Srinagar:A dissemination event to display the media outputs produced by the students of Media Education Research Centre ( MERC) during two year training on social reporting was held at the Ghandi Bhawan Hall of the University of Kashmir today. The event facilitated an interaction between the trainee journalists, local media professionals, government officials, NGOs and all those involved in disaster management related activities.

The media outputs were the result of partnership of BBC World Service Trust with University of Kashmir’s Educational Multimedia Research Centre (EMC) and Media Education Research Centre (MERC) for a two year project aimed at promoting social affairs reporting in media in Kashmir.

The BBCWST also established a functional radio studio at Kashmir University that will be used by students and staff which, and will be will the property of EMC, University of Kashmir.

Prof Riyaz Punjabi vice chancellor Kashmir university, Altaf Hussain and Waheed Mirza from BBC, Sam Miller and Harpeet Kaur from BBC world service trust , Haroon Rashid Shah senior journalist and project coordinator from BBC trust ,registrar Kashmir university Prof Syed Fayaz , faculty and students of MERC and EMC KU , media professionals from print and electronic media, participated the day long valedictory event.

Speaking on the occasion Vice chancellor Kashmir University Prof Riyaz Punjabi who presided the event and watched and listened to all the short films and radio programmes produced by students said the project aimed at improving coverage of social affairs, especially disaster management, in the media in Kashmir by building the capacity of faculty and students at the University of Kashmir to produce more effective social affairs media reports . VC said that seeing the out puts from the trainees I feel the two year project has been successful in meeting its objectives.The Vice Chancellor prof. Riyaz Punjabi on the occasion said, "the talent that I saw today is really impressive. I am confident that the students can compete at the global level with ease given the opportunity". Prof Punjabi said that said that Social affairs reporting in this part of the globe was ignored for long and with such workshops, it has been brought to the fore and in focus again.. VC KU said that Social affairs reporting is more relevant in the context of Kashmir today and he appealed the BBC WST to consider conducting such workshops again next year considering the success of this one and its importance of sensitising the future journalists in the niceties of Social Affairs reporting.

Director MERC and EMC Dr Shahid Rasool said that the aim and objective of the project was to improve and encourage Social Affairs Reporting in Media in Kashmir. He said that the idea was also to build capacity in Social Affairs reporting training so that we can carry on such training programmes after the project is over. Dr Rasool said that all the workshops and training programs were conducted at EMC involving international trainers from BBC. After the training, students were taken to disaster affected areas of Uri and Karnah to file socially relevant stories for print and electronic media. Dr Shahid said that he is confident that we have been able to build the capacity to carry on the training in social affairs reporting in the years to come, involving local trainers.

Harpeet Kaur the project manager said that During thee training the Students of Department of Mass Communications, Kashmir University were divided into groups each headed by a trainer. She said that the stories uncovered the impact of earthquake on health, education, livelihood and building constructions of the houses, gender, role played by NGOs during the earthquake in Uri and Tangdhar. Fieldwork was also organized for the first year students in and around Srinagar. The students covered stories on issues related to environment and ecology, agriculture, transport facilities.

Speaking on the occasion senior journalist Altaf Hussain from BBC said that BBC Trust has put emphasis on Social Affairs reporting with capacity building. Altaf said that Social affairs reporting is not a new phenomenon here but it is perhaps due to conflict related issues taking up most of the space that social reporting did not get its space.. He praised the products produced during the two year training. . Mirza Waheed from BBC said that Commitment is important for good journalism and we should follow up on the stories that we have done earlier besides moving to new ones.

The two year collaborative project was aimed at appropriate training in general social affairs reporting, and, more specifically, disaster-related issues and also build the capacity of KU’s faculty to teach students in social affairs reporting in a way that will help meet the needs of future employers, as well as ensure the maintenance of high academic standards and to increase coverage of social affairs and disaster-related issues in the Kashmir media. Certificates of merit and participation were given to students by vice chancellor KU Prof Riyaz Punjabi at the end of the event.

Preserving Heritage

An Editorial in the Greater Kashmir bats for preserving our heritage and suggests some organizational changes

Preserving Culture

It is not an exaggeration. The mere mention of Kashmir culture annoys the state top bureaucracy. It is manifest in their apathy towards its promotion. Notwithstanding many of them having served in the state administration for over past two and a half decades, they are yet to realize the importance of preserving culture of a nation, sub-nation or an ethnic group in strengthening integrity of a state with diverse cultures, numerous languages and people professing different faiths.

They are yet to understand the fact that culture is the link between people and their value system. It has been but for their indifference that many institutions even of the feudal times meant for the promotion of culture, language and literature of the state have crumbled one after another.

It looked like a silver lining across the firmament cast with thick dark clouds when one of the advisors of the Chief Minister announced that a sum of Rs. 1.5 crores would be spent on the renovation of the Tagore Hall, in Srinagar. The Tagore Hall that was built in 1958 by the then Prime Minister of State is the only theatre in the capital of Srinagar for the performing arts. The hall was built at a time when the city of Srinagar was spread over eight square kilometers and was sparsely populated.

During the past fifty years there has been ten times increase in the population and the city is no more confined to six bridges on the river Jhelum. It sounded sonorous when he said that the government was committed to preserve the cultural heritage of the state and an internationally reputed heritage conservation consultant had been roped in for the purpose. It is an admitted fact that besides about half a dozen full-fledged government department meant for persevering heritage, culture, art, architecture, language and literature, both the state and the centre government has been funding many non-governmental organizations.

But a coordinated effort for promoting culture of the state more particularly of Kashmir has been missing. In keeping with persistent demand made by writers, poets, artists, sculptors and cultural activists the government under Ghulam Nabi Azad had created an independent department of culture in the government but the state bureaucracy was quick in abolishing the department after the new government took over. In the very first cabinet meeting memo was introduced to abolish the newly created department of culture and merge it with the tourism department without even allowing the Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah to realize the spirit behind creating of this department. This decision disappointed men of letters and lovers of culture and art.

The department of culture in the government had been created with an aim bringing under one canopy all the departments and organization dedicated to the promotion of culture and preservation of the rich heritage of the state. The creation of separate department under a senior minister had been seen as a step towards bringing in greater coordination in the activities of various departments and organization for promotion of culture. The departments that were brought within the ambit of the Department of Culture included the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture, Languages and literature, the Department of Archives, Archeology and Museums, Department of Libraries and Research. These department before creation of the department of culture had been appended to the department of education and putting them under the department of tourism after its winding up sounds ironical.

Seen in the right perspective the departments that were putting under the umbrella of the Department of culture were a collage of the departments that for better performance deserved to be made an independent unit. The government had long mooted the idea of creating three separate academies for Art, Culture and Languages. It also had contemplated of creating an independent department of history, research and publication as existed during the autocratic rule. The department was expected to translate the great literary treasure of Kashmir in modern languages.

The Chief Minister, not only needs to relook at the decision of abolishing the department of culture but also to explore the possibilities of creating three different academies for promotion of culture and taking steps for making great literary treasure of Kashmir available to new generation.

Missing Work Ethic

Kashmir's ability to "take it easy" has no limits

Valley’s Sick Work Culture

40 officials found absent from duty in Khansahib

Budgam: In a classic example of poor work culture in the government offices of valley, 40 officials were found unauthorizedly absent from duty in Khansahib, Budgam.

The officers and officials belong to SDH Khansahib, Municipal Committee Khansahib, Subdistrict Agriculture office, Agriculture Extension office, PHC, ShamsAbad and CDPO Khansahib.

According to a government statement, on the instructions of Deputy Commissioner, Budgam the Additional Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Amin during his inspection of various departments in the district found the officials absent. The action under rules has been initiated against them and the Deputy Commissioner has taken serious notice on the report submitted by ADC, the statement added.

(Rising Kashmir)

Manufactured Mediocrity

Growing up in a lawless land where government servants are the first to observe illegal hartals declared by separatists has its downside on the young

Srinagar govt schools top zero performance list

Danish Nabi (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Recently declared matric examination results by the Jammu and Kashmir Board of School Education has yet again revealed a dismal performance of the government schools in Kashmir with 19 of them showing zero performance and the rest failing to match the success rate of their private counterparts.

The results were declared on December 19 which showed a pass percentage of 63.94. Around 44587 students had appeared in the examination and 28507 out of them were declared successful.

However, in every district of the Valley the results are a tell-tale of private schools outclassing the government ones. In Srinagar, several government schools have achieved zero per cent success in the examinations despite having minimal number of students enrolled.

In Government Boys High School Ahmada Kadal only four students had appeared in the examination but none came out successful. The others in the list are Government Girls High School Gassi Mohalla and Government Girls High School M K Sahib Safa Kadal, which had four and a single student enrolled respectively.

The performance of other government schools doesn’t look impressive either. For instance, in Government Boys High School Sangam Eidgah two students out of 37 have come out successful showing a pass percentage of mere 5.41.

Following Srinagar is Budgam district where at least four schools are with zero per cent success. All seven students of Government High School Cheki Sardar, nine of Government High School Najan, four of Government High School Riyarich and three of Government Higher Secondary School Hardu Ranzo have failed.

Government High School Pallar Budgam had 10 students enrolled but nine out of them are unsuccessful.

Topping the list of failures among districts, however, is Varmul with seven government schools showing zero per cent success. These include Government Boys High School Divar Singhpora, Government Boys High School Heewan Varmul, Government Girls High School Khandinyar Varmul, Government High School Khahmoh Rafiabad, Government High School Parampillan and Government Higher Secondary School Dangerpora.

While Ganderbal district has a single school with zero output, government schools in other districts aren’t far behind in poor performances. In Bandipora, the Government School with maximum number of students, 53, has a pass percentage of 5.66. Similarly, in Government Girls Higher Secondary School Bijbehara Islamabad only 23 students have passed out of 114.

Pertinently, the average pass percentage for private schools is around 70 per cent while there are only four schools where all students appearing in the examination have failed.

Secretary Education, G A Peer, attributes the poor performance to admission policies. “The cream of the students goes to private schools and it gives them better outputs,” he said. “Moreover we don’t go for the screening test before exams unlike private schools,” he added

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Turning "Shop Politics" into Serious Politics

Khayal offers some ideas to restore credibility to the "biggest shop" in Kashmir

(Mr. Ghulam Nabi Khayal, 70, was born in Srinagar. He received his schooling and college education in Srinagar, and completed his Masters degree in English. Mr. Khayal is considered a doyen among Kashmiiri journalists, having worked for both Indian and international newspapers like the Statesman, India Today, the Guardian, Voice of America, and others. He is also a topnotch Kashmiri writer having bagged numerous awards at local, national and international levels, including the prestigious Sahitya Akademi Award in 1975. Mr. Khayal has published 24 books in Kashmiri, Urdu and English languages. He is the owner of a journal, Voice of Kashmir, published weekly from Srinagar.)

One-man show? Hurriyat must first try to put their house in order

It may not sound fair that the Hurriyat Conference (APHC) is targeted with severe criticism time and again. At the same time one has every right to ascertain as to what progress the APHC has made during the last 16 years to bring nearer a solution of the Kashmir problem. It has been not less that thousand times that Hurriyat leadership has made tall claims publicly that the settlement of the dispute was round the corner but all that has proved to be a hoax and these shallow statements and press releases are still pouring in to further confuse the suffering people of Kashmir.

The horrible result of this wavering attitude adopted by the Hurriyat has been that one of its most sensible, noble, non-controversial and matured members, Fazl Haque Qureshi, had to bear the brunt of some militants with an assassination bid made on him 04 December in old Srinagar.

Over the years, rather from day one, the Hurriyat has almost lost itself into a labyrinth of complicated and blurred paths and corridors created by its own top leadership which is now caught in a tightening snare of differences and its efforts for letting itself out of it are not in sight.

There are reports confirmed even by sources in the home ministry that at least three members of the Hurriyat executive committee met Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh around midnight in Nehru Guest house in Srinagar when he was on a brief visit to Kashmir to flag off the train between Qazigund and Varmul recently. The secret meetings between Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and the Union home minister in a hotel in New Delhi, and also with the Prime Minister Singh, have also been taking rounds over here. Chidambaram’s repeatedly, and unnecessarily, talking about going on smoothly of secret talks is obviously bound to paint all the speculations in a colour of belief.

Emboldened by chief minister Omar Abdullah’s praising him, the Hurriyat Chairman, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, has started speaking a threatening language that “anti-movement elements, who have been seeking favours and privileges in the name of Kashmir dispute, shall soon be put to justice before the people.”

This warning of Mirwaiz is reminiscent of Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah who in his thunderous voice warned corrupt forces in the government and political field while delivering his first speech in Lal Chowk, Srinagar, after becoming chief minister in February 1975 that “the day of reckoning has come for those of my predecessors and bureaucrats who looted the public exchequer with both hands turning it into a defamed state.” What happened afterwards is known to one and all.

In this context, it does not augur well for a seasoned Mirwaiz to wash the dirty linen in public particularly on money matters. The people know well how millions of rupees came from different official and unofficial sources to bring the secessionist politicians into the national mainstream or keep the pot of militancy boiling.

Since all of them are stained, they should rather pay their utmost attention to put their disorderly house in order. The assassination bid on Qureshi has sparked off yet another row with a disgusting war of words declared against each other by two factions of a non-functional amalgam headed by Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq respectively. Mirwaiz apparently held Geelani responsible for Qureshi episode with his provocative speeches adding fuel to the fire, to which Geelani responded saying that he never uttered a word which could foment trouble against his rivals.

The Hurriyat (M) has disbanded all its sub sections and asked his associates not to issue any statement on behalf of the Hurriyat till the task of a new and effective formation is accomplished. But, Shabbir Shah lost no time to reject the concept of quiet talks with New Delhi. Molvi Abbas is also singing to the same tune.

All this has really bound the Hurriyat chief in a tricky situation. Who now finds for himself “Na jaai Maandan, na paai raftan.” (No place to sit in, no feet to run away with). Meanwhile, Al-Nasireen, a hitherto unknown militant outfit, who has owned responsibility for attacking Qureshi, has warned pro-dialogue leaders to desist from quiet talks with New Delhi or else face the consequences. Calling the pro-dialogue Hurriyat politicians “veiled leaders,” the outfit cautioned that they should denounce their behind the scene truck with India. The outfit disclosed that earlier, they had advised Fazl Haq Qureshi not to indulge in such activities but he did not pay any attention to this suggestion. The outfit spokesman, Sameeul Haq said, “Qureshi was a facilitator of behind the scene parleys between New Delhi and some veiled persons.” He also said, “a delegation was sent to his home to convince him but he did not listen to us.”

There is a proposal that The Hurriyat changes its nomenclature from all party to Jammu & Kashmir Hurriyat Conference. Before this step is taken the Conference shall have to accommodate like minded representatives from Jammu.

Till date, The amalgam has never thought of including representatives in it from Kashmiri speaking areas of Jammu region including Doda, Bhadrwah, Kishtwar, Rajouri and Poonch. Also, there is not a single Kashmiri Pandit in the Hurriyat and the representation of Kashmiri Sikhs is also not there right from the beginning. Some other political forces who believe that Kashmir is a political dispute are also missing. This makes the Hurriyat Conference into a small forum of some Muslim clerics, Imams, self styled politicians and so called leaders. With its groping in the dark in a small Valley, whose representative is the Hurriyat of today?

Most probably, it will not be done because of vested interests dominating the Conference. The division, deadlock, inactivity and stalemate in this forum, shall therefore continue to some fatal day when the disappointed and disgusted people shall publicly reject it and ask the so called leaders to leave them alone, go back to their respective homes and take a long rest. This day may not be far away from now.

The bid on the life of Qureshi shall, in one way or the other, tell upon the courage and strength of the Hurriyat to go ahead with the Indian government with its secret talks which are also bound to bring about no positive results under present circumstances when Pakistan is being sidelined which may not be acceptable to the overwhelming majority of the people of Kashmir.

Indeed the State With the Highest VAT Collection is also the Richest

What statistical analyses do not convey is that such data actually confirm the enormous gap between the rich and the poor in Kashmir

J&K richest State in country

New Delhi: Almost half of Orissa’s population is poor, with 46.37 per cent of the people in the State living below poverty line.

On the other hand, insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir is the richest where only 5 out of every 100 are officially poor.

The assesments based on daily calorie-intake found that people in Orissa were most deprived followed by Bihar, Jharkhand and Chattisgarh, with the below poverty line population hovering over 40 per cent in each of these States, Minister of State for Planning and Parliamentary Affairs V Narayansamy told the Upper House today in written reply.

Chandigarh and Punjab were among the better performers with only 7.07 per cent and 8.41 living below the poverty line.

"According to the latest available estimates based on large sample survey data on household consumer expenditure, 27.5 per cent people were living below the poverty line...In rural areas the poverty ratio was estimated as 28.3 per cent whereas in urban areas it was 25.7 per cent," Narayansamy said.

A number of poverty alleviation programmes, including National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS), Swarnajayanti Gram Swarojgar Yojana, Indira Awas Yojana (IAY) and Swarna Jayanti Sheri Rojgar Yojana (SJSRY) are being implemented by the Governemnt, he said.

However, he added, "During the last two years — 2007-08 and 2008-09, the States like Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, J&K, Madhya Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Sikkim and West Bengal were not able to achieve the targets...."

"...Under the Indira Awas Yojana, mainly the States of Bihar, Goa, Manipur, Meghalaya and West Bengal were not able to achieve the targets during 2007-08 and 2008-09," Narayansami said.

Under the SJSRY, on an average the performance of all North-Eastern States, and Jharkhand, Goa, J&K, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab was below average, he said. (PTI)

From Wazwans to Masjids, Kashmir's Forests are Being Depleted

Without proper reseeding and forest management, Kashmir has little chance of restoring its natural woods

City masjids consume 40,000 quintals of fire wood

Rising Kashmir News

Srinagar: To keep worshippers warm, hamam’s at the city masjids consume more than 40,000 quintals of fire wood every winter, a practice forest officials say has to be changed in future keeping in view exhaustion of required wood and forest depletion.
“Some has to be used as an alternative. The practice of using conifers as fuel must end,” Range officer at the Timber Transport Range (TTR) Parimpora, Mohammad Latief Bhat said.

The Urban Forestry Department (UFD) is keeping up with its tradition of supplying firewood to the masjids and other religious institutions at subsidised rates and this year too it has supplied 2500 quintals of the firewood to 707 masjids.
And despite total number of masjids registered with the department being 1142, officials say the number is increasing every year putting more pressure on the department for fuel supplies.

Bhat said, “Number of masjids is going up every year and with extraction of firewood from forests proving to be a costly affair the religious places will have to procure additional firewood from the open market.”

The forest department during the lumbering process sorts out the rotten and decaying conifers that are dumped later at the TTR Parimpora. From there it is passed on to the city masjids, cemeteries, shamshaans and churches.

This year price for a quintal of firewood is 130 rupees with the private transporters charging 30 rupees a quintal for transportation.

Officials of the forest department suggest the wood could be used in the wood-based industry as an alternative keeping in view the depletion of forests.

“With the help of advancement in timber technology,” the range officer said, “the rotten and discarded wood can be utilised in wood-based industry where it can be turned into more useful products instead of burning in hamam’s.”

The official also said, “Burning of conifers firewood—a major component of what is supplied to the masjids also adds to pollution given the high amount of oil it harbours which on burning produces a high particulate matter in the shape of soot.”
To sustain with the firewood requirements, Bhat said that there should be intense plantations of fire wood tree species.

“It is the only way we can actually cope up with the issue,” he added.


Aid group tries to reduce carbon footprint of weddings in Kashmir Valley

By Emily Wax (Washington Post)

Srinagar: During every wedding season in the Kashmir Valley, love is in the air -- along with a thick cloud of grey smoke from thousands of cooking fires as platoons of wedding chefs, or wazas, slow-cook lamb and chicken over wood fires, sometimes for days.

Epic wedding banquets, each with dozens of courses that include succulent lamb kebabs, mutton meatballs and chicken curries, are an engine of Kashmiri culture. But they are also an environmental hazard: About 15,000 trees a day are cut down for these nuptial feasts, say researchers from Mercy Corps, an international aid group.

So now, in its latest attempt to find creative ways to fight climate change, the group is trying to reduce the carbon footprint of Kashmiri weddings.

"The Big Fat Kashmiri Wedding is going green," said Usmaan Ahmad, who is overseeing program development for Mercy Corps in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-administered Kashmir. "If wazas go green, it's the perfect way to demonstrate the substitution of cleaner energy not just for weddings but for heating households, too."

As world leaders at the U.N. climate change conference in Copenhagen struggle to hash out a plan for cutting emissions on a global scale, leaders in ecologically fragile regions such as Kashmir are coming up with small-scale solutions to shrink their carbon footprint and stave off or survive the effects of global warming, largely thought to be caused by greenhouse gases.

In Bangladesh, for instance, aid groups are building "floating villages," with schools and health clinics on boats, and offering special classes to help educate farmers and women about building shelters to survive flooding expected to be caused by warming.

Kenya built its first wind farm atop the Ngong Hills. It harnesses the breezes that sweep through the Rift Valley to generate clean power for the energy-starved East African nation.

The Himalayan region of Kashmir is home to glaciers that provide fresh water for one-fifth of the world's population. But scientists and United Nations researchers say the glaciers are shrinking faster than expected and, at the current rate, could disappear within 30 years.

"If we don't stop the glaciers from disappearing, this could become another potential for conflict over water supply," said Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, a glaciologist at the University of Kashmir. "If we can get weddings to go green, that means we are motivating people on the ground. That is a powerful thing."

Mercy Corps workers are persuading wazas to cook their wedding delicacies with something they had never thought possible: weeds from Dal Lake and other household waste such as potato and fruit peels that are mixed with clay, heated, then crunched into cleaner-burning briquettes.

The project is part of grass-roots efforts here to fight global warming in places that are most affected by the phenomenon.

In the nearby region of Ladakh, retired civil engineer Chewang Norphel, known as "Glacier Man," came up with a novel way to artificially create glaciers.

He builds small stone walls to slow the downhill flow of glacier runoff, causing it to freeze faster during the winter months.

"Norphel is a real, live example of acting locally and not just waiting to see what happens on the international level," said Nawang Rigzin Jora, minister for tourism and culture in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

To bring attention to the plight of those suffering most from the adverse effects of climate change, Mercy Corps and the state's Tourism Ministry organized the first-ever rock concert in Srinagar, to coincide with the opening of the Copenhagen talks. U.S. singer-songwriter Terra Naomi teamed up with Kashmiri crooner Waheed Jeelani for a local rendition of her hit single "Say It's Possible," inspired by the award-winning documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."

In Kashmir, social activists fear that the valley's natural beauty -- its apple orchards, stream-laced pine forests and lakes filled with pink lotus flowers -- is quickly disappearing.

Many scientists say man-made greenhouse gases are causing weather patterns to become more extreme.

In Kashmir, subtle changes in temperature have affected the region's vegetation. For centuries, Kashmiri folklore and botanical records show that the valley's narcissus flower usually blooms in April and May. But in recent years Kashmiri farmers and horticulturalists say the flower is blooming as early as January.

"That shows just how much nature's calendar is in disarray," said Ahmad of Mercy Corps.

Standing over steaming caldrons, the wazas at a local kitchen said they were skeptical of cooking their beloved dishes over biomass fuel briquettes made from weeds and food scraps.

"It might change the taste," said Fayaz Ahmed, 30.

"We've been cooking this way for over a hundred years, but if people want their wedding dishes cooked in a new way, we can try it," he said, ladling a massive mutton meatball out of a steaming pot.

"We will see what the lamb tastes like."

Accepting the Rule of Law in the Second Most Corrupt State in India

Three topical reports related to land grab, environmentally detrimental construction in Pahalgam, and unplanned sprawl in Srinagar, prove once again that Kashmiri citizens are turning their paradise into a wasteland of greed and grief

Encroachment of govt land goes unchecked

Shabir-ul-Haq (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: While the government is thinking of passing an ordinance against the conversion of agricultural land into other forms, a large chunk of the land belonging to agriculture department is under threat from land mafia.

A big portion of many agricultural farms and nurseries across the valley have been encroached on by the land mafia in Srinagar, Anantnag, Budgam and other districts. Sources in the agriculture department said the land mafia is enjoying patronage of both politicians and top officials of agriculture and revenue department.

Pleading anonymity, an agriculture official said, "The influential land brokers have managed to grab thousands of kanals of land belonging to the agriculture, floriculture, horticulture and sericulture in many districts of the valley.” He said that if some honest officials object to the illegal land grabbing, they are threatened of dire consequences by the land mafia.

Another official, wishing not to be named, said the land mafia in order to grab some portion of the government nurseries and farms intentionally purchase the land near them. "After purchasing the land near agriculture, horticulture and sericulture nurseries, the land brokers being in nexus with the revenue officials easily manage to fudge revenue records to grab some more kanals from these nurseries and farms," he said, adding, "The government seems to be least concerned about the issue.”

Citing examples of two agriculture farms in Srinagar, the official said, "The land brokers after purchasing a big portion of land behind the agriculture farms in Dangarpora and Chattabal areas tried to grab some portion of the farms that would lead as a path to the land they have purchased.”

He said that after they failed in their evil designs due to strong objection by some honest officials, the land mafia involved some locals in the matter who on their behest have started demanding conversion of the farm into Eidgah.

"The land brokers have also started harassing our employees who stay there for watch and ward during nights. The top officials of the department are fully aware about the harassment of employees by the mafia, but for reasons better known to them, no action is being taken against them," he added.

In another case of land grabbing in Dialagam area of Islamabad, a former Ikhwani and now a government employee, has encroached upon many kanals of a nursery belonging to sericulture and has even constructed a house on it.

There are reports of agriculture nurseries and farms having been grabbed by the land mafia in connivance with some top officials of agriculture and revenue departments in Pulwama, Tral, Budgam and other areas also.

Unhindered constructions mutilate Pahalgam

Khalid Gul (Greater Kashmir)

Pahalgam: Despite repeated recommendations by the Tourism and Ecology & Environment departments for imposing a five-year moratorium on building activity in the commercial sector in Pahalgam, concrete structures continue to come up in this famous tourist resort of south Kashmir.

During the last two decades this resort is changing into a large concrete town with commercial structures coming up at an unsustainable pace.

In 2007, the then Assistant Director Tourism, vide letter no. 795-99/TOP addressed to the Chief Executive Officer, Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA), expressed concern over the large-scale construction.

“The building activity in Pahalgam is going on at such a fast pace that it could harm the ecology of the area irreparably and denude Lidder valley of its unique character. Any imbalance with the elements of nature can have serious repercussions for the ecology and economy of the whole area. Thus it is requested to impose a building moratorium for five years and only allow repairs, face-lifting and reconstruction of the already existing structures after proper permission and the building permission be limited only to the local residents strictly for residential purpose with strict building guidelines,” he wrote.

Subsequently, the Directorate of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing, too endorsed the five-year moratorium proposal, adding that provisions of Environment Protection Act be implemented in letter and spirit.

“But to the contrary, large commercial structures including huts and hotels are coming up in the ecologically vulnerable zones despite the accommodation available, in both private and public sector, being more than sufficient to cater to the current demand,” sources in the Building And Operations Controlling Authority (BOCA) said.

Besides, there are private properties mostly belonging to locals with a capacity of about 2000 beds that provide accommodation to tourists during peak season and on weekends. Moreover, tented accommodation is also made available by JKTDC and various private camping agencies according to market demand.

Sources further said JKTDC alone has the capacity to erect tented accommodation with a capacity of another 4000 beds which can be enhanced when required. Also there are many sites in state land available at Nunwan, Ganesbal, Aru, Frislan, Mamlan, Mandian and Athnadan and Pahalgam which have the potential of enhancing temporary seasonal accommodation by thousand more beds if basic amenities like mobile or permanent toilets are made available.

Chief Executive Officer, PDA, Waheed Ahmad Tak, said, “It is true that Pahalgam along with its surroundings has been turned into a jungle of concrete structures. I have taken up this issue with the Chief Minister recently. I hope we will come up with some plan.”

Violations Of Srinagar Master Plan To Be Undone

Srinagar: Bulldozers will go into action in the summer capital once again as the government appears to have finally woken up to the proliferation of illegal commercial complexes in the city and is planning a massive demolition drive to undo large-scale violations of the Srinagar Master Plan.

Though commercial complexes have broken out like an indiscriminate rash all over Srinagar, successive governments have failed to enforce legal and civic guidelines about the location of such structures, often under the pressure of influential quarters.

For starters, to undo some of the damage, the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) is targeting illegal construction mushrooming on the upcoming by-pass from Tengpora to Naugam.

A comprehensive action plan to tear down illegal constructions on the stretch has been drawn up after a detailed survey of the city by special squads to identify the violations in civic guidelines.

The squads have already sealed the fate of many complexes that had originally been approved as residential premises but were later converted for commercial purposes.
Sources said that in such cases certain influential quarters had obtained permissions for constructing residential houses or undertaking repairs and renovation, but had gone on to put up shopping lines and commercial buildings, which are a brazen violation of the Srinagar Master Plan.

Scores of illegal commercial complexes and hundreds of other unauthorized constructions are said to have come up on both sides of the by-pass, and many have now been marked as condemned by the SDA squads.

The Authority says that the constructions would be bulldozed in an extensive demolition drive starting within a few days. The constructions include automobile showrooms erected in lieu of farm houses, guest houses, medical clinics, shopping malls, even schools and a host of other commercial enterprises.

Big names such Chevrolet, Peak Automobiles and the Srinagar British School are said to have been erected in place of residential premises originally authorized by the administration, and have now been marked for the bulldozer’s blade.

Even the government-run tourism department and the Indian Railways are said to have gone against the Srinagar Master Plan, and are currently the subjects of an SDA survey.

But hoping to twist the law once again in their favour, influential violators are flocking to the designated tribunal to halt the demolishing hands of the SDA, and many appear to be succeeding.

But SDA sources maintain that violators would be given no quarter now, and no diversionary tactic would be allowed to succeed.

(Kashmir Observer)

Just Like the Good Old Days

Altaf believes a comeback for backyard poultry farming makes a lot of sense

(Dr. Syed Mohammad Altaf Gilani, 42, was born in Srinagar. He attended the DAV School, Jawahar Nagar, Srinagar, and graduated from the Islamia College of Science and Commerce, Srinagar and the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, SKUAST-K, Srinagar, and ICAR, New Delhi. Dr. Gilani is a Veterinarian (Poultry Consultant). In his leisure time, he enjoys Writing, Watching Hollywood Classics.)


In our Valley, the changing lifestyles have rendered us dependant on imports which are increasing with every passing day. Imports of mutton, poultry, eggs, cereal grains and even vegetables and fruits have become the order of the day. The situation has precipitated from our sloppy approach which of course makes us different from the same race of the developed world. In our self-styled urbanized culture we have elapsed the self-contained routine dealings of recent past wherein the agricultural activities, including livestock rearing were considered as a symbol of welfare and security. The poultry rearing was one such endeavor and even the urban family units would possess not less than ten birds each, not to mention of rural house holds. The imports those days were not so colossal and even the late hour guest could be offered a chicken. The children were well nourished with the eggs from ones own backyard and the locally produced brown-shelled eggs were also available on the grocery shop. The present state of affairs have resulted in the imports of table eggs alone to the tune of 160 lakhs per annum amounting to Rs. 400 lakhs which as per the approximation after five years would swell up to 1500 lakh eggs per annum amounting to flight of capital from Kashmir Valley worth Rs. 4500 lakhs, if allowed uncontrolled. This simulated approach towards the day to day affairs needs to be altered in favour of a self-sustained economy.

Our cultural, socio-economic and religious beliefs make poultry rearing in our backyard, other than the commercial rearing, an ideal past-time. Feeding of chickens, collection of eggs, cleaning of coop, hatching of eggs, all take us very close to the nature and give us a feeling of the essence of life. Owning of birds from a very good breed with beautiful plumage and excellent production characteristics gives a feel of contentment and adds to the compilation of exhibits which one would love to share with the visitors. To peak it all, the collecting of fresh eggs from your backyard which are far more superior in taste, flavor, nutrients and free from drug residues makes whole process worth getting pleasure from.

The art of owning and breeding poultry can be very rewarding and enjoyable indeed. The challenge of improving a breed, the feeling of accomplishment and pride in owning and maintaining beautiful fowls with unique heritage, or just relaxing in the enjoyment of observing one of the most stunning and useful creatures on Earth in your very own backyard. Keeping poultry can ensure a plentiful supply of eggs superior in taste and freshness; meat with flavour and texture that's real and authentic; gardens that grow and produce like never before. The hierarchical behavior being exhibited by the flock is a treat to watch wherein the alpha male can be seen foraging and inviting other birds lower in hierarchy for the seize. The rearing of a fowl gives us a feeling of owning of a pet without any religious taboo.

The biggest initial expense is the pen, which consists of an enclosed area for the chickens to walk around in by day (they need exercise), and a coop for them to sleep in at night. A coop should have at least 2 square feet of floor space and 1 1/2 feet of headroom per bird, as well as space for a nest. Larger birds need more room. You can make the coop as elaborate as you want, or put it together cheaply using salvaged timber. Use chicken wire of a heavy gauge, though. The coop can be designed to meet ones aesthetic sense. One feeder and one drinker are sufficient for a medium sized enclosure. The egg nest can be placed in such a way that the laid eggs can be collected though a small window from outside without disturbing the birds in the coop. A coating of dry saw-dust can be laid on the floor to act as a bedding material and to steer clear of the stink. During the winter season, polythene should be wrapped on the enclosed area to shield the birds from cold drafts.

White Leghorns are the most popular commercial breed because they lay 250 to 300 white eggs annually during their prime laying years. For the home poultry keeper, however, the heavier red, brown, and black hens are probably better choices. Hybrids are a little larger than Leghorns and lay 180 to 240 brown eggs a year. In comparison the indigenous local birds lay only 50 to 60 eggs a year and exhibit broodiness for most of the time. Egg production is related to the length of day, so the pen should be in a sunny spot, although it should also be shaded during summer. Some backyard-poultry enthusiasts put lights in their coops to increase production. Hens mature at 5 to 6 months, depending on the breed, and then start laying eggs. They will lay at their best rate for one or two years and at a reduced rate into their third, fourth, and fifth years. Many poultry keepers, however, put their non-productive hens into the cooking pot.

Eggs from hens allowed to peck on pasture are a heck of a lot better than those from chickens raised in cages or under semi-intensive system (deep litter system). Most of the eggs currently sold in the markets are nutritionally inferior to eggs produced by hens raised on pasture or in the backyard. Testing has found that the eggs from such hens contain 1⁄3 less cholesterol, 1⁄4 less saturated fat, 2⁄3 more vitamin A, 2 times more omega-3 fatty acids, 3 times more vitamin E and 7 times more beta carotene. The stress factors and the drug residues in the farm produced eggs rank such eggs mediocre in quality while as in the backyard eggs such factors are lacking which makes the backyard egg nutritionally far superior. Nutritionally, there is no difference between the white shelled egg and brown shelled egg produced under the same circumstances. Birds with white plumage and white ear lobes lay white shelled eggs and the birds with brown plumage and brown ear lobes lay brown shelled eggs.

Lot of kitchen waste, vegetables, bread and rice left-over and some grains are being recycled by the backyard poultry into a highly nutritious 60 grams packaged breakfast food, called egg. Garden cuttings, lettuce and cabbage leaves, pea vines, and leafy green carrot tops can go to the chickens, which also eat weeds, worms, and all kinds of table scraps. Sometimes even the chickens can be let to wander around the yard to keep the slug population in check.

The surplus males got out of the bunch make a very tasty dinner again far more superior in taste, texture and nutrition than the commercial chickens sold in the market. When the pen is cleaned out, the manure can be shoveled into the compost pile, where it degrades and eventually gets spread over the garden to feed next year's crop.

Being part of this earthy cycle can be pleasurable almost as much as opening the back window and hearing the musical cluck, cluck, cluck of your happy hens. Buying cold eggs at the grocery store is no match for gathering warm ones each morning and marveling at the freshness and perfection of nature.