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

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.

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