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, October 29, 2009

A Perspective on Gilgit-Baltistan

Zafar discusses the schism that exists between Pakistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK

(Mr. Zafar Iqbal, 32, was born in village Tarar, Rawalakot, in the Poonch district of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He did his early schooling in a private school, matriculating through examinations conducted by the Mirpur Educational Board, and completed his higher secondary education from the Government Degree College in Rawalakot. He received his B.A. in Political Science from the University of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (Rawalakot campus), and his M.A. in Mass Communication from the Punjab University in Pakistan. He received international scholarships to attend the International Summer School at the University of Oslo in 2005 receiving a Graduate Diploma in Media Studies, and the Nottingham Trent University, U.K., in 2006-2008 receiving M.A. in Media & Globalization. Mr. Iqbal has been a journalist working in the print and TV media since 1999 and is very active in human rights, earthquake relief and rehabilitation especially involving women and children, and inter-faith harmony. He is the Founder and Executive Director of the Press for Peace (PFP) and the Founder-President of the Environmental Journalists Forum, both based in Muzaffarabad. Mr. Iqbal has been invited to numerous national and international seminars and workshops related to human development.)

Self Rule for Gilgit Baltistan

The people of Pakistan controlled Giglit Baltistan are going to exercise their right of vote to elect 24 members of Legislative Assembly on November 12, This significant move is component of a contested Constitutional package-“ Gilgit- Baltistan Empowerment and Self governance Order-2009 ” enforced by Government of Pakistan, which, amid strong criticism and resentment of Kashmiri political parties, received largely cheerful rejoinder from the people of Gilgit Baltistan who were struggling for their constitutional rights since their inclusion in Pakistan.

Historically, the Northern areas have been part of former State of Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan assumed the administrative control of the region on 28 April, 1949 when first president of AJ&K Sardar Ibrahim, Ghulam Abbas, President All Jammu and Kashmir Muslim Conference and M Ali Gurmani, Minister without portfolio Government of Pakistan signed an agreement in Karachi. This agreement was not participated and endorsed by the people and leadership of the region which future was decided in it. At that time Government of AJ&K had no representation from Gilgit and Baltistan and then ruling party - Muslim Conference had no presence in Gilgit and Baltistan like now. Plainly, the decision was made without the consultation or involvement of local leadership and people who liberated their homeland from Dogra regime by an armed revolt.

The region practically remained invisible in the mainstream political and constitutional structure of the country for almost half century. No considerable move was made to empower the local population who stayed on the mercy of Islamabad controlled local administration. During this period the only noticeable step was Northern Areas Council Legal Framework Order 1974-75 which abolished feudal system and Frontier Crimes Regulations (FCR) from the region. On November 3, 1999, Northern Areas Council was established through the election; however, it is a common perception among the nationalist circles that that Islamabad continued to alienate local people through Ministry of Kashmir Affairs and Northern Areas.

Throughout the history, the focal point of the Pakistani establishment and pro- Pakistan Kashmiri leadership confined to highlight the human rights situation in Indian Kashmir and advocating the “doctrine of right of self determination”, conversely, the people of Gilgit Baltistan were ignored both by Pakistan and majority of Kashmiri leadership. In recent years the plight of the people of Gilgi Baltistan was echoed on international fora like European Union and Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) where Pakistan was denounced for its deliberate failure Vis -a -Vis political rights scenario of Gilgit Baltistan.

Under new economic and strategic processes in South Asia, the region of Gilgit Baltistan becomes vital for the survival of Pakistan. The Kara Korarm Highway (KKH), abundance of water recourses and prospective participation of China in Iran Pakistan gas pipeline project- are few critical factors which connote the significance of the region for Pakistan and its neighbors. In this milieu, Pakistan can not afford the aggravation of local population in northern Areas where some nationalist groups already demand for an independence state at a time when separatist struggle in Balochistan and Taliban movement in NWFP region have raised the questions for the survival of the country.

In this scenario, Islamabad considered indispensable to design some measures to counteract this stern international criticism on Northern Areas issue, thus, recent ‘Self rule Ordinance’ could be viewed as an artifact of that international and domestic needs of Pakistan, however, the development has attracted by and large amalgamated resentment and resistance from major Kashmiri political voices. All Parties Hurriyet Conference (APHC-M) which claims to be representative of all Kashmiris even without any representation from Pakistani controlled AJK and Gilgit Baltistan, hailed the self rule for northern areas. However, all fractions of JKLF and other nationalist parties and alliances like APNA and United Jihad Council have categorically opposed Pakistan’s move. They say that Northern Areas are part of Kashmir; therefore, Pakistan can not initiate any mechanism in the region till the resolution of Kashmir dispute.

On the other hand, the cheerful supporters from Gilgit Baltistan argue that if Azad Jammu & Kashmir can operate under an interim constitution enacted by the AJK Legislative Assembly in 1974, without damaging the official stance of government of Pakistan over Kashmir, why the people of Gilgit Baltisant can not enjoy the similar political, constitutional and administrative rights?. Additionally, they allege that the people of Gilgit Baltistan were ‘sold’ to Pakistan through reprehensible ‘Karachi Agreement’ participated by some Kashmiri leaders. Subsequently, they insist that inhabitants of Northern Areas should not be sacrificed for the sake of ‘Kashmir case’ and term the package as a stride towards further political, constitutional and democratic reliance and economic development of the region.

The truth is that the majority of Kashmiri leaders who strongly oppose the package have never felt the sufferings of people of Gilgit Baltistan. Few from these champions of reunification of Kashmir have been enjoying the luxurious gains of clout structures who never consider establishing any physical, constitutional or symbolic arrangements between AJK and Northern Areas to restore the reunification of the divided State. Few of them frequently enjoy visits of foreign countries ‘to highlight the Kashmir issue’ on international level’ on expense of nation’ exchequer. Ironically, the expertise of the majority of these leaders could be judged from their pathetic knowledge of contemporary intertioanal affairs, regional geo-political developments and poor competency in English language. Others who had opportunities to grab parliamentary representation through AJK LegislativeAssembly, confined to pass resolutions denouncing human rights violations in Indian part of Kashmir, disregarding that the Gilgit Baltistan being an essential component of state of Jammu and Kashmir, also needs their moral and human support to grant the citizens their basic rights.

The enforcement of self rule regulations in Northern Areas and other current Pakistani measures are a visible sign that Kashmir and Kashmiri people are no more in Islamabad’s policies and priorities like the previous decades. In such situation, the Kashmiris should ready for some more harsher decisions from Pakistan. No doubt, it is a hard-hitting time for Kashmiri leaders to intertwine internal social, economic, political and cultural needs of all units of former state of Jammu and Kashmir with the broader national cause of self determination.

Surprise! Leading Separatist Voice Says There is More to Life Than Politics

An editorial in the Greater Kashmir pitches for ..... humanism and arts

Art Galleries Needed

It has not only been a season of ‘mellow fruitfulness’ but also a season of intellectual blossoming. The summer capital this autumn hummed with intellectual, academic and cultural activities. Kashmir University held many international and national level conferences, seminars and workshops. There has been hardly any area on which a conference or a seminar was held during the past few months. These conferences besides setting a scholarly tone in this highest seat of learning were also aimed at bringing the university on the academic map of world. The efforts made are appreciable but it is a long journey towards restoring the prestige that this land enjoyed as a seat of great learning during the period of the Sultans.

There was a time when scholars from many parts of the sub-continent and the Central Asia visited this place for acquiring knowledge. The glory of that time is to be revisited. Besides academic activities many notable cultural events that were reminiscent of the majestic past of the city were also organized by various organizations both from the state and outside. Kashmir, with its five thousand years recorded history, is proud to have its autochthonic art forms, theatre, music, musical instruments, and folk literature. The city of Srinagar for its thousands years rich history of art and culture is comparable to any great city in the world but for lack of modern facilities for promotion of art and culture it has failed to emerge as an international centre for art and culture. It is appreciable that some individuals and organizations have ventured into holding of photographic and painting exhibitions.

The Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah on Tuesday visited an exhibition organized by the Lalit Kala Academy, Delhi in collaboration with J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages in a private school on the outskirts of Srinagar. It is a major art event wherein more than 50 paintings of renowned artists of national and international repute have been showcased. Besides a rear painting by MF Hussain paintings of many other famous artists that included works of GR Santosh, Birveshwar Batacharji, J Swaminathan, Ram Kumar, Shuja Sultan, RV Bhaskaran, PN Kachru, Vijay Gupta, Manu Pareshkh, Tatin Das, Devan Seth, Shamshad, Himat Shah, BS Saniyal, SN Bhat, MA Mehboob and GM Sheikh have been exhibited.

A few weeks back a photographic exhibition by a prominent Kashmiri photographer of international repute was held on a club on the banks of Nageen Lake. Chief Minister was right in stating that such exhibitions in the state could encourage young lovers of art. Such exhibitions undoubtedly breed a sense of competition in young artists and help them in exploring their talent. It is ironic that such an important exhibition for lack of proper art galleries in Srinagar had been held in a private school on the outskirts of the Srinagar city. The city of Srinagar despite being a cradle of great culture does not have a cultural centre or an art gallery worth mentioning. As against the winter capital of the State has not only a couple of culture centers, theaters for performing arts but also three prominent galleries. It is no secret but a historical fact that some thirty years back the then Chief Minister; Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah had laid foundation of a culture centre in the Emporium amidst great fanfare. The centre was expected to be an icon of Kashmir culture but it was never constructed. And during the past thirty years almost all Chief Minister held promises of constructing a state of art culture centre with all modern amenities but the so far the promises have never been held. Notwithstanding the Chief Minister, announcing constructing of an integrated cultural centre in the city at the 17th Central Committee meeting of the Jammu and Kashmir Academy of Art, Culture and Literature so far there is no progress.

To see the art and culture of Kashmir valley flourish, it is high time for the government to establish cultural centers and art galleries at all district headquarters. Let’s have a cultural complex with modern facilities in the capital city. Let’s have an art gallery that attracts all.

Why Has LAWDA Failed to Clean up the Dal Lake?

Why has the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) failed to deliver? Experts - in and out of the government - say that wrong technology was selected under questionable circumstances. Dr. Kundangar's paper is followed by a comment from Mr. Khurshid Naqib.

(Dr. Mohammad Rashid-ud-din Kundangar, 62, was born in Srinagar. He completed his Masters degree in Botany, and Doctoral/Postdoctoral degree in Hydrobiology through the University of Kashmir. He served as a lecturer in Botany and Head of the Hydrobiology Research laboratory or about 25 years. Prof. Kundangar has about hundred research publications to his credit and has been actively involved in environmental studies with special reference to aquatic resources of the J&K State. He is the approved research guide of University of Kashmir, Barkatullah University, Bhopal, University of Roorkee and has supervised a number of M Phil candidates and PhD scholars. He has been the Chief Investigator of various state and centrally sponsored minor and major research projects. He was a founder Director Research & Development, J&K Lakes and Waterways Development Authority, and preceding retirement from the government service served as Principal of the Degree College. Dr Kundangar is the author of a number of books and is the Dean of Academics and the Head of the Department of Lake Sciences and Water Management in the SSM College of Engineering, the only privately run engineering institute in the valley. Dr Kundangar has been the consultant ecologist for various J&K government departments and a member of the Wetland Committee set up by Government of India. He has attended number of National and International conferences and toured various Asian and European countries.

Mr. Khurshid Ahmed Naqib, served briefly as the Vice Chairman (VC) of LAWDA, is a graduate of the University of Kashmir. He completed a diploma in hotel and hospitality management from Tamil Nadu and s course in Marketing with focus on tourism from the World Tourism Organization, Turin, Italy, and took credits in MBA (International marketing) from the University of Oklohoma. After joining the state service, he became the head of the She-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC), and Managing Director of the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Development Authority (JKTDC).  He has completed a fellowship in Environmental Sciences from Fujita Gauken University, Nagoya, Japan. As the VC of LWDA, he was the first executive to tackle encroachment of the Dal Lake with some degree of success by relocating two fishermen colonies.)

Dal Cleaning Project: No need to teach, we already know this


In their article in the Greater Kashmir, Aswin Dinakar and others had tried to explain the Constructed Wetlands and their applicability in a lucid and simple language. I as a student of aquatic ecology appreciate their efforts but would like to convey them and to learned readers of GK that what authors have written about Constructed Wetlands and their role in wastewater management is not Greek to the scientists of this part of the world.

We in Kashmir acknowledge the fact that Constructed Wetlands comprise an amazing diversity of managed ecosystems and provide an impressive array of water quality improvement mechanisms, have successfully carried out research studies on Constructed Wetlands both in situ and ex situ conditions somewhere in year 2000-02. The root zone technology utilized in the form of Constructed Wetlands were carried out on experimental basis and simultaneously under in situ microcosm experiments under the Research and Development programme of LAWDA and it was observed that Phragmites communis and Typha angustata can accumulate maximum nitrogen up to 45% and 58% respectively, similarly the phosphorus accumulation in Typha was 88% while in Phragmites it was 177%. In Lemna sp. and Salvinia natans accumulation of Potassium was 242.8% and 15.3% respectively besides other nutrients. The findings revealed that a uni model series of Constructed Wetlands can reduce nitrogen by 70% and Phosphorus by 73%.

We are also aware of the fact that the Constructed Wetlands have gained momentum in Developed countries like Scandinavia, U.K., Australia, New Zealand, U.S.A and also in developing Asian countries like Nepal, Bangladesh and India. The technology is cost effective, independent of electric energy and suitable under Kashmir conditions but unfortunately not viable to our politicians and people with vested interests.

Constructed Wetlands has also been recommended by the Wetland International experts in their MAP on Wular Lake which reads as, “The villages in the proximity of the Southern part of Wular are scattered and waste water generated from these habitation shall be taken care of by using Wetlands Mediated Technology -- The goal of using wastewater treatment through wetland mediated technologies is for the removal of contaminants from the water in order to decrease the possibility of detrimental impacts on humans and aquatic ecosystem -- It is proposed to construct treatment Wetlands in 10 villages in Southern lake periphery to control diffused sources of pollution -- A pre-treatment tank will be constructed before allowing sewage to enter into the constructed wetland system, each unit will comprise of different types of aquatic vegetation based on their nutrient uptake capacity.”

Even on date, our juvenile civil engineers in SSM College of Engineering and Technology very recently have completed a project envisaging, ‘constructed Wetland for treatment of Wastewaters’ for Parihaspora village. According to these authors they have been able to remove Nitrate and phosphate by about 65% besides lowering number of hazardous elements using Typha angustata, Phragmites communis in associations with Lemna minor in the Constructed Wetlands. There is no doubt that the Constructed Wetlands is the most successful Technology which could be considered in our valley for the conservation of lakes and other degraded aquatic ecosystems but the million dollar question is, Who are the takers of this technology?

When the Constructed Wetlands Technology was recommended and strongly advocated for Dal Lake, the authorities at the highest level had already entered into a “DEAL” and thus the advocates of this technology (R&D Wing) had to face the wrath. People with vested interests saw to it that all these scientists are sacked and not only the entire Research and Development Wing was wound up but the entire building housing the LAWDA research labs. was handed over to the Health Department. Scientists at LAWDA were humiliated and entrusted with peculiar and unfamiliar jobs like works supervisors, monitoring squads, gauge readers and rendered headless and redundant. The enraged bosses of the time made them subservient to the Engineering wings and had to work under their thumb and dictations. They were taught to use tamed parrot like words before the visitors to give an impression that the lake is improving and pristine glory of the lake is being restored.

I am of the firm opinion that the present Sewage Treatment System is a failure and disastrous for both Dal and Nigeen lake and in near future the condition of the Nigeen lake will be as that of the Brarinambal (it will turn into a stinking cesspool). My scientific observations on the basis of independent monitoring and surveillance is confirmed by the recent status report of State Pollution Control Board (May-July, 2009) and it bears testimony to the fact that the Dal waters are deteriorating at an alarming rate due to malfunctioning of STP’s and with drastic changes in physico-chemical parameters, biodiversity and perpetual obnoxious algal blooms.

The onus of failures of Dal lake conservation programme solely lies on the so called Consultants of Roorkee and the temporarily hired experts who have managed their entry through foul means and also for advocating for adoption of STP’s, proven as failure under Kashmir climatic conditions.

Dal Cleaning Project: Some Facts


This refers to Dr.Kundangar‘s article ‘Dal cleaning Project’ published in the Greater Kashmir newspaper. Dr. Kundangar has been forthright in his observations regarding the inefficiency of the present Sewage Treatment Plants (STP’s) and the untapped potential of wetland technology for the Dal lake conservation. Having been at the leading and encouraging end of Dr. Kundangar’s recommended technology I would like to add a few facts for the benefit of those who are concerned about the state of the Lake, although sadly it seems there are not many of them in the state.

‘Root Zone Technology’ was started during my tenure in LWDA on experimental basis. The experiments gave encouraging results. Unfortunately, tapping this technology fully could not be carried forward on a bigger scale after our ouster. In simple terms the root zone technology system has low maintenance cost since it involves no machinery and also requires negligible operation and monitoring costs. Root Technology enhances landscape and provides right habitat for birds. In other words this amounts to artificially constructed wetland. With limited funds and lack of proper infrastructure ( i.e. electricity) , this could have been the answer for many of the areas of Srinagar where untreated sewage finds its way to the lake. Research supports that this technology is not only cost effective but sustainable as well. Regarding DK’s observation on STPS, he has missed a point, deliberately or otherwise. For his recollection ,and the readers who follow the trail of articles declaring the slow demise of ‘Dal Lake’ regularly,

I would like them to refer to my article carried by Greater Kashmir I had provided some key facts and remarks regarding the STPs. Unfortunately no one including the State and followers of the lake ecology reacted to those facts. I had written the article with an aim and hope that a discussion would follow and facts would come to light and eventually right steps would be taken for restoration of the Lake ecology. At that time even Dr,Kundangar thought it wise to remain silent. His observations on STP technology now adopted by LAWDA were recorded and circulated in my time.. Even in the presentation given by the AHEC way back in 2001-2002 and presided by the present Chief Minister of J&K , I as the VC of LWDA had stopped AHEC from making a commercial presentation in a scientific session, .What happened after our suspension is history. Someone needs to probe and investigate the files (if in existence} and make public our remarks.

Last Word: The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) on technology used in Dal Cleaning in 2006-2007 - says LAWDA's is Lying

CAG Pulls up LAWDA on STPs Around Kashmir's Dal Lake (18 May 2007)

Srinagar: The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India has pulled up the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) for going ahead with the construction of Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) around the periphery of the famous Dal Lake in Kashmir despite the central government's serious reservations about these.

In a report, the CAG said the Dal Lake has been used as a receptacle for large quantities of waste water and untreated human wastes from the peripheral areas through a number of drains that enter into it. With a view to arresting the inflow of waste water and sewage into the Dal Lake, LAWDA proposed the installationof six STPs at different spots around its periphery, it added.

However, the report said the Union Urban Development Ministry expressed doubt over the effectiveness of the STPs during cold weather conditions and the sustainability of huge maintenance costs.

Audit scrutiny also revealed that the project report did not include a plan for connecting houses to treatment plants.

Despite concerns expressed by the Union Ministry, LAWDA in August 2004 allotted the construction of three STPs at Hazratbal, Laam (Nishat) and Habak to a private firm at a cost of Rs 8.90 crore with the scheduled date of completion as May 2005.

Out of the three STPs, the ones at Hazratbal and Habak had been commissioned during February and April 2006, the report said. In October 2006, LAWDA claimed that the STPs were working efficiently and that the Dal Lake's health would improve after all the STPs were completed and commissioned.

However, according to an analytical report of the research and monitoring division of LAWDA in August 2006, concentration of some of the nutrients present in the waste water increased at the outflow stage vis-a-vis inflow stage despite receiving treatment at STPs.

The percentage efficiency of the two STPs ranged between 63.39 and (-) 366.3. Also, the STPs did not match the prescribed norms, particularly with regard to inorganic nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorus, the report said.

According to the report, measures were required to be taken for effective treatment of sewage to prevent detrimental impact on the lake ecology as entry of raw sewage was one of the major causes of its enhanced eutrophy.

LAWDA's contention in October 2006 that the STPs were working efficiently was, therefore, not acceptable, the CAG said.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Unspoken Problem

Khayal zooms in on criminal violence 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.)


Srinagar: Probably it was in these columns sometime back when I wrote that up to the 50th year of my life, I had heard of only of a couple of murders; one having been committed in old city of Srinagar and the second one somewhere in Shalimar area.

Today’s Kashmir, bruised and brutalized with terror-war of twenty years, has lost all its moral nobility and the crime rate has gone up alarmingly beating all previous records of the past.

The blood shedding militancy came in as a blessing disguise for certain elements that made it as their unfair business when the gun was used against innocent citizens and not the security forces. The kidnappings, rape of women, murders, abductions fro ransom, dru abuse and burglaries became so rampant that one wonders in sadness as to what happened to the peaceful and god fearing Kashmiris whose spiritual preachers like Lall Arifa, Shekhul Alam, Hazrat Shah Hamadan and thousands of Islamic scholars are now forgotten and their diktats taken as obsolete words of myth.

This has transformed the dignified Kashmiri nation into a society of ssruthless criminals though every one is not involved in this spate of crime.

The figures that follow are given by the police sources ands are hair raising when compared to the several past decades, if not centuries.

During the last nine months (January to November this year) as many as 90 murders were committed across Kashmir Valley of which 24 were solved and the rest are still under investigation.

Cases of 81 rapes were registered with the police; 42 solved and 33 are under investigation. The happenings of burglaries top the list in the world of crime in Kashmir. There were 763 burglaries committed, most of them involving vehicle thefts, 48 were not admitted and takes as false and 94 challaned. Four hundred fifty five kidnappings took place during these nine months but only 121 could be solved till date and 108 cases of drug abuse including drug peddling and trafficking in narcotics were reported out of which 36 were challaned in various police stations. Even now, all these crimes are continuing in Kashmir unabated. A slight let up has been recorded in incidents of eve teasing particularly outside the female educational institutions.

No doubt, when every Tom, Dick and harry including auto rickshaw drivers, street venders, market urchins, illiterate youths and anti-social elements inn the social set up are offered gus, the use of the weapon is boud to side tracjk and its aim to fight outn the State is brfushed saside. Insteda, it is freely iused by the so called holy warriors against theor own civilkian brethren even to settlke score pertaining to frivillous matters. The conservative fiogurs of civilians butchered during the last 20 ydears bythe. foires as well as by the militants has lareday crossed an alarming mark of 50,000 which include infants, woman and old men. Today, each ands every locality and village in the Valley is having a martyrs graveyard. This is what has been gained out of misuse of gun by militants who are not answerable to any authority except Almighty Allah. Although the forces are accountable before their seniors, but on this side too much less has been done to bring to book the culprits and punish them despite official claims of zero tolerance and safeguarding of the human rights in this bleeding Kashmir.

One of the reasons for a steep increase in crime over the years is that the State police was compelled to take to a different course of being trained to deal with the militancy obviously resulting in their paying little attention to the curbing of crime in the society, says Farooq Ahmad, inspector general of police (Kashmir range). According to him many complex cases were resolved in no time which would otherwise create a serious law and problem in the city. He cited the case of murdering of a young student, Israr of Maisuma, by his own class mates. After the report of missing of Israr was registered in the Maisuma police station, the political miscreants lost no time to paint it in political colours and vehemently blaming the orces for disappearance of this Islamia College student. The misled youths came out in streets holding to ransom the civilian population, damaging public properties, smashing window panes of private vehicles even ambulances and destroying whatever came in their way most violently in the city of Srinagar till it was revealed to them to their astonishment that Israr’s murder was the outcome of a so called love affair simultaneously between not less three students with one girl. Who the girl was and where she belonged to? No one knew nor has any one bothered to know about her till date credentials, rather genuinely.

The bringing to the book of the culprits of this particular tragic incident by the police does not absolve this force of the blame of their being complacent with regard to a series of killings and other heinous crimes constantly being committed in the Valley without any strict action taken against these social evils and criminals in the society to go ahead with their illegal activities with a clear belief that police cannot lay its hands on them and that’s why most of them are roaming around scot free.

It may not be out of place to add here to this colum n that tens of thousands of Biharis and other labourers thronging the valley during summer, have also been found adding to the menace of rising graph in the crime chart. They are rag collectors as well as thieves. Their women go for begging and also indulge in immoral activities where ever they have erected their polethene tents for their stay. There are cases registered with the law enforcing agencies of children and people having been abducted by these outsiders who at times take them out of the Valley and sell them to goons for begging purposes. Unfortunately, they are also added to the number of our “dear” tourists when the annual figures are made public by the concerned department:
Naatiqa sar ba girebaan hai ise kya kahiye?

So What is New?

Zahid brings up scenarios that intrigue Kashmiris

(Mr. Zahid G. Mohammad, 60, was born and raised in Srinagar. He earned his Master's degree in English literature from the Kashmir University and has completed a course in Mass Communication from Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He is a writer and a journalist who has written for many newspapers, including the Statesman, the Sunday, and the Kashmir Times. He currently works for the Greater Kashmir.)

Waiting For 2010

It tells a story. The moment I sit at my desk in the morning the bookcase in my carrel tells me a story - the story of sixty three years of pain and agony. The spines of the books on the shelves read: the Wounded Valley, Kashmir in Chains, the Wounded Paradise, the Verdant Valley in Flames, the Prison Stories, Wailing Freedom, the Cindering Chinars, the Freedom Search, Birth of Tragedy, Kashmir the Disputed Legacy, the Trauma of Kashmir, Incomplete Partition, Danger in Kashmir, Kashmir Roots of Conflict, My Kashmir Conflict and the Prospects of Enduring Peace, Kashmir the Untold Story, Echoes of Freedom, Curfewed Night and many other heart rendering titles of Urdu publications. On glancing through the books on the racks in my library it often haunts my mind if the spines would ever read: The Bruised Valley Healed, the Valley Blooms Again, the Trauma Ends and Kashmir Resolved.

The wicker basket in a corner of my carrel that I use for putting old newspapers sprang a hope this Sunday morning when I picked up couple of old newspapers dated October 14, 2009, October 15, 2009, October 21, 2009 and October 22, 2009 and relooked at the lead stories in them. The lead stories read different than one is familiar with. They read: ‘Resolve Kashmir: Omar Tells Delhi,’ ‘You Cannot Divorce JK from its Politics’; ‘Kashmir on Table Quiet Dialogue, Unique Solution: Chidambaram,’ ‘Mum on Atoot Ang’; ‘From media hub, Geelani seeks troops withdrawal’ and ‘Unique Solution to K-issue Talks to be result oriented: Omar, Admits There Were mistakes in the Past.’

These banner headlines and headlines when read between the lines not only indicate change of mood in New Delhi but also provide many a leads for looking at the political developments that in all likelihood are going to dominate 2010. There are many significant points in the statements made by Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah during past week and Home Minister, P. Chidambaram during his recent visit to Srinagar. Looking at the statements made by Omar Abdullah in perspective of the statements made by Farooq Abdullah as Chief Minister (1996-2002), the statements of the present Chief Minister have lot of reconciliatory tone in them. Farooq Abdullah, notwithstanding being recognized as suave and soft-spoken when he joined politics spoke in terrifyingly belligerent language. He often talked of waging a war against Pakistan and bombarding town and villages of the state on the other side of the line dividing the state. He talked of bulldozing those who demanded freedom. He often repeated at high pitch that the “accession of the state to India was irrevocable” and if there was a dispute it was about the AJK. In the middle of his tenure as Chief Minister in tune with the thinking of a US think tank and mood in New Delhi he saw resolution of Kashmir in making the artificial line drawn across the state (LOC) as a temporary measure to ensure ceasefire between India and Pakistan army as an international border. He at that time failed to understand the perpetuating cause for the problem could not become resolution of the problem.

It is historical reality that the Chief Ministers of the state lost their political idioms and phraseology after 1953 and ever since that year they have been speaking in the language of New Delhi. The Chief Ministers who dared to speak in their own political idioms were led to the exit door. It has not only been Farooq Abdullah who during his incumbency as Chief Minister of the state spoke Delhi’s language so has been true of all other Chief Ministers who succeeded him after 2002. The Kashmir doctrine of New Delhi underwent a change after it initiated a composite dialogue with Pakistan and held intense talks on track two on General Musharraf’s four point formula. The formula spoke of ‘demilitarization’, porous border, self- rule and joint management. This formula when seen in broader perspective was akin to the formula worked out by New Delhi’s think tank, Centre for Policy Research in early nineties when most of the government institution in the state had crumbled (Sea India- Pakistan and Kashmir by Pran Chopra published in 1993). The PDP Chief Minister while talking of ‘self-rule’, porous LoC, “demilitarization” which to him did not mean demilitarization as mentioned in the UN resolution but redeployment or ‘garrisoning of army’ was reflecting the then thinking in New Delhi.

The statements of Omar Abdullah, I have quoted above can also not be looked in isolation of thinking in New Delhi about Kashmir. In the context of the Chief Minister’s statement it become important to understand if New Delhi’s thinking has changed and if it is really is serious about ending of political uncertainty in Jammu and Kashmir.

The statement made by Home Minister during his visit as very rightly commented by this newspaper and as quoted by prominent Pakistan newspaper the daily times was different than the routine one. “He did not complain of abysmal law and order situation in the state nor did he talk of growing threats from across the border. There were no thunderous threats in his speeches for the dissenting political voices in the state instead they cascaded with rapprochements and reconciliations. He not only talked of holding dialogue with all shades of political opinion including “separatists” leadership but he was highly positive in admitting that Jammu and Kashmir had a unique geographical location and unique history. And there was need for a finding an honorable solution of the problem acceptable to vast majority of people. Home Minister was right in stating that any solution that fails to recognize the uniqueness of the problem will not work.”

The Home Minister’s talking of finding an indigenous solution to the problem speaks about New Delhi’s response to the models about the resolution of Kashmir problem that are being talked about at the international level by many think tanks. There has been lot of debate going for past couple of years for finding out a solution of the problem outside the primary model contained in the United Nations resolutions that allowing people to exercise their choice through ballot under aegis of the United Nations. The secondary models that are being debated in these forums include: “ 1. Aland Island Model 2. Trieste Model 3. Andorra Model 4. Northern Ireland Model 5. Faith-Based Reconciliation Model 6. South Tyrol Model 7. Sudan Model 8. Somaliland Model 9. Nepalese Model 10. Conflict Transformation.

True, none of these models caught imagination of Kashmir leaders. These were discussed in some media circles and forums in Srinagar but mostly they were talked about in Kashmir conference organized by Kashmir Diaspora Centers in Washington, London and Brussels. These models also were discussed by India and Pakistan think tanks. “In 2007 these models were discussed in an important conference on Kashmir by the Institute of Strategic Studies and Kashmir Institute of International Relations. The conference was attended by experts from India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. In this conference three models were recommended as basis for the resolution of Kashmir which included 1. The Northern Ireland Model 2. the Faith-Based Reconciliation Model 3. The Conflict Transformation Model. Out of these models the most discussed and debated model has been the Northern Ireland Model. But none of these models found any serious takers in India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. The only formula that was debated, discussed and dismissed in Jammu and Kashmir was the Four Point Formula. The Home Minister during his press conference at Srinagar broadly hinted at evolving a solution outside the already available models on conflict resolutions. He also hinted at evolving a consensus model that would be acceptable to the vast majority of people of the state.

True, he offered dialogue to all political parties including those demanding right to self-determination as envisaged in the UN resolution but at the same time spoke of quiet diplomacy and quite dialogue till contours of a solution of the problem emerge. The quiet diplomacy he talked of suggest of behind the scene talks rather than a direct dialogue. It seems that the year 2010 compared to 2009 would be politically hectic and more vibrant. The Kashmir leadership more particularly the dissenting leaders shall have to tread cautiously with sagacity and pragmatism rather than rushing hastily for getting a berth in first row or remaining soaked in emotionalism.

The Hurriyat Conference (M) more or less failed to analyze the niceties and nuances of the statement of the Home Minister and hurriedly announced its decision of entering into a dialogue with New Delhi without even getting an offer. The Home Minister’s statement when read in perspective of the failure of all previous initiatives in the state indicates that New Delhi this time does not want to hurry through the dialogue process under the arc of media gaze but work out a formula that would not fail on the touch stone of durability but lead to some logical conclusions.

Holding of dialogue on track two for evolving a consensus formula for finding a resolution of the problem should not be a taboo for any of the organization whether bracketed as hardcore or moderate but it should be taken as a welcome sign.

Wanted: Jobs

Shakeel-ur-Rehman discusses rampant joblessness in an area flaunting wealth

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

Wanted Jobs

Given the situation in the job market out here, most of the Kashmiri youth are forced by circumstances to take up occupations which are rarely up to their satisfaction. It is no secret that unemployment in a place leads to wasting of valuable human resource.

The problem with our system is that it is flawed. Our educational institutions unfortunately still follow the pattern devised by Lord Macualay which was intended to produce clerks. This system has become obsolete and needs an urgent overhaul. While the government should take up the overhauling job, the youth on their part should enroll in some classes imparting professional knowledge or work part time to gain experience.

Unemployment is a grave curse. If we look at the situation in Kashmir, the problem of joblessness would look bleaker than otherwise projected. The problem of unemployment has in a way aggravated over the years. The valuable human resource is not being put to proper use. This is pure wasting of the youthful energy.
The non utilization of human resource capital that we have available in our state has resulted in adversity, poverty, slow rate of economic growth and a general restlessness in the society. According to one analysis by the year 2010 over 60 per cent of the unemployed will come from the educated class. So far the majority of the unemployed labour force has been educated or semi literate that is absorbed mainly by the public sector enterprises or in agriculture.

Unless the government changes its strategy, the educated unemployed would be the single largest causality of the new millennium. Admittedly, one of the basic factors for the growing joblessness in the state is the unchecked growth in population. The teeming population means more mouths to feed and more hands to seek jobs. So apart from addressing the problem of growing population, the powers that be also need to address the attendant problem of joblessness.

Another important way of addressing the growing joblessness is to drastically overhaul the existing system of education. As a matter of fact today’s educational system has lost its relevance because it fails to conform to the requirements in the present scenario. New teaching techniques have to be introduced with emphasis on practical training. Through such training, students would gain an in depth knowledge of the subject and would also gain confidence once they venture into the job market.
Apart from acquiring practical skills, the youth should try to start business ventures of their own. Setting up one’s own business would help solve unemployment problem in Kashmir in a big way. But for this to actually materialize, our banks will have to come forward. In the past couple of years what we have seen is that most of our lending institutions didn’t come forward with proper lending facility. If this aspect of the problem is also addressed besides other responsible factors, Kashmir’s jobless would surely find some work.

The Gap Between the Rich and the Poor Keeps Growing

The second most corrupt state in India has some lucrative consumer needs

Car Market

Srinagar: The car market here has witnessed a big leap for many years now and almost all the major players in the Indian automobile sector are vying to take their pie from the lucrative Kashmir market. While it is a good sign and reflects the affluence of the community, increase in disposable income, more convenience and other aspects but simultaneously has some negatives as well. The market has not only witnessed growth of number of car dealers but has also thrown open number of automobile service stations not only in the centers of the city but in rural areas. This has led to employment generation to skilled and semi skilled youth of the Valley.

The car market in Kashmir is emerging as one of the fastest growing markets in North India and auto makers are cashing in on this opportunity and offering price competitive products. With rising affordability and easy bank finance, vehicle sales started picking up in early 2000s here. The launch of Nano was a watershed moment in the automobile industry of India as the car earned a reputation of common man’s car. Affordability, manoeuvrability in crowded streets and Tata brand made people book the vehicle left and right.

Automotive experts believed that due to economic downturn and concern over Carbon dioxide emissions, people will prefer smaller cars and their predictions came right when even big car manufacturers like BMW, Audi and Mercedes also started to have their small car versions. Maruti, Tata Engineering and Hyundai are the major players who share a major portion of the car market within the State. While the Indian car market is expected to grow at 3-5 per cent during the year 2009-10, the growth in Kashmir market is well above all India average according to data available with the dealers of various manufacturers.

All the car manufacturers operating here have reasons to celebrate but consumer are left to marketing skills of sales person who bring forth the positives of the vehicle and leave the dark spots for consumers to guess. The case of fire in Nano cars brings to the fore the low awareness level among customers who trusted manufacturers blindly.

The State government needs to intervene and ensure that consumers who invest their hard earned money in buying the necessity get a fair value for their money. Consumer forums and weights and measures department have a role to play for ensuring the protection of consumer interests. At least the corporate sector cannot be left to the forces of market alone given the low level of information about cars people of the Valley have.
(Rising Kashmir)

Reliving Faiz All Over Again

The night Naseeruddin Shah came to Srinagar's Broadway

‘Evening of Poetry and Harmony’

Mukhtar Ahmad Lone (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: It was certainly a unique combination – two legends in harmony – as internationally acclaimed actor Naseeruddin Shah lent his voice to the philosophically meaningful soul-warming poetry of Faiz Ahmad Faiz.

Obviously those present to witness this symphony were mesmerized Saturday evening at Hotel Broadway where ANHAD (Act Now For Harmony And Democracy) had organized an ‘evening of poetry and harmony’.

Reciting classic Faiz’s masterpieces – ‘Intesab’, ‘Subh-e-Azadi’, ‘Raqeeb Se’ and ‘Gulshan’e Yaad Mein’, magic of Naseeruddin Shah’s recitation itself was a practical display of his love for Urdu poetry.

“I was born in a family where Urdu was an alien language and I am highly indebted to Mirza Ghalib (famed 18th century Urdu poet) for being my inspiration in getting me introduced to Urdu language,” Shah said.

Addressing the gala event, Valley’s renowned poet, Farooq Nazki described Shah as the cornerstone of Indian cinema saying he was undoubtedly one of the finest actors of Indian cinema.

“Naseeruddin Shah is a veteran, versatile, brilliant and a kind of artist who depicts every character with élan, guts and gumptions and leaves an indelible impact on the minds of audiences,” Nazki said.

Gauhar Raza, a senior scientist, a documentary filmmaker and a poet mesmerized and enthralled the audiences by reciting ‘Bahar Laut Ayegi’, ‘Ram Mandir’ and ‘Naya Libas’ – ‘Naya Libas’ being a satire on the political system and politicians who feign themselves to be caretakers of the poor.

Later in the evening, Dhruv Sangari, performed the Sufi Kalam. He was accompanied on Tabla by Amjad Khan and on Mandolin by Siraj Khan. The trio gave a superb performance which won them the admiration and ovation from the listeners.

Finding Space For Gender Equality in Kashmir

Social Welfare Minister Sakina Ittoo speaks to Kashmir Images

(The Ministry of Social Welfare is responsible for the welfare, social justice and empowerment of disadvantaged and marginalized sections of the society. The role of this ministry has become all the more important in a place like Kashmir where many families have lost their breadwinners, youth are facing joblessness and orphans are abundant. In order to assess as to how far this ministry has been able to fulfill its mandate as far as empowerment and social justice is concerned, Kashmir Images, Special Correspondent, Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil spoke to Jammu and Kashmir Social Welfare Minister Sakina Ittoo)

“Ours is a male dominated society”

Zeenat: In a conservative and male dominated society you have risen to a top most position. How do you feel?
Ittoo: As a woman I feel good that I have risen to a top most position but at the same time this post is full of responsibilities and commitments. There is no doubt that we are living in a male dominated society but at the same time I fell that women have gone ahead not like old times when women were downtrodden or looked down upon. So, in a way I must say I am satisfied.

Zeenat: You are the only woman Minister in coalition cabinet. Do your officers co-operate with you in the same manner as they do with the male counterparts?
Ittoo: So far I didn’t face any such difficulties that my colleagues didn’t co-operate instead officials always co-operated and co-operated in a big way. In 1996, when I became Minister, it may surprise but during those days I was not even aware what politics is all about and due to which sometimes my people used to take me for granted. They might have felt that I am young and won’t be able to discharge my duties properly. But after assuming my charge I first built infrastructure of my area which was gutted down in fire during militancy period , implemented schemes for the betterment of my area and also did lot of work during my tenure of six years and in that period didn’t gave chance to any officer to over look the problem of people.

Zeenat: Given your experience in politics would you like more women to join politics?
Ittoo: While attending functions or dinner parties I sometimes feel awkward standing alone in a group of males and wish to have more participation of ladies. We are very few in this field like President (PDP) Mehbooba Mufti, My self and some nominated MLA’s so expect and wish more participation of women in future. In a male dominated society when we talk about 33 percent women reservation then how many women are there but we are ourselves at fault as educated women around us are not coming forward in politics. Don’t know the reason, why they are not joining politics. May be they are scared whether society will digest them or not and whether people will not trust them while discharging duties towards society.

I believe wherever she will work woman will work with convention, dedication, honesty and will take her job seriously. We have better examples of Late Indira Gandhi, Late Benazir Butto , UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi who have made their mark in the field of politics. Even President of India, Pratibha Patil is a woman who is running whole country on her shoulders. People of J&K needs awareness that a woman can also do better work for the community. People should give them full support from society to come forward and to help the humanity. In Assembly Elections some ladies did come forward to try their luck but people at large didn’t encourage and support them .I personally believe that they can do something good and great for the nation and also for the state of J&K. I wish more and more ladies especially qualified ladies should come forward in politics and bureaucracy to represent..

Zeenat: As a woman politician, do you favor reservation for women in legislative Assembly and Legislative Counsel?
Ittoo: Yes I do, People in India and in every state have asked for 33 percent reservation of women but nothing concrete has been done on the ground level. I don’t know why but somewhere male dominated society is feeling insecure of ladies joining politics. I personally feel that a woman is a very essential part of government machinery and she should come forward and for that people should encourage them so that they should perform well in a present day society. I am hopefully that there will be a day when this Bill will be passed and a woman will get her due share in running the administration of our country.

Zeenat: In other parts of India the schemes under social welfare department have revolutionized the areas and helped poor societies in tremendous way. Why in J&K, the Social Welfare schemes have failed to deliver?
Ittoo: I can’t say that the Social Welfare schemes have failed to deliver but our department gets 70 percent funding from the central government and 30 percent from state government .But unfortunately we don’t get funds on time and with the result we are not able to go ahead with our schemes on time. We are not able to give utilization certificate on time so that people at centre could know that money has been spent in right direction and further releasing of funds could go ahead. Then in our state as a Minister I have seen people are also not aware of certain schemes and the central sponsored schemes are not implemented properly as more concentration is done on old age pensioners and widow pensioners here but then even these widows and old age pension schemes people do not get pension on time due to non availability of funds and delay in release of funds from Central government.

Maximum money of our department is spend on old age pensions and widow pensions but sometimes even old age pensions are released after six months and a widow gets her pension after three months and causing lot of problems for her to meet the exigencies of her life and family. There are some 35,000 cases of such nature pending with us which needs an immediate action. We even tried to clear the backlog but the process doesn’t stop here, it has to go again and again due to lack of funds. Then the state of J&K is a poor state and we have lot of expenditures and these expenditures are given by the center so simply when we get money from center and with that money we cater the necessity of needy and deserving people.
NFB scheme which is quite beneficial for people but unfortunate part is that people are still unaware of the scheme. Under this scheme Rs 10,000 would be given for the marriage ceremony of such grown up daughters for their daughters. No doubt it meager amounts for the marriage ceremony of a girl in today’s time but cases are numerous and government is doing its job.

We have rehabilitation counsel and under which we have received lots of funds and have disbursed that money among the needy. This scheme is for rehabilitation of the militancy affected families. Under this we sanction pension of Rs 750 per month in their favor and also provide education facilities to their children. The major problem that lies with Social Welfare department here is that we don’t have man power available. Officers are unavailable as the posts of Programme officers, district officer, project officers of ICDS project and CDP posts are lying vacant. So until we don’t have man power and required staff how can we run the department smoothly.

In the beginning when I joined this department I saw one CDPO at a times is looking after 4 projects and now one can analyses how long he will justify his job and when already 3000-4000 Aganwari workers are working under him. But we are trying our best to set the things right and we will over come the problem soon. There is a shortage even of Tehsil officers as well and in our department we have to lot of field work in order to analyze the cases of needy people so when you get appropriate staff how come work will be done on time. In our department we appoint KAS officer as Project Officers.

We don’t have departmental programme officers due to which get officers from General department. The posts of CDPO’s are not refereed to SSRB on time which indicates that our government lacks proper system .first it was the responsibility of previous government to refer post to SSRB (which previous governemnet didn’t) so that we could have got officers. Now we are trying for it. Even the promotion of Supervisor has not been done so far. Even there is no provision for the promotion of Anganwadi worker. Even DPC’s are not held till date. Now who is to be blamed that we can’t say but these things needs immediate attentions?

In our state people are mostly interested in government job and due to which they don’t go for central schemes of Social Welfare Department. They have better avenues in this filed but they hardly care for this. Whenever I approach any deserving person for applying for a loan he categorically refuses for it and asks for a casual appointment mostly. This is the reason that our schemes are not running successfully in our state

Zeenat: It’s said that Social Welfare Ministry has hundreds of schemes but no effort is being made to make people aware of those schemes because people don’t know about the schemes so they fail to take benefits?
Ittoo: Yes we have lots of schemes available with us but unfortunately people are still not aware of them. There is a scholarship scheme for pre-matriculation and post matriculation students but mostly people don’t know how to take benefits of the scheme which may be due to lack of awareness or may be department has not given due publicity to it but at the same time deserving people do approach us. Recently, we had to close down our district offices as their was so much rush of students and in many areas people started stone pelting on our complexes so that we could extend the dates and accept the scholarship forms and up to now we have extended thrice the day of application for those students who were unable to submit scholarship forms on time.

Recently , when Union Minister for Minority affairs , Salman Khursheed visited valley I personally requested him for the extension of dates in this scholarship scheme for which he agreed and then he was also kind enough to say that every needy person who has applied will be benefited and this time around 50,000 forms are under consideration.

People of rural areas were almost ignorant of the scheme whereas Srinagrities used to get maximum benefits. I distributed cheques among them. Intelligent students coming from rural and far-flung areas of Kulgam, Baramulla, Gurez, Leh. These students were not able to highlight their talent due to their financial position but our scholarship schemes has boosted their moral and made them financially sound. We have made appointed Director for Tribal affairs so that there is a full proof supervision of the activities which took place in such areas so that there is accountability because in tribal affairs we get funds for Schedule caste and Schedule tribes but such funds are never utilized as such funds are received in March and at that time due to climatic disturbance we are not able to do any concrete work but this I conducted a meeting with all Deputy Commissioners and asked them to inform us well on time for their requirement so that we could approach funds on right time.

Zeenat: Anganwadi scheme is a great concept if implemented in letter and spirit but there are complaints that this scheme is in a complete mess. All the work is done by poor Anganwadi workers who even don’t get comfortable wages and whatever they get is always delayed?
Ittoo: Yes its true, these workers get their salaries very late sometimes after six months and the reason for that are funds that are received very late. Then another reason for delay of the salaries is the number of Andanwari workers that has increased enormously after 1996. At the time of appointments these workers are well aware that they can get a very small salary of Rs 1500-1800 but they prefer to have this job even after passing their graduation and post graduation but at the same time I have observed that our Anganwari workers are getting better salaries than the workers living in other parts of country.

Zeenat: Your Ministry has a scheme for old age people in order to help them monetarily. But till date no efforts have been made to have old age homes in J&K sate?
Ittoo: Yes its true that there are no such homes in our state as we have not paid any attention to this problem but I believe it is need of the hour to look after those respected old age parents who are often tortured by their sons, daughters and daughters-in-law. Our sincere efforts should be to look into the problem and revive their living pattern in a respectable way. I have discussed the requirements regarding old age homes with Chief Minister and with the concerned Deputy Commissioners also who have been directed to prepare a concrete plan and identify certain patch of land so that we can place the proposal before central government and ask for funds and at the same time the state government will also have its contribution in running such homes smoothly.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Saving Dal

Tanvir has a suggestion to slowing Dal's inevitable death based on a personal experience

(Mr. Tanvir Sadiq, 31, was born in Srinagar and attended the Burn Hall School. He completed his Bachelor's degree in Information technology and management from Orissa University. He is the youngest Municipal Corporator of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and was elected from Zadibal Constituency. He has contributed regularly to local newspapers like the Kashmir Times, Kashmir Images, Greater Kashmir, and Kashmir Monitor. He was associated with many programs on Disaster Management of J & K and did a couple of programs on highlighting urban poverty. He is active in State politics and his interests are writing and social work.)

Dal - My Ailing Friend

Jogging on the boulevard is like visiting an old friend, an old friend who is ailing. Every time I look at the gently swaying reflections of lit up houseboats in the rippling waters of the Dal, I get a warm feeling, a feeling that you only get when you return home after a long journey. I like to jog here not only to witness the mesmerizing beauty of Kashmir, but also to breathe in fresh air and experience this treasure while it lasts. It might not be here for long.

Last week, I jogged on the boulevard for the first time since I returned from the US, and that made it even more special. It was an overcast day, and low clouds were scudding across the evening sky. A gentle breeze seemed to welcome me as I stepped out of my car and stepped on the boulevard footpath.

I usually start my run from Dalgate, right where the boulevard road starts. First, I walk briskly to warm up while occasionally being obstructed by other walkers and loiterers--I am not the only Kashmiri who likes to come out at dusk for a stroll here. My brisk walk gradually progressed to almost a trot and I begin to feel my body warming up. I had worn two sweatshirts thinking it would be cooler near the lake--a decision I soon regretted since I began to feel hot very soon. As I started running faster and reached just short of the half-way point to Nehru Park, I heard a familiar hum at a distance and saw a swarm of people gathered on the opposite side of the road. I couldn't make out from that distance what those people were doing; perhaps they were tourists checking into a hotel, I thought to myself at the time. Nor could I hear what was causing the musical hum because the constant noise of car horns was overshadowing every other sound.

As I started to get warmer, small beads of sweat started to trickle down my face. I tried to move a bit faster to keep my momentum going, but there were more people on the street by that time, which was slowing me down. The humming that I had heard was very distinct by then and I noticed that it was from the music playing at a popular restaurant. The crowd of people that I had seen earlier were customers either entering the restaurant or coming out of there. There were also a number of cars parked outside and that was creating a bottleneck for the traffic which was backed up all the way till my eyes could see. I saw people--small kids, women, and men--cross the street, oblivious to the heavy traffic, as they made their way to either side of the road, further slowing down traffic.

As I meandered, dodged, and shoved my way through thick crowds, and even occasionally stepped on to the road to pass an impregnable swarm of people, only to be honked at by an angry motorist so I got out of his way and got back on the footpath, I noticed that boulevard has become too crowded to go for a jog. I finally reached Nehru Park 45 minutes since I had started from Dalgate--it used to take me 15 minutes just three years ago. As I stopped to take a breather just opposite Nehru Park, I remember thinking to myself that the car smoke that I had just breathed in because of the idling cars in the traffic jam outweighed any health benefits of my jog.

It was dark by then and I could see the occasional flash of lightning trace the veins of the sky. I couldn't tell whether a roar accompanied the lightning because the traffic noise at Nehru Park was too overwhelming. I usually run up to Gupkar, just past the TDC restaurant. The stretch of run between Nehru Park and the shrine at Gupkar is the most rewarding for me. The gentle breeze had started to turn into a light wind by then and the small waves it created made Dal lake seem ferocious and graceful at the same time. There were only a few people walking on that stretch of the road then--perhaps people had started making their way home in anticipation of rain. Seeing the footpath deserted, I picked up speed and ran faster. Just at that moment, the wind began to howl and lightning lit up the lake like day; it began to drizzle, and it seemed I was the only one on boulevard at that time.

The other side of the lake seemed like perpetual darkness. The shapes of the magnificent fort, the roof tops, the houseboats and the vast lake, all were visible only when lightning lit up the valley. Right around me, on the lonely stretch of boulevard, finally there was silence, and I could even hear the roar that follows lightning. When I finally reached my destination, the wooden pier just past the shrine, I breathed in the fresh air and smelled the sweet smell that follows when it first rains.

The beauty of it all is impossible to absorb all at once. I wanted to stay on that pier forever and just stare at the awesome beauty of our valley. How peaceful it seemed with no car noise there to silence the sweet sound of gentle waves thrashing against the banks.

At that moment I began to think that if that breathtaking view of Kashmir seemed so overwhelming to me--someone who was born here, and spent all his life in Kashmir--how must it appear to our guests and tourists? Will my children's children be able to stand right at that spot years from now and see what I had just seen, smell what I had just smelled, and feel what I had just felt? I am afraid, the answer is no they will not. A hundred years from now, there will be a hundred times more cars in the valley, and the boulevard will probably have been widened. Traffic jams on the boulevard will perhaps not clear till midnight. Will someone be able to stand on that pier and drown the noise from cars, trucks and whatever is plying on the boulevard hundred years from now? Our fore fathers gifted Kashmir to us in pristine condition, would it not be selfish of us not to pass it along so future generations can have their chance to enjoy it as well? If we don't make hard decisions now, the answer is very obvious that we are indeed selfish.

One logical solution is to close down the boulevard for all vehicular traffic and make it a pedestrian and bicycle only zone. It will be the first of its kind in India: a 15 km long stretch of road exclusively for foot and cycle traffic only. There is already a back road which connects all businesses that are on the main road now, and these back roads and lanes can be widened if necessary. This will be an immediate novelty and definitely draw tourists.

I will not claim there will not be initial hiccups and this will inconvenience hotels and businesses on the boulevard, but they have to understand that in the long run, it will help their business as this will be the most attractive tourist spot in the subcontinent: A 15 km stretch of walking/running/cycling track which is for the enjoyment of all.

Arshi's Dream

Arshi shares her innocent views in a world full of bigotry. Will Kashmir be an abode of tolerance once again?

(Ms. Arshi Javid, 20, was born in the Lal Chowk area of Srinagar. She completed her schooling from the Tiny Harts School. Ms. Javid is pursuing a graduate degree in Humanities at the Government College for Women, Maulana Azad Road, Srinagar. She has been actively writing in newspapers from last three years and was awarded budding journalist award by the Rotary Club of Kashmir. As a socially concerned Kashmiri youngster, she wants to contribute on local issues emanating from the turmoil.)

Tryst With Chaos

I opened my eyes to mayhem, bullets and bombs. Political uncertainty had gripped my native city-Kashmir. I was born in 1988 when armed insurgency broke out in valley. During the formative years life meant firings, cross firings, crackdowns and curfews. A long day of 24 hours was squeezed to 6 or 7 hours for us. Markets and schools would open at 10 in the morning only to close down at 4 in the afternoon. My canvas of life never brimmed with joy, it will always grim, blood oozed out of it. One left home without the surety of returning back to their homes without any confirmation of seeing their loved ones again.

I don’t remember playing with dolls or watching cartoons. My favorite toy was gun and my mother says that I always threw tantrums for buying a Kalashnikov. Conflict always takes a toll on the psyche of children. I perhaps realized the meaning of life first time when I moved out of valley for touring other states of India. Unlike me, my peers outside the valley were fearless, confident and their day extended much beyond 5 in the afternoon. I couldn’t relate to them because no political conflict pulled the strings of their life.

As soon as I realized and understood the realities around me, the conflict outside traversed in and forced me to think a bit differently. Out of sufferings emerge the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. The changing social definitions perturbed me. The syncretism that integrated all the religions, castes and creeds was reduced to books Mistrust had crept in, friends had become foes, and politics ruled supreme, above emotions and values. Kashmiri Hindus had taken a flight to other states of India leaving their home and hearths behind. The secular social fabric which was a pride of Kashmir had been torn down. Conflict gave us a legacy of widows and orphans and they mushroomed across all the corners of valley. Women have become the worst sufferers of all and continue to reel under the fear. Some were raped, molested, made to live as half-widows-a term coined for women whose husbands disappeared mysteriously in the years of militancy. Some turned bereaved mothers and sisters. Their Hindu counterparts who left the valley during mass exodus suffocate and bear insults in the relief camps across India. Be it a traitor, a government loyalist or a militant, he belonged to a family. And, the pain of losing your kin remains the same regardless of the social tags. Recent medical research’s conducted in valley suggest that over the last 20 years women have been target victims of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Growing up in a conflict zone like Kashmir, that has become a bone of contention between two nuclear giants India and Pakistan, I have figured out that there is an immense need of addressing the grassroots issues other than he big issues that will be solved with the help of international actors. I am a BA final year student and wish to apply for social policy and social work at Oxford.

My conviction in upholding the human dignity and human rights, freedom of individual made me to participate in a number of debates, seminars, elocution competitions at my school level. My endeavor was never about getting the first prize but it was withholding the principles I believed in. I participated in a number of debates and group discussions- few of them organized by Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, directorate of ecology (Kashmir division), ANHAD- an Non government organisation.

At some stage in my high school realized a media interaction is essential for promoting the libertarian, egalitarian and secular set of ideas I believe in. I began writing on various social issues and luckily my writings were placed in renowned newspapers. While in college I began my journey as a feature writer in a widely read local daily Greater Kashmir. The earliest feature I jotted down was about Shivratri - a revered festival of Kashmiri Hindus which is believed to be a day when Lord Shiva married Godess Parvati. It was my idea of letting the new generation know that some other festival besides Eid was celebrated in Kashmir valley and how Muslims celebrated this festival along with their Hindu neighbours and friends. Besides, a tribute to the religious diversity which Kashmir enjoyed once.

I wrote on issues ranging from disability concerns, domestic violence and its effect on children, old aged men deserted by their children tracing life of minorities-like Tibetan Buddhists who are living a life of exile in Kashmir. I did a series of stories with orphans of conflict living in the various orphanages of the valley. I was awarded the best budding writer title in by the Rotary Club of Kashmir. One of my writing over disability communication has been awarded a first prize by Ali Yavar Jung Institute for the hearing handicapped. I have also worked as a volunteer for various non government organizations. I assisted relief operations during 2005 when the deadly earthquake stuck Kashmir.

If given a chance, I would like to enter the reputable university with an aim of acquiring an in-depth knowledge, using the university as a platform to share my ideas and experiences with myriad fellows. It would provide me a space for interacting, associating and trying to find a middle ground for resolving the conflicts and uplifting the sufferers. Being a woman myself and having seen women suffering around, I understand their pain and anguish. I would love to get involved in programmes that aim at emancipating the women. I will bring forth issues that woman confront, provide them knowledge about laws and legal safeguards, empower them socially, involve them in decision making and assess their role in decision making at family, work and nation.

Later in my life, I have a dream of starting a magazine which will deal with the issues of women and having a publishing house of own which will promote women writers in particular. I aim to use my energy in helping woman entrepreneurs throughout the Kashmir valley -micro-financing them, promoting them and their products. I would like to be instrumental in restoring Kashmir to its earlier position of being in the vanguard of the advancement of human civilization and helping in the restoration of its pluralistic culture. My ability will be synergized in a direction of establishing gender and gender perspectives as important themes in academic disciplines and its raising consciousness about gender issues in private life. I promise to work with utmost dedication. Most of all I will make sure that I will return to my roots and contribute towards the development of my people. Moreover, being a part of the big, positive social change.

The Ghost of Rural Kashmir

While Urban Kashmir is philosophising on Azadi, Rural Kashmir prays for the good life that city folks have

We are Born to Protest!

Asem Mohiuddin (Rising Kashmir)

Few days ago, my boss called up and told me to cover the Bandh in Kupwara the call for which was given by “Kupwara Save Committee”, a local committee which is constituted to raise the voice against the inter-district recruitment policy by government. The call was given in protest against the discrimination in recruitment process. People alleged that the people in Jammu are getting the “lions share” in government jobs whereas the Kashmir is ignored and discriminated.

It was my first visit to the place so I asked my younger brother to accompany me as he is familiar with the terrain.

As soon we reached Sopore where we saw a huge crowd roaming around the taxi stand. I knew they all are for Kupwara. The traffic was off the roads and drivers refused to leave the stand as all the roads heading to Kupwara were blocked. “People have burnt tyres on the roads holding lathis in their hands and aren’t allowing any vehicle to ply on road,” said a worried passenger.

But somehow we persuaded a driver and as soon as he opened the windows of his taxi, it was jam packed. I could hardly breathe. A seat which can accommodate only three passengers has to bear the weight of five people and two kids. One can imagine the plight of, both, the seat and the passengers.

I told driver to move and soon we were on road. Before leaving the driver asked us to pay the fair first plus twenty rupees extra. There was a verbal brawl but finally we settle down and left for the destination. On my right side there was a middle aged lady with her two young daughters who were sitting on front seat. The lady seemed disappointed and justifies the strike. She said, ‘there is every reason to hold such protests the other day I heard that for the posts of SI (Sub inspector), a price tag of six lakh rupees has been fixed. How can a common person afford it?’

As we were talking our vehicles came to a grinding halt. I saw with a sign board, it was Wahipora, a village. There was a diminutive group of children led by some elder people protesting on the road. They had set on fire the tyre to stop the movement of traffic.

We requested them to pave the way for us but they refused. Meanwhile another vehicle was also stopped. A man came out of the vehicle holding camera in his hand. He repeated the same question but the answer was again ‘No’. He told them he is from press. His vehicle was allowed but on the condition that protesting children will be pictured and the picture will be published in newspaper.

It was now my turn to prove my identity. I produce by identity card and told them that I also belong to the press and has come to cover the protest. But they disagreed as I had no camera. We have some argument finally they were conceived and allow us to move.

By the time we reached Handwara, the protest has already begun and it was led by none other than Er Rashid himself.

There were people and people everywhere, they were pouring from everywhere, from every corner and all of the sudden a sea of people gathered around. Among this crowd I sighted a visibly frustrated old man holding a lathi in his hand. He said, “I am here to stop the vehicles. We will make this strike a success. I have worked very hard to get my three sons educated. All of them are graduates now but see their condition, they ran from pillar to post in search of job and always returned disappointed as they find no job. Government is cheating upon us. We can’t tolerate this injustice.”

I heard a scream from behind I turned my head and saw a middle-aged man pointing fingers towards me. He said, ‘Who are you? I replied that I am a reporter working with a local newspaper. The man seemed unimpressed and before I can say anything he came up with volleys of questions. He commended me to right only whatever says. He said, ‘write in your newspaper that Kashmiris have been discriminated in every sphere.’ Kashmiris are not once but also exploited by none other than their own people.’ ‘Write down that to be born in Kashmir is a sin and it becomes a big sin when you happened to be born in rural Kashmir’ this isn’t the first time that we call for bandh and it won’t be last either. We are born to protest and will protest’

The man speaks with a force and that force was divine. I was shattered with his speech, I left the place in disdain, and he has done something to me. He has awakened something in me. For a moment I turn my head to right and man was nowhere. He disappeared like a ghost. I ask many who he was but no knows. Can any answer me who he was?

Kashmir Carpet Trade in Doldrums

Global economic downturn takes its toll on Kashmir's premier export commodity

Recession Hits Kashmir Carpet

Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: What the turmoil of past two decades could not do to Kashmir’s prestigious carpet industry, has been done by the global economic meltdown. Lo and behold! The recession has made Kashmiri carpet industry to face losses to the tune of 70 per cent.

“Last year, our carpet industry achieved a target of Rs 500 crore. But the global recession has hit us hard,” says Naseer Kawoosa, a leading exporter of Kashmir carpet. “We have suffered badly and have faced 70 per cent losses.”

Kawoosa says that though the global recession is almost over now, still a slump in the international market remains. “Even sales have not yet started and that has affected the production part also,” he adds.

Records suggest that Kashmir valley possess more than 29,000 carpet weaving looms engaging more than three hundred thousand (3,00,000) local weavers whose sole source of earning livelihood is weaving.

Making expensive woolen and silk carpets for buyers in Japan, England, Germany et al, the weaver has all along been in a pathetic condition as he/she gets just peanuts but the slump has denied them even these proverbial peanuts, sources within the industry say.

Kawoosa says that due to absence of buyers, the flow of cash in the industry too is less as compared to normal times and that has affected the livelihood of those associated with the trade.

“We used to earn our livelihood by weaving carpets, but now, it is almost nothing. Given a choice, most of us would call it a day,” says Hilal Ahmed, carpet weaver.

Turmoil that the valley has suffered for almost more than two decades has not affected the industry in the way recession strike industry.

While admitting that instability impacts tourism and therefore the carpet industry too, Imtiyaz Ahmad Shah, another exporter reveals that turmoil of past two decades has not affected the industry as badly as the global recession.

“Mostly our market is outside the country and then we are co-related with foreign tourists therefore the turmoil had not much impact,” informs the exporter.

Like the weavers, the exporters too are worried about the future of the industry. “It has gone down, God knows what will happen,” says another apprehensive exporter. The carpet industry of Kashmir has its origin in Persia and the carpets made here were earlier largely influenced by Persian motifs.

However, in the 16th and 17th centuries, the artisans in Kashmir began giving specialized touches to the carpets produced in the region, giving them a distinctive character.

Exchanging Cultivating Land for Monetary Wealth

Bashir is concerned how corruption in land management and personal greed is reducing cultivatable land in Kashmir. Presently 65% food requirement of the state is being met locally as against 80% previously

(Mr. Bashir Wani is the Administrator of Associated Hospital, Srinagar.)

Bleak Future Awaits Kashmir

No other community shall be as insensitive to the future of its generation as people of Jammu and Kashmir. The concept of land use and land management is a distant idea in the state; even engineering departments are no exception. Land especially wheat and paddy growing is being ruthlessly converted into residential / commercial areas. As per records of Agriculture Department only few years back 275.824 thousand hectares and 271.00 thousand hectares of land in the State was under paddy and wheat cultivation respectively.

Today it has come down to 258.526 thousand hectares and 261.49 thousand hectares. Moreover, physically the area has further come down and as per rough estimates only 180 and 201 thousand hectares of land are under such cultivation at present. This onslaught is on an increase and there seems to be no end to it with the result with every passing day new residential colonies and industrial sites are coming up across the state with least regard for proper land use. The government authorities are maintaining such criminal silences as if they are doing very good for their people. Violations are allowed with impunity. The land mafia has grown so strong that the government either fears taking any action against them or is in hand and glove with them. The civil society and self styled NGOs are also watching the menace unconcerned as if they too are a part of the game. Whatever is happening is not a secret to anybody as everything is happening before the nose of each and every person. Trison City, Cooperative Colony Narbal, Umer Abad Zainakote, Sun City Pampore, Cooperative Colony Peerbagh, Sheikh-ul-Alam Colony and myriad other beautifully named colonies at Hyderpora, by pass and other towns are just a tip of the iceberg.

The menace is not restricted to cities and towns only but has spread its tentacles across the nook and corners of the state. The worst part of the issue is that paddy cultivation is seen as most cumbersome and less lucrative so the people are also converting the said land into orchards and raw material sources for brick kilns. Section 133 of land Revenue Act though provides safe guards against such violations, the implementing agency of the Act is either in a deep slumber or has crumbled under its own weight of influence, both material and political. No doubt, some short comings are inborn in the Act but social obligations and sincerity, if exercised, are stronger elements of protection and do have over ridding effect on such weaknesses.

The softness of Act is used as a tool to earn money and good will by the persons at the helm. The suo motto cognizance by the then Honb’le. Chief justice, B.A.Khan, of this grave issue, did not yield the desired results as the orders passed by him also withered away with the passage of time either because of his retirement or these were not too strong to punish the violators and those abetting it. Admittedly, no constitution guarantees freedom of not allowing others to live or make others to starve before they open their eyes. We are heading towards a catastrophe where from it will be very difficult to retreat and our future generations will be left with no choice but to curse us. How long will Punjab state cater to our food requirements?

Besides fatten the Bank accounts of Netas and babus of Food and supplies department (CAPD). Presently 65% food requirement of the state is being met locally as against 80% previously. However, the situation is bound to worsen further if we and our government continue to remain insensitive to the issue and do not wake up. The government finds it difficult to arrange 25 to 35% of food requirement of the state at present and it would be next to impossible for it to arrange 100% food in the coming years that too when Punjab and other States are also loosing agricultural land at a fast pace.

The paddy growing land normally requires retained water for three to four months as such the water gets gradually percolated in the soil which not only raises water table but serves as future water reservoir. Thus conversion of land is threatening survival of humans, animals and vegetation. Food security is one of the preambles of Human rights and in case the government fails to provide this security to its subjects it has no right to continue in the office. As per conservative estimates at least 10% of paddy/wheat growing land in the State is every year either converted or left uncultivated, just to further the interests of land mafia, meaning thereby that by next ten years i.e. by 2020 we shall be left with no land to cultivate and disastrous situation is any body’s guess.

This menace can be stopped if the government rises above political considerations and musters enough courage to deal with the situation, judiciary plays its social role, law implementing agencies at all levels discharge their duties honestly, police also take cognizance of such violations like other criminal acts, civil society discourages such violations, NGO’s come forward to act as watch dogs and media launches awareness campaigns.

To accomplish the task a strong legislation envisaging demolition of all such colonies, initiating criminal proceedings against builders indulging in such practice, panelizing land owners leaving their paddy lands uncultivated or converting the same as orchards or brick kilns, ensuring food security to all present and future generation, making law enforcing agencies accountable and personally responsible for all such violations, besides Revenue Department, Agriculture Department made responsible for taking action against violators.

The housing needs of people can be tackled by enforcing land management and changing mind set of people to go for multi storied residential buildings at barren and khushki lands. The government shall be responsible to provide all infrastructural facilities at such places to encourage people to opt for the same.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Embrace the Future

Wasim's vision for the future is one that builds on information technology. How can we get there?

(Mr. Wasim Hussain, 29, was born in Srinagar. He attended Government High School and the Gandhi Memorial College, both in Srinagar. He has completed graduation and is pursuing his Master's degree in political science through Distance Mode of Learning. He took an English speaking course through the Islamia College of Science and Commerce and an advanced diploma in Information Technology. He has completed diplomas in web design and software design. Wasim has worked at the University of Kashmir since 2000, and is presently in the Directorate of Internal Quality Assurance (DIQA) as a senior computer assistant. He has received awards both as a student and as an employee for his performance. He enjoys writing and reading books. Wasim writes under the pen name of Wasim Ali.)

We've a Dream

Life without knowledge is hard to live in an age like ours. Man lives locally, thinks globally. To get rid of these challenges there is a solution. To make our state a computer skilled state – an information state. What does a person need to know today to be a full-fledged, competent and literate member of the information society? We all have to participate. Should everyone take a course in creating a web page, computer programming, TCP/IP protocols or multimedia authoring? Or are we looking at a broader and deeper challenge - to rethink our entire educational curriculum in terms of information?

Perhaps a brief sketch of such a curriculum, with stress on what is needed in our higher education will inspire such debate. The curriculum may help the government to formulate its policies as per the demand of time. This prototype curriculum attempts to include the old concept of "computer literacy" no doubt everyone should learn BASIC knowledge. There are seven dimensions of literacy which have been identified by various philosophers and eminent scholars of information technology.

Tool literacy, or the ability to understand and use the practical and conceptual tools of current information technology, including software, hardware and multimedia, that are relevant to education. This can be taken to include the basics of computer and network applications as well as fundamental concepts of algorithms, data structures, and network topologies and protocols.

Resource literacy, or the ability to understand the form, format, location and access methods of information resources, especially daily expanding networked information resources. It includes concepts of the classification and organization of such resources.

Social-structural literacy, or knowing that and how information is socially situated and produced. This means knowing about how information fits into the life of groups; about the institutions and social networks - such as the universities, libraries, researcher communities, corporations, government agencies, community groups - that create and organize information and knowledge; and the social processes through which it is generated - such as the trajectory of publication of scholarly articles (peer review, etc.).

Research literacy, or the ability to understand and use the IT-based tools relevant to the work of today's researcher and scholar. For those in graduate education, this would include discipline-related computer software for quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis and simulation, as well as an understanding of the conceptual and analytical limitations of such software.

Publishing literacy, or the ability to format and publish research and ideas electronically, in textual and multimedia forms (including via World Wide Web, electronic mail and distribution lists), to introduce them into the electronic public realm and the electronic community of scholars. Writing is always shaped by its tools and its audience. Computer tools and network audiences represent genuine changes in writing itself.

Emerging technology literacy, or the ability to adapt to, understand, evaluate and make use of the continually emerging innovations in information technology so as not to be a prisoner of prior tools and resources, and to make intelligent decisions about the adoption of new ones. Clearly this includes understanding of the human, organizational and social context of technologies as well as criteria for their evaluation.

Critical literacy, or the ability to evaluate critically the intellectual, human and social strengths and weaknesses, potentials and limits, benefits and costs of information technologies. This needs a historical perspective, a philosophical perspective, a sociopolitical perspective and a cultural perspective.

Once we start to take information literacy seriously in this multi-dimensional sense, we have left far behind us the world of short courses on "Getting Started with Windows," "Surfing the Net" and "Bibliographic Instruction" although clearly they have a role to play. We are really talking about a new curricular framework: one that equips us not only with a bunch of technical skills but with a broad, integrated and critical perspective on the contemporary world of knowledge and information, including its origins and developmental trends, its redefinitions of experience and social life, its philosophical justification, biases and limits, its potential for human emancipation and human domination and for growth and destruction.

Isn't it time to rethink what this educational goal means at the present juncture of the information society? Shouldn't people learn computer programming as much to become computer scientists? What are we creating? And is anyone paying attention? Is Govt. really keen to take some stern steps and make our society a computer literate society? Is there any clear policy framed by the government or by our Hon’ble Minister which would be the remedy of the challenges which may come in front of us during the period of globalization. Is there any work done at grassroots level vis-à-vis at school level which can make our students able to face every challenge in future, in view of the fact that Information Technology has equal role in all the subjects.

The State government set-up the information technology policy in the state during the year 2004 perhaps before 200 years the concept of information technology was being sketched in western countries. Actually Govt. never considered the demand and need of the people of the state and what are the challenges ahead to the students and how to eradicate them. Is there anyone to realize the necessity of information technology so that people "no longer be limited to a mechanical knowledge of the procedures of the arts or of professional routine," so that "they will no longer depend for every trivial piece of business, every insignificant matter of instruction on clever men who rule over them in virtue of their necessary superiority?" so that “people can make themselves able to access at any corner of world through world wide web”. The policies framed by the government for the development of the Information Technology are no where known by an individual there is a need to take some revolutionary steps to widen the dimension of information technology in the state and involve the interests of students and people.

In the era of globalization information technology has taken a tremendous importance at every individual’s life. Educated citizens would not only be able to manage their lives properly: "They will be able to govern themselves according to their own knowledge; they will no longer be limited to a mechanical knowledge of the procedures of the arts or of professional routine; and this would be made possible not only by improving and democratizing education but by simplifying conceptual schemes through the integration and unification of science, and the development of graphical representations of logical and scientific ideas and theories. Thus the average citizen and student of the state would be able to make the use of information technology as an important tool of its day to day life.

There is a dire need to get knowledge about the information and Science technology, its concepts and questions which carry so many queries like who owns information? What's the difference between a piece of information and a copy of it? Who should have access to it? Is the Internet a public good or a private one? Should anyone regulate internet content, and if so who? What should the property rule of the information economy be? What are the bounds of privacy in information? Could the government economic crises be alleviated by a "bit tax"?

If the Information Society is to be free - especially if we share the illumination goals of abolishing unnecessary inequality and creating a society of liberty - then let us have vision of computer literate state. Let us contribute to liberty through advancing citizens' knowledge, through democratizing education. Let us design a comprehensive, multi-dimensional and thoughtful information literacy curriculum.