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.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Reconciling Polemics of Self Righteousness With an Absolutely Corrupt Culture

Basim wonders how "Chai" and "Pani" became a way of life in Kashmir

(Mr. Basim Amin Bazaz, 27, was born in Srinagar. He attended the Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School and completed an engineering degree in Electronics and Communications from the National Institute of Technology (NIT) Srinagar. He has worked at BQE Software and Satyam Computer Services as a software developer. He is currently employed by the Jammu and Kashmir Power Development Department as a Junior Engineer. In his leisure time Basim loves to write and design websites. He is also passionate about cricket and table tennis.)


When Jammu and Kashmir featured in the list of most corrupt states this year, it was twice in succession that the state had managed to hold on to its number two spot. While it spells abysmal trouble for the state, I say we have done wonderfully well – for a moment it seemed that we would be crowned the undisputed champions.

Our society today has taken corruption shamelessly into its stride. Unfortunately it is no longer seen as disgraceful. It no longer invokes any trouble. What begs to be seen as shameful is met with reverence and awe. Bribes have become the only logic that works. What efforts and patience and pleading cannot do, bribes do in a jiffy. There was a time when the dishonest needed to hide their faces and did their business under the table. Today, however, it is the honest who need tables to hide under. Wealth, notwithstanding the source, is the true yard-stick of reputation; wealthy, however putrid, the true bearers of the torch. It seems that most people have lost their sense of reason; perhaps their conscience too. Regardless of what is right, we do what our neighbours do. We have become zombies who are hypnotised by an infernal potion called corruption and barely have discretion of our own.

Sometimes I think we suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder. One moment we are, “I the most honest and the wisest,” and the next moment we become, “Who cares? Let me take home some quick bucks.” We talk big– oh yes – we love to talk big. We talk morals and righteousness all the time, but what do we do? Soon after we finish talking, we do filth that even devils will be ashamed of. We cry all the hoarse about corruption one moment and the next moment we are found demanding bribes. So much so that if I am writing this piece right now, censuring corruption so harshly, I may well be the most corrupt person around!

A friend of mine needed to get an electric meter of his tested. When he approached the person who usually did the testing – a government servant who is duly paid for his work – the person had been taken over by his alter-ego (Remember he was a quintessential MPD friend). The other personality hidden inside him had come to the fore. It was busy castigating imaginary characters for their moral shortcomings. “Dishonest scumbags, how do they manage to sleep at night?” For a moment it seemed that indeed he was the only honest person alive on earth. My friend, pestered from his past experiences of having to pay extra money for his meter testing, could not believe his luck for he thought he had run into an honest man after all. However, as soon as he put forth the meter, the tester stood up. The honest alter-ego had suddenly fallen asleep and the other one had risen.

“What is this?” he fumed with anger. He looked angry (just as we look when we are asked to work). “Do you want me to test this meter?” His face turning red with blood. “Where is my Chai?” he demanded. “But ...But just now you proscribed bribes as a poison that is eating Kashmir,” asked my friend, full of surprise. “Oh forget that. This is no bribe. This is how things work here. After all I have a family to support as well.

Not too long ago, a young man at the Karan Nagar petrol pump asked me to pay him rupees ten extra for every hundred rupees of petrol he filled in my car. I was stunned. Not because it was Eid and even the people who I had never met were asking for ‘Eidiaan’, but because he was not asking, he was not pleading either; he was demanding, he was threatening. He even went to the lengths of saying that it was his right and that I should do better than denying him his bread and butter. Although the nature of his act does not strictly come under the ambit of corruption, it goes to show how shamelessly demanding we have become. Not only do people ask for ‘Chai’ and ‘pani’ without any shame whatsoever, they do it with an air of confidence about themselves.

Chai , ironically never means a Chai only but ‘kantis’ and ‘kababas’ and ‘naans’ and ‘goshtabas’. Lamaji from Leh learnt it the hard way. When his clerk asked him for a Chai, Lamaji agreed outright. “Very well,” said Lamaji, “let’s go to a restraunt.” Little did poor Lamaji know that the clerk had been asking for a paper-Chai and not the liquid-Chai. The clerk however could not be fooled. For that matter, they never can be. Lamaji ordered Chai for himself. The clerk knew better; he ordered something better for himself. When the clerk was served his food; Lamaji understood – in the cruel world of bread and butter a Chai is not just a stutter.

Speaking of Lamaji, I still remember when he was lured to Srinagar. He had been promised a speedy follow up of his promotion case. Little did he know that less than a month into his arrival he would have bribed the official with almost everything he had brought with himself. Little did he know that even the clothes he had put on would come in the line of fire. A little over two months pass, Lamaji returns to Leh; with no promotion of course, but with no luggage and clothes either.

When a place gets soaked in corruption in a manner we have, its effects are bound to get reflected through many ways. And how have we been affected? When I visited a bakery shop sometime ago, they sold cakes at the rate of twenty four rupees. The next time, after a space of one night, they thought it right to sell them at thirty rupees apiece. In downtown they sell oranges at fifty rupees a dozen. At Soura bus stop, the same oranges, notwithstanding the quality, are sold at sixty rupees per dozen. However a more clever vendor at Ellahibagh takes pride in selling the same wilted ones at nothing less than ninety rupees a dozen! One morning your coffee and your snacks consume one note. The other morning they consume two more. I am sure there does exist a regulatory body somewhere which shoulders the responsibility of stopping prices from getting blown out of proportion. I am sure they get paid handsomely as well. They were just round the corner when our ‘Kandar-folk’ tried to hammer their share of nails into our inflation Chained coffin. So where have our regulatory bodies disappeared overnight, when the most basic amenities are sold at the rates of gold and silver? Beyond a smidgen of doubt it is ‘Chai-pani’ only that has conspired to keep them at bay. Indeed one note is enough to kill our conscience a hundred times over.

This undue shooting up of prices is just one single issue out of a huge load of miseries. When our brothers working in whatever capacity get corrupted it tells on the public in hundreds of ways. So much so that most of our current miseries, in one way or another, have their roots hidden deep inside the very soil of corruption. There is no doubt that corruption has taken hold of our state by the scruff of its neck. As suggested by our standings for the last two years it is evident that we have not been able to peg the ease with which we make foul money. The kind of apparent inaction towards this rampant corruption makes the matter all the more mysterious. Mysterious indeed is the fact that what demands action on a war footing basis seems to be silently, and at times obtusely, met with inexplicable indifference.
Certainly, being corrupt by no means adds any feathers to our cap. Why then is it not met with the response it demands? What are we waiting for? When was the last time you heard someone actively waging a war against it? When was the last time you witnessed an honest official being adulated? When was the last time you came across a guileful beast being booked for his infractions? As far as I remember, never in the last hundred years!

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