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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Within or Without, Challenges Galore

Two disturbing stories by Rashid Paul in the Rising Kashmir about exports and local maize production

Dubai crisis spells doom for Kashmir Handicrafts exports

Srinagar: Kashmir handicrafts sector that was hit because of the economic recession in the West has now been exacerbated by the recent financial crisis of Dubai. Exports according to the Kashmiri handicraft traders have downed further by at least 10 per cent due to the new real estate crisis in the Middle East nation.

“The Dubai financial crisis has further worsened our handicraft export,” Abdul Hamid Punjabi, senior vice president of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) said. Our exports shrunk by 50 per cent due to the melt down of the industrialized economies. The new crisis in Dubai has further dipped over all exports from Kashmir by at least 10 per cent, Hamid said. Kashmiri handicrafts worth Rs 1500 crores are exported to Europe, America and Middle East, he said.

Nasir Ahmed Kawoosa a prominent exporter while citing Export Promotion Council of India numbers said Kashmiri handmade silken carpets worth Rs 200 crores were sold in the international market during 2008-2009. But carpets worth Rs 56 to 60 crores only could be exported during 2009-2010. The share of handicraft exports, nearly 10 per cent, which go to Middle East markets, has been affected by the crisis, he said.

Fine texture scarves and shawls worth Rs 100 crores are consumed by West Asian countries. The Dubai crisis has lead to a decrease in shawl exports worth Rs 50 crores, he said.

Hakim Zafar Ali, another exporter said many Kashmiri’s have handicraft outlets spread across Dubai. They are reporting slump in business. However, rescue operations by Abu Dhabi will certainly minimize the Dubai crisis. Things will improve in three to five months he said.

A crisis swept around the entire Middle East and West some weeks ago as traders responded to the shock announcement that a debt-laden Dubai state Corporation was unable to meet its interest payments.

Shares plunged, weak currencies were battered and more than £14 billion was wiped from the value of British banks on fears that they would be left nursing new losses.

Nervous traders transferred the focus of their anxieties from the risk of companies failing to the risk of nation states defaulting.

Although the scale of Dubai’s debts is comparatively modest at USD80 billion, the uncertainty spooked the markets, with no one sure who its creditors were.

Valley’s maize productivity regresses to five decades old levels

Srinagar: With maize crop making waves all over the world due to its bio fuel properties, the average yield of maize has shown a downward trend in Kashmir with yield reaching four and half decades old levels.

Although Kashmir boasts of an ‘exceptional’ agricultural research institute in the form of SK University of Agricultural and Technology, the average yield of maize, one of Kashmir’s principal crops, has regressed to yield existing four and a half decades ago. Although the state wide data of the maize production is yet to be tabulated, the data from directorate of agriculture Srinagar, says that the maize production in the Kashmir during 2009 was 1,61, 170 metric tones, a decrease of 15 percent than the last year.

The average yield of maize has regressed to 10.47 quintals per hectare (Ha) in Kashmir according to official data lying with Rising Kashmir. The yield per hectare in 1964-65 was 12.65 quintals/Ha. The negative trend has developed irrespective of a large SKUAST (K) and various centrally sponsored research programmes besides the agriculture department responsible for food grain production.

The trend is somewhat upward in the Jammu region where it has increased by an insignificant 1.23 quintals from 16.74 quintals/ Ha during the period. The cumulative average yield of the crop in the state has increased by a measly 0.17 quintals from 15.11 to 15.69 during these 45 years.

The state could increase a mere 30.50 thousand metric tones (MT) to its annual maize production figure of 4.4 lakh MT two decades ago. It is despite the fact that 7000 hectares of more land were brought under its cultivation during the time. The current level of maize yield in rest of India is 21 quintals/Ha although this too is far behind the global average of 50 quintals per hectare.

‘Ninety nine percent of our maize requirement is imported from India on which we loose nearly rupees 300 crores annually’, said John Mohammed Koul, president of the Kashmir Traders Federation. ‘SKUAST and agricultural department consume thousands of crores of tax payer’s money but their output is disgraceful. Regions with Kashmir like climate produce five times more than we’ he regretted.

The minister agriculture Ghulam Hassan Mir told Rising Kashmir that the decrease in the yield and production to dependency on rains. Most of our maize fields are rain fed. Wherever, it is irrigated the productivity is very high, he said. Besides large swathes of corn have been changed in to orchards.

‘We have released fabulous varieties like Shalimar KG maize1, Shalimar maize Composite-3, and 4 besides Shalimar hybrid -1 since 2005, possessing a respective yield capacity of 40, 48, 63 and 70 quintals/Ha. But seed multiplication and its availability to the farmer is the problem with agriculture department’, Dr Shafiq A wani, a plant genetics scientist at the SKUAST said

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