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.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Finding Value in Learning From Great Books in an era of Popcorn Journalism

The following Editorial in the Rising Kashmir sees hope in a recent meeting to rejuvenate the library system, but first we need to recover nearly 10,000 loaned books in default mostly borrowed by state gazetted officers

Ignored Treasure Troves

Libraries are considered as treasure troves of knowledge. However, the state is lagging far behind as far as the upgradation of libraries and their utility is concerned.

A review meeting of the Department of Libraries and Research on 2 February 2010 deliberated on the measures needed to upgrade the state libraries as per modern requirements like the need for library information to be made available online for readers, to set up libraries exclusively for women to promote reading habits among them and also the need for recruiting qualified and professional personnel. One would hope that the decisions are implemented in letter and spirit so that the libraries regain their relevance and the reading habits are promoted among the people.

There is an urgent need to revisit the role and set up of public libraries as the storehouses of knowledge so as to consolidate whatever infrastructure is available besides upgrading the facilities in so that people are drawn to reading books. It is a matter of grave concern that despite the Libraries Department is yet to reclaim more than 15,000 books from the defaulted borrowers. The department has been able to reclaim possession of only 10-15 per cent of the books since 2009 and till now almost 10,000 reminder cards have been sent to defaulters and guarantors, most of whom are officers of gazetted rank. This goes to show the lenient approach adopted by the concerned authorities. It is high time that the department acts tough and takes strict action against the defaulters to recover the books which include hundreds of rare ones also. Ironically, a large number of defaulters include government officials of gazetted rank.

In the 21st century, computerization of public libraries is imperative to retain their relevance. The government should set a time frame to complete this task on priority basis. Department of Libraries also needs to be reorganized on modern lines to improve its working.

The government should also pace up the construction of SPS Central Library coming up at M A Road Srinagar. The seven-storey library complex will have an Art Gallery, auditorium, fire-proof blocks for manuscripts, Internet cafĂ©, Exhibition Hall, Children Section, Researchers’ cabins and cafeteria. Its completion will prove to be very beneficial for common people and may well pave way for cultivation of reading habits. Other such projects like Gani Memorial Reading Centre at Rajouri Kadal and District Library Pulwama should also be completed.

The government should also take steps to encourage book reading at school and college level. The institutions should be supported so as to develop the libraries which include procuring the latest books and making them more accessible to students. Holding book exhibitions in different parts of the state can also draw people back to reading books.

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