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, March 13, 2010

Is Something Fishy Going on at the University of Kashmir?

Recent articles on questionable dealings by the University and its CEO cast a long shadow if there some "palace intrigue" underway - 5 related news articles

KU hikes fee to keep lavish VC in good humor

Jammu: The lavish lifestyle of Kashmir University's Vice Chancellor has punched holes in the University coffers. To make good the loss, the university has decided to hike the admission fee. The decision has evoked criticism from the aspiring students and the teachers alike.

According to insiders, the Vice Chancellor and his staff have spent hefty sums on renovation of bathrooms and maintenance of their luxury cars. A teacher, preferring anonymity said a huge amount of money was recently spent for redoing some bathrooms used by the Vice Chancellor in his office and official residence.

The teacher said the VC travels in lavish cars. "He feels on top of the world when a fleet of vehicles follow his car. The university has to pay for fuel and maintenance of the vehicles", he said.

The vice chancellor has other problems as well, believe the teachers. "In a bid to enhance his image and project himself as savior of Kashmir money has been wasted like anything on functions having no educational value", they said.

The allegation is not totally unfounded. It has been reliably learnt that eighty percent of the advertisements are given to a particular newspaper at DAVP rates. The newspaper in turn keeps the image conscious vice chancellor in news all the time.

The fee hike will have an impact on the over all educational scenario. The fee for open merit category and payment seats is likely to be hiked by 20-25 percent.

An aspiring student from Bandipora said: "The state has been devastated by the on-going conflict. We deserve concessions in the shape of free education and scholarships. But the reverse is happening here.

The Public Relations Officer (PRO), Showket Shafi, while talking to media persons defended the fee hike. "The decision has been taken for the benefit of the students. We want to provide better infrastructure to the students. And then fee has been hiked after three years and there is nothing wrong in it", he said.
(Early Times)

‘KING’ Riyaz competes with PM Singh: Appoints security advisor? Floats norms to appoint SC, who gets dual salary!

Srinagar: It is not the Prime Minister of India alone who has a security advisor, the Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University too has his own.

Believe it or not! Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University, Prof Riyaz Punjabi has appointed a retired police officer as his security advisor, highly placed sources within university said.

Sources said that Prof Punjabi has appointed a retired police officer, who happens to be Punjabi’s young age buddy, as his security advisor. “The retired police officer is getting an honorarium of Rs. 10,000 per month and has been allocated a vehicle from the huge fleet, created by VC, at the university,” the sources said.

“It is unheard off,” says a retired professor, adding, “I don’t know about other countries but in India, VC of no university has a security advisor.”

“It seems our VC is competing with Prime Minister,” said a serving professor, not revealing his identity for obvious reasons.

“Prime Minister has a national security advisor, so does the VC, of course not ‘national’ but just ‘security’,” the professor added.

When Public Relations Officer (PRO) of Kashmir University, Showkat Shafi was contacted for his comments over the issue, he while confirming the appointment of security advisor told Kashmir Images that Chief Proctor alone can comment on the issue.

“It is Chief Proctor Mr. Nissar Ahmad who deals with such issues. You better talk to him,” Shafi said, generously giving his contact number.

And when the Chief Proctor was contacted and posed the same question regarding appointment of security advisor, he just dismissed the report.

“We have not appointed any security advisor,” Chief Proctor told Kashmir Images.
Now, who is right and who wrong?

Insiders and the PRO or the Chief Proctor?

VC himself remains inaccessible as he has a habit of responding to only select calls.
“He never takes a call from a number that is not registered in his cell and even if you try to approach him through his official number, he is not available,” said a reporter working with a vernacular daily.

“He (VC) behaves like a king,” said a student of MBA. “Some of our fellow students refer to him as King Riyaz. Sounds satirical but if you study his attitude, he behaves like a king,” the student added.

Elaborating, the student said that the VC I always followed by a turbaned guard, like British rulers.

Sources said that it is not the issue of appointing security advisor alone where VC has behaved like a “KING”, he has even appointed his Special Secretary “floating” all norms.

“The Vice Chancellor appointed one Qaiser Aijaz as his Special Secretary floating all the set norms,” said a university official.

“Aijaz is a simple law graduate while as the requisite qualification for the post is PG with at least 55 per cent marks,” an official of the university said.

As if that was not enough, the VC ensured a dual salary for his Special Secretary by appointing him as coordinator of e-governance, wherefrom he gets Rs. 10,000 monthly honorarium, sources said.

And when the question of Special Secretary’s appointment and his dual salary was posed to the PRO of the University, he suggested to get in touch with the Registrar of university.

“It is not my prerogative. You better get in touch with the Registrar,” the PRO said, again being generous enough to give his contact number.

But, when contacted, Registrar, S Fayyaz said that it was the PRO who is authorized to talk on these issues.

“I have no idea, you better talk to PRO. He is the proper person to talk to,” Fayyaz told Kashmir Images.

Now question is, wherefrom to get the right inputs? Everybody seems saving his/her skin directing in different directions.

Is Kashmir University really in such a bad shape with VC having scared his subordinates to the extent that they instead of giving any logical answer are directing the queries in different directions.

Is the KING Riyaz really so powerful? Or is it an exaggeration, could be known only if the VC cares to respond.

“University PRO knows nothing” …and nothing is well with Kashmir University too

Srinagar: The highest seat of learning, Kashmir University is again in news and again for wrong reasons.

The Kashmir University has made history of sorts by spending nearly one and half crore rupees on fuel of its vehicles and generators in one year.

Whatever the university spends on research and other academic activities is worth peanuts if other extravagant expenses are taken note of, say highly placed sources within the university.

“The Kashmir University has made history of sorts by spending nearly one and half crore rupees on fuel of its vehicles and generators in one year,” said a source in the office of Deputy Registrar of Transport, Kashmir University.

Interesting to note, the Deputy Registrar Transport happens to be one Qaisar Aijaz, who is Special Secretary to the Vice Chancellor and also Coordinator of E-governance getting dual salary – one each in either capacities.

Whether he gets some more incentives in the capacity of Deputy Registrar Transport was not immediately known.

His appointment as Special Secretary is already disputed as he is a simple law graduate, sources said.

“Normally the fuel bill of vehicles and generators would amount to Rs. 50 lakhs. But this year it has almost touched one and a half crore mark,” the sources said.
And why should it not?

Since present VC’s taking over, the university, as per sources has, in two years, purchased vehicles almost half the number purchased since university’s establishment (sixties).

“Yes, we have purchased vehicles but I don’t know the numbers and think what your are saying is an exaggerated number,” said Public Relations Officer (PRO) Kashmir University, Showkat Shafi when asked to comment on the issue.

“You better get in touch with Mr. Qaisar Aijaz, Deputy Registrar Transport. He is the proper person to comment on the issue,” Shafi added.

“I don’t know about the fuel bill, you better talk to the concerned (Deputy Registrar Transport),” PRO said.

However, sources said that university has around 120 vehicles with 140 drivers and VC himself has a fleet of six vehicles for his personal use.

“No, the VC has only three vehicles – two are used by security people and one by the VC,” Shafi said while talking to ‘Kashmir Images’.

However, sources stressed that while VC always travels in a cavalcade of three vehicles, three more remain parked outside his residence.

Fuel is not the only thing that has consumed more than a crore, nearly 1.25 crore rupees have been spent on the renovation of VC’s lodge.

“Works worth Rs 81 lakhs were tendered while rest of the items had gone without proper tendering,” said sources.

Sources say that Rs eight lakh have been spend on VC’s bathroom alone. Though the report was not confirmed, given the extravagance all over, it doesn’t sound an exaggerated statement.

“I don’t know anything about renovation of VC’s lodge. You better contact the Executive Engineer,” PRO told ‘Kashmir Images’.

PRO told this reporter to contact Mufti Burhan, Executive Engineer, for details.

“Call the exchange on 2420078 and get in touch with Mr. Burhan. He will tell you the details. I don’t know anything,” Shafi said.

And when contacted, the receptionist on the phone made this reporter to wait for quite sometime and then said that the Engineer was not available.

KU has no money but appoints directors for non-existing campuses: PRO says they don’t get salaries; sources say they get

Srinagar: Though the Kashmir University is yet to pay the arrears to its employees after effecting the sixth pay commission recommendations,

the premier academic institution is very lavish in spending on high profile seminars and other such activities.

Not only this, the university has also hired people and appointed them as directors of Kargil, Leh and Kupwara campuses – the campuses don’t exist anywhere.

Highly placed sources said that the university authorities have appointed three directors for Kargil, Leh and Kupwara campuses which interestingly exist nowhere.

“Each director gets Rs 10,000 as monthly honorarium besides a car,” sources said, adding, the honorarium is in addition to their own salaries that they draw in different capacities.

Confirming the appointment of directors of satellite campuses, Public Relations Officer (PRO) Kashmir University, Showkat Shafi said that though the campuses at Kargil, Leh and Kupwara are yet to be established, “We have to designate someone to look after things related to these campuses.”

PRO said that the designated directors are not drawing any salary, however, sources within the accounts section of university said that honorarium is being paid to all the three directors.

Commenting on non-payment of arrears to university employees in the wake of implementing the recommendations of sixth pay commission, Shafi said that it would be done once state government pays arrears to its employees.

Sources further said that the university has appointed consultants in different departments who too are being paid monthly honorarium.

“What is the need of such appointments when you have a full fledged faculty available,” questioned a university teacher who says the scheme is just for rehabilitating some prominent retired professors so as to keep them in good humour.

“The university has appointed consultants for Kashmiri and Urdu departments and their honorarium ranges from ten to twenty thousand rupees per month,” the sources said.

“No, that is not true,” says Showkat Shafi, insisting that a renowned Kashmiri scholar has been appointed as consultant with Distance Education as the said department is launching a certificate course in Kashmiri.

“The consultant gets an honorarium of Rs. 8000 per month and is preparing material for the course,” Shafi said.

“But, if the university has a full fledged Kashmiri department, why it need some outsider as consultant to prepare material for the course that the distance education is planning to launch,” questioned a teacher who teaches in Kashmiri Department.

“By hiring consultants from outside, the varsity is putting a question mark on our competence,” he added.

“University has almost gone bankrupt. It can’t pay arrears to its employees. Bills of contractors involved in construction are pending and it has to pay installments and interest to JK Bank against loans procured,” says a senior functionary.

Sources said that the University has mortgaged several buildings within the campus against the loans it has got from the JK Bank.

However, PRO Kashmir University said that no loan has been taken from the said bank and there are no mortgages.

However, JK Bank sources said that university has purchased some land adjacent to the campus and taken loan from the JK Bank.

“Hassan Sons, a private company had taken loan from JK Bank for establishing a housing colony there (near university) and had taken huge loan from the JK Bank as it was a Rs 50 crore project,” a senior bank official said.

Adding, he said, the party (Hassan Sons) defaulted and the land was sold to university, the title was transferred and now university has to pay installments,” he added.

“And these installments and the interest is a huge money that is rattling university budgetary,” said a senior university functionary, adding, “This has left university exchequer dry.”

“Purchasing land for campus is good but not at the cost of the academics,” said a teacher, adding, “Kashmir University is one of the universities in India that spends less on academic activities and is extravagant when it comes to other activities.”

“Holding seminars and workshops is good but the frequency with which these things happen here (Kashmir University) in unheard of when you don’t have money for other immediate needs,” the teacher said.

“The Vice Chancellor has an obsession to be always in news. Whether university drowns or floats, his aim is to get his picture published in newspapers, rest he doesn’t care,” said a very senior professor who believes that despite the pomp and show, the university was going down academically since the present VC took over.

KU shuts as its Nero fiddles in Spain

Srinagar: When Rome was burning, Nero was fiddling. And that seems true for Kashmir University too.

The work in the University came to a halt today as employees protested against authority’s inability to pay the arrears of sixth pay commission, the varsity’s head, Prof Riyaz Punjabi was playing cool somewhere in Spain.

Though the University has spend huge amounts on renovation of VC’s lodge and has been spending money on security advisors and consultants, which are not needed at all, the arrears of the employees are withheld, sources said.

Alleging that the University of Kashmir authorities have failed in keeping the commitment with the Non Teaching employees, Kashmir University Ministerial Staff Association (KUMSA) in coordination with Jammu University Ministerial Association Friday observed a ‘Pen Down’ strike.

While the President of the Association could not be contacted, Secretary KUMSA, while talking to Kashmir Images confirmed that the strike was observed against the ‘non-payment’ of arrears of the 6th Pay Commission and other demands of KUMSA that, he added, were discussed more than a month ago with the authorities but continued to be ignored.

He termed today’s strike as a ‘Token Strike’ saying the Jammu University Ministerial Staff Association (JUMSA) and KUMSA have decided to go on a Pen Down on Friday and the decision for the future course would be taken soon.

“The Friday ‘Pen Down’ was the decision of coordination committee of JUMSA and KUMSA against non payment of arrears while as no decision has been taken for the future course of action yet,” Ghulam Jeelani, KUMSA Secretary informed Kashmir Images.

Commenting on today’s strike, Public Relation Officer (PRO), Kashmir University, Showkat Shafi said that a University Council Decision in this regard has already been taken to release the arrears as soon as the state government initiates the process and releases the same.

“There is a university council decision that as soon as the State Government releases arrears, we will follow” Shafi told Kashmir Images.

Meanwhile, sources within the University confirmed that a meeting would be held by the acting Vice Chancellor of Kashmir University on Saturday which, sources added, would look into the matter.
(Kashmir Images)

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