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.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Paying the Price for Folly of Their Elders

Rafiuddin Bukhari describes the jarring impact of repeated shutdowns called either by state employees or separatist tanzeems on impressionable students

(Syed Rafiuddin Bukhari, 72, was born in Kreri in Baramulla District. He is the Editor-in-Chief of the Kashmir Media Group that publishes the English daily, Rising Kashmir, and soon-to-be launched Urdu daily, Bulund Kashmir. He had his early education in Sopore, Beerwah and then in Srinagar where from he got his post-graduate degree in English from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and took up job as a teacher in higher education department. He taught English in various colleges in Kashmir took voluntary retirement in 1995 as Professor. Even though not a professional journalist by training, he has been extremely successful in the field, launching SANGARMAL, the first ever multi-coloured Kashmiri newspaper from Srinagar which is now in its fourth year. Later in 2008, he created the Kashmir Media Group. His interests are reading and writing and building value based institutions.)

Please Don't Take Education Hostage!

Come education season, the strike calls intensify. This year also the educational institutions are making a beginning on a very dull note. On March 1, these institutions were supposed to open after the winter break of three months. But the Hurriyat Conference (G) called for a strike on same day thus pushing the students back to vacation mode. The strike was yet to be over the state government sitting in Jammu issued another order extending the vacation up to March 7. The reason given was that some areas are still snow bound and weatherman had predicted more rains. This was no justification to extend the vacation and it could have been applied only to inaccessible areas. However, such an order gets implemented in letter and spirit.

Now that these Institutions are all set to open on March 8, there is another “farman”, this time from Employees Unions who have called for five day strike in government offices from March 9 to 13. So the students going to government schools will have only one day after three months long vacation. This state of affairs is going to severely affect the career of tens of thousands of students. On the face of it there seems to be no logic in Employees strike covering the schools as well. There are 10327 primary, middle and secondary schools in Kashmir valley with an enrolment of over 10 lakh students. Kashmir valley has also 2217 private schools with four lakh students. But the strike called by Employees’ leaders will only affect those who are studying in government schools and generally come from rural Kashmir and marginalized communities. Is not this discrimination that four lakh students from affluent families will have classes and those who study in government schools will have no option but to wander around.

At this stage when Kashmir is going through all kinds of trouble, there has to be a conscious effort to safeguard the educational needs of our children who have to compete in the rest of the world and make us proud. Employees Unions are within their right to demand what they think they have been so far deprived of. We are not against their demands nor we have any major role in resolving them. As of now there are only allegations and counter allegations between the government and the employees on this issue. While the Finance Minister A R Rather has maintained that employees are not adhering to the agreement reached between two sides, the Employees leaders are crying hoarse that three months have elapsed the deadline set in that agreement. Who is right and who is wrong is difficult to determine unless government makes the agreement public. The Finance Minister has also made it known that there are no resources available at this juncture and the Finance Commission Award which was only hope in this regard has not considered the demand of making provisions for the arrears to employees on account of implementation of 6th Pay Commission.

In this backdrop the battle between government and its nearly 5 lakh employees is likely to be long drawn and the atmosphere is pregnant with the confrontation. It is government’s responsibility to honour the commitments it has made and make employees comfortable so that the people at large do not suffer. Employees in the state should be treated at par with those in All India Services. If they have been paid arrears and are given more benefits like reimbursement of school fees for their children which runs in crores, then government should immediately put an end to this sheer discrimination.

At the same time the employees have obligations towards the state and its people. This debate is gaining momentum among the civil society that whether the employees work with zeal and dedication. However, the impression is contrary to that. In case the employees would have been wedded to certain ideals and commitment then Jammu and Kashmir would not have earned the dubious distinction of being no 2 corrupt state. Notwithstanding the fact that political system is also responsible for this menace as also the people but employees cannot shirk this responsibility since they become the facilitators. Employees’ leaders are also under the scanner from society as their assets and wealth disproportionate to their known sources of income has put question mark on their credibility. It is time for them also to introspect and come clean while demanding more perks and benefits.

Here, however, the issue is of exempting the educational institutions from this forthcoming three day long strike in the interest of student community. One of the Employees leaders Abdul Qayoom Wani himself comes from teaching background and is aware of the losses the education sector has suffered due to frequent strikes. It is obligatory upon these leaders to rethink and exempt these institutions at least for now. Last year we had strike for more than 2 months and in 2008 Amarnath land row it went beyond three months. It is time to reconsider the issue on the lines of the losses we are suffering especially in education sector. For separatist leaders also the time is to re-strategize their planning so that such losses are avoided. Voicing concern and registering protest is the only mode in democracy but there can be alternatives as well. Reducing the number of strike days and sometimes exempting educational institutions will certainly work if we are ready to think. Government also has responsibility to not to vitiate the atmosphere with wanton killings of innocents, which ultimately leads to such an unrest situation.

No comments: