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

When the Fox Guards The Hen House

Ranbir Singh questions morality and ethics of "public servants" who have become "public damaads"

(Mr. Ranbir Singh Pathania, 30, was born in born in Jammu city. He did his early schooling from the J.S. Luthra Academy and the S.R.M.L. Higher Secondary School, Jammu. He graduated from the G.G.M. Science College, Jammu, with distinction, and went on to earn his law degree from the University of Jammu with distinction in the Constitutional Law. He is a practicing lawyer in the Jammu seat of the J&K High Court and subordinate courts in Jammu. Mr. Pathania has taken on prestigious cases like the Siddhra land scam, B.Ed. colleges scandal, etc. and is one of the vocal advocates for the Public Interest Litigation (PIL) to root out corruption, preserve heritage and enforce the Right to Information (RTI) law. He is the General Secretary of jagriti Samaj and a member of the Advisory and Constitution Amendment Committee of the J&K Bar association. He was selected for the "Best Citizens of India" award by the Best Citizens Publishing House.)


“Nobody could be a judge of his own cause” is a universally accepted maxim. Then how are the MPs and MLAs justified in increasing their perks and allowances by themselves by - and many times. Former Lok Sabha speaker, Somnath Chatterjee had stirred up a nationwide debate on the lead issue by remarking, “The issue of increase in salaries and allowances of MPs should be left to the public.”

Unfazed by the brewing public opinion on the moot point, J & K cabinet has okayed a proposal seeking to increase the salaries of legislators by three times. A legislator would now get Rs. 60,000 as monthly salary, that too retrospectively from September, 2009. Besides, they also get Constituency Allowance amounting to Rs. 15,000 per month, telephone allowance to Rs. 5000 and medical allowance to Rs. 300 per month. They are also entitled to air/railway re-imbursement of Rs. 50,000 every year, interest-free loans of Rs. 02.50 lacs for housing and car each. Rs. 500 per day as Daily Allowance per day during assembly sittings, 75% Travelling Allowance by air and Rs. 09 per km on road and Rs. 35 lacs as Constituency Development Fund every year. The pension of former legislators has also been increased from Rs. 12,000 to Rs. 18,000.

It is in the same vein that a cabinet minister would now get Rs. 65,000 and Chief Minster, Rs. 75,000 per month. Posh, well-furnished bungalows, personal staff, superfluous security and a train of vehicles tailing behind a buzzing siren - keeping aam admi in a state of awe, wonder and confusion. From costly LCDs, refrigerators, carpets, wall-paintings, electronic gadgets and opulent furniture to tubs and towels, the impeccable taste of the role-models makes one laugh with one cheek and weep with the other. Whatever do they require – ‘Pesh kiya jaye’ and ‘Pesh ho gaya.’ This unnecessary extravagance and vanity, I think, outmatches those of Mughal and Turk monarchs. Does it not look as if we are living in a government of the netas, by the netas and for the netas.

In J & K, the budget session has till now been a cat-and-mouse game between NC and PDP with the unpredictable Panthers and the accidental crop of BJP acting as viable fence-hitters. The issue regarding the headless Accountability Commission, the fangless State Human Rights Commission and framing of Vigilance Commission on the pattern of Central Vigilance Commission are still hanging fire. Even the ration and fertilizers are not properly reaching the rural pockets. Water table has plummeted to an all-time low. NREGA, PMGSY, NRHM, PMRY and ADB-funded projects have been yielding least results. ReTs, ReZs, home-guards, A.W. workers and employees are on roads.

However, the tech-savvy legislators seek solace by amusing public and public opinion through stage-managed battles over surrender policy, self-rule, autonomy and all that. Nobody is ready to discuss bijli, pani. sadak, healthcare and animal-care on the floor of the assembly. It would have been better if the MLAs were provided with mikes and paper-weights instead of handy laptops. And it could surely be pegged that order and decorum shall be restored in the House once the Bill seeking tripple-fold increase in the salaries and allowances was tabled. Thank God! at least on one issue there was an all-party consensus.

An independent survey by National Election Watch has shown that MLAs in Haryana add on an average Rs. five crores to their wealth in their five-years tenure. Great! At least one class in India (that of legislators) is living on the fat of saturated land. Their perks and allowances have maintained a constant pace with the burgeoning fiscal deficit. According to World Bank estimates, India is home to one-third of the world’s poor, with nearly 46 crore people under the global definition of poverty. Forty-six per cent of the world’s malnourished children are Indian. The findings of the PM-appointed National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, revealed that 77 per cent of Indians survive and sustain on less than Rs 20 a day.

And in J & K, financial crunch comes in the way of release of around Rs 45 crores due to State Road Transport Corporation (SRTC) employees, Rs 519 Cr to power providers. ReTs are getting Rs. 1500 per month, daily wagers in P.D.D. and P.H.E. department are working on Rs. 500 per month despite assurance made on the floor of the Assembly from the government side. Not getting even a minimum wage, to put it the other way, State is itself violating the Minimum Wages Act. The employees are agitating for the release of arrears as per Sixth Pay Commission recommendations. But the cash starved state has no resources and it has requested the Centre to help it come out of the Penelope’s web. It is in this backdrop that the peoples’ representatives have the courage and conscience to go along with spree of enhancing their salaries and perks. Nice democracy, nicer logic and nicest-ever legislators.

This reminds one of a popular quote of a renowned Urdu poet, “Khud he mukhbir, khud hi mujrim, khud hi munsif thehre

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