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.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Seeking Justice and Answers in a Land Where Corruption is the name of the Game

Maroof asks a basic question regarding life in Kashmir

(Dr. Muhammad Maroof Shah, 31, was born in Kunan, Bandipore. He has pursued a career in veterinary medicine and animal husbandry, completing Bachelors's degree in veterinary sciences (BVSc) at the Faculty of Veterinary Sciences and Animal Husbandry (FVSc & AH), Shuhama campus of the Sher-i-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology, Kashmir (SKUAST-K), and MA English through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He is presently posted as a Veterinary Assistant Surgeon (VAS) at the Government Sheep Breeding Farm in Dachigam. Dr. Shah is the author of two books, and has lectured as a visiting fellow at the Jaipur University on Western Philosophy. In his leisure time he pursues studies in comparative religion, philosophy and literature.)

Who Represents us?

Patwaries are looting people like anything. They are charging 1000 times more for their services. I asked a patwari how he justifies his loot and he told that he has to give a share of Rs 2000 monthly to Tehsildar. Reportedly a few days back a meeting with Tehsildars was held by patwaris and hot debate ensued on the share which was finally settled on 2000/month. This share is rationalization of many employees. The question is where does the chain end? Logically it should not end until the highest one in hierarchy. But it is hard to believe this. Treasury people take some percentage on many bills according to our clerks. Who talks about this? Everybody in the legislature knows this goes on.

A few months back fuel prices fell and no reduction in fare was effected. Now after rise in fuel price its original price has been restored and there has been no real hike in it but the traffic association is forcing government to hike fare. How can fare be increased? Associations have often been using other than legal means to force their point. Now who took up the issue of reduction in fare after previous reduction in fuel price?

So many girls are suffering slow death due to late marriage and many are not even married at all. Who talks of their rights and introduces bills such as specifying maximum age of marriage for girls which could be registered. Here there is no civil society either to see into these issues or build pressure on government.

Who represents the cases of drop outs and failures whom God has given enough intelligence to clear exams but can’t because of flaws in educational system. Only the poor go to government schools for education showing it has been outcompeted by private sector. Government schools have hardly any moral right to exist if they are run on three to four times greater budget and give three to four times lesser quality education as evidenced by failure percentage and pass outs in competitive exams. But we have been successful neither in giving free quality education nor checking on mushroom growth of private schools. Private schools would have no right to exist and no demand if education in govt. schools had been up to mark. But in the end both private and public schools fail to make the need of tuition dispensable. So people are exploited by both the parties. Are there truly public schools? Who has taken up the issue of exploitation by private schools? What norms are there for determining the highest payable fee? How little of the percentage of profit minted by the company manager/capitalist in educational business goes to wage labourers (teachers).

Why are private schools allowed to function if free education is constitutional right upto age 14? It is no argument that there is an option of free education in government schools. There is an option but not a fair one. Why would people risk future of education of their children by sending children to government schools? Why should most students feel the need to go to tuitions? It means even private schools are not doing their best. Who represents the case of tuition going children and who allows tuition business to continue? Govt schools are virtually bankrupt and should be closed and privatization encouraged. Or, more wisely, all private educational institutions up to 8th should be closed to stop exploitation. But who expects our governance to be so people friendly that it can take such bold steps? People know in the heart of hearts that nobody is interested it their welfare and the government can’t afford to antagonize vote bank.

Private B Ed schools are doing simply business and offer little education. Because it is a huge business and many officials who are supposed to monitor them are getting their fee. I know a B Ed teacher who told the inspection committee that he is paid Rs 4000 less than he is forced to sign. He was dismissed by management of the institution and no help was provided by any authority. There are many such stories. I know conscientious teachers who were appointed principals and left the job in few months. You must betray your soul and God to serve in any B Ed college run on the principles of capitalism. Why are profit- minting-institutions allowed to corrupt education? Who talks of the rights of workers in these institutions who have no protection? Can’t there be any mechanism for ensuring that teachers get their dues? Can’t teachers be given salary from banks whose annual statement shall then be taken to be authentic? But the question is who will represent the case and see it get through? Another question is if there are trained teachers why they fail to impart quality education? So B Ed fails to be a training programme. Or teachers are not ready to apply their knowledge. But what for is the army of supervisors of ZRPs, ZEOs etc.?

Seminars and conferences are being organized by different academic institutions without, generally speaking, the call for papers, review of papers by a committee etc. making the whole business suspect and an instrument for promotion of mediocrity. It means these are, mostly, academic frauds. The worst corruption is academic corruption. But nobody is representing the cause of the public whose money is being used by organizers of seminars. Is there any authority to supervise? I know a professor who has read the same paper with little modification in as many as six seminars in one of the institutions of Kashmir. There are journals where no guidelines are followed for what to publish or what not to publish. If you have a rapport with the editor or serving in the same department you have better chance of getting published. No wonder most of our local journals have little impact factor and hardly count in the outside world.

Who represents RTs against whom most inhuman laws are operative? They are worse than peons and even casual labourers. When teachers are paid lower than the fourth class employees or labourers how can quality education be imparted?

Who represents the case of public who are forced to get their own transport, jam the traffic and perpetuate their slavery to suppliers of petrol and pollute environment as the public transport is overloaded, takes so much time and violates so many other laws as well. Overload is against law, waiting in the middle of the journey to collect more and more passengers is against law, travelling with tonga’s speed is against law. But where are law enforcing authorities?

Who represents the unemployed class? Private property if kept within bounds may not be considered theft but amassing a wealth of more than few lakh is surely theft in most cases as capitalism is based on exploitation. I wonder what to say about those who go to multiple Hajjs leaving their neighbours to dogs. Abu Yazid of Bistam was asked at what rate is zakat to be paid. There should be no subsidy on second hajj. There should be a welfare tax on all those who want to go to second hajj or umra. Who represents the interests of salesmen whom their owners exploit, the cause of workers in private hospitals, the cause of children working in our homes, the cause of numerous other wage labourers? The capitalist class here has all the privileges and no body speaks for labour class, not even the Marxists with the zeal they once had.

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