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, May 21, 2010

Filthy City

Two commentaries - one in the Greater Kashmir, and the other in the Kashmir Images - address the most recent dubious "award" bestowed on Srinagar

We the Dirtiest

Ajaz ul Haque

A touch more and we would have won over Pilbit, Lakhanpur and Churu, the cities dirtier than ours.
But worry not, there is always next time. Some day, some time we will sure hit the mark. This Venice of the East, which today ranks at 420 among 423 cities, is all set to surmount the peak of pollution. All we need to accomplish the mission is to do nothing different from what we are doing. Continue adding muck.

It's paradoxical to see fountains in the city adjacent to disease-breeding garbage dumps. Well, no one can question the logic of installing these water splashing show pieces as long as they add to the beauty of the city. Any attempt to prettify the place is admirable whenever or wherever made. But what use when it happens after keeping the dirt intact. It's like embellishing a shit-pot to keep the stink away.

We can't think of decorating a house without brooming out the dust. That is how our city suffers not neglect, but ineptness at the hands of those who run the system. Mayors of the city must have done their bit during their tenure, but a bare high profile toilet inaugurated by some chief guest is too little a thing to clean off the filth that has earned us name, fame and shame.

Sanitation ratings by the urban development ministry are not that surprising for us. Given the conditions we live in and the system that governs us, we could not have expected any better. After all everything that happens contributes to the same end. As if men in uniform were not enough to jam the place, beggars and slum-dwellers fill up the blanks. And yes, not to forget the most important and omnipresent component of our landscape – dogs. Rabies cure centers are being established everywhere but there is nothing done to stop rabies from spreading.

Allow dogs to bite you and don't panic, we have a treatment centre.. What a thought! Dogs are breeding faster than humans and will soon outnumber us. What will this uncontrollable abundance of beasts result in except the epidemic we are experiencing. Flies, worms and humans – a perfect mix to push a place ahead in the race of dirt-manufacturers pvt ltd. This way our very concern is misplaced. If we are losing on one count, we are surely gaining on the other. Dirtier the place gets for humans, cleaner it means for dogs. And either of the two has to survive.

Just a mere look at our gang-raped roads explains the story. It takes years to dig out the bowels of the road and to spread them on the surface. Then you press hard to recall as to when was it really a pliable road. We too have our own versions of Jalal Abad and Tora Bora in our city, not ravaged by any bombing but by endless digging. Our historic Lal Chowk has fallen to a bizarre road map of beautification. The beautification which only the planners know how could it be.

SMC authorities are not too beside the point when they shift the blame to other concerned departments. PHE, UEED, LAWDA – each one has a story to narrate and each one's explanation is plausible. No one can be blamed but then no one can be absolved too. It is a collective failure and in this failure it's not only the government-run departments holding the responsibility. It's we too. You me and all. We also add our bit to this huge junk-yard which is now eating us away. No sermonizing will work. Those who run the affairs have to make it easy for people to follow certain norms of cleanliness. Even hygiene conscious citizens find it difficult to throw the refuse in the receptacles when there are none planted to avoid a promiscuous heap of trash.

When you have the whole city turned into a bottomless bowl where more you throw, more it demands, you litter effortlessly and remorselessly. Let's do a little to see off this shabbiness. And that little starts from our own selves. Of course we can't crane the whole mass of muck ourselves which there are departments to do. We can at least begin from getting conscious about what we are losing fast. And we are losing dignity by first being the second corrupt, and now - the fourth dirtiest.

Stinking State

Alarmed at Srinagar city figuring among the dirtiest cities, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has called on the Srinagar Municipal Corporation and Urban Development authorities to gear up to erase this notorious distinction. However, people have a reason to take this assertion with a pinch of salt, for they know that it is not going to change much. For a few days, the civic authorities will try to show that they are doing something about it, but after that everything will be back to square one -- Srinagar will remain dirty as ever.

Few years back when Transparency International indexed Jammu and Kashmir at number two among the most-corrupt states in India. The then government made similar assertions that corruption would be tackled with whatever means it takes. However, nothing has changed since. The state continues to enjoy the same very status – at number two among the most-corrupt states. Instead of corruption being tackled, it has been patronized and institutionalized so much so that the likelihood is in the next list the state might progress ahead to number one spot.

It is unfortunate that despite Jammu and Kashmir getting a beating on every front, successive governments have desperately failed in bringing about any betterment anywhere. Instead each dispensation that comes to power milks the system dry for its own selfish ends without bothering to do anything for the general welfare of the people. Had it not been so, then certainly the situation would have been different. The reality is that state suffers a perennial lag in progress, development, public welfare and now also on health and hygiene fronts, but on corruption it is at the top. No amount of assurances from the political leadership is going to allay public fears unless the government displays its resolve of affecting change in the situation on the ground. This requires practical action, and for this the government will have to rise above political considerations.

Everybody in know of the work culture in the government departments and agencies knows for sure why the entire system here is so resistant to change – change that promises public good. One of the major problems of course is the political patronization of the corruption and the corrupt. So far official pronouncements about fighting corruption have remained confined to public statements alone which are carried by media for the sake of news and people too take it likewise without any seriousness whatsoever. They know that corruption is rooted so deep in the systems here that it needs massive political will and ruthless corrective measures to clean it up. But unfortunately both these factors are in short supply here. This is the reason why the anti-corruption agencies and mechanisms are without teeth here. It doesn’t need an anthropological study to identify the sources and reasons of the rot. The political white ants of corruption are too discernible to need any magnifications. The rot is identified but the will to nip it is missing.

A place that stinks of corruption has to stink physically too. Therefore, it is no wonder that Srinagar is among the dirtiest cities and Jammu too is no different, although it is placed slightly better than the former. Asking the civic authorities to remove the physical filth won't help unless the socio-psychological garbage, "the corrupt work culture," is taken care of. This initiative has to come from the top. Let the corridors of power be made corruption free first, rest will follow.

No comments: