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, June 27, 2010

The Liberation of Mind

Ishrat's counter-point to Riyaz Ahmad's commentary reminds one that Kashmiris - no matter what gender - may be chained by norms of the society, will never relinquish their freedom of thought

(Ms. Ishrat Bashir Mattoo 28, was born in Srinagar. She went to a local public School in Srinagar, and received her Bachelor's degree from the Government College for Women in Srinagar. She completed her post Graduation in English from the University of Kashmir in 2007. In 2008, she worked as contractual lecturer in the directorate of Distance Education, University of Kashmir. Presently, Ms Mattoo works as a lecturer in English in the j&K School Education Department. In her leisure time she enjoys Writing Poetry,reading and listening to music.)

It’s All Patriarchy

They shut me up in prose-as when a little girl
They put me in the closet
Because they liked me “still”

- Emily Dickinson

This refers to the article Women’s place published in Greater Kashmir on June 16. The author has started with an argument about the stereotyping of Kashmiri women but she seems to have failed to take it to a logical end. What the author seems to conclude is that she is no more oppressed than her counterparts in the rest of India.

Nevertheless, the oppressed she certainly is but the argument has been made in such a way as to overshadow this fact. Because a man has written to undermine the stereotyping of Kashmiri woman, it is itself a reflexive of the women’s place in Kashmir. While debating that Kashmiri woman is looked at through certain prism, the author himself looks at her through patriarchal prism. The author writes “is she more or less oppressed, more discriminated against or, of course, more prone to honour killing? The fact is that she isn’t? In fact one can certainly GRANT (emphasis my own) her a DEGREE (emphasis my own) of emancipation that a large number of Muslim counterparts in the rest of India will take time to catch up with” This statement made by the author is itself an implication of the degree to which she is oppressed. Why does she, in first place, need emancipation to be Granted by one and who is this Saviour One? Of course, The Patriarchal man! This emancipation itself is to be defined and decided by patriarchal society and then presented to women as a processed product from man’s benevolent factory. Why cannot emancipation come to women as naturally as it comes to man?

The author writes “There is no body of research that could help understand her condition or create some sort of an image or identity for her”. He further writes “of course, she has an image, identity, location, geography, culture and history of her own.” The author here appears self-contradictory. On the one hand, he says that some sort of identity needs to be created for her and on the other, he asserts that she has an identity of her own. Moreover, the question is that why and what has made woman a “Researchable Object”, why does her circumstances need to be researched into? Why does her identity need to be created for her? Does it not reveal that Kashmiri woman is oppressed to the extent that her identity needs to be created? The author himself has brought out her identity crisis and then suggests that she is more privileged than her counterparts are in the rest of India.

Referring to domestic violence, discrimination against girl child in families, and so on, the author writes “…things nevertheless appear a lot more hunky dory on this front” The fact is that things are not hunky dory as author leads us to believe. Domestic violence is rampant particularly in the lower class of the society. We have everyday news about women being killed by their husbands and harassed on one pretext or the other. The author writes that “...More than the personal preferences, discrimination in our society is borne out of the cultural factors which have traditionally assigned separate roles for men and women”. The statement does not make Kashmiri women more privileged than women in the rest of the world. Discrimination in every society is borne out of the cultural factors. Men and women are traditionally assigned separate roles in every society but the question is who decides the roles and who constructs a culture. It’s all patriarchy.

Rather than holding women in India or elsewhere as the measuring rod, we have to address the issues pertaining to women in Kashmir. Kashmiri women are certainly oppressed psychologically, economically, socially, and politically as well. Physical violence is not the only violence against women that should be our concern; what is more dangerous and subtle is the psychological violence that is perpetrated against women. Even though parents are generally even-handed in their treatment of their sons and daughters but what is important is how the girl child is brought up in our society. She is ideologically so very conditioned right from her childhood that she doesn’t ever realize it. The irony is that it is done under the garb of love and care. Providing girls opportunities to become doctors, engineers, executives and so on does not necessarily mean that there exists no bias against girls. The oppression of women starts right from their families. Girls are made to believe that the “Honour” of the family lies with them. So whatever they do, they have to carry this flag of honour with them and at the same time keep it high and unfurled. They rather perceive themselves in terms of this so called “honour”. This is the biggest hurdle for their healthy self-realization. If a girl is harassed, she usually does not fight back. Not because she is weak but she has to think about the honour of her family. Nobody should come to know that she’s been harassed because that will be detrimental to her family’s honour. When girls are asked why they tolerate eve-teasing, elbowing and so on in public places, most of the girls’ reply is “what people around will think. They may think that we ourselves have no character”. What makes women feel like this? This is to be understood.

When we talk about self-development, it necessarily includes the ability to decide wisely and rightly for oneself. But how many women in Kashmir take decisions for themselves. Hardly a few! The biggest decision (marriage) that decides the course of much of a woman’s life is not taken by her. Either she is not allowed to make it or she does not feel herself worth taking it. If she is not allowed, why isn’t she? And if she cannot take it, why can’t she? These are the issues that need to be addressed when we talk about emancipation of women.

Let’s take Hijab that has become so much integral to woman’s identity in Muslim society anywhere. Why is it made exaggeratedly related to only woman? In Islam, hijab or purdah is as important for man as it is for woman but why do we hear it only in her relation? Haven’t men been directed by Allah in Holy Quran that they should keep their eyes lowered? How many Muslim men know this and more importantly, how many of them practice it? Why hasn’t the hijab of man ever become an issue to be debated by Muslims or non-Muslims.? It clearly reveals that man propounds only that much of knowledge that helps him to subjugate woman. If this is not oppression, what else should we call it?

We see that on Fridays in Kashmir, our Molvi sahibs preach ethics and proper behaviour to men in the mosques and thanks to loudspeakers, we women too hear them. What is more noticeable in such sermons is the concern of preachers for the Kashmiri society going astray. And one of the main reasons for it, according to them, is parents’ lesser control on their daughters or women folk in general. I haven’t ever heard these preachers tell our men that they shouldn’t urinate on roadsides, they should behave properly in public places like buses, they should observe hijab rather than keep staring at women folk, that they should teach their sons proper behavior but what is almost always more noticeable in such sermons is that they (men) should control their daughters. They are instructed how to brought up their daughters. Much of the moral degradation in society as they perceive it is attributed to women.

If we have to get a glimpse of Kashmiri women’s economic exploitation, we just have to have a cursory look at “Private School industry” thriving in Kashmir. Almost all private schools depend upon cheap labour provided by female teachers. Walnut industry is yet another example.

What is even more important is that most of the Kashmiri women are intellectually impoverished rather they are kept so. That’s one of the significant reasons why she is stereotyped within and without Kashmir. The author further writes “our idea of an emancipated woman operates in a conceptual framework of its own. For us it is fundamentally a moral idea as against an intellectual concept in the west”. Even if we take our idea of emancipation as a moral one, how can it be separate from intellectuality? This is exactly where we are in error. Moral choice can not be made and cannot be effective unless and until it has an intellectual background. We cannot and we don’t choose morals in vacuum. They are integrally related to social, political, economical and ideological aspects of a society. How many Muslim women in Kashmir, for instance, have the first hand knowledge of Islam? How many of them are well aware of their rights and responsibilities even though from an Islamic perspective? The fact is that even this knowledge has come to them through a filter, that is, man. They know what man has chosen for them to know. This is the front where women have to equip themselves. They have to know for themselves. Men, howsoever well-meaning, cannot fight the stereotypes propagated against Kashmiri women. It’s the Kashmiri women themselves who can dismantle these stereotypes. For this, they have to understand the mechanism through which they are stereotyped. They cannot do this unless they are intellectually compatible with those who stereotype them.
I agree with the author when he says “…there is still a long way to go before all Kashmiri women… approximate a common minimum description of emancipation: as somebody who is educated, knows him or herself, understands the world around him and has mature opinion about the issues” But what is more important is that Kashmiri woman has to make herself competent enough to work out her own definitions of her emancipation rather than let men set frames for her mind and body.

Women’s Place
Alleged `honour’ killing apart, is Kashmiri women really more oppressed than her counterparts across India?


In the swirling protests over the killing of one more youth during stone-pelting in the city, the murder of a woman by her father in South Kashmir has all but passed unnoticed. The media has branded it as an honour killing to make it dramatic. The word `honour’ has served the dual purpose of lifting the story out of the tag of an ordinary crime and also feed into the larger stereotype about Kashmir: this time the place of woman in a conflict ridden Muslim society.

An alleged honour killing can really paint it worse, even if the incident with all its as yet unconfirmed circumstances may be a very rare case in Kashmir. Or for that matter, even if Kashmir may in the lived experience be just another normal place for the opposite sex. And even if the father killing his daughter may at the end of the day be just another unusual crime. But stereotypes like habits also die hard. Kashmiri women will continue to be looked at through a certain prism. More so, when the place continues to be a rolling mess of guns, protests and killings. The author Justine Hardy in her recent book on Kashmir In the Valley of Mist she talks agonizingly about her own urgent need to wear burqa to walk around Lal Chowk in what she warns a new Islamized Kashmir. She doesn’t think twice while writing this about a place where a majority of the women don’t cover themselves in veil at all. The book primarily geared to the western audiences has painstakingly projected an anticipated image of not only the women in Kashmir but the place as a whole.

One can cite another example. The women’s Disqualification Bill, for instance. The bill whose mere tabling in the J-K House, in a sense, raised such a furore has also strengthened the stereotype of Kashmir as a women-discriminating patriarchal society. The bill was selectively seen in terms of gender debate rather than the politics and the context of Kashmir problem that surrounds it.

These disparate examples bring to light a reality that in any way doesn’t reflect the truth on the ground. But taken together these examples can serve as a jumping off point for a debate about Kashmiri women. That is, if she is really in any sense different from the women in the country. Is she more or less oppressed, more discriminated against or, of course, more prone to honour killing? The fact is that she isn’t. In fact, one can certainly grant her a degree of emancipation that a large number of her Muslim counterparts in the rest of India will take time to catch up with.

At an ordinary level, speaking about Kashmiri women is like shooting arrows in the dark. It is a play of fleeting impressions we gather in our families, at our work place. There is no body of research that could help understand her condition or create some sort of an image or identity for her. Here by an image or identity, I don’t mean we should have portrait of an undifferentiated, monolithic mass as images or identities are prone to do. Of course, she has an image, identity, location, geography, culture and history of her own. What I mean is the understanding of the specific circumstances of her life. Do we have incidence of domestic violence in Kashmir? is girl child being discriminated against in our families? Do women encounter discrimination or harassment at the work places? Even allowing for a degree of under-reporting of such cases, things nevertheless appear a lot hunky dory on this front.

Again, is there any serious equality issue between the genders in Kashmir? There is a gut feeling that doesn’t see anything seriously amiss here. Parents in Kashmir are generally even-handed in their treatment of their sons and daughters. Unlike in the west, discrimination between sexes here is not a scientifically measurable reality. More than the personal preferences, discrimination in our society is borne out of the cultural factors which have traditionally assigned separate roles for men and women. Though this approach is slowly changing, the cultural hangover will take a while to go.
Our idea of an emancipated woman operates in a conceptual framework of its own. For us, it is fundamentally a moral idea as against an intellectual (functional) concept in the west. But there is still a long way to go before all Kashmiri women, like of course the men, approximate a common minimum description of emancipation: as somebody who is educated, knows him or herself, understands the world around him and has mature opinion about the issues.

We have similarly, more or less a notional concept of freedom rather than a functional one. Freedom, besides an external dimension is a larger spiritual concept. More so, about the women. I think in our societies, it has more an internal value. It is less about freedom to wear and more about self realization or behaving in a modest, refined way. But then freedom is also about opportunity for growth, a room for self-development. And here again, Kashmiri women are in many senses, if not better than certainly at par with the women in India.

However, it is not that the negative stereotyping stops with their religious identity only. Conflict in Kashmir has created an image of its own, that thrives in the reporting in local media. Here the Kashmiri women largely exists in terms of the prevailing troubled circumstances. She is portrayed as a perennial victim. We have reports of general nature talking about her widowhood. We have stereotypes of mothers missing their killed or disappeared children. Picture of victimhood is so dominating and so pervasive that it has obscured the more real aspects of her life. For example, there is little effort to go into the details, to talk about the widowhood as an issue rather than as a stereotype, to talk about how the widowhood is actually lived or the other tragedies begotten by it. Similarly, there has been little reporting on whether government has any credible plan or mechanism to respond to the crisis. And if there is, do these work well and reach the intended beneficiaries. Women continues to exist as an abstract concept spoken about generally with little attention to detail. It is time there is an effort to tell the real story of Kashmiri women than talk about her in terms of old and set frames.

Kashmir Suffers Due to a Lack of Drug Control Policy

Jehangir conducted a research study on drug addiction in the valley. Before presenting his analysis, we detail the ground situation (two stories)

(Mr. Jehangir Rashid Malik, 37, was born in Srinagar, and did his primary schooling at the Green Land Educational Institute in Hawal, Srinagar. He studies at the Sri Partap Higher Secondary School for classes XI and XII, and completed his Bachelor's degree through distance mode from the University of Kashmir. He subsequently graduated from the Media Education Research Centre (MERC) of the University of Kashmir with a Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. As a journalist, he is associated with the Civil Society, a New Delhi magazine, and is the Editor of Kashmir Plus, a news and feature based portal of Srinagar. He began his career in journalism as a correspondent with the Kashmir Times, and later worked at the Daily Etalaat (English) and as a news editor with the Daily Khidmat (English). He has been awarded the Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award for story writing by the Charkha Development Network, New Delhi, and has received fellowships from the Action Aid India, the Centre for Science and Environment, and the National Foundation for India (NFI), all based in New Delhi. This article is a part of series of articles to be published in connection with the fellowship offered to the writer by the NFI, New Delhi on the topic, ‘Drug addiction among females in Kashmir valley.’ In his leisure time, Mr. Malik likes watching cricket and listening to radio programs especially old melodies sung by legends, Mohammad Rafi and Kishore Kumar Ganguly.)

Drug abuse on the rise in Kashmir Valley
(Indian Express)

Be it a way to fight personal crisis, means to wipe the mental scars or just a sign of being cool, the youth in Kashmir have fallen into the net of drugs, with such cases increasing by 35-40 per cent in the last few years.

Dr Arshad Hussain, a psychiatrist at the Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital (GPDH), Kashmir, says the menace of drug addiction has gripped the city, with mostly youngsters falling into the trap.

"There is no doubt that drug abuse has increased in Kashmir. Historically, a low drug addiction zone, Kashmir has lost its innocence. The statistics now are alarming. Mostly youth in the 18-35 age group have fallen in the trap. Deaths are reported in young men because of opioid use," Hussain said.

When Rasheed Ahmad (name changed) remembers how he lost his brother, he cannot help but blame himself for his death.

25-year-old Rasheed worked as a trader in Goa when he succumbed to peer pressure and became an addict.

"I was earning a lot but I thought my life was without any fun. So I started going to parties and night clubs in Goa.

There I started having cocaine and LSD," he shivers, recalling the days.

With his condition deteriorating and addiction increasing, Rasheed's parents brought him back to Kashmir.

"My younger brother was forced to quit studies and started working as I became incapable of doing anything. It was just after a few months, that he met with an accident and died," he said breaking into tears. "I am responsible for his death".

Among the drugs consumed in the valley are medicinal opiates, such as Corex and Codeine. Benzodiazepines like Diazepam, Alprazolam, Alprax and cannabis derivatives like hashish and marijuana. Besides alcohol intake seems to be picking up, Yasir Arafat Zahgeer, a social worker said.

According to a report published by a local daily, a majority of Class IX students of a famous school in the valley are hooked on to nicotine and inhalants.

17-year-old Mubashir (name withheld), who is being treated at a de-addiction centre here, has a grim look but smiles when he remembers how good he was with girls at school.

"I did a mistake once and then it became a compulsion," Mubashir said. He was 14 when he first started taking drugs.

"I started with fluid eraser, petrol and fevicol. I was very good at studies. Everyone says I am intelligent but there is no use of it now. I wanted to become a cricketer but I wouldn't be able to do that now, I know," Mubashir said.

Noted psychiatrist Mushtaq Marghoob said, "There is no doubt that there is a surge in drug addiction cases in the valley. It has reached the worst level. Opiate medicinal preparations as well as heroin abuse have become the most serious problem in Kashmir over the past few years."

According to a study conducted by the United Nations Drug Control Programme in 2008, there are 60,000 substance abusers in the Valley.

A social worker working in a drug de-addiction centre here, Yasir Arafat Zahgeer said, "In the last two-and-a-half years, we have treated 198 patients and we have had 3500 visiting patients. Our waiting list currently has 245 people.

The maximum number we can accommodate in our centre is 10. We get an average of two to four patients in a day."

Highlighting the need for increasing the number of doctors at de-addiction centres, Dr Nadeem Nazir, Medical Superintendent, Police Hospital, in Srinagar said, "There are just a few doctors here. We lack facilities. An upgrade is needed."

Largescale cultivation of cannabis and poppy in southern Kashmir and seizures of large quantities of opiates, mostly heroin, in different areas in increasing at an alarming rate, Margoob said.

Having started a drive to destroy poppy cultivation last year, Shamim Ahmad, Deputy Commissioner, Excise Duty and Taxation claims that there is a decline in poppy cultivation as compared to last year, which was the peak year. "We destroyed poppy spread on 2000 kanals (100 hectares) of land this year. We began the drive in April and it would continue till the end of this month. Poppy cultivation is highest in South Kashmir," he said.

Noted sociologist Prof B A Dabla said, "There is no official figure but individual studies reveal that an estimated 30-35 per cent of the youth (15-35 years old), both male and female, have become victim of drug addiction".

Pointing towards the spread of this menace to both rural as well as urban Kashmir, he said, "This isn't limited to urban Kashmir or has spread to all areas now."

With drug addiction becoming a serious problem, department of psychiatry, Government Medical College, Srinagar took a lead by conducting awareness and intervention programs in three major districts of Srinagar, Anantnag and Baramulla.

A team of experts from National De-addiction Centre, Delhi, were actively involved in this programme, Dr Arshad Hussain said.

A record number of 2500 patients were identified and a treatment plan formulated. However, many persons could not continue the treatment due to absence of proper de-addiction facilities.

Controlling Drug Addiction

Jehangir Rashid

Absence of drug policy has always been put forward as one of the major reasons for drug addiction in Kashmir. However some of the experts in the field of health opine that even if drug policy is framed in the state of Jammu & Kashmir it cannot lead to desired results in controlling the drug addiction among varied sections of society more so among youth.

Dr Arshad Hussain, Lecturer Psychiatry, Government Medical College Srinagar says that the primary and foremost mandate of drug policy is to ensure that quality drugs are available to people and spurious ones are seized.

“Need for a drug policy has always been felt here and it would be good if the same is put in place. This would mean that quality drugs are available to the masses at affordable prices. Scheduling of drugs is an important component of drug policy and hopefully this too would be pursued by the concerned authorities while framing the drug policy,” said Dr. Arshad.

Kumar Wanchoo, owner-Eaton Laboratories says that there are not many drug addicts in Kashmir and as such there is no need to panic on this front. He says that law enforcing agencies should look towards other aspects of drug addiction and they should not confine themselves to absence of drug policy in this regard.

“The number of drug addicts in Kashmir would be in the range of 500-1000 and as such we cannot say that situation has gone out of the hands. There is no need to panic and we can safely say that drug addiction is negligible in Kashmiri society,” says Wanchoo.

He says that people should come out of the contention that absence of drug policy is the sole reason for drug addiction among youth in Kashmir. According to him there are many factors which need serious review.

“When we talk of drug addiction and factors responsible for it, absence of drug policy is taken as be all and end all reason. This is not correct and one needs to look beyond this reason. There may be people who have fallen prey to this menace on account of irrational use of drugs, but most of them use charas, opium and other narcotic substances. This aspect is neglected by the people as well as policy makers,” said the owner, Eaton Laboratories.

Wanchoo says that government should have an idea about the number of drug addicts and then evolve a process by which these people can be rehabilitated. “What is the quantum of drug addicts in Kashmir and how can these people be rehabilitated. One needs to have a clear cut vision and policy to accomplish this task,” he adds.
Commenting upon the role of distributors and stockists in ensuring barrier free supply of medicines, Dr. Arshad says that the activities of distributors as well as stockists should be monitored. He adds that there is a need to put in place a system of checks and balances so that the whole process of supply of drugs at various stages is streamlined.

“We have loopholes in the present setup and there is no harm in accepting those. There are people who are using medicinal opiads, but these do not come under the Narcotics Act. At the same time the drug controller has less manpower and as such the concerned department has not been able to deliver its best. These are practical difficulties and they need to be overcome in quick time,” said the lecturer-psychiatry.

There are people who opine that chemists should give medicines to only those people who carry prescriptions. Their argument is that this would ensure that there is no abuse of drugs and this they believe would help in tiding over the crisis emanating out of the drug addiction.

“Not all, but most of the chemists provide medicines without asking for the prescription. Many times these chemists would even provide medicines like calmpose and alprazolam to people. Both these medicines are sedatives of highest order and a person who takes them for first time wants the same to be acquired time and again. There are instances where youth have sipped syrups like codeine in one go and still then the chemist is ready to provide him more and more bottles of this tranquilizing medicine,” says Noor Mohammad, a retired employee of health department.

(The article is a part of series of articles to be published in connection with the fellowship offered to the writer by National Foundation for India (NFI), New Delhi on the topic, ‘Drug addiction among females in Kashmir valley’.)

Money Lost to Mismanagement is Money Less Spent on Eradicating Poverty

Rashid dwells on greed, corruption and mis-governance in Kashmir

(Mr. Rashid Paul, 40, was born at Ompora, near Budgam. He has a master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the University of Kashmir. He has worked as a senior correspondent on numerous valley based dailies. He follows business and economy, conflict, environment and power beats. He is also a documentary film maker.)

Sick PSUs Drain J&K of Rs 1800 Crores

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir, already living on a financial precipice, has lost Rs 1800 crores through its sick public sector undertakings (PSUs) over the past couple of years.

Official sources told ‘Kashmir Images’ that the accumulated losses of the sick PSUs have reached to Rs 1800 crores. The PSUs annually loose Rs 125 to 130 crores, sources said.

One wonders how the government affords such a drain when the state is dependent on central government aids to meet its plan and non-plan expenditures!

The state has currently 21 companies including statutory corporations under its administrative and managerial control. It invested around Rs 323 crores in its working PSUs in 2008-2009. A mere of three to four companies including JKTDC, SICOP and a few others could register an ungenerous profit of Rs 2.51 crores during the period, sources said.

Despite the sick PSUs bleeding the state economy to a virtual dryness, the government continues to pump in grants-in-aid, loans, subsidy, equity and other financial components into them, sources added.

For instance, JK Industries, incorporated as government undertaking with an authorized share capital of Rs 20 crores and a paid-up capital of Rs 16.27 crores has accumulated losses to the tune of 420.41 crores.

The PSUs have a huge asset base and infrastructure estimated at Rs 2500 crores and they employ nearly 6000 people. Political interferences and lack of accountability have devastated these undertakings, say the experts.

Prof. Nisssar Ali, an economist, says that many a PSUs can be retrieved with some financial and management pushes while as the rest are irreparable. No material -- financial or management -- can work for them; it is better the government disinvests them, he suggests.

The apex industrial and trade bodies of Kashmir, however, suggest that the PSUs be brought under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) mode.

Shakil Qalander, the president, Federation Chamber of Industries, says that all the PSUs were wisely planned according to the inward resource base. “Units that are beyond recovery be closed; technical and management interventions can revive the rest. The PPP will be the most effective way for their effective operation,” Qalander opines.He claims the move can help double the employment ratio in these units.

Nazir Ahmed Dar, the president Chamber of Commerce and Industries, also called for handing over the PSUs to private players under PPP mode. “It is the only way you can revive them and make them profitable,” he said.

Balancing Development With Sensible Ecology

Mehraj and Yusuf argue that linking Poonch to Gulmarg by road over Pirpanjal range would be yet another environmental and wildlife disaster in Kashmir

(Mr. Mehraj Din, 56, was born in Srinagar. After graduating with an Arts degree from the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar, he took advanced studies in adventure sports like mountaineering and skiing. He is now an adventure tour consultant, running a tour and travel business with outlets in Srinagar, Nepal and Bhutan.

Mr. Mohammad Yusuf, 57, was born in the Dalgate area of Srinagar. He attended Government Schools in Drugjan, Sonawar, and Batwara, all in Srinagar, and completed his college studies at the Sri Partap College, Srinagar. Following his graduation, he briefly attended the University of Kashmir, and in 1980, joined the Physical Education Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Yusuf teaches aquatics and adventure sports (swimming, mountaineering, snow and water skiing, rafting, parasailing, skating, kayaking, canoeing, etc.) and has won many local sports trophies. He has led many exploration expeditions in Kashmir, and is the Treasurer of the Winter Sports Association of Jammu and Kashmir, General Secretary of J&K Aero Sports Association and the J&K Ski & Mountaineering Association, Secretary of Srinagar Winter Sports Association, and Vice President of the J&K Yoga Association. In his leisure time, Mr. Yusuf engages in social work, gardening and writing.)

No More Environmental Disasters in Kashmir Please

This refers to the meeting of some ministers and bureaucrats of Jammu and Kashmir Government, held in Srinagar recently in connection with the construction of a road on Poonch and Gulmarg sector in Kashmir. Many environmentalists, explorers and the adventurers of the state were shocked on hearing the news. They believe that it would be yet another mistake of the Government to destroy the natural beauty of the scenic Pirpanjal range in Kashmir Himalayas. It is astonishing that the meeting was chaired by a minister who himself looks after the environment and forest ministry in Jammu and Kashmir state and is a leader of the Gujar (nomad) community. It is in fact his foremost duty to protect the environment of the state and to safeguard the interests of his poor community. Construction of one more road between Poonch and Kashmir will never be called a development. It would rather destroy the fragile Pirpanjal range.

The construction of the proposed road via Ferozpur nallah over Pirpanjal range near Gulmarg would never help develop tourism here as is presumed by the Government but will instead prove disastrous for both tourism and wildlife. It would undoubtedly destroy wild mountain beauty of the area, where there is immense possibility of promoting snow sports like snowboarding, Alpine ski, ski-touring, luge, bobsledding and other tourism related outdoor pursuits. The circular Mughal Road Trekking via Shopian, Poshiana, Alliabad, Pir Ki Gali, Poonch, Loren, Zamian pass and Gulmarg was most popular amongst the students of Kashmir University in eighties. Half of the trek from Shopian to Poonch is already vanished with the construction of road in this area. Now the attempts are being made to destroy the remaining part. This will badly affect our socio-economic position in near future. We quote an example here that the Lehinwan to Inshan trek in Kishtwar Himalayas was very popular among foreign tourists in recent past. Nearly 1000 high end tourists used to undertake trekking on this route annually but ever since the road was laid here no one desired to trek around here. It was a big setback for adventure tourism in Kishtwar area. It is estimated that Kishtwar trekking expeditions were generating directly about 30,000 man days of work for laborers, cooking crew and pony owners etc. every tourist season with the annual income of nearly 2.5 crores of Indian rupees. Similarly after construction of many other roads in Zanaskar Himalayas the foreign travel companiessevered their trekking programmes there. Another most popular route from Panikhar to Manali also met the same fate.

How nice it would have been if the Government could operate Twin Otter aircrafts for conveyance of locals instead of laying expensive black toped roads though the mountainous terrains. Due to soil erosion and heavy snow fall in the Pirpanjal range we fear that the Gulmarg-Poonch road could ever become all weather road.

It is astonishing that besides Pirpanjal, the Government is planning to construct one more road in Sindh valley connecting Telail (Gurez valley) to Kangan via Gangabal. This road will leave no place for high altitude alpine trekking for the posterity and perish nearly 40 high altitude lakes, well stocked with trout. Gangabal is a sacred lake for Hindus that could also be affected. The Kashmiri Hindus believe that the Ganga (River Ganges) actually originates from this Lake.

Perhaps the proposed road from Poonch to Gulmarg would also be not in the interests of Gujars and Bakerwals (nomad communities) who otherwise prefer to travel through pastures so that they could feed their cattle enroute. It would be less development and more destruction for Gujars in particular. It will obviously demolish their habitat. Construction of road in this belt would be nothing but an aggression to the nomad community and the wildlife. It will certainly snatch their bread and butter. The Gujar leaders must come forward and fight for genuine cause of their community. The move seems to be a political gimmick of our ministers. We do not understand what made them to think of laying yet another road to link Kashmir to Poonch when the Mughal road has just been opened for general traffic. We suggest connecting Pooch with Gulmarg through Cable Car and not by road. Cable Car could be suitable both for the development of tourism and for providing transportation to the locals here. This is amazing that many European countries are linked to each other through cable cars. One can travel from Switzerland to Austria or other neighboring countries by a Cable Car but alas! We cannot travel from one district to another through this mode of transportation. Laying road on this mountainous terrain would perhaps cost more money than the cable Car. It is admitted fact that we have tremendous scope for winter tourism in Pirpanjal range. There are many meadows behind Mount Apharwat and in nearby Tosamaidan region but we need a cable car to take tourists there.

The road will not only fell lacs of trees but will also cause threat to wildlife here. This area habitat some extinct species of wildlife including snow leopard, brown bear, fox and musk dear etc. we have a wildlife sanctuary here which may also be affected. So far winter sports are concerned these are becoming increasingly popular in Gulmarg. On weekends and holidays thousands of tourists come here for skiing. It is felt that after fifty years there will be no space for people to ski here. The back drop of Mount Apharwat is the treasure for winter sports and we have to preserve it for our posterity. Many tourists are seen venturing out from Gulmarg to Sunrise and Sunset peaks during winter to ski in the virgin areas or do extreme skiing there. We request the authorities to desist from constructing one more road in Pirpanjal range. It is surprising that on the one hand the politicians and bureaucrats are celebrating World Environment Days and Weeks with great pomp and show in confined halls and issue big messages in the newspapers but on the other hand they take such steps those are no way helpful in protecting the environment.

The Government needs to consult the subject experts before taking big decisions concerning the environment and biodiversity etc. We plea the Union Minister of State for Kashmir Affairs, Mr. Prithvi Raj Chouhan to stop facilitating the J&K Government in building the proposed Poonch-Gulmarg road.

Multiple Conflicts of Body and Soul

Firdous is right - Kashmiris are the worst example of a split personality

(Mr. Firdous Syed, 44, was born in Bhaderwah, Doda, and had his schooling in Jammu. He is currently the Chairman of the "Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies," and associated with the J&K National Conference. Between 1989 and 1991, he led the Moslem Janbaaz Force, a militant group, and was jailed from 1991 through 1994. In 1996, he publicly renounced the gun culture, and is an active member of the Kashmir civil society.)

The Conflict of Body and Soul

Well, APHC (G) is seeking advice from “intellectuals or those opposing the strike” to suggest: “how to register the protest against the killings of innocents and represent sentiments of people.” Is this a sincere effort to reach out to thinking minds of the society--- to solicit their views--- to make resistance a fruitful exercise? Or else a mocking drill which critics lash at. They oppose repeated Hartals as meaningless moreover wastage of effort and energy. Reading between the lines, the usage of word ‘opposing’ suggests that Hurriyat (G) considers any constructive criticism [necessarily] as adversarial. It is to be their own bargain; whether they accept a suggestion made in good faith with an open mind or reject it scornfully. However the contemptuous tone “those opposing the strike” only indicate that ‘Wise men’ of Hurriyat (G) actually believe that there is no alternative to Hartali politics? This self-destructive attitude is more dangerous than any mocking behavior. Hurriyat leadership seems to be right; there is no alternative, if the options are confined only to choose between different means of death, to die with a teargas canister, by a police bullet--- or for that matter in a Grande attack. If choices are limited to death and destruction alone, bigots have a point; Hartal is the shortest as well as fastest way towards self-destruction. Creativity is boundless, if Pro-freedom leadership is really keen to reorient the movement in order to make it productive and cost-efficient; there is no dearth of alternatives.

First things first. Reality should not be lost in the din of blame game. Whether Pro-freedom leadership falters or power politicians taking advantage of the situation are busy in serving their petty interests, in all probability worst sufferer eventually is the common Kashmiri. Therefore grave situation cannot be left endlessly at the mercy of incompetent and dishonest politicians belonging to both camps. Pro-freedom and power politicians. Truth howsoever bitter has to be faced; there is no escape from facing the facts. Broadly analyzing, there are several reasons responsible for the failures in the current phase of the movement: a) absence of unity of thought, purpose and, action b) lack of cohesive [one] leadership c) wavering ideological commitment of masses d) exploitation by sovereign powers. Except the last ‘exploitation by sovereign powers’ all our other predicaments are of our own making. These are structural flaws and not superficial weaknesses. Had there been no internal contradictions, foreign exploitation would have had a less disastrous effect; disease can attack only a person having a weak immune system.

Since 2008, precisely during the Amarnath land row, Rights movement changed tracks, and entered into a new phase, it is a peaceful resistance now. During the militant phase, obviously the primary responsibility was with the militant leadership not only to shape the events but to steer the entire movement. The role of APHC was incidental that too subservient to the needs of militant movement, it was acting as the mouthpiece of militancy. At present whence militancy is much subdued, not really obliterated as few like to think, the onus is with Pro-freedom politicians, especially APHC to efficiently lead the movement towards its logical conclusion. As consensus grows and there is no denial of the fact: Pro-freedom leadership cutting across the ideological lines has proved [utterly] inadequate; it has failed to provide a sense of direction to the movement. Therefore it is not surprising that resistance is in complete disarray. Why should it not be? The movement is badly ridden with structural defects; superficial makeover will not make it dynamic. Debate on Hartal’s is secondary---- window-dressing; to reach its goal, movement is in need of complete restructuring.

The needs of a militant movement vary from those of a peaceful resistance. Militancy is a flash in the pan; idea is to achieve the goal in the shortest possible time. On the contrary peaceful resistance is a time-consuming process. Militancy is like a speedboat; it has a faster engine but can accommodate few. Peaceful resistance is like a huge ship; its motions are slow but steady, it has to insure that every segment of the society is onboard. In a popular armed struggle, indeed ownership is with the people but initiative rests with a very few. In a peaceful struggle not only ownership has to be with the people, but each and every member of the society should act as responsibly as the proponents of the movement. Moreover a movement cannot be run in a Mafia style, clique of few strong men, forcing there ill-conceived programs on the people. In the absence of a consensus behind, even well though-out decisions could prove to be quiet unpopular.

The peaceful movements waged for political and civil rights operate on the lines of disobedience---bare minimum cooperation with the system, if not complete non-cooperation. Non-cooperation with the system is not possible without the active cooperation and participation of overwhelming majority of the struggling people. The idea is to make everybody part of struggle, off course some participate more actively than the majority. Self reliance is critical to a movement of non-cooperation. Honour, self-esteem and identity consciousness is the defining characteristic of a people, desirous of national independence. Repeated Hartals have given rise to a bad work culture, no body anymore in the society is inclined for a hard work. Clubbed with our perennial lethargy, we have turned out to be parasites. What an irony, we seek Azadi from India yet we are dependent even for, potatoes, chicken, egg and milk supply from Punjab, Haryana and UP.

Let there be a differentiation between movement for Azadi and a hate campaign. If Pro-freedom leadership actually aspires Azadi, and is not engaged in a violent reactionary movement, it is required to work for self-reliance. Instead of asking for Hartal’s every second day, it should have asked farmers, artisans, students, teachers, doctors, engineers, preachers to work honestly to make this nation really self-reliant in every aspect. Struggle should also have had stimulated poets writers and artists to inspire the masses with their creative work. Self reliance is the real key for non-cooperation. Instead of accusing people for participating in elections why leadership has failed all these years to inculcate the virtues of honour and self-respect; a self-respecting society will always despise feeding from its tormentor. No power on earth howsoever powerful can keep subjugated a people endlessly, determined not to cooperate with an unjust system. Let us ask ourselves a question, are we all collaborators or rebels against an imposing system.

Kashmiri is the worst example of a spilt personality; he is suffering from ‘multiple personality disorder.’ Kashmiri----from Syed Ali Geelani at one end of the spectrum and Dr. Farooq Abdullah at the other which includes all shades of color and ideology, emotionally and sentimentally is driven by profound desire for Azadi. Barring very few extreme exceptions, Kashmiri deep in his heart has not accepted Indian control on Kashmir; he considers it as a foreign yoke. Moral turpitude, materiel pursuits, and lately effects of globalization have posed many challenges for a common Kashmir. Kashmiri’s heart is hooked to idealism, his mind is somewhere else. Emotionally he is not an Indian; physically he is closer to India. It is a mess of his own making, Kashmiri has made huge sacrifices, and still he is not able to reach his cherished destiny. His sentimental attachment with idea of Azadi has disallowed India to have complete sway on Kashmir, yet his materiel worship has allowed India to control practically all aspects of his life. He is neither here nor there; he is not part of the movement, yet he cannot disassociate himself from the movement.

This dichotomy has created huge problems for a Kashmiri. He cannot abandon idea of Azadi and live peacefully with India, and at the sometime he is not fully prepared to show an exemplary ideological commitment with the cause of Azadi. The conflict between body and soul has mutilated his personality; it is a curse, source of his all tribulations. Peace in Kashmir is not possible, unless and until Kashmiri is not able to achieve complete harmony between his inner and outer self. Awakening of self will lead to a spiritual transformation. From this transformation only, a social revolution and subsequently a political one is going to take place. Are we ready to rise above our self? Preaching is easy; can I for that matter get rid of my indulgences and rise above myself? Main Bhalla to Jag Bhalla---true to my feelings, world will be truer.

The New Zero-Sum Game: It is Kashmiris or Pakistan

What Javid missed is that a week after the PM's visit to Srinagar, the "deal-with-Pakistan" lobby in the Delhi Durbar is back on the roll - meaning that Kashmiris will stay as spectators

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 64, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

Nirupama Rao's 'Creative solution'!

A week after PM's Srinagar visit, Foreign Secretary- Nirupama Rao has called for a creative solution to Kashmir issue [Kashmir Times-front-page dispatch on 15th. June]. She was addressing a close door session on Afghanistan-India-Pakistan trialogue organized by Delhi Policy Group (DPG) a wise roping in of the three, as Kashmir issue and much that passes on between India and Pakistan touches Kabul in a fair measure. Kuldip Nayar, the renowned columnist commented in recent past on Kabul being the key to Indo/Pak conflict resolution. That may not be the total truth; however Kuldip ji has a point that necessitates not only looping in Kabul in what comes to pass, but also institutionalizing the regional role of Kabul by making it a full fledged vibrant member of 'SAARC' even if the regional organization lacks sheen as well as the style to make it count. 'SAARC' is as disappointing as the lingering process of conflict resolution in the subcontinent.

While PM was guarded in his Srinagar address, offering a dialogue in general terms-his health minister Azad day later implying that the offer was restricted to militants, the foreign secretary's input is much more forthright, however says nothing in addition to what is not already known. That it addresses the external dimension only is understandable, coming as it is from foreign secretary. Forthright, the speech might be called, as the emphasis on certain subjects carries a greater punch than is normally the practice. However the problem remaining in bureaucratic realm, where it cannot move beyond set parameters shows lack of political will, very much evident in the Srinagar address of PM-an address that raised more questions than it answered. Azad helped his PM in showing cold shoulder to separatist leadership. What PM did not want to say was left for Azad, earning him a rebuff from Geelani of serving Indian interests. Geelani in any case shows no inclination to engage in dialogue and Azad could hardly be expected to do anything apart from what Geelani accuses him of doing! Since no denials followed from PMO or any other official agency, Azad's take has to be seen in the light of what it implies-separatist are not on board in present phase, unless they come calling and ring the bell. That boils down to external dimension being in focus, with internal dimension on the back burner. If and when India and Pakistan [if ever] reach a deal, Kashmir's leadership will fall in line might be a erroneous take, with a big question mark over it? Azad's statement had an insensitive touch, least expected from an otherwise calculating politician, unless it is taken as signing on the dotted line-a GOI vision document or may we say lack of it, as far as internal dimension is concerned, and now on to external dimension.

The foreign secretary is slated to visit Pakistan to meet her counterpart and ground had to be broken, spade work carried out in order to create the 'creative dialogue process' hence Foreign Secretary Rao called for reaffirming the progress and building on achievements through complex negotiations and showing patience at the same time.
"On the way forward, we have to build on these achievements. We also have to reaffirm the progress made through complex negotiations and dialogue through patient and unsung effort whether in the composite dialogue or back channel diplomacy, during this period".
On territorial exchange of any sort, Nirupama was emphatic-no deal on territory, while making borders irrelevant was stressed, so that people on both sides of 'Line of Control' [LOC] are able to move freely and trade with one another." Towards this goal, a number of cross-LoC CBM's were put in place, which included the opening of five crossing points on the LOC; introduction of triple entry permits; increase in frequency of Srinagar-Muzzafarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot bus services; starting of cross-LOC trade on Srinagar Muzzafarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot routes through movement of trucks, etc," she said.

Foreign secretary was emphatic on three points, as she insisted on India seeking a "stable peaceful and economically progressing Pakistan, secondly, we sincerely desire peace with Pakistan and thirdly, we have to learn to live with the asymmetries in our sizes and capabilities". With that Nirupama was imparting geopolitical lessons of bi-lateral or multi-lateral cooperation within the relative sizes and capabilities of parties in the deal, however big or small should not turn into partners in the deal developing complexes or complexities in relationship. "Such differences of scale should not deter us from working with each other. Pakistan should shed its insecurity on these counts, said Nirupama, adding that India has exhibited a true restraint, despite "misguided and serious provocations".

This brings into sharp focus, India's regional role. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, there is a big question mark over the role? Instead of being seen as protective of the smaller countries in the region, it is viewed as dominating. Nirupama may be right; the very size of India might be an impediment in a secure relationship-sort of a psychological barrier. But that is only half the truth. Quite often it seems that developing a long term secure relationship with countries in the region is not high on the priority list of GOI. The foreign office seems more interested in creating space for India in other associations like 'ASEAN' or in securing a high seat in UN-a permanent seat in Security Council with veto power. To be counted as a member of big boys club is a priority, rather than take care of smaller neighbours in her backyard. Dispute of one sort or the other is a rule rather than an exception. There might be problems in neighbouring states, not of India's making, but a result of myopic policies, which have grown beyond their capacity to handle-say the growth of extremism in Pakistan. Were the fallout to remain within the territorial limits of the neighbour, self interest or self preservation might dictate to let that state handle the problem of its own creation-say in Pakistan or Tamil problem in Sri Lanka. However these problems reflect on India, causing geopolitical imbalances. The balance that could only be restored by India rendering a helping hand, without being overbearing, instead power games are witnessed in Afghanistan, with Pakistan vying for geopolitical depth and India bent upon gaining space in Pakistan's backyard!

On the recurring theme of extremism in politics, foreign secretary while asking Pakistan to prevent the entry of radical ideology into the domain of religion, and, the consequent implications for peace and security between India and Pakistan, making differences over Kashmir even more difficult, pointed to destabilizing forces "Radical, terrorist forces are also increasingly battling for larger space in a deadly struggle that seeks to overwhelm moderate, democratic forces in Pakistani civil society. The writing on the wall must be seen," said the foreign secretary, while she called terrorism as a continuation of war by other means and the "use of terrorist groups selectively as strategic assets against India cannot and must not continue" a point India has been repeatedly making. As a long term measure the foreign secretary proposed that "India, Pakistan must act effectively against those terrorist groups that seek to nullify and, to destroy the prospects of peace and cooperation between our two countries,". She said the road ahead is a long and winding one. "But as fellow travelers, India and Pakistan must tackle the challenges of this rocky road with the belief that a secure and prosperous future vitally and crucially depends on our ability to do so".

What could be made of the long lecture? It might be asked, isn't big brotherly counseling a better option than pontificating? Or isn't pontificating taken as being overbearing rather than being cooperative? And then these small neighbours do often turn back and ask unpleasant questions like-what are you big brother lecturing us on, while what you accuse us of mishandling happens in your land too! Is India a picture of moderation in politics, an epitome of forbearance in cultural ethos, a symbol of plurality in her social projection? Alas, the land of Gandhi has much to answer for? Mahatma has set tough stands and India, may be to her discomfort is judged worldwide by those standards. It is a tough call; India is supposed to live upto! Instead it has to explain Babri Masjid demolition and what followed it, the Gujarat carnage, appeasement of multinational companies and their sponsor-mighty USA; in the wake of Bhopal union carbide tragedy, with India seen following the dictate-lives traded at dollars three hundred per causality! Such an image hardly impresses or inspires neighbours. Physician heal thyself, is often the retort of these neighbours!

The remarks come ahead of the meetings between the Foreign Secretaries this month and Foreign Ministers next month. The foreign offices of the two countries have been directed by their respective Prime Ministers to work out the modalities of restoring trust and confidence in the relationship thus paving the way for a substantive dialogue on all issues of mutual concern. Rao noted that geographical contiguity and shared history, ethnic and linguistic affinities, and similar developmental challenges have not induced an inevitable congruity between the interests of the two, calling it the "tragedy of our relationship." There is a trust deficit. Some also refer to a vision deficit, noted Rao.

This trust deficit and the vision deficit has to be overcome before India and Pakistan could meaningfully address various bi-lateral and regional issues and then take the regional concerns to global forums. India and Pakistan have much in common; inspite of the differences and it is by voicing common concerns that differences would get diluted. That is the only way forward. The question mark on Nirupama's creative solution would remain-is it creative enough? It would persist, unless a result oriented dialogue produces the anticipated and desired results. And much as it being counted low in priority, addressing external dimension without an operative internal dialogue process is not going to work. Kashmir has moved beyond an Indo/Pak dictate. Sooner it is realized, better it is!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Lasting Cruel Legacy of the "Hartal King"

Fayyaz reports on the extra-ordinary burden borne by Kashmiris because of selfish politicians and a pliant civil society. General trade alone suffers loss of Rs. 40 Crores on each day of Hartal in Kashmir

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times ( since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

Kashmir Shutdown on 1,562 days in 20 years: While losing Rs 100 Crores on each day of shutdown, J&K has suffered loss of Rs 150,000 Crores

Srinagar: Thanks to the Valley’s militant outfits and separatist organizations, who have enforced 1,562 days of shutdown in the last 20 years of the secessionist movement, Jammu & Kashmir state has suffered loss of over Rs 150,000 Crore. Government’s contribution is also substantial as the state has additionally suffered loss of Rs 15,000 Crore on account of curfew on 150 days during same period of the political turmoil.

J&K state’s economy is estimated to have suffered loss of around Rs 200,000 Crore during 20 years of the separatist movement. This includes infrastructure destroyed by militants and security forces besides illegal felling of conifer trees and timber smuggling. Shutdown enforced by Hurriyat Conference, its constituents and militant outfits for 1,562 days till date, besides nearly 150 days of declared and undeclared curfew by the government, though mostly restricted to downtown Srinagar, have been the largest contributing factors. Loss suffered by the state’s economy on account of shutdown and curfew accounts for about 80% of the cumulative damage.

While the separatist groups and alliances have been enforcing shutdown mainly to protest human rights abuse by the armed forces, authorities have been resorting to imposition of curfew in extreme law and order situations from day one of the armed insurgency. Capital city of Srinagar, as also the key business townships of Sopore, Baramulla, Handwara, Bandipore, Budgam, Pulwama, Kulgam, Shopian and Anantnag have been the worst hit.

There were nearly 700 days of Hartal in Kashmir valley in the first four years of militancy. According to the official figures tabulated by Jammu & Kashmir Police, year 1990 witnessed 198 days of shutdown. It was followed by 207 days of shutdown in 1991---highest so far. Similarly, the Valley shut for 148 days in 1992 and 139 days in 1993. With the gradual improvement in situation, days of shutdown reduced to 24 in 1999 but again went up to 122 in 2001. Minimum days of shutdown in a calendar year were witnessed in 2007 when the business in Kashmir remained closed for 13 days.

Mainly due to the Amarnath shrine land allotment strife, Kashmir was shut for 33 days in 2008. It jumped to 35 in the first year of Omar Abdullah government in 2009 when Hurriyat and other separatist outfits succeeded in freezing the Valley for different intervals on account of alleged rape-cum-murder of two women in Shopian (which was not proved in CBI investigation) and several related incidents. Second year of the NC-Congress coalition government is threatening to prove worse as the Valley has already observed 22 days of shutdown in just 6 months and 23 days.

All individual outfits and both factions of Hurriyat Conference have been calling for a strike whenever an incident of human rights abuse happens or is perceived to have happened at the hands of Police or security forces. On several occasions, these constituents and alliances have enforced shutdown “in honour” of the militants killed by security forces in gunbattles. Over a dozen historical days, like Republic Day (January 26), Martyrs Day (July 13), Independence Day (August 15), Indian Army’s First Arrival (October 26) besides the assassination anniversary of Mirwaiz Maulvi Farooq (May 21) and death anniversaries of top ranking militants have been marked as red in Kashmir’s calendar. Hardliner separatist leader, Syed Ali Shah Geelani, has attained the highest profile among all political and militant leaders in enforcing a bandh in the Valley.

Sponsors of the shutdown have been justifying their calls for strike with the argument that it was the “only form of demonstration” with the Kashmiris. Though a large number of strike calls have failed to generate desired impact, most of such appeals have evoked substantial response. Guns, grenades and stones have also been used on certain occasion to enforce a shutdown, particularly around Lok Sabha, Assembly and Municipal elections.

If President of Kashmir Traders & Manufacturers Federation (KTMF), Sadiq Baqal, is to be believed, there are around 300,000 shops and various sales units in Kashmir valley. Quoting a survey, he said that 2,35,000 shops had been counted in the Valley two years ago. "In a comprehensive exercise, we have calculated that the Valley's economy is suffering loss of Rs 100 Crore on each day of shutdown. General trade alone has been suffering loss of Rs 35 Cr to Rs 40 Cr on each day of shutdown.

Leading businessman and President Federation of Chambers & Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Shakeel Qallandar, seconded Baqal and said that each day of a total strike would mean dent of Rs 100 Cr to the state economy. He added that the loss suffered by Kashmir was around 90% and even Jammu division, which rarely observes a shutdown, was being subjected to 10% of the damage.

With due regards to the spiraling macro economic indicators compiled by Directorate General of Planning and Statistics and presented alongwith his Budget in the Legislative Assembly by Finance Minister, Abdul Rahim Rather, Qallandar insisted that Jammu & Kashmir state's economy was on the verge of economic collapse. Taking exception to "prejudiced claims" from certain analysts in New Delhi and overseas that J&K was flourishing with a "visible as well as invisible economy", Qallandar said: "Don't go by the deceptive indicators of the flowing in vehicles and coming up houses. One must bear it in mind that J&K is currently suffering the trade deficit of Rs 27,000 Cr a year. Total volume of our exports is Rs 7,000 Cr today while as goods worth Rs 34,000 Cr are imported in a year".

"Everybody in J&K is debt trapped. Residents have lifted loans worth Rs 22,000 Cr from different banks and their liquidity is dismal". Qallandar added. According to him, in terms of overall economic development, J&K stood among the highest growing eight states in 1988 while as, mainly due to a hostile atmosphere, it had over the years plummeted to the bottom. He claimed that in 2009, J&K was among the three states of the worst economic development. Yet another negative indicator was a survey by Transparency International which put J&K as India's second worst state in terms of corruption.

With the state government's latest statistics putting the number of unemployed youth (between age group of 18 to 37 years) at 600,000, Qallandar insisted that total number of the people with no assured or permanent source of income in J&K was 10 Lakh. "Our unemployed ratio has already crossed the red mark of 10 percent. It was just 2 percent in 1988. With 1000,000 unemployed people, we on the other hand engage 500,000 skilled and unskilled labours from Bihar, UP, West Bengal, Rajasthan, Punjab and few other North Indian states every year. State does not have institutions to create its own workforce of the skilled labours", he said.

Another leading entrepreneur, who wished anonymity, told me that frequent shutdowns were the worst enemy of the Valley's new generation. "If our separatist political leaders continued to fail to introduce some benign form of demonstration of protest in the next couple of years, they will be dismissed by history as the agents of destruction", he cautioned. He revealed that thousands of youth from the families associated with Kashmir's traditional handicrafts, living on either side of erstwhile Nallah Mar Road, had been lured into a romanticism of stone pelting and enforcement of shutdown.

SPS Museum: New Building and Website, But Old Problems Linger

Saleem shares the joy on opening the new main building at the Shri Partap Singh (SPS) Museum, but years of neglect is taking its toll on historical manuscripts - two related articles

(Mr. Mohammad Saleem Beg, 59, was born and raised in Srinagar. He was educated at the S.P. College and the Gandhi Memorial College, receiving his Bachelor's degree from the latter. He was awarded a EEC fellowship in 1998 which allowed him to attend study courses at Universities of Luven, Belgium, and Trinity College, Dublin. Mr. Beg entered the State government service in 1975 and retired in 2006 as the Director General of Tourism. In the 31 years of public service (which included two deputation assignments in New Delhi), Mr. Beg promoted local arts and crafts, and raised public awareness of Kashmir's rich heritage and architecture. He was a leading figure in getting Srinagar listed as one of the 100 most threatened heritage cities by the World Monument Fund in 2008. Mr. Beg has traveled extensively and has attended numerous conferences, including the 1997 UN Special Session on Environment in New York, and the 1997 Kyoto Convention on Climate Change in Japan. His articles and essays have been published in various publications. Since retirement, he has remained active as the Convener of the J&K Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage - INTACH.)

SPS Museum Goes Online

Srinagar: The Sri Pratap Singh Museum in now online. The Minister for Tourism and Culture, Nawang Rigzin Jora and his deputy Nasir Sogami Friday launched the website of the museum:

The website is a collaborative restoration project of UNESCO and the J&K chapter of Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH Both Jora and Wani hailed the efforts of stateConvener of INTACH, Saleem Beg for setting up the website.

Jora said once the new museum building is completed (the deadline has already been set as October, 2010), the old building will be restored and used for cultural activities.

“The museum is no attraction for children and youngsters. We will make the old building a hub of cultural activities so that it attracts people,” he said.

Earlier, Saleem Beg termed the museum as the “repository of the various layers of civilizations” and gave a detailed presentation about the museum. He put forward the recommendations for the restoration of the museum, which was set up in 1898 during Maharaja Pratap Singh’s regime to house exhibits and artifacts covering the region of Jammu, Kashmir, Baltistan and Gilgit.

The website, which has been designed by Aford Infocom, gives a thorough insight to the museum from its early history to the collection it houses.

Rare Manuscripts in SPS Museum Facing Decay

Srinagar: Experts have sought de-acidification of manuscripts that were recently exhibited at Shri Pratap Singh (SPS) Museum saying the papers of historic documents have turned acidic, and if action wasn’t taken quickly “the museum will lose the historic scripts forever.”

“Authorities must initiate protective measures immediately or else the manuscripts will perish,” said Chairman INTACH J&K Chapter Saleem Beg quoting a group of experts who along with UNESCO and INTACH recently launched the website ( of SPS Museum.

Beigh said the experts who helped in the restoration project have also suggested setting up of a conservation lab that could take care of the historical items present in the museum.

The recommendations have come from Delhi-based Art Historian, Janet Razvi, Art Consultant Renuka Savesree, Senior Scientist, Ashok Kumar Pandey, and Program Specialist for Culture (UNESCO), New Delhi, Moi Chib.

“They have also recommended removal of stains with solvents, and elimination of improper repairs,” he said.

Beigh said that a hard work was put on to launch a website so that people can use the museum and learn about its artifacts while sitting in their homes.

“But now it becomes hilly crucial to secure the manuscripts and government needs to act smartly and quickly,” said the Chairman INTACH J&K Chapter.

To mention, SPS museum was set up around 1898 AD when a memorandum was submitted to the then Dogra ruler of J&K, Maharaja Pratap Singh, by his younger brother, General Raja Amar Singh, and a European scholar, Captain SH Godmerry.

The proposal included the establishment of a museum in Srinagar to house exhibits and artifacts covering the region of Jammu, Kashmir, Baltistan and Gilgit.

The museum was set up in a building belonging to the state at Lal Mandi, Srinagar on the left bank of river Jhelum. Its establishment was supervised by Sir John Marshal, the Director General of the Archaeological Survey of the then neighbouring India.

Referring to the manuscripts conservation proposal, the INTACH official said, “The paper of the manuscripts has turned acidic, the binding has loosened, the pages are weak with stains, cockled in places and torn especially at the edges.”

He also said the experts have recommended work on illustrated manuscripts that show abrasions of the paint layers and signs of charring and destruction.

It was also recommended that fumigation and physical examination of each item should be done dust deposits and surface accretion should be removed that can help pages to decompose quickly.

Potato Chips From Kashmir?

If there are French fries, why not Kashmiri chips?

J&K sees Huge Potential for Potato Farming

Jammu and Kashmir has a huge potential for becoming the production hub of disease free and quality potatoes,the Minister for Agriculture G H Mir has said.

Mir, who was speaking at a two-day seminar on "Potato development in Jammu" at Sanasar yesterday, said the availability of large land area and the favourable climate boded well for potato seed tubers' crop in the state.

The state has maximum land area under 5000-8000 feet altitude, considered appropriate for potato cultivation.

G H Mir noted farming of potato seed tubers could create new employment opportunities and that 'hill-station' land holders needed to introduce modern agriculture technology to make the state self-sufficient.

The minister said the government will make maximum funds available for farmers and create seed villages, which will provide all modern technical inputs to the farmers to boost the potato harvest.

He also called for supply of disease free seed tubers and

Dissemination of scientific information to the farmers to ensure high quality crop yield.

Besides, there was also the need to impart the necessary training to the field staff and farmers, as well as expansion of food production area across the state, the minister said.

Mir said the potato crop could be processed into chips, which thanks to Kashmir's big tourism industry, could help revive the rural economy.

The Minister of state for agriculture, Javid Ahmed Dar said his ministry would set targets for commercial potato cultivation and potato seed production, as the state had tremendous scope for growing potato seed tubers.

Dar said the government would take cue from neigbouring states like Punjab where the farmers had revolutionised the sector by adopting commercialisation.

The Minister said that the potato crop would now be insured under National Agriculture Insurance Scheme with nominal premium rate to safeguard farmers from losses due to natural calamities.

Dar also called for establishing cooperative societies of potato seed growers on the pattern of Himachal Pradesh to promote and market the crop.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Beautifying an Ugly City

Hassan Mukhtar has a plan to clean up Srinagar and bring out its beauty

(Mr. M.G. Hassan Mukhtar, 44, was born in Thandipora, Chowkibal, in Kupwara. He attended Government middle and high schools in Thandipora, Panzgam, and Kralpura in the Kupwara district, and completed his school education from the Government Higher Secondary School in Sopore, standing first in his class consistently. Though selected for admission to the REC Srinagar, he joined the M.S. University of Baroda, Gujarat, for a 5-year degree course in Architecture in the College of Technology and Engineering. After graduation he worked with the internationally eminent architect Hafeez Contractor in Mumbai, and Karan Grover in Baroda. He subsequently completed post graduate diploma courses in disaster management, environmental and sustainable development, rural development and in human rights. He has raised serious issues regarding Kashmir's vulnerability to earthquakes, highlighting inadequate design considerations in building seismic-resistant public buildings in Kashmir. He is presently pursuing a thesis titled, "Disaster Mitigation and Urban Land Use Planning," for a Master's degree in Town and Country Planning.)


Srinagar city has grown manifold from King Ashoka’s period (272 BC- 231 BC) till date. The city witnessed many ups and downs during various periods in history including Mughal, Afghan, Sikh and Dogra rule. Growth in population and physical expansion increased the urban problems related to development due to scarce finances.

Srinagar city is the largest urban entity in the entire state in terms of population and constitutes the most urbanized district as well. It has the status of being summer capital of the state and has a centralized location value in the entire Kashmir valley. Not only this, we also name it as the heritage city due to the fact that it contains the maximum number of heritage buildings whether in the custody of government or private owners. Apart from this, it is also known as a tourist city because of the most preferred tourist destination in the entire country.

Having the above mentioned attributes, the city needs to build up its the image to withstand the attributes as are being attached to it off and on. Therefore the first requisite criterion has to be that of a clean and aesthetically sound city so that it upholds its character with the global image of Kashmir being known as the Paradise on earth. Srinagar city in any case must not turn into an ugly city of paradise. The issues related to ugly characteristics are mismanagement of solid waste, increase in slum areas, congestion of buildings due to violations/ deviations of building norms, Change of land Use, poverty, crime, traffic mess, reduction of green spaces, encroachment of water bodies, unplanned and unauthorized colonies etc.

Last time, the State figured second in the list of corrupt and now the capital city stands fourth dirtiest. It's a moment to think. One can imagine future tags in coming years if the state of affairs continues. This also signified the fluidly character of our urban management. We need to take solid decisions, frame a vision and a goal with clear cut objectives in this direction. Solid waste management has been an important issue presently due to the fact that it can either build an ugly image or recreate the positive face of the city. Solid waste management is not an isolated problem on its own. It is day by day becoming comprehensive and integrated due to modern techniques in urban planning, technology, transport and processes. That is why an unnecessary increase in the number of buildings in a particular area leads to growth in solid waste and when the non-compatible uses keep on changing, the problem worsens. For example the unauthorized commercial buildings in residential areas have not only created traffic mess and bottle necks but has put tremendous pressure on the solid waste scenario of the particular area. The unauthorized commercial establishments e.g.; clinics/polyclinics, nursing homes, schools, shops, professional offices in residential buildings have added to the misery of solid waste management and created a sense of uneasiness among the neighbors of such establishment. Though certain aspects of commercial nature are permitted under mixed land use category (which are compatible) but the impact of such activities in terms of solid waste management is yet to be mitigated.

Solid Waste Management is a municipal function under the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules, 2000 of the Environmental Protection Act, 1986.It is hard to find a dumping site in Kashmir if we strictly go by the guidelines for Landfill Sites because the valley has the fragile environment and Srinagar city is no exception. The guidelines specify the landfill sites must be away from mountains, lakes, springs/ streams, residential areas, flood prone areas, highways natural scenic spots, forests, monuments, national parks, wet lands and also away from places of important cultural, historical or religious interests. The landfill sites should be away from airports as well. There is hardly a place in Kashmir which could be used as dumping site if we strictly adhere to those guidelines. It won’t be an exaggeration to affirm that if modern methodology of waste disposal is used; dumping wouldn’t be a problem even in Lal Chowk. Lack of co-ordination between various agencies and departments concerned also hinders garbage disposal.

The Master Plan of Srinagar city (2000-2021) has specified three additional sites for garbage dumping apart from Achan (Saidpora). These are strategically located at Batapora (Zakura) on Northern direction of city, Summerburg (Rakh Shalyna) on South East and Hakermulla (Rakh Arth) on South West side. The Master Plan being a cabinet approved document needs to be implemented in letter and spirit and unless there is a strong reason to change it. To reiterate a perfectly feasible site will not be available in the city and particularly when land is scarce, therefore SMC should roll up its sleeves and get to work on these sites. Before the land mafia arrives, the SMC can prevail upon the government to ban any construction on the vacant land in these Master Plan sites and recommend creation of buffer zones for dumping sites.

All the three proposed landfill sites for in the Master Plan need to be studied in terms of feasibility as per the requirements of the solid waste management Wing in Srinagar Municipal Corporation and detailed projects reports to be prepared in consultation with Srinagar Development Authority, Pollution Control Board, Environment and remote sensing Department and Economic Reconstruction Agency. The GIS technology could be useful in the overall sense and all these departments do have the capacity building in this technology. In any case, there has to be a scientific method for garbage disposal to be placed for a city like Srinagar so that the stigma of being ugly will be no more.

SDA Local Area which is beyond municipal limits but within the Master Plan boundary also has to be taken immediately for redressal of the problem. Once an area is declared for development under Master Plan and approved by cabinet, there is no justification for the same to continue to be neglected on the issue of solid waste management. SMC can extend its area of operations for the SDA Local Area in terms of solid waste management. SMC on its part can use JnNURM scheme to deal with issues of financial support and in case, city is not rejuvenated towards progress and prosperity under the national programme, we need not to put the blame elsewhere. JnNURM is a onetime program with huge financial support from the Central Government to elected municipal bodies. Srinagar & Jammu being the two cities from J & K under the program.

Srinagar Master Plan has laid following policies with respect to Solid waste management:
1. Compositing-vermiculture to be promoted at institution and household level.
2. As for the problem created by dairies, cattle forms should be created outside Master Plan Local area limits so that pollution on account of live stock in the city is reduced and stray cattle problem on streets and roads of the city is eliminated.
3. As to the disposal of street (stray) dogs- incineration plants be established outside the Local Area on the Karewa beyond Ompora in the Budgam District or else sterilization of street dogs be enforced so that this nuisance is eliminated or reduced.
4. Incineration plants to be provided in all existing hospitals and those which will come up in future apart from industrial estates. A common incineration plant for private nursing homes be established by State pollution Control Board.
5. Factories for reprocessing these solid wastes be established by the Industries Department.
6. Paper, Glass and Plastic materials can be recycled locally. Other materials like metals etc. could go outside the State till such type of factories are established here.

One can imagine the need of comprehensive measures like involvement of Industries Department to provide incentives/support to young entrepreneurs to establish such units which will also generate employment opportunities in the state.

In addition to what is being stated above on the problems of garbage disposal and mitigation of the problems, I would like to extend the debate to further towards a new issue like Debris Management in terms of disasters for which Srinagar city is prone to. Srinagar city is one of the two cities (Gowhati in Assam being other) in the country to be falling in highest risk of earthquake zone-V. Therefore in light of debris during earthquake disasters, the solid waste management wing of Municipal Corporation needs to think beyond its routine schedule. Earthquake disasters not only affect population in terms of human loss but include building and infrastructure damage, equipment and personal property from collapsed walls and roofs, sediment from earthquake induced landslides. In case of floods, often all possessions are destroyed including clothes, furniture. Personal affects etc. In case of High velocity Winds, which can debark trees, throw vehicles and severally damage structures from wood framed to reinforced concrete. Similarly Fire disaster, civil unrest and terrorist activities too cause piling of debris in an unwanted situation.

Therefore the concerns for debris management must form the part and parcel of Solid Waste management during emergency situations and a holistic approach needs to be adopted for the issue on a comprehensive basis not only in terms of futuristic increase in population and urban expansion but also in case of disasters.

Kashmir Calling

Summer or winter - Yusuf, the passionate outdoors specialist, knows the best. His recent two articles are reproduced below

(Mr. Mohammad Yusuf, 57, was born in the Dalgate area of Srinagar. He attended Government Schools in Drugjan, Sonawar, and Batwara, all in Srinagar, and completed his college studies at the Sri Partap College, Srinagar. Following his graduation, he briefly attended the University of Kashmir, and in 1980, joined the Physical Education Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Yusuf teaches aquatics and adventure sports (swimming, mountaineering, snow and water skiing, rafting, parasailing, skating, kayaking, canoeing, etc.) and has won many local sports trophies. He has led many exploration expeditions in Kashmir, and is the Treasurer of the Winter Sports Association of Jammu and Kashmir, General Secretary of J&K Aero Sports Association and the J&K Ski & Mountaineering Association, Secretary of Srinagar Winter Sports Association, and Vice President of the J&K Yoga Association. In his leisure time, Mr. Yusuf engages in social work, gardening and writing.)

Destination Sonamarg

Sonamarg is set high in the Sindh valley before the Westward flow of the river Sindh is turned south to the vale of Kashmir. At this point it cuts through a line of igneous rock running North-West to South-East, weathered and firm. Nichnai and Thajewas Valleys form North and South run alongside these harder strata to join the Sindh just below Sonamarg near shitkari village. Sonamarg is not simply a picnic spot and a base for Shri Amarnathji yatra but is a wonderful destination for adventure tourism. It has tremendous potential for outdoor pursuits which need to be exploited by the tourism players. It is also one of the best places to study flora and fauna of the state but unfortunately it has always remained out of focus of the Government.

This tourist destination stands second to none all over the world. There is no other place in India where all types of snow, water and mountain based adventure activities could be conducted simultaneously. God has gifted it with all those ingredients that are required for seeking high adventures. Sonamarg could offer a host of many adventure sporting activities round the year. It has a wild mountain beauty that always greets the explorers.

The gushing River Sindh is ideal for wild water sports, such as rafting, kayaking and hydraulic Zorbing. The river, from Baltal to Shitkari, has grade 1 to 4 rapids, making it ideal for novices as well as for extreme rafters. One can further extend his rafting trip up to Ganderbal if he does portage at Hung/Shitkari for about a kilometer because huge rocks and other hurdles are lying in the middle of the river here, making this stretch a hazardous one. Should someone arrange clearing these hurdles the river Sindh could offer enchanting long commercial rafting/Kayaking run straight from Baltal to Ganderbal passing through picturesque countryside of north Kashmir? The Tourism Department has conducted two International Rafting Championships here and the third is being held soon. The main thrust for goingthrough with such major events should have been to generate employment in rafting sector. The Tourism Ministry has never come up with a policy to develop this sector of tourism in Kashmir while as rafting trade is flourishing in Ladakh region. On the one hand Tourism Department is spending millions of rupees for organizing the Championship and on the other hand Sonamarg Development Authority is charging Rs.5.5 lacs to an unemployed youth to run commercial rafting at Sonamarg, Surprisingly, the other rafting companies at Pahalgam, Mammar and Wusan are charged a meager amount of Rs.2, 000.00 per boat per month. This is purely anti youth and anti tourism policy of the concerned ministry in Kashmir.

For general public Rafting is run by a rafting company “Mountain Magic” at Sonamarg. Sonamarg Rafting has no parallel at any other place in the valley. It is because of these factors that our dynamic Chief Minister Jenab Omar Abdullah ran down a very high graded river stretch at Sonamarg last year. To make rafting a safe and secure affair the Mountain Magic has employed foreign River Guides. It has three sections of 3, 8 and 20 nautical miles run. Rafting is best way to experience fun, thrill, challenge and excitement with families at Sonamarg. Every School and College must allow their students to undertake a pleasure rafting trip at Sonamarg whenever they happen to go Sonamarg for excursion or trekking which will in return develop confidence and courage among them.

Sonamarg is considered mountaineering paradise. Some of the best mountaineering and rock-climbing is in Thajiwas or in the Sogput Dhar. There are some long and more technical rock faces at Shitkari as well. The mighty peaks such as Vishensar, Umbrella, Cefn Carnedo, Innominate, Mosquito, Valehead, Crystal and Blade/Arrow, etc. offer great challenge to intended climbers.

Sonamarg offers wide variety of high altitude trekking. It is a base for many magnificent treks. One can undertake circular treks to Amarnathji Cave; Bandipora; Gurez; Drass; and Pahalgam etc. A trek to Krishensar, Vishensar, and Gangabal is most interesting among all. It has nearly 55 high altitude lakes within a radius of 20 Kilometers. One can also undertake day treks from Sonamarg to Ludderwas, Eagle’s Nest, Sarbal, Amaranth cave, Lashi Pathri, Thajewas, Zabnar, Hapatnar and Kazim ridge etc. Zabnar, 4040 mtr. high above sea level makes a splendid day walk and provides one of the finest view points in the area for peaks such as Nanga Parbat, Nun & Kun and Amarnath massif etc.

Skiing is Possible in Srinagar!

When we talk of extreme sports we just think of Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonamarg etc unaware of the fact that a vast sea of adventure lies open to us within the Srinagar limits. Surprisingly snow skiing is also possible here but should someone explore the possibility of its promotion. A mountain called Mahadev, in Zabarvan range at Harwan offers great challenge for adventurers. It has the potential for skiing and snowboarding. It is now time for Srinagar Development Authority to adopt the mountain and promote adventure here. To our dismay the SDA is just concerned about demolishing and raising huge buildings with no plans of making Srinagar a Green City. Srinagar does not only offer heritage, religious, conference and pleasure tourism etc but it has vast scope of hosting adventure tourism as well. The SDA may say that promoting adventure tourism is the duty of Tourism Department but like other Development Authorities they are supposed to, besides construction work, indulge in the promotion of tourism in Srinagar city

Srinagar is walled by Zabarwan range on its eastern area. This range offers best possibilities of hosting trekking, orienteering, jungle safari, paragliding, rock-climbing and the fascinating snow skiing. Certainly, the word skiing must have surprised all of you. Yes, Mt. Mahadev remains snow bound till late May and has excellent ski runs. Notably Mahadev, 13,013 feet is the highest peak in Srinagar. Credit goes to Biscoe School for exploring this magnificent mountain nearly hundred years back for undertaking trekking by their students but unfortunately they never conceived idea of promoting skiing there. The rich Heli-skiers have been skiing in the area for long. But for the first time a local team, led by this writer undertook a ski-mountaineering expedition to Mahadev in May 1998. The team carried their skis from Harwan to Chakdara on their shoulders and there onwards they climbed the mountain with specially designed mountain skis, fitted with seal skins and crampons. The skis, fitted with Special Mountain Bindings permitted them to walk up on steep snow covered slopes. The expedition set up base camp at Lidwas and zoomed down all nearby ridges including Mahadev top. It was first attempt of its kind in Srinagar. If we really have to put Srinagar on Skiing map of India we need to install a cable car from Chakdhara to Lidwas and some poma lifts near the peak. The J&K State Cable Car Corporation must give thought to it. Surely in summer the lift would earn good revenue because everybody now desire to go deep in the city jungles to seek pleasure. I desire that every school should facilitate their students to climb Mahadev and have 360 degree panoramic view of the city. If Government has any plan to develop Srinagar Mount Mahadev must be kept in mind.

Timber Mafia Loots Kashmir

Zeenat says that state government measures to check timber smuggling are inadequate

Huge Volume of ‘Undisposed’ Forest Offences Mocks at Forest Dept Bosses

Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil

Srinagar: Government’s purported measures to eradicate the menace of timber smuggling
notwithstanding, unfortunate reality remain that these measures remain confined to official files and meeting alone and are nowhere visible on the ground.

The ‘Digest of Forest Statistics 2009’, an official document reveals that in 2008-09, the inordinate undisposed forest offence cases had reached to 1,50,659 and every year the cases are added.

This huge volume of unresolved cases speaks volumes about the functioning of the Forest department as well as the police and judicial system besides justifying the claims of the government, but in contradiction!

Highly placed sources in the Forest department told ‘Kashmir Images’ that the authorities have preferred an eerie silence over the matter and no measurers are actually being taken to investigate the losses caused to the forests.

On an average, each forest offence case that has been or is being registered concerns 2-3 illicitly felled trees by an “organized smuggler mafia”. By this token, the figures related to unresolved forest offences reveal that the “fate of around 300,000 illicitly felled trees has been kept in a sealed cover by the concerned authorities.”

Taking about the modus operandi, sources informed: “In order to hush up the issue of illicit felling of a tree, a case is registered with Range Officer (Territorial), who directs the field staff to book culprit either in the concerned police station or directly court challan (charge-sheet in court) the case, which is, as per forest department jargon, considered as ‘disposal’ of the case” by the forest authorities.

Now this definition too indicates that the huge chunk of ‘undisposed’ forest offence cases as reflected in the official records, actually says more than what is apparently visible.

“It speaks of the intentions of the forest officials which is nothing but a stealthy effort to cover up the issue allowing the culprits free space to further their ends and designs,” said a retired Forest official.

According to this expert, the illicit felled trees can not only address the demand of ‘Khatemband’ (Kashmiri style wooden ceiling) industry but at the same time generate huge revenue for the department.

Asked how? The expert replies: “An illicitly felled tree leaves behind a neglected stump (lower portion of a tree) which can yield timber up to 5 cfts. When marked and extracted, only a percentage of available stumps in our plundered forests too could easily make available over 800,000 cfts of timber that can address to the demand of ‘Khatemband’ industry which survives on 3000 cfts of supply as of now. It could be a huge source of revenue for the department and the government which otherwise has been left to rot in the forests.”

The Forest department needs to wake up from the slumber and stop making tall claims on protection front, he opines, adding that the policies of the department to cater to the public and departmental objectives are currently running on very primitive lines. The department lacks initiative, he concludes.