Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Gory Tale of Mis-Governance

Javid assesses the story behind a story of a visit that was not to be

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 63, 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.)

Rakh Arath: Wetlands, water bodies and flood warning

A lead news item in Kashmir times [frontpage: 28.05.2010] captured my attention, as I was groping on the subject matter of today's cross current's column. It was regarding Sonia Gandhi canceling [Dy.CM-Tara Chand prefers postponing] her Srinagar visit. Rakh Arath in Bemina, being chosen as the settlement site for Dal dwellers was cited as the reason, or may we say the via media for expressing her displeasure.

Sonia ji! She could well save her anger; Bemina is already totally a residential site, not today, but for long. And, it is not the only human hebetated wetland! As we move ahead towards Hokarsar, from Bemina, one colony after another of residential houses violate the sensitivity of anyone, who might not have not have got shorn of even the smallest trace of sensitivity, in a mad race to see the matter and not the spirit that moves it!

Yes! Gory is the word that I chose to convey the tale of mis-governance, though I prefer using milder expressions. Gory is hardly mild-it means violent, gruesome, brutal, fierce or horrific! In spite of my abhorrence of violence, in word and deed, I could hardly opt for a milder expression for what violates the spirit in gruesome, brutal, fierce and a horrific manner! Having intruded into hebetate of our wild life to the extent that a disturbed Kashmiri leopard, a beautiful animal was seen strolling calmly in 'Lal-Bazaar' residential area last year, as if mocking all and sundry 'well gentleman, here I stroll into your streets, just as you strode into mine'! An uphill Nishat resident, a housewife had another young leopard [a cub] looking right into her eyes from the roof of her car garage. Obviously scared, she had no right to object, the youngster might have been just posing a question 'Mom! What brings you up here, to my home, my habitat'? And, now it is the famous bird sanctuary of Hokarsar, around which the noose is being tightened.

As the road widening on National Highway [Jhelum Valley sector] was held up due to existing constructions, despite having received compensation, in a rare exhibition of government flexing its muscle to let the law take it course, the demolition squads laid bare the gory site of a Srinagar city's choked state. On a drive from bye-pass to Naarbal, the wetlands were visible. The wetlands that would take the water discharge of the city and let the city breathe. Wetland constructions were going on for long, side by side with constructions on water bodies-ugly and soul torturing, shrinking the wide expanse of Dal and Wular lakes, relegating 'Anchar' lake in city suburb to history, submerged by wide extension of 'Zooni-mar' [abode of moon] as the residential colony is called! The name hurts, as much as adding insult to injury. As if the constructions on Dal Lake weren't enough to make it loose its breath, Nallah Maar road construction meant to it, what construction on wetlands means to the overall state of Srinagar city. It is city lying in a edematous [waterlogged] state after persistent May rains, with pools of water in streets, resulting from improper drainage.

Sonia ji! The executive of your party in power at federal level-the apical power dispensing has a Rs 2200 crore request from Taj Mohi-ud-Din, J&K's 'Public Health Engineering [PHE] Irrigation and Flood Control Minister' to ponder over how to repair the damage, the damage what you have taken an exception on wetlands! The project report and its copies, as reported in the press, a few months back, were prepared by the department in minister's care and weighing around one ton, enough to fill a truckload had been sent to the union water resources ministry with the request to release the required funds to meet the dreaded emergency-the impending floods with a cyclical pattern [the floods recur every 50 years, as minister stated]. The first installment of Rs 109 crore was to be released by March this year, although out of 2200 crores, 500 crores had been sought immediately.

Threat of cyclical floods! Since the last major flood occurred in 1959, the next is over due, it should have occurred in 2009. That it didn't is Allah's blessing! Well approximation comes in, a year or two, earlier or later. 1959 followed the one in 1902, with a gap of 57 years. Taj related the tale "This flood is still known in Kashmir as Flood of 60's (San Shathukh) as it corresponds with the year 1960 Bikrami and during that devastating flood, the major portions of the Srinagar city remained submerged in the water for two years followed by water born diseases and epidemic" the tale continues "since then the situation has changed and the scenario in most parts of the city infer that we have forgotten this major aspect of the history, which can be repeated at any time". Forgotten the major aspect of history? At whose peril, minister, has the lesson of history been forgotten? One feels tempted to ask!

The persistent rains in Srinagar in May, whereas March and April are known to be rainy is giving shivers. Not only is the cold penetrating, the rivers are swelling too and with that Taj's warning, God forbid may become real. As I heard the Taj warning, coming from a college mate, an acquaintance of long standing; I took it on its face value and commented on it, a bit harshly. I was however mocked by a few friends-engineers, my brother too-a UAE based engineer on the seemingly solid ground of there being no technical ground for floods to occur cyclically. My question followed-why should a minister lie and put his reputation at stake? Well, he might not have, it could be a case of engineers in his department feeding the minister with wrong data and figures for right reasons though. Seeing the extent of choked state of Srinagar, the huge money demanded might indeed be needed. Whether the pattern is cyclical or not, on hopes the hydraulic experts in union water resources ministry are alive enough to assess the technical worth of the proposal.

"I am conscious and concerned about the threat but have no resources to correct the wrongs done in the past" so said Taj to a local daily, a few months back thereby admitting gross negligence. Indeed, Minister! Conscious and concerned, you might be, but whose negligence of the duty is it anyway and, who is going to answer for what happened in the past? The minister brought to fore the steps taken by Sheikh Abdullah government in 1950. "A dredger was imported by the government of India and handed over to the state in 1950; the importance of the machine for the then state government could be gauged from the fact that it was commissioned by Nehru himself in Srinagar". Some areas of the city, including Rajbagh, were submerged, but no loss of life or property was reported due to the fact that the state was ready for the calamity and was regularly desilting the flood channels and outflow channels.

The renowned wetlands of Nadru Nambal, Narkara Nambal and Hokarsar are relegated to history, as "residential colonies have come up all along these wetlands, the flood water will flow in the city's lanes and drains leaving it completely submerged" admits the minister. He has also talked of the successive governments acting contrary to the recommendations of Uppal committee, appointed in 1976 to mark measures for flood control. Silt has accumulated in all the major tributaries including Doodh Ganga adding to blockade. "We are expecting a water discharge of around 150000 cusses if flood hits Srinagar city, leaving most parts of the city submerged", a senor official of the flood control department had revealed. It is not only the city of Srinagar that faces the danger, but most parts of the valley from south to north Kashmir are likely to be hit by the flood. And it may go beyond, as the warning reveals, washing the national highway. Submerging of IG road leading to airport may hinder the aerial access to the Valley as well. Even without this warning, it is known to all city dwellers that Hyderpora/Peer Bagh area gets water logged off and on, with a few days of rain, Bemina too! The impression is unmistakable that these colonies have not been planned properly and with the warning the matter has come to head, which may lead to some serious introspection in the days to come. Provided, divine mercy leaves us some space for introspection!

How re-assuring is the fact of minister having personally taken up the matter with GOI? What if the calamity, God forbid overtakes before four years needed for infrastructural placement? In 1902, British engineers helped us; Sheikh Abdullah's prudence and Nehru's imported dredger came to out rescue in 50's. Twenty first century, while the world is moving ahead to hi-tech age, we are regressing, which is a matter of collective shame. I might not be personally responsible, nor you, or the minister. However it might be your neighbour, my cousin, Taj's relation; very much someone or the other amongst us! We may be left with nothing except to go and beg the Reshis of our Resh we'rr to invoke divine mercy, provided there is enough dry space left to reach those shrines!

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi
[Reunion is subordinate to survival]

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