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 20, 2010

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.

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