Introduction to Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Cry of the Silent Majority - Part 2

Finally an editorial in the Greater Kashmir that the majority of public that live off the agrarian economy will appreciate

Talking Self-reliance

Despite all claims about progress made by the State after the end of feudal-autocratic rule, a major chunk of population continues to reel under poverty and deprivation. Large sections of people particularly in rural and remote areas continue to suffer; proper health care, sanitation, potable water and education are still a far cry in many areas. The State especially Kashmir valley and some hilly district of Jammu lag behind in all the developmental indices. In comparison to other states it is a reality despite a rosy picture presented by the official handouts. The failure of Jammu and Kashmir to keep pace with other states has not been for it being deficient in natural resources but for the failure of its leadership; add to it a total lack of commitment in the top notch bureaucracy. Besides the political uncertainty that the State has inherited from its feudal days the development of the State suffered for wrong prioritization and a rampant corruption at all levels.

We all know that despite being landlocked this State was self-sufficient in meeting its day to day requirements till the first half of the past century. Ironically it was only after its getting connected to other parts of the world that its dependability on imports for essentials increased. Considered as the rice a bowl of Himalayas it has been importing every year thousands of tons of food grains from neighboring state of Punjab; ironic! In fact it has been importing agriculture produce from carrot to cabbage worth billions of rupees every year. The reason for this is not that the naturally irrigated fertile land of the State has suddenly turned parched and barren. The reasons are the lack of respect for law of the land and lack of planning. Despite ban, thousands of acres of A-grade paddy land have been converted into residential colonies. The vegetable farms that spread over thousands of acres of land in cities and towns have now totally disappeared. The increasing dependability on imports from other state has devastated the much cherished idea of self-reliance; how can then economic independence of the state become a reality! It cannot be denied that the economic emancipation, political freedom, and people’s honor are deeply interconnected ideas and ideals. No doubt there is need for taking concrete steps for making the State self-sufficient, but the reasons for failure must be accepted. The agriculture, horticulture, handicrafts and tourism have been strong areas of the State economy but to believe that the State would be in a position to keep pace with other developing and developed states by focusing only on these traditional sectors would be wrong. It is a hard reality that during past two decades the farming populace has considerably declined. Farming is largely being done by hired laborers from outside the state; and with children from artisan families taking to other occupations the production of handicrafts has considerably gone down. Tourism that is believed to contribute ten percent to State GDP is a very uncertain sector as it is largely dependent on political condition in the State. Also, ours is an overwhelmingly agriculture society and there is need for bolstering agriculture and horticulture production.

The endeavors made by various departments and agencies for increasing agriculture production by providing hybrid and high yielding varieties of seeds and other incentives have been appreciable but to see the State progress in real sense there is need for seriously relooking into the development programs of the State. One of the major factors that have contributed to the economic backwardness of the State has been ignoring building of much needed infrastructure for industrialization and other allied sectors that could provide jobs to educated unemployed youth. Instead of watching the interests of the State the governments in office have been from time to time bartering them away to the Central Government for political expediencies. For two decades the State forests were allowed to be depleted for peanuts for laying railway lines in different states. The mineral deposits were allowed to be exploited and above all the State water resources if harnessed by the State on its own could have changed the economic landscape of the State; and they were allowed to the central agencies for producing cheapest electricity! If the government really wants to see the State self-reliant, it is high time to reprioritize the development programs.

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