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.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Emphasizing Quality of Governance in an Era of Financial Benevolence

The editorial in the Kashmir Images emphasises that money alone is not enough

Understand People’s Problems

Couple of weeks back, in a private discussion a group of young Kashmiris while sharing their mind on the issue of governance, said: “We face lots of problems and hardships on account of various public utility services – say transport for instance, but how can those in the ruling chairs understand these problems and identify with us when they do not have to travel in old ramshackle buses we travel in?” And as the discussion went on and on, many more young people came up with countless other examples to highlight the failures of political leaders when it comes to having a first-hand understanding of the realities of the common people.

Whether ministers or bureaucrats travel in public buses or not is beyond the point here, what is indeed important is that the ordinary people have a strong belief, and not unjustifiably so, that those in the ruling echelons do not face the kind of problems and challenges as commoners face. Obvious conclusion of this belief is that if the leaders and rulers do not understand the situation on ground, it is hard to believe their ability to affect any worthwhile change in the ground situation.

Politics aside, when it comes to providing good governance and delivering on the political promises, even the minutest details about actual ground situation vis-à-vis different spheres of human activity, are vital. Rationally speaking, it is on the basis of the important data about what is already there - what are the loopholes and lacunae - that one can correctly devise the corrective measures as well as future programmes. Now, if those vested with the responsibility of formulating government’s policies as well as those whose job is to execute and implement them, continue to remain cut-off from the common people’s realities as they have so far been, expecting them to be able to affect any change on ground will be too farfetched.

With the overall security situation in the state showing some improvement, politicians and bureaucrats have no reasonable reason to avoid coming out of their comfortable offices for having a feel of what common people have to face day-in and day-out on various counts. Indeed there is not even a single sphere of life worth its name here which is without its share of problems. The Chief Minister Omar Abdullah will certainly do a great job if besides thinking of new things for the public welfare he also takes keen interest in setting the already existing rotten systems right. He has made some good beginnings, and it will certainly be a great thing if he continues to go for some deeper analyses of issues that concern the ordinary mortals.

The best thing Omar Abdullah can do for the people, and for his own political career as well, is to bring about some semblance of accountability in the government and its functioning. Let he initiate a culture of holding government functionaries responsible for the jobs they are supposed to do and are paid for. Once a few heads are set rolling for failures that bring hardships to the common people and disrepute to the government, it goes without saying that the standard of the overall governance will automatically start improving. Obviously this needs a huge political will. Having successfully braved the biggest challenges to his political career, Omar Abdullah must now focus his attention to the working of his government functionaries. He must weed out the unscrupulous lot to bring about a culture of accountability in this land of unaccountability now.

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