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, June 24, 2011

Manzoor's Story

The desperation expressed by Manzoor is the story of many young people in Kashmir facing an uncertain future. Manzoor's story is followed by an editorial on tackling employment

(Mr. Manzoor Akash, 25, was born in Rafiabad, Baramulla district. He completed his schooling locally, and earned degrees in B. Litt (comparative Literature) and M.A. in English from Barkatullah Vishwavidhyalaya, Bhopal. A very articulate writer, he has published numerous articles in various journals. He is also a budding poet, having published his first book of poems, "Verses of Heart," in 2006. Some of his poems have been reviewed by prominent literary critics in India. He has taught English at high school level, and hopes to teach in a university some day. Presently he teaches English at the Government Degree College in Kupwara.)

Please Listen

I am a college contractual of Kashmir valley. I am working on a meager salary of Rs. 8000/- per month from last couple of years. Some of my brothers have been working for last 7 or 8 years and have gone overage. Some are so honest, hardworking and dedicated that their sense of responsibility didn’t let them go out to carry out any research work though they were selected many times. College didn’t let them think about their own career.

I am treated like a slave. Injustice is done with me. My innocence is taken an undue advantage of. I am a so-called professor, so must not be treated like. There should be difference between me and a higher secondary contractual. Especially in case of pay scale. Higher secondary contractual teaches two classes and takes Rs 7000/- salary monthly whereas I teach six classes and am given only one thousand extra. I am worse than a public school teacher. I feel frustrated.

I am everywhere the same. Whether I work in Baramulla, Bandipora, Sopore, Anatnag, Pulwama or in Srinagar. I am everywhere treated step motherly. I can be ordered to join Sogam, Kupwara or Uri College. What then I reside in far flung district like Pulwama, Anantnag, Budgam, etc. Doesn’t matter, even if I’ve to spend a hundred or two a day. I, sometimes, visit my parents after months. No problem. My salary is disbursed after 8 or 9 months. No problem. I am developed. Even bank people do not facilitate me with any kind of loan. They treat me like a beggar. I turn to be a shameless person because like other working people of the society. I am not able to give my parents pay after every month. Students in the campus want me each day to be taught. They praise me because I teach them the best and that too regularly. If my lectures be weighed than even Rs. 25000/- pay will not equal the balance pans. I am supposed to join the duty even during hartal days because my single leave not only makes me a shirker and brings disgrace but it also creates a pandemonium besides an explanation that peon always comes with. And if due to some unavoidable circumstances I could not report my duty for 2 or 3 days then it is sure I will be sent back to the pavilion (Amar Singh College).

I am a human being. Have done M. Phil and PhD still I am humiliated. I will tell you a secret, if you won’t tell it to others. No girl is ready to marry with me because I am a poor employee. Whom society has rejected. An ReT teacher doesn’t allow me to sit or speak before him because he takes Rs. 18000/- as salary and I still Rs. 8000/-. How fools I am! I’ve ruined my life after college. Government job has gone off my hands because college has rendered me good for nothing.

To whom can I narrate my painful story? When I go to the door of CM, I am not even treated well by a chaprasi. I am frisked like a thief. Still I think there is a silver living in the clouds. My rank is higher than my meager pay-scale. Since 2008, my grievance of pay hike is kept suspended. I have been praised by sugar coated words, many times over. But at grassroots level, happens nothing.

Now, with my head lowered to the ground and eyes brimmed with tears, I request you that our pay scale may be hiked. Sir, there is no one left to us, except you. You posses power. Our life has been destroyed. Now, if your Excellency is benevolent, we hope ours demands will be fulfilled. Omar Sahab, you are sympathetic and kind personality. Whose door can we go to except yours? Years passed, and we still wait in a hope that it will end.

Tackling Unemployment
(Editorial in the Kashmir Images)

Jammu and Kashmir is face to face with plethora of problems and crises. While on one hand the political uncertainty has been proving a stumbling block in state’s progress and development, on the other hand it is the corruption that has been eating up very vitals of the society. All the institutions of the state are plagued with the menace of corruption and therefore it was no wonder that Jammu and Kashmir is among the top most-corrupt states. Though the successive governments have been claiming waging war against the menace and have even passed some stringent laws to deal with the corrupt, but the disease seems incurable because these wars have remained confined to rhetoric and laws within books only.

Another serious problem that has been posing biggest threat to the state is that of unemployment. The number of educated unemployed youth is increasing with every passing year with no avenues of employment available anywhere. As the state, particularly the Kashmir Valley, is too poor on industrial front, government remains the only employing agency. It goes without saying that government in no circumstances is in a position to accommodate the heavy rush of all the unemployed. Therefore, the unemployment really emerges as a great threat and if ways and means are not found to create employment avenues, the situation has every potential to take any dangerous turn. The unemployed lot is growing frustrated with every passing day and the increase in the incidents of suicides or even the petty crime is in some measure one of the dangerous fallouts of employment crisis.

Even though one agrees that government cannot accommodate and employ all the unemployed but at the same time it can’t shy away from its responsibility of helping these youth found jobs with respect and dignity. The self-employment schemes are one of the attractive and very promising alternatives. But once again the rampant corruption has made these schemes useless. Need is to revive the schemes and think innovatively and make them more people-friendly. The schemes should be made so attractive that instead of looking towards the government for jobs, unemployed should voluntarily prefer to go for self-employment. But in this regard the banks operating in Jammu and Kashmir have to take a lead. Although the Jammu and Kashmir Bank, whose USP is “empowerment of masses”, has been doing some real good work on this front, but the other nationalized banks, which are also doing very lucrative business in the state, must also be pulled up to contribute their bit. They cannot have the privilege of their sweet discretion in terms of their social responsibility.
It is true that banks are through and through business establishments and are always in a race to earn more. But then there is something called corporate social responsibility.

Banks are supposed to do more than just financial business. Despite being commercial institutions, the banks too, at some level, actually belong to the people, because it is their money that is the life blood of banking industry. So if banks are doing profitable business here, credit for it goes to the people who have actually reposed their trust and invested in, and with these financial institutions. Now when it comes to shouldering the responsibility of pulling out this state from the morass of unemployment, banks have to be there to help. They have to shoulder this social responsibility and come forward to help the unemployed stand on their own feet and earn with respect and dignity. And in doing so they will certainly be doing business as well, because the loans they extend to help the unemployed will also earn them profits.

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