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

Snuffing a Great Health Hazard

Ashraf feels the time has come for Kashmir to take a radical course

(Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, 70, was born in Sarnal, Anantnag. He did his primary schooling at the Primary Hanfia School in Anantnag and completed his F. Sc. from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. He completed his medical degree (MBBS) from the Government Medical College Srinagar, University of Kashmir, in 1967, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Government Medical College Jammu, University of Jammu, in 1981. He served as the Medical Director of the Civil Hospital, Pahalgam, until 1983 and subsequently held senior administrative positions in the health service system of Saudi Arabia, including participation in a joint program with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Florida for a United Nations project related to environmental and ecological impact of the 1991 Gulf War. He is an Executive Member of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross (nominated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Member of General Medical Council, Jammu and Kashmir, Medical Council of India, Saudi Medical Council, and General Medical Council, London. He is proficient in Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic.)

Ban Smoking in Kashmir

It has been proved beyond doubt that smoking cigarettes is one of the leading causes of cancers in humans. But let us be clear that smoking cigarettes and other habit forming smokes like shesha or committing sins are not the only cause of malignancies. If it was so then our Sikh community ought to have been immune to this deadly disease. Passive smoking is off-course more dangerous. Hence family member’s colleagues or coworkers who smoke in presence of their associates or community are more detrimental for their society and the neighborhood.

A few days back it was interesting to read that Div-Com Kashmir will make the two districts of Budgam and Srinagar as no smoking zones. Theoretically an excellent idea! ‘Hum Bhi Chahtay Aazadi.’ Before issuing such statements we need to know that people all over the world use tobacco in different forms and there is a strong campaign against this menace despite that cultivation of tobacco is increasing because it is a lucrative business. Same is true about the cell phones. Despite knowing it has disastrous effects on our health we don’t stop even our children for abusing the cell phone utility. Thousands of gallons of substandard diesel are burnet in telecom towers polluting our atmosphere with dangerous gases detrimental for the health. Our honorable Div-Come also needs to find out why a specific brand of ‘four square’ cigarettes despite its high carcinogenic effects are sold ‘only in Kashmir’ and why Bhang and poppy is cultivated under the nose of his law enforcing agencies despite the government commandments. It is because there is a nexus between the cultivator’s supplier’s conduits and consumers who are said to have a political umbrella. Unless that chain is broken it is only a tall claim to ban the cigarette smoking. Besides that a strong awareness in the community especially the younger generation is to be enforced sturdily.

Statistics have shown the trend of cancers in Kashmir is rising dangerously so we need to be on high alert and call for SOS. It is definitely not only the cigarette smoking or Huka that we can put the blame on. Thousands of locomotives plying on our roads are puffing out deadly carcinogens that we smoke passively and inhale in to our lungs consequently transported to other parts of the body through our circulating blood pumped by the heart in to the lungs for oxygenation. We don’t see hundreds of diesel operated army trucks plying aimlessly on the roads of other states in India neither do we see out dated trucks and civilian busses despite having lived their life emitting obnoxious smoke like brick kiln chimneys forcing an innocent passerby to smoke the same. The coal used in our brick kilns that have mushroomed haphazardly on our highways and our coal operated room heaters (Bukharies) are equally responsible for numerous lung diseases such as COPD, corpulmonale, bronchitis and cancers. Many deaths have been reported due to coal operated Bukhries used during winters. Gas heaters are equally dangerous. The drinking water transported through worn-out pipes where lead was used to bridge the knots is said to have its adverse effects on the gastric mucosa and that is why such pipes are no more in use in the countries where people are health conscious and governments perform their duties dutifully.

Thanks to our horticulture experts we have seen a boom in this industry for the last thirty years. Kashmir is producing millions of apple boxes every year. Our peach, cherry, pears and apricots are the best and can compete anywhere in the world. Our economy was sustained by the revenue earned through our fruit during the turmoil of last twenty years when we had virtually an economic blockade due to everyday strikes and government imposed curfews. This bumper crop was possible due to the use of fertilizers and controlling the diseases like sanjoscale by using pesticides. These pesticides and fertilizers are chemicals that have injurious effects on all the living creatures including the humans. That is why beautiful butterflies and singing frogs that where important for our habitat have almost disappeared disturbing our flora and fauna. Every day we are seeing organophosphorous poisoning cases both suicidal and accidental in our hospitals. In order to save people involved in our horticulture and agriculture industries from injurious effects of pesticides and fertilizers we need to educate them properly about the judicious use of these chemicals. Use of proper gloves, goggles, masks and head covers is a must while spraying the insecticides or using the fertilizers. In developed countries where farming and horticulture is spread on large areas spraying of pesticides is done by helicopters where human hand has the least possible role. The same system can be tried here by applying cooperative farming.

Coming back to Div com’s smoke free zones in Kashmir, nothing is impossible but we need to devise a proper system and introduce it gradually. It should not look a hollow slogan like our politicians do. In US and western countries on way towards a complete ban on smoking the establishments that have a large group of people working under one roof have defined smoking areas where smokers can smoke without disturbing their colleagues. Similarly there are corners for smokers on the airports. You can ask for a nonsmoker’s room in hotels. Smoking is a habit forming attitude or an addiction and there are definite ways and means to get rid of such tendencies. We have councilors who are experts in these fields they de-addict these fanatics by proper counseling rather than imposing an ineffective ban.

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