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, July 22, 2011

Corruption by Indulgence

Fayyaz says that all time records are being broken in taking poor governance to new heights

(Mr. Ahmed Ali Fayyaz, 48, was born in Bodina, Budgam, and received his primary and secondary education in Budgam and later at Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Master's degree in Kashmiri language and literature from the University of Kashmir in 1987. After working with Rashtriya Sahara and Kashmir Times in 1993-94, and later for 13 years as Srinagar Bureau Chief of Daily Excelsior, he is woking as Resident Editor/ Srinagar Bureau Chief of Jammu-based English daily Early Times since April 2009. He is also a filmmaker whose forte in audio-visual media is Kashmir's composite culture, heritage, ecology and social issues. Since February 2008, he has been regularly anchoring Take One Television's bi-weekly hard talk show "Face To Face With Ahmed Ali Fayyaz" which is watched by more than three million viewers in Srinagar, Jammu and other urban areas of Jammu & Kashmir.)

Misgovernance is a Misnomer, it's No-governance

Baramulla: Students at Government Middle School Gohan, in Chandoosa zone of Baramulla district, have only heard that Kousar Salam is one of their teachers. He has seldom taken a class. They, however, listen to their teacher regularly reading out his news dispatches in daily news bulletins of Radio Kashmir, Doordarshan Kendra (DDK) Srinagar and the much-hyped DD Kashir. Nobody in the zone, or perhaps entire Baramulla district, has the spine to ask this employee why he was not discharging his duty of teaching in the classroom.

Kousar Salam S/o Pir Abdul Salam R/o Thindma, Kreeri, has been regularly receiving monthly salary of around Rs 15,000 from Omar Abdullah's government as records of the Department of School Education mention him as a government teacher. Least caring for the future of his students, Salam has been rubbing shoulders not only with Deputy Commissioner of Baramulla but also the Cabinet Ministers whenever they visit the North Kashmir district headquarters. While drawing his salary as teacher regularly, he has been simultaneously working as 'Part Time Correspondent' (PTC) for All India Radio (AIR) and Doordarshan.

Since 2006, AIR has been regularly paying him monthly remuneration of over Rs 4,000 on account of his "services" as a Correspondent. Service Conduct Rules of the Government of Jammu & Kashmir, as well as Government of India, call this kind of an activity by a government employee as "business" and make the defaulter liable to imprisonment of over two years besides fine. According to these rules, government employees can not publish even a vegetarian write-up without the written permission of the concerned Secretary to Government. Working as a regular journalist, that too with another government department, reporting political issues and staying absent from the place of posting for years together, is completely out of question.
What Zahoor Sultan War in Kupwara and Kousar Salam in Baramulla have been doing for years now is an open crime without a formal complainant.

When Early Times published in detail, in its issue of July 8th, as to how Cultural Assistant of J&K Academy of Art, Culture & Languages, Zahoor Sultan, had been simultaneously working as a "journalist" against regular remuneration for Radio Kashmir, a vernacular daily and a local news agency, readers thought that incumbent Chief Secretary, Madhav Lal, would take cognizance. Reports, however, indicate that head of the state bureaucracy has been no different from his predecessor, Sham Singh Kapur, in taking such notices in the interest of his government and the hapless people of Jammu and Kashmir.

Nobody in the government has demonstrated the shame of withdrawing from the imposter the awards of "The Best Journalist" which Zahoor Sultan has been receiving from Omar Abdullah's Cabinet Ministers on all Independence Day and Republic Day functions at Kupwara. On January 26th, the award was handed over to the fake journalist's brother, Mohammad Yahya War, on behalf of the state government by Minister incharge Irrigation and chief guest of the occasion, Taj Mohiuddin.

Discrediting both, the government as well as the institution of media in Jammu & Kashmir, these impostors have been enjoying a field day. Many of them have openly indulged in arranging transfers and appointments and laying their hands on scores of developmental works in Rural Development Department, R&B, Irrigation, PHE and Local Bodies. Their fathers and brothers have overnight turned into mates, suppliers and contractors.

While the poor bona fide journalists, who complete their post-graduation in Journalism and Mass Communication over disposing off the jewelry of their mothers, run from pillar to post in search of an ordinary job, the amphibious players simultaneously make quick fortunes in both---Government and media. They overnight become owners of luxury cars and palatial houses and get all of their relatives and friends appointed in different government services. They also manage to be darlings of separatist leaders.

Kousar Salam, and many of his ilk, have been shuttling between government offices at Baramulla and all other Tehsil and Block headquarters in the district. Definitely not in search of news.

Deputy Commissioner, Bashir Ahmed Bhat, takes pride in enjoying company with this "prominent journalist". He has all the good reasons. By virtue of his reporting for Radio Kashmir and Doordarshan, Salam enjoys the blessings of several Cabinet Ministers he interviews for Radio. Last month, when a team from union Ministry of Home Affairs visited Baramulla and Uri in connection with expansion of cross-LoC trade and travel, it was escorted by only one "journalist"---Kousar Salam. Full-time professionals like Karamat Qayoom were not allowed to even see the members from a distance.

Early Times investigation revealed that Kousar Salam had been initially appointed as a Rehbar-e-Taleem teacher for a primary school in his village of Thinam. After regularization of his service in five years, he was posted as a teacher in Government Middle School Gohan.

Zonal Education Officer, Chandoosa, Ghulam Mohammad Moon, as well as Chief Education Officer (CEO) of Baramulla, Ghulam Hassan Ganai, confirmed to Early Times that Kousar Salam had been regularly taking his salary as a school teacher. "From 1st of Aril, he proceeded on Earned Leave for one month. He later extended leave for full month of May. Thereafter, he sought another extension from June 1st which was granted under rules", CEO Baramulla, G H Ganai revealed. All the government officials and residents interviewed by this newspaper, maintained that nobody had the courage of making this teacher accountable. Most of the district officials said that they feared Salam for being a "prominent and well-connected journalist".
AIR's website mentions Kousar Salam as the PTC for Baramulla district alongwith his two telephone numbers. Then an RT teacher, Salam has been simultaneously appointed as PTC by a high level committee of Prasar Bharti. 'PG Diploma/Degree in Journalism/Mass Media or Graduate with minimum two years journalistic experience' was declared as essential qualification. Salam had neither. The selection committee comprised an ADG rank nominee of DG News (AIR), Director Radio Kashmir Srinagar besides heads of Regional News Units at AIR Srinagar and DDK Srinagar.

Rule II (b) of the PTC engagement guidelines reads: "The persons already in government service, Central/State Government/ Administration of
the Union Territory or in any Public Service Undertaking (PSU) and member of any political party will not be considered for engagement as PTC". Kousar Salam was appointed in violation of the rule. He has been regularly getting remuneration of Rs 4500 every month. In addition to 20 news reports a month to AIR, he can, under an agreement with Prasar Bharti, also report for DD News. That's what Salam has been doing and, in the process, growing as an influential "journalist" in Kashmir.

Investigation further revealed that Director Radio Kashmir has issued official I-Card of AIR to the illegally appointed PTC without seeking his character verification and antecedents, as prescribed clearly in the guidelines, from the district authorities.

Director News for Radio Kashmir and DDK Srinagar, Bashir Malik, admitted that Prasar Bharti had received complaints against Kousar Salam for simultaneously working as PTC with AIR and teacher with Education Department of the state government. "We accordingly took up the matter with DG News when we learned that Salam was simultaneously working as a government teacher. However, we were directed to continue him as PTC when he submitted an undertaking to DG News that he had resigned as a teacher".

When it was pointed out to Malik that claiming to have resigned, submission of resignation and its acceptance by the Secretary to Government were three different things, he said that his undertaking was taken as true as it came through an affidavit.

CEO Baramulla asserted that Kousar Salam had neither submitted his resignation nor had it been accepted by the Government. "He is on Earned Leave of three months and continuing on our payrolls", he said.

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