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.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

So Much For Transparency and Accountability

Fayyaz reports that Kashmir's CIC is frustrated by the indifference shown by the State Government towards implementing the Right to Information (RT) Act. So what is new?

(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 working 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.)

Govt Ignored my Repeated Requests for Over 4 Months: CIC

Srinagar: Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), Ghulam Rasool Sufi, today lamented that Government of Jammu and Kashmir was not showing seriousness in implementation of the Right to Information (RTI) Act. He expressed displeasure over the government's inaction in making the State Information Commission (SIC) fully operational and, after months of silence, disclosed that the Government had ignored his repeated requests of appointing two commissioners for the SIC.

Breaking his silence with regard to excessive delay in appointment of the two Information Commissioners, CIC told Early Times that his repeated requests to the Government had failed to yield anything in the last over four months. Appointment of two Information Commissioners, as provided in the law, would make the SIC complete and fully functional for implementation of the RTI Act. Sufi expressed his shock and anguish over the fact that the SIC was incomplete and the RTI was not fully in operation even after seven years of its birth in the state.

According to him, it was a matter of pride for Jammu and Kashmir that this strife-ravaged state had pioneered in making the legislation on RTI in 2004 and subsequently making it equivalent of the Central law with an amendment in 2009. Even as RTI had been made stronger and more comprehensive in recent past, it was not fully in force in absence of a complete SIC, he said. Sufi revealed that after his appointment on February 9th this year and particularly in the last four months, he had been meeting the ruling as well as opposition parties and pursuing the matter of the appointment of two Information Commissioners but there had been no action from the concerned authorities.

CIC said that he would like to see the SIC fully operational with one Information Commissioner holding the office in Jammu and another in Srinagar. He said that since February this year, he had been single-handedly conducting the SIC's business while shuttling between Srinagar, Jammu and Leh. He made yet another passionate appeal---this time through media---to the Government to accomplish the constitution of the SIC with the appointment of two Information Commissioners so as to fulfill the mandate of the Legislature "without further loss of time".

Even as J&K had taken lead in the country in making RTI in 2004 and the law had been made stronger with two amendments in 2009 and 2011, successive governments failed to constitute the SIC for several years. For nearly two years, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah maintained that he was waiting for then Chairman of the Central Information Commission, Wajahat Habibullah, to take over as the maiden Chairman of SIC in Jammu and Kashmir. That, however, proved to be wrong as Wajahat did not accept the offer even after completing his 5-year-long tenure at the Central Information Commission. Then functioning as Chief Income Tax Commissioner for north India, a 1977 batch officer of Indian Revenue Service and a permanent resident of Srinagar,Sufi was finally appointed as the first CIC in J&K on February 9th, 2011.

Governor is by law competent to appoint CIC and two Information Commissioners on the recommendations of a selection committee comprising Chief Minister, one Cabinet Minister to be nominated by him and Leader of the Opposition/ Leader of the single largest opposition party in Legislative Assembly.

"The Information Commissioners shall be persons of eminence in public life with wide knowledge and experience in law, science and technology, social service, management, journalism, mass media or administration and governance", says the law.

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