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.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

State's Fatcats Get Off Easy

Zeenat tears into past sweet-heart deals that continue to enrich the well connected gentry.

(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 26, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.)

Prized Property Owners Pay Peanuts to Government

Srinagar: Even as certain influential business families are in possession of the prime commercial properties owned by the state and are getting richer by the day, the share of the government is just the rent and that too in proverbial peanuts.

For instance, around 11.6 kanals of land under Hotel Broadway in the city was leased to a prominent Congress leader K K Amla decades back. Today the government gets only Rs 4650 as rent a year for it, which is even less than what this 100-room hotel worth anywhere between around Rs 25-50 crores, charges a customer for a night’s stay.
Interestingly, Hotel Broadway’s lease expired in 2008 only.

Similarly, Valley’s prestigious schools like Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson also figure in the list of such beneficiaries.

“These Christian missionary schools - Tyndale Biscoe and Mallinson – occupy some 85 kanals of land in the City centre Lal Chowk and pay only Rs 6000 as yearly rent for the property worth Rs 170-225 crores,” sources informed, adding that their lease expires in 2015.

Another prestigious missionary school - Burnhall School – also generates crores of rupees but ends up paying Rs 3242 as its yearly rent.

“It too occupies some 32.4 kanals of land which means property is worth Rs 50-100 crores in the market,” source said adding, “Its lease period expires in 2017”.

Similarly the Hotel Nedous spread over 113 kanals of sprawling land in Gulamrg was leased out to Saleema Nedous decades back.

“It charges around Rs 5000 per room per night from its customers, which means the hotelier is earning huge money. But on return what the government gets as yearly rent is just Rs 78, 000 for a property worth Rs 160 crores.”

The lease for the said hotel expires in 2075, sources said.

Fairdeal Complex (in the commercial hub of Residency Road) occupies some 11.6 Kanals of land.

The said complex has more than 30 shops and good number of restaurants in its compound and generates handsome amount of money for the owners while as government gets only Rs 8275 as yearly rent for a property worth 50 crores.

The lease for the Fairdeal Complex has already expired in 2002.

“All these properties alone, if auctioned, will fetch the state thousands of crores,” sources said.

“In most of these cases, the beneficiaries have not paid any premium even; they have got the land almost free,” they added.

That’s not the end of the story. The real story is that even the lease-holdings are being transformed into personal properties and that too at dirt-cheap rates, sources regretted.

It is pertinent to mention here that as a per Jammu and Kashmir Land Grants Act, 1978, state land can be leased to both state and non-state subjects for 99 years. The rent is Rs 40 a kanal for a year for residential plots and Rs 400 for commercial ones.

Sources further said that the 2004 Roshani Act was introduced with the sole aim that it would fetch good amount of money at the prevailing market rates from the people occupying government properties. But the move failed miserably as ‘occupants’ showed no interest in it and didn’t come forward to pay.

As per Act till date only Rs 151 crores have been generated from Jammu and Srinagr cities.

“Rs 50 crores were generated from illegal land occupants of Jammu and 101 from Srinagar city when the expectation was of more than Rs 10,000 crores,” source said.

When contacted, Divisional Commissioner, Kashmir, Dr. Asgar Hassan Samoon said, “In order to benefit common people, current market rates have been revised by me recently and are available on

“As far as matter of these hotels and schools is concerned, I will discuss it with the state government,” he added.

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