Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Empowered Grace

Nasrun describes a special person whose grace and fortitude is exemplary as a role model for empowerment and artistic talents


(Mr. Nasrun Min Ullah Mir, nee' Nasrun Mir, 29, was born in Srinagar. He completed his high school from the Green Land Educational Institute, Srinagar, and his 12th grade from the Jawahar Nagar Higher Secondary, Srinagar. He received his B.Sc.degree from the University of Kashmir, Srinagar, and Master's (M.A.) in Mass Communication and Journalism from University of Kashmir. He started his journalism career by joining the Associated Press (Srinagar Bureau) as a trainee reporter. He subsequently worked as a sports reporter/ online news editor with Indianewsupdates, online news portal based in New Delhi. Mr. Mir is currently working as senior reporter/sub-editor with the Rising Kashmir, responsible for reporting special assignments in business, travel, tourism, human rights and conflict beats besides editing our news page. He has attended workshops on media and social development, documentary film making, and is now working on ‘Memoir’ that would go as a chapter in an anthology on Kashmir.)



Life of an Artist in Solitude


After reading her news script on Doordarshan’s Srinagar station on December evening of 1990, Shabnam Ashai reaches home to find her anxious father on the gate. “There is a death threat for you and two another broadcasters,” Ashai recalls her father’s words as she has to leave Kashmir next morning in truck to Uttar Pradesh’s Aligarh town, home to one of the most prestigious Muslim University in India.

She will spend her next 10 years in the Aligarh Muslim University campus where she will earn a doctorate in philosophy, but returns to Kashmir after working in New Delhi for five years.

At a time when many Kashmiri women choose to settle inside the four walls of their houses, Ashai was challenging the conventional psyche and wisdom of Kashmir about women.

She joined Kashmir University’s Mass Communication Department after finishing the bachelors in science from Women College MA Road here. “On the very first day of my masters program, Kashmir was rocked with abduction of then Union Home Minister’s daughter Rubaiya Sayeed. For next one and a half year we had no classes and whole batch was given mass promotion which I refused,” says Ashai as she recalls her early days in field of journalism and broadcasting. “I joined Doordarshan as a newscaster, but had to leave as militant threats intensified.”

Ashai returned to Kashmir after 15 long years and joined the Radio as a broadcaster, the job for which she had to fight court cases for five years.

Her life has never been same from the day she left Kashmir. She has shunned many taboos around women emancipation and Kashmiri culture. Now in her early 40s, Ashai lives an independent life, which according to her is dedicated to art and literature.

Ashai is an author of six books, five of which are in Urdu and one in English. She has been translated into half a dozen languages that include French and German. But in her two bedroom flat in Jawahar Nagar, her cries for recognition from her own people still remain unheard.

“In Kashmir, artists have no respect. This society can’t think beyond money. Materialism is so ingrained in this society,” says Ashai, who while recalling her recent visit to Lahore was fascinated by culture and understanding of art by locals there. “Lahore is a very vibrant society in which art speaks everything; be it the glorious past or troubles Pakistan as nation is facing today. You literally breathe art in that beautiful city of Pakistan.”

Not like many other female authors from her native land, she is bold and outspoken just like her idol Khushwant Singh. “When I write, I don’t think who will read it and what they will think about it. I just write my thoughts and I try to express them in the best possible way,” says Ashai, whose poetry’s harshest criticism has been that, it is too bold.

Ashai is a regular feature in over 20 cultural magazines globally, but in Kashmir, she remains very silent. In Radio Kashmir where she works has restricted herself to reading news and current affairs. “I rejuvenate my creativity when I go outside Kashmir. I wait for the occasions where I can listen and express among people I have confidence in,” says Ashai as she misses those creative indulgences with poets and writers when she was a part of reading groups in New Delhi. “Just the way two bodies’ union creates another life, sharing of ideas also creates new thoughts, but I don’t see that connection here with people.”

Ashai lives away from her family, completely by her, a very rare style of life in Kashmiri society. She in a way enjoys her “loneliness” except times when she wants someone to share food and a little trivial chat. But most of the times, she is content with her lifestyle.

Her house justifies here words. Ashai’s bedroom is full of books, so is her reading room and her drawing room with paintings and abstract art hanging over the walls. “I love to sleep with my books. I need them around me, otherwise I can’t breathe or sleep,” says Ashai, as she remembers a recent visit of a guest who after sitting in her reading room said, “You have so many books. Kashmiri women are not in a book reading culture; even most of men do not read here. ”

According to Ashai her father’s independent outlook is very much responsible in the making of the person she is today. “He has been an honest man all through his life, and his support in my decisions has been significant in shaping my personality,” says Ashai, who loves candles and old lamps and in her house, they are in plenty.

“Sometimes in night I shut all the lights and lit these age old candles; they give me calmness as their light rejuvenates my soul,” says Ashai, who being a part of electronic media has none of it in her house. “I don’t use internet or watch TV. I even don’t have a radio in my home, and I never listen to it either. ”

Dying Kashmiri Icons

Altaf sees a backyard full of emptiness


(Mr. Altaf Bashir, 23, was born in Habba Kadal, Srinagar. He completed his schooling from Iqra Public School, Qammerwari, Sringar, and received a Bachelor's degree in commerce from the Degree College Bemina, Srinagar. He is pursuing a Master's degree in English from the Indra Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). Mr. Bashir is currently working as hospitality trainer at the Don Bosco trainer centre, Kupwara, which is a Belgium based NGO working with the Union Ministry of Rural Development, MORD.)


Endangered Hangul and Pandits

HANGUL, a unique deer species found only in Jammu and Kashmir is presently battling for survival. So is the race of Kashmiri pandits, whose population has alarmingly decreased over the past decade and a half. While the rare wild species has been declared critically endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, there is no such forum to care a fig for preserving the community of Kashmiri pandits who have given almost everything to the human civilization. From this small community have emanated masterpieces of human intellect, religion, philosophy, history, poetry, romance and fables. Many of the greatest Sanskrit scholars and poets were born and wrote in the Valley. It was probably for this very reason that those who are averse to art, literature, aesthetic and progressive thought, want to ensure that Kashmiri Pandits (KP's) get wiped out, flee the valley or mingle with the rest.

Such was the situation that at one stage, it is said that only eleven KP families survived in Valley in times of Badshah, the Great King. The same appears to be happening again in another format, but with the same punchline! According to 1921 Census, the population of Kashmiri pandits in entire Kashmir Valley was 55,052. While 21,635 lived in Srinagar city, the remaining 33, 417 were putting up in Muffasils. Interestingly, there were more males (30,944) as compared to females, whose number was 24,108. There is a mention of the same in a famous book ‘The Kashmiri Pundit’ authored by historian Pt Anand Koul in 1924. During the past 86 years (from 1921 to 2007), the number of Kashmiri pandits living in Kashmir has drastically decreased. It was probably for the first time in post-Independence era of India when hundreds of Kashmiri pandits, putting up in North Kashmir, were killed at the hands of Pakistani tribesmen and raiders in October-November 1947 raid. It was finally in 1990 when majority of the community members had to flee Valley for good. And those who dared to stay put, were either killed in massacres or asked to join their brethren away from Valley.

Presently, it is estimated that just 4,500 KPs are putting up in some isolated pockets of Ganderbal, Anantnag, and Bandipur districts and few hundred families are in Srinagar city. The remaining are scattered, living away from their roots and Kashmir, getting mingled and losing their unique identity, which some unfortunately consider as a stigma attached to them.

If this is the tale of community of Kashmiri Pandits, the fate of Hangul is also hanging in balance. In 1947, there were roughly 5,000 Hanguls in Kashmir. In 1970, a census of the animal was conducted. It revealed that only 140 to 170 Hanguls survived in Kashmir. Subsequently, a Save Hangul Project was taken up with the expertise of World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and 171 square kilometer Dachigam National Park was declared as the protected homeland of the animal. These aggressive measures soon started paying dividends and the figure touched 810 mark by the end of 1990. If post 1990 era is the darkest phase in the history of the Kashmiri Pandits, the same aptly holds true for the Hangul. With the onset of the political unrest and lawlessness in the State, the animal suffered massive disturbance in its habitat.

While there was no Wandhama type massacre of the Hangul, the survey carried out in 1992-93 reported that 648 Hanguls had been wiped out from the Dachigam National Park. A latest census conducted by Jammu and Kashmir Wildlife Department in collaboration with Wildlife Institute of India and some non-governmental organizations has revealed that that the endangered species is on the verge of extinction, as only 150 Hanguls have been reported alive in Dachigam Park.The Hangul and Kashmiri pandits face similar situation in terms of a serious threat of their extinction. The major difference, however, lies in the fact that the Hangul continues to live in a protected zone and on its soil.

In contrast, there has been no such homeland for the Kashmiri pandits for their revival. Instead, they were forced to scatter and live away from Kashmir, in alien atmosphere and culturally different places like Mishriwala, Muthi, Jhiri, in Jammu or Delhi and elsewhere, where the new generation of the community is losing the ground and turning rootless. And presently, such is the alarming situation that for a new generation of Kashmiri pandits, Kashmiri language is Greek. Also, due to inter-ethnic marriages, their gene pool is depreciating. The Hangul, on the other hand, continues to maintain its gene-bank. That is why it is designated as Cervus Elaphus - a unique deer species, only found in Himalayan belt of Kashmir.For a protected species like Hangul, a Dachigam National Park has been raised but for the Kashmiri Pandit community, a township is being raised at Jagti-Jammu and not in Valley.

If Hangul cannot survive away from Kashmir, can a Kashmiri pandit live in plains! The Hangul has a unique character as long as he is linked to the valley. Away from Kashmir, it is as good as a common deer. The same holds true for KPs. But who cares for their return to their ‘National Park’, that is yet to be identified or fenced!

Forsaking Addiction to Corruption

Jawad, a true patriot and a noble soul of Kashmir, speaks the voice of reason. In our hearts, we also know that he speaks the truth


(Mr. Jawad Hussain Reshi, 56, was born in Kralteng, Anantnag. He went to local government schools for his early education, and received his B.Sc. and LL.B (Hons) degrees from the University of Kashmir. He is a practicing lawyer at the J&K High Court in Srinagar. He is a political activist and may join a political party. He is also a freelance journalists writing on international topics from time to time.)


Misgoverning Kashmir

The NC led government has miserably failed to curb the menace of corruption which accounts for half of the problem state is facing because of decades of misrule and miss governance at the hands of its leaders. Whether it was Sheikh Abdullah’s government or Dr. Farooq’s or that of their present Chief Minster Mr. Omar Abdullah, their track record is no different from each other. However on this front at least there is a full co-operation and coordination going on between the two coalition partners in power in the state that is National Conference and Congress.

Secessionist leaders are no exception to it either. A majority of these leaders are enjoying a lavish lifestyle without any ostensible means of income or sustenance while as people in general have suffered a worst kind of hardship and pain during the past two decades of turmoil in the valley. Thousands have turned destitute and orphans with one to worry or care for them. Over one lakh unemployed youth and an equal number of families are left without a bread earner. A sad state of affairs by any standards.

There is no doubt that state has all along received liberal funding from the central government but most of these funds get secretly transferred to to the wrong hands that is true as well. As a result thereof a large section of population has remained alienated. It is, therefore, main cause for lack of development and has led to a political unrest of decades together. Had there been a genuine disposal of these funds, state would have by now become prosperous and self-reliant. However a few who have benefited from it have made fortunes.

During the beginning of this year, Mr. Omar Abdullah, had promised that he will ensure that people will get a corruption-free government and those found guilty of it are brought to the book. But there is hardly anything that was done thereafter to curb this menace except for making of that statement. Vigilance Organisation which was expected to undertake this drive has hardly booked a clerk, policeman, Patwari, forest guard, VLC, Lambardar, store keeper or an engineer ever since that time.

Misgovernance at this scale and level has never ever been seen in the past. Every cabinet minister is a Chief Minster unto himself and is hardly accountable before anyone. There is a government within a government in every department and no one including Chief Minster is allowed to question the functioning thereof. Every officer and a government employee is master of his own. As a result thereof government people alienation is so wide that it was never before.

Unless this government is cleaned up and the Ministers with tainted images are laid off no one will believe or trust government’s seriousness. May be it is inherent with every coalition governments everywhere that no individual initiatives are possible. But that does not mean that one should surrender before the vested interests within his own fold or from the camp of a coalition partner with whose support this government is in power.

We must make use of tools like newly constituted Accountability Commission and RTI as effectively as possible to curb this menace and bring around some social change which we all want and deserve.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

One NGO That is Really Doing Good Work

Basharat highlights the meaningful work being done by the Sajid Iqbal Foundation (SIF)

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 30, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)


PIL on Fatal Road Accidents
(104 die in Valley this year; 1165 accidents in 2010 )

Srinagar: Over a hundred people have died and a thousand injured in various road accidents during the first five months of this year. Concerned over this alarming rate of fatal road accidents, Sajid Iqbal Foundation (SIF) has approached the High Court with a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking formulation of a comprehensive traffic management policy in the state.

Quoting media reports, petitioner Sehar Iqbal who is also the executive director of SIF, has said that 104 persons died while 1053 sustained injuries in traffic accidents across the valley in the first five months of this year.

According to the SIF petition, most of the deaths had occurred along Qazigund-Baramulla highway with rarely any day without any accident being reported on the road. Last year, the petitioner has quoted that in rural areas 1165 accidents were witnessed. A total of 182 people died while 1517 sustained injuries, the petitioner reads, adding that in the same year in Srinagar 379 accidents were recorded with 55 deaths and 393 injured.

“As per the information provided on the website of the traffic department of the State of J&K, at least 5000 accidents have taken place resulting in deaths of 800 persons till date. This year also the toll has been alarming and in last few months as many as 100 minimum deaths have taken place due to road accidents,” the petitioner has said in his petition.

As per the data available with the petitioner the total number of vehicles in the State is more than seven lakhs leading to regular traffic jams and congestions on all the busy points in Srinagar and Jammu. Mentioning some of the important places the petitioner has said that Lal Chowk, Jehangir Chowk, Dalgate, Natipora Crossing, Pantha Chowk, Batamaloo witnesses traffic jams on daily basis making it imperative in the present scenario that the State should take steps to mitigate the sufferings of the people in general.

Finally the petitioner has sought directions from the court to the state government to demarcate roads properly, removal of hazardous trees and other structures and impediments from the highway, installation of proper lighting on the highway, installation of glow signs and sign boards, establishing toll free emergency contact numbers, proper highway patrolling for 24 hours at regular intervals without any break, providing critical care specialised ambulances at the gap of 40 Kilometers each on the National Highway, establishing an exclusive specialized accident care hos¬pital, installation and maintenance of proper traffic lights in the city and establishing bus stops in the City and regulating the operators.

Besides other reliefs, the petitioner has sought court directions to the state government to formulate a comprehensive traffic management policy, including different traffic surveys, studies and inventories required for better traffic management.

The Petitioner has said that the national highway connecting Srinagar to Jammu has become a death trap for all the drivers and commuters. The executive director of SIF has also referred to the recent Pahalgam accidents that took lives of three youngsters after there vehicles fell in the adjoining lidder river. “It is also an indication that no such preventive measures or minimum standards of safety are provided by the State to its citizens. All the accidents as mentioned occurred due to non availability of sign boards, signals and barricades on the road leading to Pahalgam. There is every possibility that in case the road leading to one of the prime tourist destination of the world would have been properly / adequately barricaded on the edges then all these and past accidents could have been avoided and many human lives saved. The non existence of such safety measures on roads of prime importance is a matter of concern as the same exposes the lives of innocent citizens at risk,” the PIL reads.

According to the petitioner, being the summer capital of the State and keeping in view the increase in the flow of traffic, the mismanagement of the traffic department in Srinagar city has come to force. “In the entire city with such a huge rush of traffic both from and outside the State not even a single place is provided with the traffic lights system which otherwise has become necessary and imperative owing to the growing number of vehicles,” the SIF’s petition has added.

The SIF had further maintained that the system for grant of driving licenses is also not being implemented in a proper and efficacious manner leading to putting the lives of the common man at stake. “The Respondents while issuances of such licenses are not conducting the proper driving tests before any such license could be granted to the drivers. In most cases the drivers get their licenses without even taking any such driving test,” the petitioner has submitted.

It may be recalled that SIF was formed after a noted lawyer and human rights activist Sajid Iqbal Khanday met tragic accident. As per the version of the eyewitnesses and other media persons the death of Sajid had occurred because of a collision with a hazardous tree existing in the close proximity of the main road.

Since then SIF is involved in activities relating to uplift¬ment of general public particularly the poor and downtrodden members of the society. The Petitioner has worked extensively for rehabilitation of earthquake victims during the times when it was needed most. The Petitioner being member of “Agha Khan Foundation” (a renowned NGO) has been actively involved in various activities which would in one manner or the other would have been beneficial to the general masses. After starting the present organization the Petitioner has organized several legal aid camps at far off places of the valley in order to provide free legal aid / counseling to poor and needy litigants.

The Petitioner has been actively organizing blood donation camps particularly with an intention to provide the blood to accident victims. One such grant camp was organized at SKIMS where more than 500 donors participated and donated blood for benefit of the critical accident victims. It is apt to mention here that soon after the said camp was organized an accident in Pahalgam took place and the collected blood came to be utilized for many injured and critical survivors. Apart from all the above stated facts the Petitioner organization is planning to put in place a free ambulance service having all the specialized equipments installed to provide medical assistance to accident victims.

Bonded Labor in Kashmir

Salman highlights the plight of families with no escape to a brighter future

(Mr. Salman Nizami, 25, was born in Banihal tehsil of District Ramban. He completed his graduate degree in mass communication and journalism, and joined journalism in 2004. He began his professional life at The OUTLOOK magazine as a columnist, and then started writing for Greater Kashmir, Kashmir Times, Times of India, The Hindu, Asian Age, Statesman, Rising Kashmir , JK Reporter. Mr. Nizami later joined SAHARA television in New Delhi as Desk Editor, and rose to the position of Group Editor of The Rastriya Sahara. He is currently working as a Editor-in-Chief of The Revolution newspaper published from Jammu and Kashmir, Sahara television as Desk Editor and Resident Editor of MID-DAY covering Upper North India including J&K. He is also active with UNICEF India and the Hungary World (NGO) as Media advisor. In that role, he has travelled widely investigating on new developments in the media industry, taking a special interest in child problems including labour, marriage, poverty, education, etc. He is one of the first journalists to research and write extensively about the child growth in Jammu and Kashmir.)

The Modern Day Slaves

The man and his four sons squatting in the dirt, mechanically kneading mud, and making line after line of dull gray bricks. It all is done under the vigilant gaze of the boss. “See, there’s a sad story,” the boss said as he pointed to the eldest son, 18. “The young man had twice escaped, but when his father needed another loan from the owner, he forced him to bring his son back.” His father came to me asking to borrow more money. I told him: ‘No. You must bring your son back here. Or else return the money you owe me and leave the house I have provided you.” The young boy listened impassively to the tale of his unhappy return to the Pulwama District of Kashmir province. “I was 7 years old when I started this work,” he said later, when the boss was gone. “My family owed 5,000 rupees then. Today, we owe 50,000 rupees.”

They are indentured servants, bought and paid for by Gul Mohammad, who purchased their contracts from a kiln owner in Bandipora, where they had been living in the rental house. Like tens of thousands of Kashmiris, they are trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of poverty that keeps them indebted to their employers, a situation common at many dusty brick kilns that dot the countryside, as well as in some other industries, particularly in rural areas. Banks have high interest rates and the people who labour at the kilns would almost surely be too poor to qualify for loans. They thus borrow from their employers. For a vast majority of workers, there is no escape. Neither for their children who are bound by their parents’ contracts. Their best hope is that the boss will sell their contract to another kiln, where they might be paid more. No matter what, the loan will follow them.

At the kiln where Ashraf works, his father, 55, is haunted by the guilt that his children would inherit his debt. His two youngest sons, 7, and 8, worked beside him in the mud as he spoke. Their hands work with astonishing speed. But the boy looks worn down, exhausted. They have to work for 12-hours a day. “I want to go to school,” says the elder one.

There are 20 kilns in the Pampore District alone, with an average of 150 to 200 children working at each one, according to an owner of a kiln. “These children work in the state of near slavery,” said Sharief Bhatt, Programme Manager Save the Children. “Not only do they suffer from the extreme weather, they are breathing in the smoke from the kilns every day,” Butt added. “It leads to one of the highest death rates in the country from pneumonia and acute respiratory infections.” Farooq Ahmed’s troubles began 20 years ago when he took a loan from a kiln owner for marriage. (The elaborate marriage and funeral ceremonies expected by Kashmiris frequently cost several years’ worth of wages, forcing many people to draw loans that they must work off.) Farooq soon realized that his weekly earnings in the kiln left little or no money to pay down the principal. As his family grew, he like other workers here, found himself having to borrow more money to pay for medicine for his children and other basic needs. His debt to the owner grew greater by the year. The kiln owner pays Farooq and his four sons about Rs 200 for the 1,000 bricks they make a day. The owner can usually make Rs 5000 selling those bricks.

The kiln manager and labour boss defend their practices, saying they have helped many workers. “They were begging in Srinagar streets ,” says the owner. “I paid their loans and brought them back to their own place. Once they finish their loan, they can leave to any other place .” He also noted that owners provided houses, electricity, beds, blankets, water and cash for workers’ family expenses, and served as a safety net with more loans when family members fell ill. The workers say the houses and handouts are a blessing and a curse, keeping them alive but eternally bound to the kilns and the difficult, low-paying jobs. “We are slaves here because when you owe someone money, you’re a slave. If we try to raise our voice, then the owner will simply tell us to leave.” says a child. “A high level official who was recently transferred to the area and was not familiar with the conditions of the workers estimated that at least 2,000 children worked in the kilns in his district. “I know this is not good for kids, but the work provided income for the children’s families; so it is not that simple.” Even Ezabir Ali associated with ATHWAS agrees, to this point. “It is easy to say, take them out from the kilns. If you take away income from a poor family, then that has to be replaced with something.”

A young boy working in a Kiln wants to get married soon. But he looks at his father, trapped in debt cycle for 30 years. “I will have to borrow money to get married. But I am afraid if I borrow money from the kiln owner, I will have to work here forever.”

The Serious Business of Dog Biting

Mujeeb tackles a very serious issue in Kashmir, especially Srinagar, where dog biting cases are approaching a world record.

(Dr. Mujeeb-ur-Rehman Fazili, 51, was born in Srinagar. He received his Bachelor's degree in veterinary and animal husbandry from the Kerala Agricultural University, his Master's degree in the same field from the Indian Veternary Research Institute in U.P., and his Ph.D. from the Chaudhary Charan Singh Agricultural University, Haryana. He is currently an Associate Professor and Senior Scientist at the Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Srinagar. Dr. Fazili has numerous scientific papers and publications to his credit. He is a life member of the Indian Society for Veterinary Surgery (ISVS), and the Indian Veterinary Association, among others.)


Will Dogs Stop Biting?

This refers to news story Dog scare forces musalees to walk in groups, with lathis. It has again highlighted the difficulties faced by the public due to this menace.

Sterilization technique: Serious efforts are on throughout the world to develop non-surgical, cheap and easily accomplished techniques for controlling fertility in dogs. Use of chemicals, hormones, immunological strategies and contraceptives are some of them. However, all of these techniques are accompanied by one or more problems. They lead to temporary loss in fertility (therefore need to be repeated frequently), have lower efficacy rate, are suitable for some age groups only and have several side effects and complications in the animals subjected to these protocols. Consequently, the traditional surgical sterilization is still the best available option and therefore applied in more than 90% in highly populated cities and in developing countries. The most important advantages of this technique are its 100% guarantee of permanent sterilization and modification of undesired behaviours in dogs.

Sterilization cost: Surgical sterilization generally named as castration, spaying or neutering requires trained veterinarians, an infrastructure and proper equipment. It involves complete removal of testes and ovaries and is performed under general anaesthesia. Antibiotics and pain killers are administered for 3 to 5 days. These dogs are also routinely injected a dose of Antirabies vaccine and monitored by a qualified veterinarian during the postoperative period. Afterwards they are released in the same areas from where they were rescued before surgery. The cost of this operation per dog estimated by Animal Welfare Board of India a few years ago is Rs.445/. Due to the escalation of the costs over the years, Rs. 500/- per dog may currently be considered reasonable. Thus the expenditure for sterilization of required 70% of the animals (i.e 70,000 dogs of Srinagar city with rough estimate of 1.0 lac dogs) would arrive at a figure of 3.5 crore. Adding the cost of infrastructure and wages for the workforce (approximately 0.5 crore), the total expenditure would be around 4.0 crore. Animal Welfare Board of India appears ready to provide its 50% share therefore the state government is expected to spend a total of Rs 2.0 crore for the project. Considering the large number of stray dogs in Srinagar and half of the financial year already over, if only half of the dogs are sterilized during the current year, the amount to be allocated by the state government would be Rs 1.0 crore. After the number of the dogs is reduced to the required level in a period of 1 to 2 years period, it would be easier and quite cheap to just maintain the required number in future. Surgery although appearing costly initially but is a lifelong solution and hence may be more cost efficient over time. It is surprising to note that on one hand the state government has made it a policy to sterilize stray dogs (as is done everywhere) and on the other hand money required for initiation of this important and urgent mission is not earmarked despite the fact that hundreds and thousands of crores are being spent every year.

Establishment of ponds for stray dogs: The directions of the honourable judges to catch the stray dogs and put them in ponds (to be established on the outskirts of the city) are aimed at giving immediate respite to the public. The efforts to establish such a pond appears to have been initiated by the Srinagar Municipality in Ganderbal district. However, considering some basic facts related to the canine behavior and their disease epidemiology, this exercise would add to the problems rather than reducing them. The canines are territorial animals and therefore live within a specified area and do not allow dogs of other areas to enter their jurisdiction easily. Territorial behavior in domestic dogs reminds us of their wolf-like ancestors. Once confined together in a pond, they will start fighting and injuring each other. The stress of confinement, injuries and their consequences would decrease their natural immunity and may lead to outbreaks of devastating diseases like mange, maggot infestation of the inflicted wounds and Rabies. Such animals cannot be caught repeatedly for treatment and their continued confinement will defeat all efforts to manage their diseases. Consequently serious animal welfare issues are likely to crop up. Additionally the attending staff would also be exposed to the threat of contracting several zoonotic (spread from animals to man) diseases. Location of the ponds in outskirts of the city may also invite more frequent visits of the wild animals into the human population and increase their attacks to the human and domestic animals. On top of it all, the expenditure of maintaining thousands of dogs (by way of providing food, watch and ward, monitoring of disease outbreaks etc) would be many times the cost of sterilization along with postoperative care for 4 to 5 days (the strategy followed in all states of the country). We have not been able to spend for sterilization alone, how can we spare millions for the feeding and maintenance of such a large number of canine populations in addition to sterilization?

The million dollar question: “Will a dog stop biting once sterilized?: Spaying and neutering of the dogs is an often suggested remedy for various behavior problems. “Testosterone acts as a modulator that makes dogs react more intensely. When an intact (uncastrated) dog decides to react to something, he reacts more quickly, with greater intensity and for a longer period of time.” Neutering the male dog removes testes, the source of circulating testosterone. Testosterone has the effect of modulating sexually dimorphic behaviors as well as aggressive or reactive behaviors. Most extensive surveys on the effects of castration on dogs have come up with the findings that roaming is reduced in 90% and aggression in 60% of the cases. Sterilized males usually become less aggressive. Due to the maternal instinct of the bitches to protect their young ones, they become aggressive when approached. Spaying will prevent the cycling of estrogen and progesterone, which may prevent associated behaviors. Spayed bitches will not have to protect the pups hence are less likely expected to attack the passersby.

Therefore, the biting instances by the dog’s consequent to sterilization must reduce considerably. It has been noticed that nonsurgical techniques unlike surgical sterilization, do not reduce the undesired behaviours of the dogs.

Life in the Excess

Arjimand, finds a "phoren angle" which even the "master of foreign connections" (ZGM) may acknowledge as being very creative

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 34, was born in Srinagar. He is a columnist/writer and a development professional who matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University and has a diploma in journalism as well. He is an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany and has worked with UNESCO, Oxfam and ActionAid International in some seven countries in Asia and Africa. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit. He is presently an advisor in international development and based in Beijing.)


J&K’s New Mantra: Follow America

In the corridors of J&K’s power, there is an excitement about America’s new story these days. Upset with shortage of funds and curbs on unlimited borrowing, some mantris went to an IAS babu to share an idea. The idea was this: if the Americans can borrow so much, and even raise the limits of their borrowing, why the hell we can’t do the same?

This is no kidding. Americans, after months of tense internal debate, indeed decided to raise their debt limit. So now that country’s debt is 100 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). In simple words, Americans will now borrow as much as they produce!

In economics, the debt-to-GDP ratio is a lovely indicator of how healthy an economy is. The lower the debt-to-GDP ratio, the more it is likely of an economy producing enough to pay back its debts. A higher debt-to-GDP ratio is a recipe for disaster, especially when the means to repay are few. But can we compare ourselves with the Americans?

There are basically separate standards for this ratio for developed and developing countries. Even within a developing country, let us remember, we are a ‘special category state’, which has certain ‘specialties’ about it.

One specialty about us is that we must live by grants and always acknowledge that upkar (sic.). Second, we can’t aim for self reliance, so we must always rely on sahokar – the big lender.

That is the politics part of it. Now let us see what the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) has to say about this. Its latest report says that our state's debt has increased by 18 per cent to Rs 28,735 crore in 2009-10 since the previous year. J&K’s debt-to-gross state domestic product (GSDP) ratio rose to 75.03 per cent in 2010 - up from 69.78 per cent in 2008-09. In a way, we are catching up with the Americans!

A recent Reserve Bank of India (RBI) document analyzing the states’ debt gives us a comparative perspective. Among all the states in India, J&K’s debt-to-GSDP ratio was the highest in 2008-09 - except for the four tiny states of Mizoram, Sikkim, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh. Incidentally, CAG says our situation has worsened since 2008-09.

It is very much possible that our actual situation is even worse. As per RBI, states do not give a clear idea about the nature and the composition of their debt. Same is the case with J&K.

Interestingly, RBI has set a goal for J&K like all other states in India – to reduce the debt-to-GSDP ratio to under-25 per cent in the next five years. That is theory. J&K’s political relation with the sahokar leads us to the opposite.

It is not that we are not doing any firefighting. We brought in the fiscal responsibility law and ended the Ways and Means Advances (WMA) business with the J&K Bank, yet the basics remain the same. We are in such a vicious cycle of deficit, debt and debt servicing that these measures will achieve only cosmetic results.

Sixty seven per cent of J&K’s government securities will mature in 7 years time. We must pay the others in the coming seven years. Is there a way out?

J&K’s economic growth is tardy because its infrastructure is abysmal and political climate is fragile. The former is so because we spend so much on interest payments and non-productive expenditures that we spare too little for infrastructure and other assets. As infrastructure is poor, avenues for productive investment remain limited. Government’s revenue earning base is limited because most of its resources and tax options don’t lie in its hands. The cumulative effect is that our tax revenues fall too short of what we need for our expenditure.

According to RBI, the central government provided aggregate debt and interest relief to all the State governments during 2008-09 amounting to Rs 5748 crore and Rs 3398 crore respectively. J&K state was among the three states that received nothing. The reason was that our fiscal performance was poor, just because we borrow more and earn less.

In a nutshell, let us admit J&K is in a pretty bad soup. Going by the mantris’ American logic will be a disaster. There are few takers for the upkar theory now. For the sake of survival and dignity, we must rework our relation with the sahokar.

"We Need a Dictator, Not a Gandhian"

Fayyaz and Junaid, both writing in the Early Times, narrate tales of high corruption in a state where corruption is seen as an entitlement. No wonder Anna's movement is not creating even a minor ripple in the valley

(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.)


Corruption in J&K

Srinagar: On occasion of the oath-taking of J&K State Accountability Commission (SAC) Chairman, Justice retd Y P Nargotra, and Member, Justice Retd Hakeem Imtiyaz Hussain, the other day at Raj Bhawan, Governor N N Vohra broke a tradition.

He chose to deliver a speech---to make it clear that he was concerned, like millions of the state subjects, over the non-seriousness successive governments have maintained to eradicate corruption. Governor laid stress on the immediate need of appointment of the constitutional functionaries and staff in SAC, State Vigilance Commission (SVC) and State Information Commission (SIC).

Unlike in the UPA Government's Bill on Lok Pal, head of the government (Chief Minister) in Jammu& Kashmir is very much liable to trial in a matter of alleged corruption under the law made nine years ago. In 2002, it didn't take long to realize that Law Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig's tantrums over accountability of public men (politicians) were not to be for practice.

Then in opposition, National Conference (NC) came forward with its unconditional support to the 'revolutionary' legislation. What was translucently communicated to Mufti Sayeed's government, had not been imagined by the debutants of governance: "If you use it against us today, we will use it against you tomorrow'.

SAC Bill was passed in days. Commission was not constituted for years, until men like Ali Mohammad Sagar began publicly taunting PDP regime with "hollow browbeating". And when Justice retd R P Sethi was finally appointed as the first Chairperson of SAC, he was not allowed to function even for a year. There was amendment after amendment but never the implementation for more than eight years.

NC-led coalition demonstrated the best of its reciprocity. None of the former Ministers, who were exuberantly threatened by Omar Abdullah's firebrands, was taken to the dock in the last 31 months. NC and PDP asserted for respective favourites in the selection committee meeting last month. Most of the analysts believe this was needless. They feel neither Justice Kakroo nor Justice Khan or Nazki would have run amuck over the politicians in absence of an highly unexpected signal from the top of the government and the opposition.

If participants of the meeting are to be believed, political members from the government defended appointment of only one member with the argument that, after bifurcation of matters between SVC and SAC, the commission would have to deal "just a few cases". "Unnecessary burden" on state exchequer" was offered as another argument. Governor's unscheduled speech at the swearing-in must have served as a snub for these selectors.

Even before SVC was constituted in March this year, one of the Cabinet Ministers almost warned State Vigilance Commissioner, P.L.Gupta, against proceeding with the prosecution of the characters of infamous Scam involving an IAS officer. Result of the Minister's letter, coupled by intervention of more than six other Ministers and two former Chief Ministers, is that the case was challaned without an arrest.

Not one of the accused was touched even as J&K High Court dismissed their anticipatory bail applications. All the accused continue to retain prize postings.

One of them was temporarily removed in a different matter for few months but his dignity was restored with his appointment in another sensitive department.

So, when MD of J&K Housing Board, Dileep Thusoo, became the first high profile target of State Vigilance Organization in the Chief Minister's "Year against Corruption", there were no ripples. According to the SVO press release, raids were conducted on several of MD's houses in J&K, Delhi and other states but the investigation remained restricted to "irregularities" committed in allotment and execution of a bridge in Doda. SVO did not explain why a matter of "disproportionate assets" was not registered against the owner of multiple properties.

Ask anybody in the government why there was not even an attachment, let alone arrest and suspension in these cases and pat will come the reply: "Everybody is innocent till proved guilty". Ask them why matters against senior officials of SKUAST (J) were dropped even after VC had previously communicated sanction to their prosecution to the Law Department. "Government has its prerogatives", one would tell you with a smile. And, why an established matter was dropped against a Minister of Gul Shah's regime who is still a Minister? "Many of the witnesses have either retired or passed away" is the answer recorded in the SVO Ikhtitami.

Scores of the privileged lot have got grade promotions and other elevations even without so-called 'vigilance clearance'. They figure prominently in the group of nearly a score of the officials, recommended for and inducted into IAS, earlier this month. A simple application under RTI would make it clear that scores of officials, not enjoying any political or bureaucratic clout, were arrested and jailed for months until they managed to get bail even in matters created on flimsy grounds.

Seizure memos made by SVO sleuths mention "khattamband ceiling in one room", "Maruti-800 car" and even "one two-band transistor". Scores of this persecuted lot have been subjected to untold miseries, placed under suspension, attached to administrative department, removed to "non sensitive" postings. People from SVO to Law Department to GAD burn midnight oil to fleece these endangered species of the government. "You show me the face, I'll show you the rule" is a cliché phrase in Civil Secretariat.

"We don't need an Anna Hazare. We need a General Musharraf to strike on corruption in Jammu and Kashmir" seems to be the aspiration of an ordinary Kashmiri today.


CM's Anti-graft Drive Goes Haywire

Syed Junaid Hashmi

Jammu: State government has seemingly disbanded the high profile committee constituted to make recommendations for encouraging self-acclaimed honest officials and to weed out corrupt, non-performing and inefficient.

The committee was constituted by Chief Minister Omar Abdullah in October 2010. It included Chief Secretary as Chairman, Chairman of JK Special Tribunal as its member and Secretary of General Administration Department as member-secretary. A formal government order was issued authorizing the committee to make recommendations to the state government within a month for weeding our corrupt and inefficient.

The Committee had also been authorized to receive necessary inputs from Vigilance commissioner and Inspector General of Police (CID), whenever required. The government order had further categorically stated that the two officers would remain associated with the committee as special invitees. A year has passed and the committee is yet to be heard of. Whether it is working or not is a million dollar question.

Only the Chief Minister's secretariat knows the answer. However, the fact remains that corrupt officer's alongwith the wealthy self-acclaimed honest ones are yet to be asked tough questions by those at the helm of affairs. Government has been taking the public for a ride by repeatedly taking about action taken by it against a few police officers and politicians in two high profile murder cases.

It has seemingly decided to stay silent and watch the loot of public exchequer with open eyes. State vigilance organization and crime branch of police are busy penalizing clerks, accounts assistants, peons and other non-gazetted officers. Courts have repeatedly snubbed the SVO for lying their hands on clerks and peons while keeping the eyes and ears closed in cases of corruption in high profile places.

The fate of Kundal committee probe report and similar other probes are a stark indication of how murky the system is from within. Cases against high profile and politically well-connected officers referred by different commissions to the SVO and Crime Branch are rotting in the closed cupboards of officers of these two organizations. Action is impossible since none has the moral courage to call a spade a spade.

Ironically, Omar's government last year brought out a list of 400 corrupt IAS, IFS, KAS officers who are facing serious charges of corruption, which include looting of State exchequer, possessing disproportionate assets, misuse of official position, large scale bunglings and much more. The list mostly included serving officers.

The IAS officers included in the list are facing serious charges of misuse of official position, misappropriation of government money to the tune of crores of rupees, having disproportionate assets, misuse of official position and illegal appointments. The corrupt IFS officers are facing charges of irregularities committed regarding allotment of contracts for extraction and transportation of timber.

There were reports that Chief Minister was personally examining the files pertaining to corruption by certain senior KAS, IAS and IPS officers. However, how long it would take for Omar to act is to be seen. For record, Omar must note that erstwhile PDP-led government headed by the Mufti had prematurely retired a number of officers regarded as deadwood and even managed to save some part of state exchequer.

Mufti had even went to the extent of ordering all heads of department to file the monthly achievements regarding punctuality, checking wasteful expenditure, curbing corruption and monitoring of development works. The secretaries had to submit a brief note to the Chief Secretary by the 10th of every month about the action taken by them and the heads of department under their charge.

A Historical Pathway

At one time, some 40 years back, it was Srinagar's Carnaby Street

Lambert Lane

Sana Altaf (Kashmir Times)

Lined up with series of shops and business outlets, Lambert Lane at Residency Road has grown up as a favorite hound of shoppers. However the name of the few meters lane is linked to the history of Kashmir.

The Lane is named after a British pharmacist, Lambert.

During the British rule, Lambert had come to Kashmir to sell English medicines for his natives living in Kashmir. The quality of medicines used by Britishers would not be available in the valley.

“The types of medicines used by Britishers were found no where here. So Lambert came up with pharmacy,” said Zareef Ahmad Zareef, writer.

In a large building at the present location of Pamposh hotel, housed Lambert Pharmaceuticals Agency. The building was built in victorial architecture and was called Lambert building.

The medicines were mostly commonly supplied to the British solider fighting war who would also at times come to Lambert Pharmacy.

“During the British rule the transit camp was located at Naseem Bagh, The British officer and soldiers would come from there to take medicines from Lambert pharmacy,” said Zareef.

Lambert’s pharmacy not only invited Britishers but also local customers. The availability of quality medicines of all types gave the pharmacy brisk business.

Even after the end of the British rule, the pharmacy continued to function from the same building till late 1950’s.

“In 1950’ the building was sold to a local Kashmiri and Kashmir handicraft showroom was opened there,” recalls Zareef.

The old building was demolished despite it being of an ancient architecture. Later the buildings was again sold and converted into present Pamposh hotel.

It was after the pharmacist Lambert that Lambert lane was named. The lane, which initially had few shops, is now growing up as a leading shopping spot. Major national and international brands have opened up there showrooms in the Lambert lanes, making it attractive for the shoppers.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Tales of Travesty

Kashmir suffers a hangover from an overdoze of cocktail laced with indisciple, poor ethics, greed and corruption. All seven (7) investigative stories below cropped up within a period of just 3 days. Following those reports is a related editorial and a letter in the Greater Kashmir penned by the author


Rs 53 Lakh Fraudulent Withdrawal Under CM's Gold Medalist Director

Ahmed Ali Fayyaz

Srinagar: Sizable amount of Rs 53 Lakh has been fraudulently withdrawn from Technology Mission account of Horticulture Department days before Director Horticulture Kashmir, Dr Ghulam Hassan Shah, was declared by Government of Jammu and Kashmir as recipient of Chief Minister's gold medal on the eve of Independence Day on August 14th. How officials have been ruthlessly swindling Rs 200 Cr worth funds, provided for Technology Mission under Prime Minister's special economic package, became clear when a recent fraudulent withdrawal, to the tune of over Rs 60 Lakh, surfaced in Kupwara, Baramulla and Bandipore district in Kashmir and Reasi district in Jammu division.

During an investigation, Early Times discovered that some unscrupulous elements have got their "fruit nurseries" registered with Department of Horticulture in Kulgam area of South Kashmir, particularly when local politician Abdul Aziz Zargar functioned as the Minister of Horticulture in the previous coalition government. Soon they began receiving orders from District Horticulture Officers (DHOs) for supply of fruit plants and other material. Exorbitant rates, as compared to market rate, shortage in actual supplies and inferior quality used to be the key features in the beginning. Over the years, making insertions in cheques and huge fraudulent withdrawals were meticulously employed by the actors.

When the lid was taken off dramatically by some insiders, DHOs lost no time in filing FIRs at different Police Stations, taking the stand that the forgery and fraudulent withdrawals were the handiwork of either the payee suppliers, or staff of J&K Bank or both. Though the embezzlement spreads across districts and provinces and thus merits a comprehensive investigation by Crime Branch, Police Stations of Handwara, Bandipore, Sopore and Reasi are currently holding separate inquiries into the Technology Mission scam.

Interestingly, Director Horticulture Kashmir, Dr Ghulam Hassan Shah, was among six public servants who were declared by Government of Jammu & Kashmir as recipients of Chief Minister's gold medal "in recognition of their honesty/integrity and meritorious public service" on the eve of Independence Day earlier this week. The award comprises a gold medal, cash prize of Rs one Lakh and a citation.

Handwara-based DHO Kupwara is learned to have issued four cheques to purported suppliers for an aggregate amount of Rs 1.30 Lakh. The purported suppliers have withdrawn amount of Rs 33.30 Lakh against the same cheques at Khudwani branch of J&K Bank Ltd. DHO Kupwara has issued cheque No: 26470171 for Rs 14,700 in the name of "supplier" Ghulam Mohiuddin Bhat son of Mohammad Ismail Bhat resident of Nawpora, Kulgam. After two insertions, purportedly attested by DHO, amount of Rs 6,14,700 has been withdrawn on this particular cheque. SHO Handwara, Sajjad Ahmad, confirmed that Police went from door to door in Nawpora but found that no person by this name exists in the village.

Similarly, DHO Kupwara has drawn cheque No: 26470147 for Rs 10,500. Payee Mohammad Yaqoob Mantoo son of Gh Mohammad Mantoo of Muttanhama has drawn cash of Rs 10,10,500 from J&K Bank against the same cheque. Cheque No: 26470133 has been issued for Rs 24,150. Payee Abdul Majeed Lone son of Fareed Lone resident of Hawora, Kulgam, has been paid Rs 10,24,150. Another cheque, bearing No: 26470132, issued for Rs 80,850 has been encashed at Khudwani branch of J&K Bank for Rs 6,80,850. Thus an excess payment of Rs 32 Lakh has been made to four "suppliers" including one non-existent.

SHO Handwara initially maintained that the file was in a court but subsequently confirmed that case FIR No: 152 of 2011 (under sections 409, 109, 420, 468 and 471 RPC) dated 23-06-2011 had been registered at Police Station Handwara. He elaborated that DHO had initially filed a report, seeking registration of FIR against the payees but, after investigation, Police added other sections and now payees, Horticulture officials and the bank staff were all under suspicion. According to him, no tape was found pasted on the initially written amount and requisite spaces were left in a way that insertions after insertions became possible. One or two insertions of the amount were purportedly attested by DHO.

A universal modus operandi from Reasi to Kupwara, besides payment to dozens of profusely inserted and obliterated cheques, was an indication of the staff of both organizations being hand-in-glove with the payees. SHO Handwara revealed that one Rayees Ahmed Lone of Hawora, Kulgam, who according to Police was kingpin of the racket, had been arrested and he was currently on judicial remand in Sub Jail Kupwara. He said payee Iftikhar Lone was Rayees' brother and payee Abdul Majeed Lone was his father. Payee Gh Mohiuddin Bhat was a fake name.

SP Bandipore, Bashir Ahmad Khan, confirmed that Police Station Bandipore had registered case FIR No: 146 of 2011, under sections 467, 468, 471 and 120-B) on the complaint of DHO Bandipore. A cheque, issued for an amount of Rs 60,000 was found to have been cashed by the payee, namely Ghulam Hassan Lone S/o Mohammad Shaban Lone of Hawora for Rs 7,60,000 with the excess payment of Rs 7.00 Lakh. Mr Khan said that Bandipore Police had got equal amount of money sealed in one of the payee's accounts and the investigation was still underway.

Sopore-based DHO Baramulla has got yet another FIR filed at Police Station Sopore. Police sources confirmed that excess payment of Rs 14 Lakh by fraudulent means, forgery, impersonation and conspiracy had been drawn from the bank. Some of the cheques have been produced at Pahloo branch of J&K Bank and the money has been credited to the payees' accounts at Khudwani branch.

In addition to the excess payment of Rs 53 Lakh in Kashmir, Early Times discovered during its investigation that another fraudulent payment of Rs 8 Lakh had taken place in Reasi district of Jammu division. Additional SP Reasi, Anita Sharma, as well as SHO Reasi, Jitendar Sambyal, confirmed that DHO Reasi had issued a cheque for Rs 8,881 but payment of Rs 58,881 had been drawn from the bank. In all, 23 cheques have been found to have been forged and paid with huge excess amounts.

SP Kulgam, Mubassir Lateefi, said that according to his knowledge J&K Bank had seized several accounts of the payees containing Rs 37 Lakhs. He said that Kulgam Police was not part of the investigation.

Sources in J&K Bank, wishing anonymity in absence of approval from headquarters, said that the bank had got five particular accounts frozen at Khudwani, Kaimoh, and Pahloo (Kulgam). More than Rs 35 Lakh was the balance in these accounts when the action was taken. They asserted that all the cheques had been processed for payment as all the insertions had been "duly attested" by the account holder DHOs. Bank's own investigation was still in progress.

Reached over telephone for his comments, Director Horticulture Kashmir asserted that it were the DHOs who had themselves lodged the FIRs after learning that excess payment of around Rs 53 Lakh had been drawn. According to him, bank should have seized all the cheques with excessive insertions, overwriting and obliteration and stopped the payment for verification with the DHOs. "This is a matter between the payees and the bank. Excess amounts of Rs 53 Lakh have been illegally drawn from our accounts. I have written to Chairman J&K Bank and asked for restoration of our bank position. I hope bank will deposit the illegally drawn amount back into our accounts in a couple of days", Dr Shah said.

However, officials in the bank maintained that an identical modus operandi, and the cheques having been issued without tape on amounts, was a clear indication of a truck between the payees and the Horticulture officials. They believed that reality would unfold during Police investigation.


Multi-crore SSA ‘Irregularities’ go Unnoticed

Faheem Aslam

Srinagar: Reports of alleged large-scale frauds, mismanagement and kickbacks in the implementation of much-hyped flagship programme Sarva Shikshsa Abhiyan in Jammu and Kashmir have largely gone unnoticed over the years. This is notwithstanding official documents which have many times corroborated ‘irregularities’, primarily with regard to construction of school buildings under the programme.

Official documents in possession of Greater Kashmir reveal communication between officers in the School Education Department and the SSA authorities with regard to use of ‘sub-standard material’ in the construction of Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalas (KGBVs)—the residential schools providing education from Class 6 to Class 8, especially for girls belonging to marginalized communities under the SSA.

This, as has been reported by this newspaper in 2010 as well, is risking the lives of thousands of young girls studying in the KGBVs. The SSA is Government of India’s much-hyped flagship programme aimed at universalization of elementary education (UEE).

Documents reveal serious lapses in the construction of KGBV buildings during 2010 and 2009. This, the documents reveal, include dilution in the type, design and estimates thereof without any approval from the competent authority.

In one of the letters, a former State Project Director and SSA’s Accounts Officer reveal that “Engineers have furnished the work-done statement placed across the file of various KGBV buildings of Kashmir division for release of payments thereof. While verifying the claims of these work-done statements, it has been observed that the estimates enclosed with the bill have been prepared by the JEs and signed by the Executive Engineers which is against the codal procedure. The estimates should have been got prepared by the Drawing Branch (Draftsman) and then approved by the Executive Engineer and the State Project Director since the latter is the drawing and disbursing officer of the SSA. The DDO powers rested with the Executive Engineers is a misnomer and no such powers have ever been delegated to them.”

Interestingly, the issue also came to fore in 2010, with the Minister for Education, Peerzada Muhammad Sayeed, assuring probe into the allegations. However, according to sources, the inquiry was conducted just for the heck of it and some of the engineers just did some “minor repairs” in the KGBVs to get the payments released.

On 30 April 2010, the then Commissioner/Secretary, Education Department, GA Peer, shot a letter to the SSA’s State Project Director after the former received a complaint against then executive engineer, SSA. “This department is in receipt of a complaint submitted by JE, SSA, District Anantnag (Islamabad). The allegations levelled against the Executive Engineer are of grave nature. You are advised to investigate the matter and issue show-cause notice to Executive Engineer and furnish report alongwith your comments within a week,” Peer wrote vide letter No Edu/PS/Secy/11/10.

On May 21, the SSA Project Director issued a ‘show-cause notice’ to the Executive Engineer asking him to explain his position. “Whereas JE has levelled the allegation that a cut of 13.5 percent used to be made by Executive Engineer, Draftsman and Data Entry Operator for release of the funds for construction of KGBV buildings and Rs 6 lakh were retained by the Executive Engineer ever after certification,” he wrote vide letter No Edu/SDP/SSA/467/25685-95/10. “You are hereby asked to explain your position in this behalf failing which action under rules shall be initiated against you.” But the explanation hasn’t evoked any response.

Interestingly, on the same day (May 21, 2010), the then SPD SSA ordered a probe against the Junior Engineer who complained against the Executive Engineer. “A committee is constituted to probe into the conduct of JE associated with the construction of the KGBV building in Zone of Qazigund, Srigufwara and Achabal, in view of the discrepancies observed in construction of these KGBV buildings during the visit of the SPD,” read the order no. 136 Ujala of 2010.

Official documents also revealed that material amounting to lakhs of rupees has been purchased from the open market without observing codal provisions.

“In most cases the purchases have been made at connivance from the suppliers who appear to be in a malafide league with the purchases. Financial prudence demands that the purchases should have been made after observing codal formalities like invitation of tenders, quotations which does not seem to have been done and the purchases have been made at the whims of the Junior Engineers,” the Accounts Officer, SSA mentioned in one of his missives last year.
“Material at site account has not been enclosed with the bill and it is inferred that the same has not been prepared at all. Same is the case with stock register. Though the guidelines have been issued in December 2009 and the works have been executed earlier but the guidelines which are synonyms with the public works code should have been adhered to. Material such as wood and iron should have been purchased from the IKSFC and SAIL but the same has been managed privately.”

The officer has asked the SPD to conduct an on-the-spot assessment of the works executed. “It would also be advisable if the works executed in the entire Kashmir division are got evaluated by a third party to give its assessment of the works executed besides the material required/consumed vis-√†-vis the maintenance of the quality work done. The payment, if it is to be released, can only be made after the evaluation report of the third party,” he writes.

In December 2010, when this newspaper carried stories about SSA bunglings, the Minister assured action. But it has been reliably learnt money was later released in most of the cases.

TEACHERS FORUM CONCERNED
In July this year the Jammu and Kashmir Teachers’ Forum chairman, Abdul Qayoom Wani, urged the Government to evolve a proper mechanism for assessing the utilization of funds being provided under centrally sponsored schemes like SSA and RMSA to the School Education Department in the State.

Addressing Forum office-bearers here, Wani said, “We fail to understand as to why there is lack of infrastructure in Government schools when sufficient funds are pouring in under SSA and RMSA. We need to constitute a departmental audit cell to conduct the audit of funds provided under the SSA to all schools from the last 10 years at all levels. We also need to ascertain the work and performance of the teachers engaged in SSA cells in district and zonal offices for distribution of funds and monitoring their utilization,” said Wani. “I believe that most of the private schools would get closed down if the Government constructs its own school buildings in Srinagar city and monitor properly the utilization of funds provided under MDM, SSA and RSMA.”

OFFICIALS SPEAK
The incumbent State Project Director of SSA, Yasha Mudgal told Greater Kashmir that they are going for accounts audit of the SSA “to see if the expenditure has been rightly made.” “Every year we are supposed to do audit of accounts under SSA by a private firm. We are doing that to see whether codal formalities have been followed while making the expenditure,” she told Greater Kashmir.

She said they have now put in place an inbuilt mechanism to monitor different works undertaking under the SSA. “We have also constituted purchase committees at district levels to monitor the purchase of civil components. This mechanism I suppose has been put in place after certain complaints in press that codal procedure was not being followed,” Mudgal said.

She however claimed that the KGVB buildings were nicely made. “I have visited some buildings and found them accurate. But there is always room for improvement,” she said.

The SPD has already invited ‘expression of interest’ for the SSA accounts audit from reputed firms.

‘Blue-Eyed’ LC Official ‘Fudges’ DoB, Promoted 5 Times in 9-years

Srinagar: Throwing rules to wind, the Legislative Council authorities have promoted an official, who has allegedly fudged his date of birth, to the rank of deputy secretary, sources told KNS. The official happens to be the son-in-law of a senior Peoples Democratic Party leader and former minister.

According to a Crime Branch inquiry, Ishfaq Ahmad Wani, private secretary to the Council Chairman, had allegedly furnished a fake date of birth certificate at the time of his appointment as a reporter in 2001.

A CB letter (No CR/Pros/SR-78/07/10/10894 dated 28 October 2010) reveals that Wani had committed offences under section 420 RPC by submitting a fudged document.

“During the course of investigation, it has been found that on his appointment as reporter, Wani had furnished attested copies of his certificate indicating his DoB as 28-03-1975 which was subsequently found to be incorrect.

According to the CB inquiry, Wani had passed his matriculation examination in 1987 and his actual DoB was 28-03-1973. Obviously, he had furnished a fudged DoB certificate allegedly with the criminal intention of prolonging his service. “The criminal act of Wani has been even established by the in-house committee of the Council,” the CB investigation revealed.

The inquiry reveals that Wani had been given undue promotions and financial favors during his service. “From the post of reporter in 2001, he was elevated to Gazzated cadre within a period of four years. But promotions didn’t stop as one more upgradation to the grade of deputy secretary was accorded to Wani by the then Minister in-charge Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Finance who was friend and cabinet colleague of Wani’s father-in-law,” the inquiry reveals.

“The perusal of the records makes it clear that Wani has been subjected to undue financial benefits by the issuance of promotion orders,” it added.

A letter from the Department of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs (No LD (PAB) 2006/46-Part) dated 28-09-2010) to the Secretary of the Council states that despite the exposure of frauds allegedly committed by the official, quite surprisingly no action was initiated against him.

“It clarifies how the accused official has always been protected /shielded under a political umbrella till date at the levels of Legislative Council Secretariat, Civil Secretariat, Crime Branch and Vigilance Organization,” the letter reads.

NC Leader from Pahalgam Violates HC Orders, Constructs Huts in PDA limits

Ishfaq Tantry

Sringar: Despite clear cut directions from High Court and instructions from Chief Minister Omar Abdullah that no constructions shall be permitted in areas falling within the limits of Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA) without court permission, a senior NC leader and former Member of Legislative Council (MLC) Altaf Ahmad Kaloo has been found violating the court directions by constructing huts at Veersaran Khalan, which comes under PDA jurisdiction.

The former MLC has been served a show cause notice by Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Pahalgam while Principal District and Sessions Judge Islamabad, has already issued orders for demolition of illegal structure.

CEO, PDA Altaf Ahmad Mir in his letter No.CEO/PDA/BOCA/1334-39 dated August 6, the copy of which lies with Rising Kashmir, had directed ex-MLC to explain why the building structures should not be demolished.

“Whereas you have started to construct a hut at Veerseran-Kallan Langbal, Tehsil Pahalgam without proper permission from this Authority. The said area falls within the jurisdiction of PDA and all sort of illegal construction is strictly prohibited in the area as per the Master Plan Pahalgam (2005-2025)”, reads the show cause notice issued to former MLC.

It further states that High Court in PIL titled Pahalgam Peoples Welfare Organization and others has imposed a ban on all sort of constructions, renovations, alterations and repairs within the PDA Master Plan vide order dated 24.12.2010.

“One-man commission (PDJ, Islamabad) appointed by High Court has already issued orders to demolish the illegal structures. Now, therefore you are directed to show cause within 48 hours why the building structure should not be demolished at your risk and cost, failing which action as warranted under law shall be initiated against you,” further reads the show cause notice.

As per orders of Principal District and Sessions Judge Islamabad, CEO PDA was directed to carry out the demolition and show compliance within three days. However, as per reports the said illegal huts being constructed by NC leader have not been demolished as yet.

Asked to explain reasons behind delay in carrying out demolitions, CEO PDA Altaf Mir refused to comment.

“I have issued the demolition notice. But I will talk to you later,” he said.
On the other hand, police maintains that whenever it is approached for security, it will provide the security to the demolition team.

“The moment CEO PDA seeks security for demolition, we will provide it. But so far, we have not received any letter from PDA asking for security”, SSP Islamabad Ramesh Kumar Jalla told Rising Kashmir.

However NC MLC Altaf Kaloo denied that he has violated any court orders.

“The areas, where I am constructing huts do not fall under PDA’s jurisdiction. Veesaran, Khilan and Batkoot partly come under the revised Pahalgam Master Plan. However, the government has not so far notified these areas and issued no notice in this regard. These areas thus don’t fall within the jurisdiction of PDA”, Altaf Kaloo told Rising Kashmir.

He said a team, which visited the area, has maintained that these areas do not fall within PDA jurisdiction.

“Though court has issued demolition orders, but I have a copy of that report wherein the team says that these areas do not fall under PDA jurisdiction,” Kaloo said.

He claimed that he is being politically harassed. “There is no SRO for the said khasra wherein my huts are being constructed and it will specify that the land comes under PDA,” he said.

It is pertinent to mention here that High Court, which is hearing a PIL about Pahalgam master Plan violations, has already directed the five member expert committee to expedite the submission of its final report.

The constructions inside the areas falling under PDA jurisdiction have been banned by the High Court. However, it has given permission to government for carrying out public purpose works including laying of water pipes, electricity poles, toilets and small culverts vide its orders passed on July 11, 2011.

In the PIL titled Pahalgam Peoples Welfare Organization versus the State of J&K, it has been alleged that Master Plan constituted by PDA has not been made in accordance to its aims and objectives and for the interest of the inhabitants of Pahalgam.

Besides, it has also been alleged in the PIL that Master Plan has been changed to benefit a particular group of persons in the area.

On its part, High Court has already ruled that no constructions shall be permitted in the areas falling within the limits of PDA without the permission of High Court. However, it has allowed the local and original inhabitants of the villages falling within PDA to carry out minor repairs of their houses.


Balgarden, Nursing Garh Batamaloo Turn Industrial Areas

Mir Liyaqut Ali

Srinagar: The residents of Balgarden and Nursing Garh Batamaloo are aghast over the excessive presence of iron smith and metal sheet sellers in the area as it has caused drastic increase in noise pollution along with frequent power cuts. Locals said the otherwise residential area has witnessed mushroom growth of ‘unauthorized’ steel workers causing nuisance in the area.

The magnitude of noise pollution has compelled the locals to lodge a written complaint with State Pollution Control Board, Senior Superintendent of Police seeking immediate shifting of the business establishments.

However, locals said the complaints have fallen on deaf ears and neither SPCB nor police has taken cognizance of the issue. The residents continue to suffer due to the continued noise and alleged highhandedness of the iron smiths in the area.

“During last few years, the number of these iron workers has increased and have come up in the middle of the residential areas. They have managed to get illegal power connections also. One can see more than three electricity meters installed in a single shop in addition to the wires hanging directly from electric poles,” said Javed Hussain, a local shopkeeper.

Demanding immediate closure of the shops the locals said, “We are fed up of these shops which have turned the area into a small scale industrial base adding continuous noise in the area. The noise causes immense problems to the students and ailing persons.”

“Our children are not able to focus on their studies. Aged and ailing patients are not able to get take rest during day time. They have been suffering for the last one year and the intensity of the noise has now gone up,” the locals of Balgarden said. They added, “We are shocked to see as to how government allows these noise pollution creating establishments to come up in the middle of the residential areas?”

The residents demanded immediate action to remove these shops from the area or face protests.
Emphasizing that operation of such shops must be strictly restricted in the residential areas and should be allowed to operate in the industrial areas only the locals said, “These shops have made our life miserable. Such shops not only create noise pollution but have blocked maximum portion of adjacent roads causing traffic chaos in the area.”

“The material used by these shopkeepers like iron sheets, stripes and iron rods have also blocked the drain lids in the area which has caused inconvenience to the safai karamcharis (municipal cleaners) to clean the drainage in the area,” locals alleged.

Urging Government and SSP Srinagar to look into the matter and ensure the immediate closure of the shops from the area locals said, “Such shops must be restricted to the industrial areas only and not residential areas. In addition the licenses should be checked and SMC must also look into the matter."

Female Baby Killing Dens: Govt Caught on Wrong Foot

Abid Bashir

Srinagar: Absolving valley-based diagnostic centres of illegal sex determination, a reply to the application filed under Right to Information Act has revealed that government has issued registration for opening clinics to many people who don’t fulfill the criteria.

The official reply to RTI application, filed by Abdul Rashid Lone of Khanyar area of Srinagar, reveals that government has granted registration to people who don’t even have basic experience required for running a diagnostic centre.

The RTI plea sought information about the number of registered clinics under Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques (PNDT) Act along with details of the doctors running such centers.

The applicant had also sought recommendations of Advisory Committee (PNDT) restricting the government-trained Sonologists to work in private, and the cases registered against Sonologists involved in illegal sex determination.

According to the reply furnished by Director Health Services Kashmir, a person with just four months and 18 days experience has secured registration for her diagnostic centre at Rajbagh.

Similarly, another person running a diagnostic centre in Chotta Bazar area of the city has house job experience of six months and residency radiology experience of one year and eight months.

According to sources, the revelation is just the tip of iceberg as scores of such registrations have been issued by the Health department in the past.

Pertinently, as per norms, a Sonologist is a person who has undergone six months training or has one year experience as Sonologist.

About the cases registered against Sonologists involved in sex determination, the RTI reply reads: “No case has been registered against any Sonologist involved in the determination of sex.”
The development has come as a breather for the authentic Sonologists.

At least 50,000 people are directly and indirectly dependent on the private diagnostic centres in Kashmir. After Census 2011 revealed disturbing trend of decline in sex ratio (900 women per 1,000 males) in J&K, the government launched crackdown against the clinics and doctors. Around 68 diagnostic centers were closed in the valley alone.

Reacting to the development, President Private Diagnostic Centers Association (PDCA), Umar Iqbal said despite having proper qualification to run a diagnostic centre, they continued to suffer for no fault of theirs.

“We have been saying from day one that the government should crack whip against faulty clinics. Why are we being made scapegoats,” he said and appealed Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma to hold talks with PDCA directly so that confusions are avoided.

Director Health Services, Saleem-ur-Rehman said he will not comment until he studies the RTI reply. “I have not issued any registration,” he asserted.

When contacted, the health minister said they had already announced a cash reward of Rs 25000 for the person who helps in identifying clinic or doctor involved in illegal sex determination.

“There is no doubt that no case has been registered against any Sonologist and many diagnostic centers are genuine,” Sharma told Rising Kashmir.

On whether the government would allow credible Sonologists and clinic owners to carry out their job without any hitches, he said the government has decided to review registration of all diagnostic centres after Eid.

“Those who don’t fulfill the requirement will be strictly dealt with. Strict action will be taken against those who don’t have proper qualification to run a clinic. Same applies for the doctors also,” the minister said.

Corruption Rampant in J&K, Existing Laws Ineffective (Finance Commission Report)

Syed Junaid Hashmi

Jammu: Stating that corruption is all pervasive and omnipresent, State Finance Commission (SFC) has termed existing conventional laws ineffective and emphasized upon the need for strengthening anti-graft institutions.

The commission has in sharp tone stated that state has been unable to tackle the menace of corruption. The commission has in its report submitted to the Jammu and Kashmir government stated that acts to deal with rampant graft and blatant embezzlement of public money are falling short of the need and existing apparatus to deal with corruption has not touched the "subjects beyond the fringes."

The voluminous report, a copy of which is with Early Times newspaper, highlights that corruption, in its different forms, has overtaken society so deeply that state government has also got affected by this perilous virus. Report has even gone to the extent of identifying offices where corruption is rampant and while calling them citadels of corruption and festering sores advised government for taking special care of these offices which have otherwise become money minting houses.

The commission has found the situation so alarming that it has advised the government to install closed circuit cameras and other electronic gadgets for keeping a check on this menace. It has said that laws to deal with rampant graft and blatant embezzlement of public money are week and the existing machinery to deal with corruption has not touched the subjects beyond the fringes.

The report has called offices of Regional Transport Officers in Jammu and Kashmir, and their sub-offices in the districts, all traffic postings and office of traffic commissioner as citadels of corruption. About these offices, the report has said that role of ethics and pubic morality in allotment of public contracts, procurement of material, engagement of public servants, disposal of business in offices and courts, issuance of permits and licenses, manufacturing of goods and pharmaceuticals, and even plying of vehicles on the highway is depressingly poor.

It has asserted that pace of investigation in corruption related cases, filling up of cases in the anti-corruption courts and their disposal is tardy and the investigation mechanism is dilatory and the methodology adopted for it is time consuming, yielding no results. The report underlines that at present, nothing can be achieved without greasing the palms.

The report has taken to task the government policy to extend largesse in the form of medals, out of turn increments and promotions. The report concludes that it is invariably proving counter-productive and must be avoided. SFC has maintained that permits, licenses, release of salaries, stipends and permission must be made transparent.

It has also given some advice to the state government. It has stated that postings to lucrative jobs should be made after due scrutiny of names and the officials who always hanker for such jobs must be avoided. It has said that State Vigilance Organization (SVO) is not working independently and has invariably been part of police organization, thus finding it difficult to work beyond confines of police regulatory system.

The 3-member panel, headed by former bureaucrat Dr. Mehmood-ur-Rehman, was constituted in 2007 to suggest measures for bringing reforms in the administration and for equitable development of all the three regions of the state. The other members of the panel included Swami Raj Sharma from Jammu and Sonam Dava from Ladakh region. Both has written dissenting notes on the report.

Editorial in the Rising Kashmir

Inertia of Inaction

As Anna Hazare’s anti-corruption crusade is evoking massive public support across India, the significance of civil society and its strength is becoming increasingly evident. Anna’s campaign, which has become a nationwide rage, reflects the concerns of common man who is fed up of corruption. The power of raising voice in unison can be gauged from the fact that the central government has been put under tremendous pressure to concede to Anna’s demand of bringing strong legislation against corruption.

The movement has lessons for Jammu and Kashmir, which has also been at the receiving end of corruption to the point of fetching the ignominious tag of being the second most corrupt state in India. Although successive governments have been pledging to root out corruption from J&K, there has been little headway in this direction. Apart from government’s inaction against the culprits, one of the main reasons for the high level of corruption has been the absence of a strong civil society movement like the one spearheaded by Anna Hazare. We have become habitual of blaming politicians for all the evils and exonerating ourselves of any responsibility.

Owing to our complacency, corruption has seeped deep in our society. We expect government to eradicate corruption while we ourselves have accepted bribery as part of the system. We often hear politicians deliver lengthy speeches against corruption when some of the biggest scandals have taken place under political patronage. Yet we expect them to eradicate the evil. We may talk endlessly against corruption, but it will not address the problem. Our complaining will also not help. We need to act and act now otherwise corruption will become so ingrained in our system that we will meekly surrender to it. Anna does not have a magic wand to end corruption, but the movement he and his supporters have started can at least help in translating people’s concern and anger against bribery and graft into action.

In J&K, we also need to kill the inertia of inaction and work collectively to isolate the corrupt people. Clerics and religious scholars can also step in and motivate people to stand up against corruption. There is no dearth of NGOs in our state. They can join hands and pool resources to launch a common campaign against corruption. At the same time educational institutes can help involve young people in the crusade. The state government on its part should facilitate any such public endeavour. It will be the best mass awareness campaign, which the government can cash in on to check corrupt practices. A strong civil society campaign on the lines of Anna Hazare’s ‘andolan’ can go a long way in helping J&K contain corruption.


http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2011/Aug/18/senator-mccain-4.asp

Senator McCain


Why is Senator McCain in Srinagar? I am sure everyone has a theory. Well here is mine.

McCain is in Srinagar because the Indian nation south of the Jawahar Tunnel is aflame with passion and fervor against corruption. Not a place to be in today (especially in New Delhi) where government is jailing the civil society and ordinary public demanding good governance and transparency. That is bad public relations when a distinguished visitor is in town.

So where do you send a distinguished visitor at this awkward moment? Why, of course Kashmir. Kashmir is not just among the most corrupt states in India, its mostly upper crust society (politicians, bureaucrats, civil society chiefs, and big business houses), regardless of their religion or ethnicity, are proud to affirm that corruption is their birth right. In the words of Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, in his book, "My Kashmir", some Kashmiris go so far as to describe this accumulation of wealth as the logical profit of ilhaq (page 49, last sentence).

So while the country is in turmoil, Kashmir offers the illusion of tranquility. It is only natural that Sen. McCain should be visiting there today. The surprise visit caught everyone in the valley by surprise, but now you know (or at least you know what my theory is).

Vijay Sazawal
USA

Return of the Native

Veeresh shares his experience

(Mr. Veeresh Saraf, 25, was born in Srinagar. He attended Kendriya Vidyalaya in Bantalab, Jammu, and completed his professional degree, AMIE, through the Institution of Engineers, Kolkata. He is employed as an electronics engineer.)

HOMECOMING

Recently I visited Srinagar in connection with an academic work.

And coming to this city always generates a sense of nostalgic home-coming. But the city is not normal. Despite everything, there certainly seem to be a strong sense of perplexed normalcy in air. And as always, consciousness about the growing governance deficit and the rusting administrative mechanism seems to have created a parallel sense of confusion. Of course, anger over the custodial death of a young man in Sopore was evident but more evident was a sense of rejection and perpetual bluntness.

Writing is supposed to be a concrete step forward, with an eye towards the future. But in these frustrating conditions as are prevailing here, what good can one person’s intentions do?

The youth of this state in general and of Valley, in particular, are caught up in a dismal situation which is far more discouraging here than in other parts of this country. Literacy rate has shot up much higher than expected but chances of employment are vanishing. Employment in the governmental sector still remains the favored option, with much preference being given to the police service or to the god-forsaken education department. The great talent pool which is a strong force of creative dynamism in the form of youth, is left to rot in government offices, which, these days are nothing but dens of corruption.

State of affairs has got stagnated as nothing seems to be moving forward. Needless to say our vehemently stratified social spheres are increasingly becoming more and more turbulent.

What kind of a society are we becoming – cutting down on our growth channels? Large schemes are launched with much fanfare and media coverage but nothing really changes on the ground. But then, how can we expect things to change, considering the indecisiveness and lack of substance behind many of these so-called “development schemes”. For the social parasites who collectively brand themselves as ‘political masters’ of hapless masses, the utility of many such schemes is limited to pocketing big time money, in the name of ‘aid’.

There is a repeated abuse of the system by the elected representatives at almost all levels, whose sole concern in public realm is securing the seats of power for their future generations, by monopolizing the whole thing. And those among us who know what can be done, never do anything apart from spending time in empty meetings and endless discussions. The politicians in the true spirit of the paper tigers that they have become, always go on delivering sermons, poking fingers at those few, who really try to strive for betterment.

A few months back, when a former Chief Minister of a southern state, (whose name allegedly figures in the list of politicians having ‘black’ money accounts in Swiss Banks, according to Wikileaks) asserted on the ‘practicality’ of so-called unbreakable bond between politics and corruption, he was symbolically referring to a widespread megalomaniac mindset of our political class. And he was right in saying that there is no space for men like say, Anna Hazare in today’s politics. Not because of anything else but because it is generation upon generations of politicians who have turned our administrative structure into such a stinking mud-hole. And when it comes to that, there really is no difference between Kashmir and any other state; the same old blend of shameless corruption and masked intentions.

Corruption is not the result of some kind of an alien disease, as our administrators want us to believe, but it is a by-product of our own psyche, which has developed over centuries. In Kashmir, this may not be generally the sole reason but this surely is one of the reasons. What we have been doing in our daily chores has been carried forward by us to our topmost offices of responsibility. Maybe so…and this is reason enough to believe that the crusade against this attitude involves patient self-analysis and translating paperwork into tangible results.

As far as our arm-chair intellectuals are concerned, the fact of the matter is that their opinions don’t count. Not because of their superficial concern about the socio-political squalor, but because by their useless cynicism, they have proved that in this presumed quest for changing everything that has to be changed, a definite quota of administrative power has to be in the hands of opinion-makers and actual leaders, not in the closed quarters of politicos or status-hungry individuals.

The path is long indeed and is certainly not just limited to corruption, which is just a symptom of a diseased outlook. The problems vary and so, then scope of corrective activities has to be widened to address the root cause of what ails us. And once we acknowledge this, there will remain no need of any protest marches or forced shutdowns- activities which bring yet another face of the sick society that we are fast becoming, into the open; a gruesome, sinister and inhuman face of an ugly underbelly of this so-called civilization of ours. A misguided lot - delivering sweet sermons on decency and trying to ape the ideal of social responsibility, without knowing that a true society is yet to be created here. Sometimes, it seems that nothing good can ever be happen in this frustrating atmosphere.

But then, the genius that has been the driving force behind so-many insurrections in the history of mankind has its roots in a blend of human thought and action. So, regardless of all strategies which have gone horribly wrong in our state and largely, in our country, whenever I see the pictures of men like Anna Hazare sitting there at Jantar Mantar, in contemplation, I see the hope for this country.