Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Addicted to Corruption

Where corruption is seen as a "political dividend" by all sections of the society, it is easy to comprehend why J&K convenientaly overlooks various legal and institutional instruments ensuring good governance

A Little More Governance

Riyaz Ahmad

Like the rest of India, Kashmir is reeling under a steep price hike. The cost of petrol, diesel, LPG together with other essential commodities has gone through the roof. The common man in Valley as such finds himself hardpressed to manage two square meals a day. But this is not what per se is the cause of concern here – inflation remains a fact of life – what is shocking is that the price rise is not the part of political discourse in the state. One doesn’t hear the state government speak on the issue, nor does opposition pretend to agitate the matter.

Leave price rise aside. Take, for example, corruption. While Comptroller and Auditor General’s report on the corruption in Common Wealth Games roils central government, the official auditors’ annual revelations about sleaze in the functioning of the state government invite little notice, let alone a debate. In fact, for us in Kashmir the possibility that a mere CAG report can threaten the Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit’s job has come as a shocker. More so, after the report for a good measure has even put questions marks on the otherwise undisputed integrity of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. PM looks so unenviably vulnerable. And despite Congress’ best efforts to fend off the allegations, Singh is far from being in the clear.

What is more, the current furore on corruption has come in the immediate wake of the resignation of Karnataka Chief Minister Yeddyurappa over Lokayukta report which revealed his hand in the illegal mining in the state. And before this, Maharashtra CM Ashok Chavan lost his job over a Housing Society scam where he was accused of alloting to his kin the flats of the Adarsh highrise otherwise meant for the kin of defence personnel who lost their lives in Kargil war.

All these developments have come to pass in the charged climate of the civil society agitation over the Lokpal Bill. The initiative led by the social activist Anna Hazare wants Prime Minister and the judiciary within the ambit of the bill. Government is jostling with the rise of a new socially conscious constituency demanding accountability and better governance.

But not even the whiff of these extraordinary events has reached Kashmir. Nor is the state government here perturbed over this emerging new public pressure on the central government to perform. And for the obvious reason. Kashmir operates in a bubble. The state is a self-contained world which for the most part remains untouched by the normal developments beyond its borders – even those on the west – except those that fuel the existing political conflict. This has rendered Kashmir a place where successive governments believe their primary job is the management of peace and little beyond that. The present government seems to have taken this philosophy deep to the heart. One can’t help getting a recurrent sense, that this government feels its fundamental duty is to save this year from lapsing into now familiar strife of past three years. And it takes its measure from the degree of success in achieving this. This is why, there is preponderance of a sterile security related activity and little sign of a vibrant political discourse, political vision or a development plan in works. It springs proactively to action at the hint of a protest, even over as legitimate a reason as a custody death of a youth but withdraws back into shell as the normalcy returns. The government just on as a matter of course.

Kashmir this year has haltingly plodded through the summer, with all the government attention riveted on managing peace. But in the process government itself has got caught in the rut. Governance has not risen beyond routine. What is hard to miss is the sheer adhocism about the government work.

What is more, the poor governance neither becomes an issue nor provokes any protest even though it might indirectly stoke popular unrest which soon morphs into Azadi groundswell. This in turn has contributed to the growth of a polity that finds in this situation an escape from accountability. No state government feels itself obliged to perform. And corruption which is so rife doesn’t get anything beyond a lip service. Though some governments like the previous coalition headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad pretended some resolve and even passed a harsh anti-corruption law, the campaign fell through after netting a fair number of corrupt bureaucrats.

True, despite the widespread perception that the corruption is brazen in the state - J&K remains the second most corrupt state in the country - there is hardly any big scam that has come to light. But a cursory look at the corruption cases filed by the State Vigilance Organization against bureaucrats and politicians leaves one in no doubt about the extent of rot in the state. What is troubling, however, is that this has never been an issue in the state. Why will it be so. No, CM, minister or bureaucrat – unless, of course, he has abused a legislator – will lose his job for corruption or for involvement in a scandal where morality rather than money is involved. People, already rendered marginal to this unedifying play of democracy also do not complain and feel sufficiently pampered when granted some sense of security. And as things stand in Valley, there hardly appears to be a foreseeable way out of this vicious cycle.

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