Introduction to Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Shortcomings in the New Jobs Policy

Shafi conducts a disection of the new jobs policy announced by the State Government

(Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz, 47, was born in Anantnag, and continues to live in the same town. He studied in various state schools, colleges and universities. He has completed his MBA, and is a Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers(CAIIB), and is working on a doctorate thesis on “Non Performing Assets in Indian Banks." He is a banker and presently associated with the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as Senior Executive. Mr. Ayaz has three publications - two in Urdu, one comprising of fictions/short stories titled as “Dard-i-Pinhan” (Hidden Pain), and the third comprising of poetry titled as “Talash-i-Sahar”(In Search of Dawn). He has also published another short book in “Interest Free Banking.” He writes on various topics in the Daily Kashmir Images, Weekly Shuhab and Weekly Sabzar. Earlier he contributed articles to two leading Urdu dailies of the Valley - ‘Aftab’ and ‘Srinagar Times’.)

New Job Policy or NO Job Policy?

The new job policy announced by the state Government has received sharp reaction at the hands of various political parties as well as unemployed youth including student unions and groups. As per an order issued by the General Administrative Department of J&K Government, the new direct recruit to the government service shall be entitled to the fixed salary for the initial period of five years. The fixed salary for this purpose would mean that a fresh recruit for non-gazetteed position would draw only 50% of the basic pay for first two years and 75% for next three years. For implementing this new job policy, a range of modalities have also been notified. It is also reported that the government has asked the Service Selection Board to advertise all the posts referred to it under new recruitment rules. The SSB had been asked to keep all the posts on hold in March 2011 but the directions have been reportedly withdrawn now. The government has, however, asked all recruiting agencies to re-advertise the available vacancies under new policy and rules in respect of such vacancies which have already been advertised by them earlier. The recruitment process has not been started as yet.

Knowing that the industrial sector has not flourished in the valley for obvious reasons and that there is not a single multi-national firm operating from the state, unemployment turns out to be a natural phenomenon here. The scenario leaves the unemployed educated youth with only a fewer options at hand. They either have to migrate to other parts of the country or the world for better options or see government jobs as a viable option. Government jobs, therefore, appear alluring for the majority of the unemployed youth here who seek financial security for a lifetime and have no motivations for experimental carrier building.

If economists are to be believed, Kashmir valley is best suited for numerous small-scale businesses and many ventures can satisfy people economically. But the turbulence here has never paved way for the youth to see beyond the fixed options. However, the recently announced job policy seems to have generated more criticism among political parties than the unemployed youth. Political parties cutting across the lines have strongly opposed it in their specific tunes. They have declared it as an exploitation of unemployed youth and said that it (the policy) will further alienate the youth in the state.National Conference, the ruling coalition partner, rejects the criticism saying that the opposition was playing politics with the issue while as the policy was aimed at accommodating more and more unemployed youth into government jobs. Apart from the criticism the decision of the state government earned from different quarters, people here do not regard it as a best thing to have happened is.

Though a job policy cannot be the same forever and it is supposed to be re-casted and tailored as per requirement from time to time. But it, in no way, means that the job polices can be changed frequently without any specific aim and objective. A unique feature here is that whenever the Prime Minster of India visits the state, a job policy/declaration is announced for the reasons best known to everybody. At times it is titled as “Special Recruitment Drive” which indirectly means that the government wants to curb the alienation and bring the youth closer to mainstream. There are also efforts for bringing the Pandit migrants back to the valley by virtue of unique job policies. But this has never been a fruitful activity as those migrants who left the valley in early 1990’s chose to keep away from the valley. One must understand that the jobs are not alms to be distributed or prizes to be distributed among people of our choice. When there is a need for human resources for accomplishment of any job, the recruitment is made on some basics including merit expressed in terms of the essential and desirable criteria established.

Coming back to the recently declared job policy, it is surely exploitation of un-employed youth who have no other option but to accept it. So many young and educated people here work for mere Rs 15,00 a month as R.E.T’s. Many of the R.E.T’s are highly qualified and better educated than most of our Assembly Members. But the scenario has forced them to work for the proverbial peanuts in the absence of a healthy private sector.Now that the youth here already declared their sense of defeat by accepting such posts as R.E.T’s, why shouldn’t they opt for the recruitment now as it guarantees them 50% salary mode employment? While the youth here will surely accept the new job policy, the state government must not take it as a sign of acceptance. It is merely a sign of helplessness and meager options at hand. Given a better choice they will surely shock the government by rejecting such an exploitative policy aimed to tease the youth.

Instead of making a mockery of sorts, the state government should have taken steps in familiarizing ‘Self Employment’ or ‘Employment Generation Programmes’ in the state. In this way, the government would have done a favor to the unemployed youth of the state and avoided the alienation that runs deep into the veins now. The need is to make realistic and hassle free Self-Employment programmes wherein youth would see such ventures as viable options for a better survival. For the sustained economy of the state, the government needs to search for relevant alternatives and dig deep to know the faults with the self-employment schemes initiated each year.

If the Self-Employment Schemes have failed in bringing about a change, something must be terribly wrong and that is to be located and fine tuned for future. People here know and understand that government cannot provide jobs to everyone while as the private sector too has hesitations in setting up bigger units in the valley. But there is scope for numerous other ventures that can change the overall employment scenario in the state. An analysis of sorts must be undertaken to know the potential of this land and the possibilities that can be availed for a better future.

Politics of Competitive Separatism

Fayyaz sees a disturbing trend in the evolving situation in Kashmir, and it is a lot more serious than denouncing the Facebook

(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.)

Fresh Islamist Movement Building up in Valley

Srinagar: With the clerics and separatist politicians asserting against "serious threats to the religion"--- blasphemous pages on Facebook, recent conversion of some youth into Christianity, menacingly spreading drug addiction, promiscuity, flesh trade and spiraling liquor consumption--- a fresh Islamist movement appears to be taking shape in the conflict-riddled Kashmir valley.

The ground is not as fertile as it was during the pre-militancy halcyon days of 1989 when groups like Shabir Shah's Peoples League, Shakeel Bakhshi's Islamic Students League, Asiya Andrabi's Dukhtaraan-e-Millat, followed by Islamic Jamiat-ul-Tulaba, Hizb-e-Islami and Allah Tigers, shut cinema, liquor shops and even cultivation of certain species of flowers. The provocation too is not as sweeping as Salman Rushdie's "Satanic Verses". Yet, the inertia that has demobilized many of the frenzied religionists in the last over a decade of disillusionment, has not been all-pervading.

Even if the separatist leaders and clergymen have been politically at the receiving end from the masses for several years of high turn-out elections, they can be down but not out. Paradoxically, their existence and influence has received the best of nourishment from the politics of competitive separatism and appeasement employed by principal pro-India political parties---notably PDP and National Conference. Successive regimes have left no stone unturned to discredit the "controlled separatists" with mundane privileges like free movement overseas, importing of spouses and huge Police protection. Yet, at the end of 21st year of insurgency, the fact remains that this stuff of clerics and politicians is the liability for New Delhi and asset for Islamabad. Thus, neither discredited nor irrelevant in the Valley.

Cutting across ideological barriers, almost all of the Valley's separatist political as well as Islamic outfits are once again asserting against social evil and "fresh threats to the faith". This time around, the maximum of mobilization is coming from 'moderate' clergymen like Saddar Mufti Mohammad Bashir-ud-din and Karwan-e-Islami founder Maulana Ghulam Rasool Haami. Mainstream politicians as well as bureaucrats from New Delhi to Srinagar have been privately hailing these clergymen as "anti-extremism". Earlier this year, government kept its official machinery at the disposal of Karwan-e-Islami which held a massive congregation in Srinagar. Senior officials like Director of Information were seen conspicuously in company of these groups than with Ministers and bureaucrats. Official electronic media and Department of Information ensured envious coverage to their activity.

This very outfit today organized the first rally against social evil that the government has been hailing as the major source of revenue. On the other hand clerics like the "moderate" Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Mufti Bashir-ud-din have taken lead in denouncing conversions. In this race of cementing emotions, nobody can afford to be 'moderate" as the hardliner Syed Ali Shah Geelani today succeeded in staging the first demonstrations against 'serious threats to the faith'. Geelani's well-timed call has come close on the heels of a blasphemous page though Police claims it has been got blocked.

First incidents of stone pelting, though still low intensity, were witnessed after months of calm at certain traditional flash points in Srinagar. Maulana Haami's followers remained peaceful all through the route from Dastgir Sahab Masjid in Sarai Bala to Hari Singh High Street. Still, the crowds at Maisuma turned violent. Rounds of stone pelting with Police came with a wake up call for the authorities who are said to be already on red alert. In its first detentions, Police arrested at least two youth in Maisuma.

Maulana Haami served an ultimatum on the Government and asked Omar Abdullah-led coalition government to impose blanket ban on trade, circulation, transportation and consumption of liquor "within two months". "If this evil can be fully banned in BJP ruled Gujarat, why can't it be completely banned in the Muslim majority Jammu & Kashmir?" he asked.

Will this embryo of religious emotion snowball into a full-fledged mass movement like in 1989, 2008 and 2010 remains to be seen. Weather appears to be conducive but season doesn't. Traditionally, uprisings have gone into hibernation in the months of chilling winter. But disruption, like death, does not always keep a calendar.

Most Corrupt State May Have Been Edged Out by the Second Most Corrupt State

Junaid sees parallels between today's Kashmir and Bihar before Chief Minister Nitish Kumar

(Mr. Junaid Azim Mattu, 26, was born in Srinagar. He partly completed his schooling at the Burn Hall School, Srinagar, and partly at the Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. He attended college in America and graduated with a degree in Business and Finance from the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University. He is a consulting financial analyst and telecom-IT entrepreneur based in Srinagar. A seeded national varsity debater throughout his school and college career (his grandfather - Khwaja Ghulam Ahmed Ashai - was one of the founding fathers of the Muslim/National Conference), Mr. Mattu also played under-19 cricket at national level for J&K. He is a founder of the World Kashmiri Students Association (WKSA), a global youth association for Kashmiris based in Srinagar, Kashmir, working on social, economic and political issues through constructive and informed activism. WKSA, as of today has 1,700+ registered members in Kashmir. He is also a nominated alumnus of the Global Young Leaders Conference. In his leisure time, Junaid likes to engage in reading, gardening, watching movies and listening to music. He recently became the District President Srinagar of the Jammu & Kashmir People’s Conference, headed by Mr. Sajad Lone.)

Drawing Parallels

Politics is generally the target of scorn and cynicism with an alleged inherent inability to change things for the better. After 15 years of wanton loot and plunder, a devious sense of law and order; Bihar – at times more turbulent and chaotic a State than a conflict zone like J&K, has been turned around by one man, a man who has chosen to take the bull by it’s horns. In Bihar, coalition politics was never an excuse, neither was Naxalism, nor the once feared mafia system. The guiding light of Nitish Kumar’s efforts was a deep-rooted mission to bring about a structural-reform in governance. No surprises then that in his second term, Nitish Kumar has emerged to be a leader of Prime Ministerial stature. His achievements – including the addition of 33,000 kms of roads in Bihar - recently covered by the TIME magazine, the tea-totaller from Bihar says there is no looking back.

J&K has witnessed close to four decades of mis-governance, not just the two decades of turmoil and armed militancy. The convenient escape from accountability 1989 onwards was the political turmoil that engulfed Kashmir, changing it’s very political and social terrain. Yet, the art of mis-governance remained unaltered, thanks to the consistency of disappointment heralded by the traditional ruling families, of ‘democratic’ stockists who chose to pass on or block democracy at whim, eternally at the cost of a common man’s hope and trust.

Winding through the landscape of the popular sentiment that covers the psyche like a dormant moss, successive governments have failed to deliver hope – to present an alternative to violence and disempowerment and have rather chosen to cover their inability to govern with rhetoric and agitation. An NC worker dies, PDP wants the government to be put in it’s lap. Close to 150 young lives are lost, PDP wants to be re-bestowed with power. NC, on the other hand has become an ineffective, handicapped and disconnected regime – true to it’s history of being content with pleasing Delhi and Delhi alone. Kashmiris – their perceptions, their problems, their voice – has never mattered much so long as the powers that be in Delhi are benevolent and happy. The common man can go take a hike. The present government has spent a greater part of it’s term in controversy rebuttal mode. That is when it wasn’t busy dousing the fire of public anarchy, an anarchy that it incentivized by being invisible, by outsourcing politics to the State Police, by having city representatives who are aliens to their own constituencies, only seen hurrying in haste to their offices in cavalcades that whiz past numb, disillusioned minds – minds that have been promised the sky – minds that have been tormented into an invective of silence and cynicism.

So then, “grappling” with militancy or managing to survive the conflict is a shield that has outrun it’s acceptability. The demon of an isolated system of alternating power outsourcings has taken the shape of a dynamic monarchy in Kashmir, at times making the Dogra monarchs look good. Between a top-heavy bureaucracy, a disconnected elected leadership and a policing system that is invested in punitive measures, Kashmiris continue to be robbed of a hope, of change.

There have been no structural reforms in Health Care, Education, Infrastructure and Industry. The overpass on the Srinagar by-pass has been under construction for close to 7 years. The “flyover” near Jehangir Chowk in Srinagar – a one lane road on stilts – is a stark reminder of PDP’s infatuation with mockery. Both parties, both families have – in their respective times in power – doled out government jobs to bring us to a position where our government wage bill far exceeds our domestic productivity. Our industries have been harassed into paralysis as non-performance has been incentivized – as a subtle, informal license raj continues to exist in J&K. Srinagar city, the face of J&K, has been suffocated for lack of planning and phased expansion. Ineffective in evolving solutions, the government has been happy to survive a day at a time, projecting it’s achievements in ribbon cuttings and cultural melas.

Nitish Kumar has done what was once deemed to be impossible – he has turned Bihar around. With a growth rate of close to 12% and growing, Bihar is set to attract greater investment. A crackdown on corruption has come from the highest levels and has not been outsourced to a commission or a department but has become an integral part of how the State is ruled from the Chief Minister’s office. Alas, J&K has not been fortunate enough to see that commitment towards change till now. Leaderless and isolated between seasons of peace and violence, our State continues to be disillusioned – as the paucity of promise and vision is creeping up like rust on the minds of the generation next. But, there is hope – in how Bihar was turned around. If Bihar can come back from the grave, so can Kashmir. We just need a leader who eats, breathes and sleeps ‘Change’.

“Some day, perhaps, will rise the banner of that song; Which now lies low, longing for strong winds to rage” – Faiz

Time Will Tell

Firdous says that merely granting the MFN will not do, deatils will matter

(Mr. Firdous Syed Baba, 44, was born in Bhaderwah, Doda, and had his schooling in Jammu. He is a weekly columnist for the Greater Kashmir and writes for the Daily News and Analysis (DNA), Mumbai, as well as The New Indian Express, Chennai. Formerly, he founded the "Kashmir Foundation for Peace and Development Studies" and the periodical, "New Hope." Between 1989 and 1991, he led the Moslem Janbaaz Force, a militant group, and was jailed from 1991 through 1994. In 1996, he publicly renounced the gun culture, and is an active member of the Kashmir civil society.)

India the Favoured

Apparently, Pakistan has decided to grant ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) status to India. Last week the decision was announced enthusiastically by the information minister of Pakistan, a degree of confusion still persists. Pakistan’s foreign office spokesperson refuting the allegations of a second thought has categorically stated that “Pakistan is not backtracking”. The statement of Pakistani Prime Minister that the “cabinet’s decision was in effect about normalisation of trade ties between the two countries which would eventually culminate in granting the MFN status to India” in comparison to the earlier straightforward statement of “granting MFN status to India” adds to some ambiguity.

Irrespective of any uncertainty on the issue, the influential quarters are expecting that sooner than later the India and Pakistan may eventually be able to restore their normal trading ties, in near suspended animation since the 1965 war. The potential of trade between India and Pakistan is approximately $6 to 8 billion a year. Last year, “India exported $1.5bn to Pakistan, while Pakistan`s exported $275m to India”. Even during the period when India and Pakistan were and are still arguing back and forth over the issue how to restore the normal ties, the illegal trade primarily routed through Dubai is estimated to be $3bn-$4bn a year.

There is always a possibility of slip between cup and the lip. Unless a decision is clearly inked on paper rather engraved on stone, a simple media announcement is no agreement. Still the mere announcement of granting MFN status has generated some sort of ---even though muted--- controversy here in Kashmir as well as in Pakistan. The overwhelming sentiment within the pro-freedom obviously is against the normalisation of trade ties between the two ever squabbling neighbours. Separatists erroneously believe that the Indo-Pak normalization process without resolving the Kashmir dispute is equivalent of putting Kashmir problem in a deep freezer. This might be true but to the extent only wherein Pakistan forced by the fast changing geopolitical realities in the region may not be able to maintain its traditional hard stance on the Kashmir issue, in the near future. (The discomfort of the separatists also brings into sharp focus the failure of pro-freedom groups to strengthen the movement internally; solely dependent on external factors the resistance is destined to fail.)

Putting on the back-burner or more precisely lowering the heat for the time being can never be described as a paradigm shift. The exigencies of time may vary from time to time; it is not possible for the nation states to act in complete isolation and divorced from the emerging scenarios. Change of tactics and strategies cannot be easily portrayed as a paradigm shift. Contrary to the dismay of naysayers habitual of viewing the prospects of a normal relationship between India and Pakistan as an immensely negative development, only a sincere peace process between India and Pakistan rather dissolving the conflict will be able to resolve the dispute, in a purposeful manner. Moreover the dynamics of Indo-Pak relations is such that without resolving their core conflicts, they will be never able to reconcile, fully. The expectations built around the notion that trade will eventually transform Indo-Pak relations radically, is much hyped.

Strategies of the countries may change, their core interests’ remains constant, that’s what we learn from the nature of Indo-China relationship. Presently China is second largest trading partner of India; during 2010-11 the two Asian giants traded the goods worth $60 billion. And both the countries are aiming to achieve a target of annual $100 billion worth of trade, in few years time. Yet the increasing Indo-China trade has not been able to put brakes to the ever growing arms race in the region. China’s tremendous militarily build-up has pushed India to expand its military muscle that may eventually cost it tens of thousands of crores.

The growing fears of getting isolated in the region due to the increasing tensions with America may have pushed Pakistan for a trade detente with India. The emerging Great Game in Afghanistan may dramatically alter the geopolitics of this region. In case peace in Afghanistan was the real motive, it would have been easier for all the regional powers including India and China along with America to join the hands. This is not the case; in a bitter power struggle Afghanistan has been turned into a battle ground. On one hand America wants greater integration of South Asia with India playing a pivotal role to ward growing influence of China.

Conversely, Pakistan and China are keen for America to leave the region. China wants to preserve its regional hegemony; Pakistan is scared due to the growing status of India. In the evolving new Great Game the risk of regional tensions flaring up, has increased manifold.

Srinagar the Great! Srinagar the Shame!

The "good news" about the growing city is tempered by the "ugly reality" discussed in the Greater Kashmir Editorial following the news item


Srinagar: At a time when Srinagar has emerged among the 100 fastest growing urban centers worldwide, observers here are apprehensive about the prosperity of this historic City saying its growing haphazardly at the cost of brazen violation of norms and that if immediate remedial measures aren’t taken, the “growth will end up in a disaster.”

ven though the ruling National Conference led government is “optimistic of prosperity during its regime”, it too foresees problems in the coming years.


The ruling National Conference believes that vertical expansion by way of multi-storied buildings was the need of the hour. “We are fastly losing land at the hands of urbanization. There’s little space left for expansion of the City…after around a decade people will have to opt for flat system as little or no land will be available for construction of houses in Srinagar,” Mubarak Gul Advisor to Chief Minister told Greater Kashmir.

He, however, insisted that the Omer Abdullah led government was paving way for proper planning of the City.

“A considerable time went waste during last summers of turmoil and winters aren’t working season…But as developments picked up this year, people will see a sea change in the City next year,” Gul said.

“If we get one more year, you will see the change as many big projects will be completed,” he added.

Even though Mubarak Gul said Lal Chowk has been “beautified with a vision”, his government didn’t opt for multi storied building in place of gutted Tourism department hotel where a mere two storeyed structure is again coming up.


Former bureaucrat and columnist Naeem Akhter opines that the City has been growing at the hands of “realtors and land mafia and thus there’s no planning.”

“This (growth) is obviously going to be more of problem than solution,” Akhter told Greater Kashmir.


Former bureaucrat turned politician, Muhammad Aslam Laigaroo, who as the Srinagar Municipal Corporation head during the new millennium, has some ten thousand encroachment demolitions to his credit, says that the City is turning into a mess.

“Master plan has been molested. Zoning wasn’t adhered to. We have commercial complexes in residential areas, educational institutes in commercial. It’s a mess everywhere,” the Peoples Democratic Party leader said.

He believes that findings of the survey released by London-based City Mayors Foundation that Srinagar is amongst the 100 fastest growing shouldn’t be taken as “real yardstick”.

“Growth of Srinagar is just not comparable with 100 other Cities in the worldwide list because here there’s no real growth but mere haphazard expansion,” he added.


A Srinagar Development Authority official said the past two decades of urbanization so badly affected the City development that even the measures taken earlier to that got vandalized.

While referring to colonies like Karan Nagar developed in mid ‘50s, he said these were blessed with amply wide roads. “But these and other colonies like Jawahir Nagar are being converted into commercial areas which is in brazen violation of the Master Plan norms,” said the official, requesting not to be named.

A Srinagar Municipal Corporation official said leave apart others, the government was itself involved in violation of the Master Plan.

Referring to the Police Head Quarters at Hyderpora, he said the multi-storeyed building has come up in brazen violation of the Master Plan as the area, as per Zoning, was restricted for residential houses alone.


A senior official who has worked in urban planning sector said there was a need to revise the Master Plan and enforce its implementation in letter and spirit.

Besides, he said, an autonomous new committee should be formulated to keep an eye on building permissions granted by the authorities like BOCA and its subsequent execution on the ground.


Pertinently, as per the survey, by the London based international think-tank , there are 37 Indian cities in the list of 300 fastest growing urban centers in the world.

While Srinagar figures at 92nd place in the global ranking of the 300 fastest growing cities, among the 37 Indian cities its grading is 23rd, far ahead of metropolitan cities Mumbai, with global ranking of 108th, Hyderabad with 115th and Chennai with 175th, which have already started reaching saturation levels in growth.

Srinagar’s Future

The finding that Srinagar city is among the 100 fastest growing urban centers worldwide is quite a revelation. London-based City Mayors Foundation’s report – putting Srinagar at number 92 out of some 300 global cities - is a sure wakeup call for the J&K government in general, and its urban planners in particular. Srinagar’s 92nd rank in urban growth means many things. At one level it means that the city’s human population growth and horizontal expansion have reached high levels. At another level, J&K state would require to have an action-oriented master plan which would take care of the city’s diverse municipal and other needs in the coming decades. The report also underlines the need for major public spending for the city, which otherwise has been suffering for want of public funds in its development. High urban growth of Srinagar also means that we would require a vision which would craft new transport, housing and municipal policies, followed by concrete action plans. Srinagar desperately needs public investment to improve its roads and transportation facilities. It also requires a modern facility to take care of its ever increasing solid waste. The city also requires capacity building of its municipal corporation. The city has lost its greenery and aesthetic beauty to an alarming level. Any urban development policy needs to have a major environmental conservation plan, which must focus on reviving the city’s greenery and environmental aesthetics.

A time has also come when the state’s policy makers and urban planners require to think about the introduction of floor space index concept for Srinagar so that its horizontal growth could be checked. Given the speed of Srinagar’s horizontal expansion, critical wetlands and other flood absorption basins have come under grave threat. Greater emphasis on vertical expansion would ensure to save these crucial lands from urban use devoid of environmental conservation. Such a policy would make it even more secure and prepare to meet the challenges of coming decades.

The Sad State of Agrarian Economy in Kashmir

Shafi highlights a major reason for deepening divide between the rich and the poor in Kashmir

(Mr. Mohammad Shafi Ayaz, 47, was born in Anantnag, and continues to live in the same town. He studied in various state schools, colleges and universities. He has completed his MBA, and is a Certified Associate of the Indian Institute of Bankers(CAIIB), and is working on a doctorate thesis on “Non Performing Assets in Indian Banks." He is a banker and presently associated with the Jammu & Kashmir Bank as Senior Executive. Mr. Ayaz has three publications - two in Urdu, one comprising of fictions/short stories titled as “Dard-i-Pinhan” (Hidden Pain), and the third comprising of poetry titled as “Talash-i-Sahar”(In Search of Dawn). He has also published another short book in “Interest Free Banking.” He writes on various topics in the Daily Kashmir Images, Weekly Shuhab and Weekly Sabzar. Earlier he contributed articles to two leading Urdu dailies of the Valley - ‘Aftab’ and ‘Srinagar Times’.)

All is not well!

The Agriculture Sector is backbone of the economy of a state which has more than 70% population directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. It is well admitted that the progress and prosperity of any state is dependent upon the growth of the agriculture and its allied sectors so it is always the priority of every state to treat it as thrust area. As per official figures of our state of Jammu and Kashmir the contribution of the primary sector, which include forestry, livestock and mainly agriculture sector, to the State Domestic Product has witnessed a decline since 2001. The year 2001 saw a contribution of 31.4% by this sector, which declined to 29% in 2007. Officials attribute this decrease to the growing urbanization of J&K. They claim that the actual growth rate of agriculture in the state has shown a constant increase but has lagged behind the national average. Is it really so?

The State of Jammu and Kashmir is also one of such states whose economy is more or less agro based. We have horticulture industry here having APPLE as its main product which fetches a good value for its growers as well as for the state. It is well said that if God has gifted Arab Countries with dollars in the shape of underground petroleum resources, we too have been blessed with dollars growing on trees in the form of apples. The state is gifted with huge agricultural potential. It is not only food grain but other allied activities like Horticulture, Sericulture, Saffron, Bee keeping etc. Often we read in the newspapers and listen from radio that the taking various steps for its improvement and is committed to utilize the vast potential of agro-based activities available in the state to give considerable fillip to State’s economy. Chief Minister of the state in a recently held meeting said that the agriculture is the mainstay of JK economy and that it was need of the hour to make agriculture thrust area. Agriculture Minister of the state is often seen in meetings, seminars, workshops and other programmes related to agriculture and its allied activities and it shows his keen interest in his assignment. Usually a pleasant and a rosy picture is presented in these forums and we feel complacent. Even at national level our work in this sector is reportedly appreciated. Is it really so?

The fact is that barring horticulture all other sectors are showing a declining trend. Horticulture sector being exception on a valid ground. Vast paddy land has been changed by its owners to orchards. Paddy yielders or farmers found that the rice cultivation is no more profitable and as such they have cultivated apple trees resulting in increase of area under horticulture thereby the production of apple in the state increased significantly. This off course has reduced the paddy land area. Thus any other factor is not visibly responsible for increase of apple production. But what about other sectors of agriculture and its allied sectors where this type of transformation has not taken place. The story is quite different.

Saffron is the pride production of the state. Its cultivation faces the threat of extinction as the cultivatable area and production have decreased by half in a decade’s time. The cultivation area of saffron has declined from 5,707 hectares in 1997-98 to 3,030 hectares in 2006-07 as per official figures. The productivity of saffron has decreased from 16 metric tonnes to 8.5 metric tonnes . These figures speak the real story of this pride sector of agriculture.

Sericulture Industry is heritage industry of J&K State and the story of this industry is no more different. The Silk Industry of Kashmir possesses a golden legacy as is revealed from official reports.. The entire Europe was the first continent with which Kashmir had started its silk trade. The reports also show that in the year 1855, Kashmir was in a position to supply 25000 oz of silkworm seeds to Europe. By exporting silkworm seeds to Europe, the Silk Industry of Kashmir gained a pivotal position on the silk route of Europe. But in the past few decades the silk production has diminished by 50% in the State of Jammu & Kashmir.

The position of honey production is also no exception. A recent report from Bandipora district which is one of the major honey producing districts has revealed the same story. Honey production of the district has declined by 80% this year .According to official figures the production during 2010 was 400 quintals while as this year it is only 80 quintals. These are only few instances and the stories of other agriculture related activities is somewhat the same.

Although there are various claims from the concerned departments of the state government which apparently seem to show the priority of the government to boost the agriculture and its allied sector in the state but do these claims which are based on announcement and declaration of various measures for promotion of these sectors really work . Government has off course sanctioned Rs.22.00 crore for setting up a Spice Park under the National Saffron Mission at Pampore to ensure quality control and marketing of this most expensive spice. But this project is only on papers as it has been stayed by the court of law. Again the high claims of the government that they are on the way to revive sericulture industry and there is no dearth of funds for supporting the growth of this industry. 2500 hectares of land under Mulberry plantation is proposed to be developed through CDP exclusively for introducing of Bivoltine cocoon production. It seems to be a good decision on the part of government but the ground reality is that the number of mulberry plants is decreasing due to cutting of these trees. Once these trees were seen on the road sides all over in the valley but today hardly any such tree is seen any where on the road side. The position of those who deal with industry is well known to every body. Every now and then we see these people on the media channels expressing their vows. They are fed up with their profession and there are no freshers keen to adopt this business activity as is no more profitable for them. Similar situation is with other sectors of agriculture.

Though it goes without saying that there is a great scope for revival and improving of agriculture and its allied activities in the state, but it needs a pro-active approach and a firm commitment from all the concerned. Despite of tall claims about our progress and achievements in agriculture sector and our agro based economy, it is a hard fact that “ All is not Well” and we should accept it.

The Hope of Kashmir

A feel good story featuring a rising social activist Qurat-ul-ain Masoodi

Qurat to launch, ‘Aash – The Hope of Kashmir'

Srinagar: She walked briskly into the newspaper office and in a jiffy said, “Shall we start the interview.” Qurat-ul-ain-Masoodi is full of raw energy and enthusiasm to do well for the most deprived of her community.

Masoodi (26) left her lucrative engineering field in 2009 and is gearing up for a business, which is often considered murky in a State where everything is viewed with skepticism.

“Working with these children brings a smile on my face. I am satisfied with what I am doing,” says Masoodi, who currently works for a Non Governmental Organization (NGO), which deals in protection of child rights.

Twenty-year-long conflict has given Kashmir many orphanages and plenty of inmates to keep them busy.

Child right protection among these orphanages has often been a subject of discussion, but the matter has largely remained under carpet. The rights violations in these homes could trigger a debate for which Kashmir has no answers yet. Masoodi believes that the matter has to come up and debated among the intellectuals and common masses, so that the vulnerable section of the society is protected. “My aim is to take their case to public and make people aware about children who live in these institutions,” she says.

What happens inside the orphanages of Kashmir has largely remained an unstudied part of conflict and the general thrust has been on their shelter and food.

But this young uptown Srinagar girl wants to make the orphanage caretakers accountable and believes that systematic studies on psychological and behavioral patterns of these children are must. “I don’t care how much money they get. I want to see children living in these institutions being treated well and there is no abuse in any form rendered to them,” she says.

“A wealthy businessman who pays money to an orphanage has to see how it is working. His responsibility doesn’t end with cutting cheque,” says Masoodi as she describes the hygiene condition of few institutions she has visited in her three-month long job with Koshish(NGO).

During her limited work exposure with these institutions, Masoodi has found some orphanages, whose name she did not reveal because it is against her job protocol, in absolute wretchedness. “The sewerage pipe inside the house had a leak and nobody from the governing body was bothered to fix it and children were living in such dismal conditions that I cried,” says Masoodi.

Her greater fear is not of hygiene however, but physical exploitation of these children and their rehabilitation into the society.

“Girls are the most vulnerable among these children and many of them are in their teens. As of now their future and rehabilitation is very uncertain,” she believes.

Masoodi aims to rope intellectuals, bureaucrats and powerful executives to join her mission of rehabilitation. For that, she is going to organize a seminar where all the big names of Kashmir will be participating to discuss mechanisms of rehabilitation of these children.

Most of her family is settled in USA and she was initially asked by her parents to move to States for a better career. She chose to stay in Kashmir to help thousands of orphans living under the shelter of donation and government grants. “It is my childhood dream to help the most deprived of society,” she says being fully aware about the taboos that are associated with social service and NGO business in Kashmir.

“I know people have used and abused NGOs names for their pity gains. Social activism is no longer an easy field to create respect, but there are good people working in this sector who inspire me,” says Masoodi as she talks the phenomenon of mushroom growth of NGOs in Kashmir where many are being viewed with suspicion.

In Jammu and Kashmir, there are over 3500 NGOs and dozens of orphanages registered with government. “Many people here are doing an amazing job at these institutions, though some are under scanner. Orientation and broad analysis will help us to integrate children back into the system, and build an atmosphere of trust among masses for social activists,” says Masoodi as she left the newspaper office with a smile before heading to meet sponsors for her first event that will be held on 2nd of December and will also mark the launch of her NGO, Aash – The hope of Kashmir.

State Women's Commission (SWC) Rescues Failing Marriages

Ms. Shameema Firdous says demand for dowry is a major family issue in the valley

Conflict Taking Toll on Valley Women

Abid Bashir (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: The turmoil has taken a serious toll on womenfolk in Kashmir with post-marital feuds resulting in divorces and break-ups showing a tremendous surge.

Reason: misunderstandings, less tolerance and money matters between the couples.

According to figures available with State Women’s Commission (SWC), the domestic and post martial feuds in Kashmir are witnessing an alarming surge.

“Of the 1820 cases registered with the commission since last few years, 1333 were from Kashmir and just 487 from Jammu region,” SWC chairperson, Shameema Firdous told Rising Kashmir.

She said the figures are really alarming. “Huge influx of cases has put the commission on toes.”

“Although the offices have shifted to Jammu as part of half-yearly durbar move, the commission hears at least 20 cases a day in its Srinagar office,” she said

Shameema said the nature of cases is shocking —misunderstanding over small things proves fatal. “It leads to divorce. We try our best to persuade the couple to reconcile,” she said.

“No divorce is done in the commission. We put in our efforts to keep the relationship intact. In the current year alone, some 300 cases were registered with the commission. Some cases even go to courts. This happens when two sides fail to reconcile after lot of efforts from our side,” she said.

Expressing her anguish over the deteriorating social fabric of the women folk, the SWC chairperson said the rate of divorce and post-marital disputes is high in lower income groups. “Though we have some cases of high profile people including some NRIs as well, but the rate is high within low income groups,” she said.

She termed the money matters especially dowry demands as major cause of post-marital disputes. “The demand for money or dowry causes tension between the families. Husbands are involved in physical and mental torture of their wives and this continuous harassment leads to suicides,” she said.
Shameema, however, said coercion by in-laws has shown a decreasing trend. “There used to be cases where pressure especially torture by in-laws would become major reason for feud. But this thing has shown a decreasing trend. We have registered very few cases where in-laws were the cause of tension,” she said.

She said the situation in Kashmir during past two decades has made male and female folk less tolerant.

SWC chairperson said each case is heard at least four times. “We try to settle the cases as soon as possible. The commission has managed to settle over 600 cases. It means that we have managed to persuade two sides to start afresh leaving behind all bitterness,” she said.

“Since SWC is not that old, many women are still unaware about it. There needs to be a massive awareness campaign so that women could know their rights could be protected by somebody,” she added.

Bribing Public to Prevent a Disaster

Government is forced to take action as gender ratio in Jammu and Kashmir drops to 859 girls to 1000 boys

Cash Rewards to Stop Female Foeticide in Kashmir

Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Government announced cash rewards for residents who provide information about those carrying out pre-natal sex determination tests in an effort to stem a sharp rise in female foeticide.

“Every whistle blower will be given a cash prize of Rs 25,000 and his name would be kept secret,” Sham Lal Sharma, the state’s health minister said in a statement.

He said the step will help send a message “among the public and more people will come forward to provide information about those carrying out such tests”. Sharma’s department in India’s only Muslim-majority state has been seizing ultrasound scanners and enlisting religious leaders to save unborn girls.

The issue has united politicians, clerics and social activists in Jammu and Kashmir, a state best known for the deep, blood-stained divides caused by a 20-year-old Muslim separatist insurgency against Indian rule.

Provisional 2011 census data released at the end of March painted a bleak picture of India’s gender imbalance, with a national child sex ratio of just 914 females to 1,000 males, the lowest figure since independence in 1947. By far the most dramatic decline was in Jammu and Kashmir, where the ratio plunged to 859 girls for every 1,000 boys in the 0-6 age group, down by 82 points from 10 years ago.

The figures shocked the authorities in the scenic region. The global sex ratio is 984 girls to every 1,000 boys, according to United Nations population data.

Married women in India face huge pressure to produce male children, who are seen as breadwinners while girls are often viewed as a financial burden as they require hefty dowries to be married off. The first reaction of the Kashmir authorities to the census figures was a crackdown on the unlicensed use of ultrasound scanners.

Determining the sex of a foetus is illegal in India, but many clinics offer the service for a small fee, fuelling the demand for sex-selective abortions. Lightweight, portable ultrasound machines mean tests can be carried out even in the most remote villages.

The health minister appealed to people “to share such information with the competent authority in the directorate of health services to stop the crime”.

He also rewarded a person at a special ceremony in winter capital Jammu on Friday who had provided information and even helped the authorities in arresting a person who had conducted a sex-determination test. The sharpest declines in the ratio were in the towns of the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, heartland of the armed insurgency, which began in 1989. afp

Ministerial Duplicity

The Minister of Animal Husbandry wants cattle and sheep raring to create jobs in the valley; but how can that happen if you sign a "blank check" to import all the mutton the valley consumes?

15 Lakh Goats, Sheep Imported into J&K Every Year for Mutton

Nearly 15 lakh sheep and goats are imported into Jammu and Kashmir every year for mutton at a cost of Rs 1,500 crore, a state minister has said.
Sheep and Animal Husbandry Minister Ruhullah Mehdi yesterday said 14 to 15 lakh sheep and goats are imported annually to the state for mutton consumption.

Addressing a gathering of sheep farmers at his residence, he said the import of sheep and goats from other parts of the country costs the state economy Rs 1,500 crore annually.

The minister said that cattle and sheep-rearing have ample potential to boost the economy and generate employment opportunities for the people, particularly unemployed youth.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Politics of MFN

Zafar hopes that Pakistan keeps its promise of granting MFN to India as the region is desperate for peace and tranquility

(Mr. Zafar Choudhary, 35, was born in Rehan village of Rajouri district. He received his post graduate degree in Journalism from the University of Jammu. Mr. Choudhary is a Journalist and Policy Analyst based at Jammu (Jammu and Kashmir, India). He is founder Editor of Epilogue Magazine and Honorary Director of Indus Research Foundation (IRF), a think tank, research and resource centre on issues of historical and contemporary importance within and around the region of Jammu and Kashmir. A non-political, non-governmental Trust, IRF promotes the entire region of undivided Jammu and Kashmir as a bridge between India and Pakistan and essential link between Central and South Asia. Zafar is regularly engaged in tracks of peace processes on Kashmir and he writes a popular weekly column known as 'This, That & The Other' appearing every Friday in Srinagar based English daily 'Rising Kashmir'.)

Don’t Let the ‘Favour’ Go

With India-Pakistan relations rooted in history of drama and theatrics, the Islamabad tantrum over the much delayed Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status to India is hardly surprising. Two extreme developments within 24 hours are depressing and disappointing but the fact that Pakistan reached close to looking at India as a neighbour and partner in progress offers much convincing hope.

On Wednesday, Islamabad surprised the political, diplomatic and business community in India by announcing that the federal cabinet has granted India the MFN status, something awaited since 1996. The announcement evinced gratefully positive response from India with Commerce Minister Anand Sharma saying “we deeply appreciate this positive gesture that Pakistan has taken”. Sharma and his Pakistan counterpart Makhdoom Mohammad Ameen Faheem have been piloting a new wave of economic relations between both countries since early this year. The Pakistan Commerce Ministry statement quoting Cabinet decision was placed on the government’s Press Information Department’s website only to be removed Thursday morning when the Foreign Office in Islamabad burst the euphoric bubble. The Foreign Office spokesperson said that the Cabinet has approved a Commerce Ministry proposal of normalisation of trade ties with India. On being insisted by the reporters at her Press Conference the spokesperson said that normalisation of ties of would culminate in MFN status –a deepening ambiguity. The Ministers and Secretaries in the Commerce Ministry of both countries have been hammering out obstacles for long and this year alone it appeared twice happening sooner than later.

With Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Syed Yusuf Raza Gillani slated to meet in Maldives on November 11-12 during the SAARC summit, it was widely expected that Pakistan take step forward toward further normalisation of ties. MFN status could have been an indicator of such intentions. Even as the Pakistan Peoples’ Party government is getting reconciliatory and pragmatic towards bilateral ties with India despite the Kashmir bone in their neck, the opposition parties and other radical groups don’t want any bilateral progress while Kashmir being on the burner. The newly emerging India-Pakistan spirit of accommodation that is seen anchored in pragmatism is being scuttled by Pakistani opposition parties and the radical groups wanting their country to look towards India in context of Kashmir only. Knee jerk on long pending MFN status to India is the latest case in point. Opposition wants government to link it up with Kashmir. Well, progress on Kashmir is important but a level of comfort between India and Pakistan is much more important for achieving the desired progress. Good business relations could be a password to friendly political and diplomatic ties. Pakistan, like any other country, can’t live in isolation and India certainly wants a healthy neighbour around. Progress on bilateral ties like MFN status could be seen as reflection of the courage, will and ability of both countries and sorting out their issues at their own and the same time progressing into the future with shared benefits for each other.

Recent Background

The back-foot after Wednesday’s announcement of Cabinet decision on MFN status disappoints in more ways than one given the stupendous progress made in past few months. In a bilateral meeting held in Islamabad ending April this year, the Commerce Secretaries of India and Pakistan, Rahul Khullar and Zafar Mehmood agreed to take on board each other's concerns regarding the trade regimes in either country and explore new avenues for bilateral trade while side-stepping the ‘so-called' ticklish issues that dominate mainstream discourse. A joint statement issued at the end of their meeting set a timeline for addressing the identified doables including Pakistan granting the MFN status to India and moving to a negative list approach in tariff lines, and New Delhi amenable to addressing Islamabad's concerns regarding Non-Tariff Barriers that restrict the flow of Pakistani goods into India. Following months saw much progress in both countries achieving a level of political and diplomatic comfort. Visit of Foreign Minister Hinna Rabbani Khari to New Delhi in July further cemented the ties.

After a meeting of Commerce Ministers in New Delhi on September 28, Pakistan agreed to operationalise MFN treatment to India. A joint statement issued at the conclusion of talks between India’s commerce minister Anand Sharma and his Pakistani counterpart Makhdoom Muhammad Ameen Faheem gave enough indications to this effect. The joint statement said the two ministers mandated their commerce secretaries to “pursue with vigour” the task of fully normalising bilateral trade relations. They agreed that their countries would cooperate for a high ambition of preferential trade relations under the framework of South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA). This was interpreted by in India as amounting to Pakistan agreeing to operationalise MFN status and trade experts saw it as a major breakthrough in bilateral economic relations. Faheem had said on September 28 “we have agreed to actively pursue MFN to India”. Things are moving forward according to plan. We are looking forward to achieve the target". The joint statement further said “they (the two countries) agreed that all mutual obligations contracted under SAFTA would be implemented with full sincerety.” The major mutual obligation contracted under SAFTA is to provide MFN status by all member countries to each other to facilitate free trade in the South Asian region. Pakistan is the only country which has not granted MFN status so far to India. All other countries have granted MFN status to each other in the region.

Kashmir: Hope, not obstacle

However, as the day came closer to operationalise the MFN status, the Pakistani opposition parties started raising stumbling blocks. The main opposition party PML (N), a bipartisan parliamentary panel on Kashmir and pro-establishment political outfits opposed the decision in unison as they felt it might hamper stand on Kashmir. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar informed the National Assembly a fortnight ago that the government had, in principle, decided to give India MFN status and a formal announcement was likely any time. The loudest opposition to the plan comes from the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) which said it did not want war with India but had ‘serious concerns’ on giving New Delhi the MFN, a privilege through which one country gives trade concessions to the other. A parliament’s special committee on Kashmir, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam- Fazl (JUI-F) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) also joined the chorus against what is seen as a big leap forward to normalise relations between the two nuclear-armed rivals. This attitude of the opposition parties is too disappointing and regressive. However, the hope of India and Pakistan moving forward as friends and partners in progress can be traced in the statement of Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan, who, while announcing the Cabinet ‘decision’, said, “the two parts of Kashmir are already trading across the Line of Control (LoC), bus services were operational, and that the Kashmiri leadership had been engaged on the issue (of MFN)”. The trade across the Line of Control in Kashmir, though on life support system since birth, should be guidebook for India-Pakistan trade ties. The opposition parties must relent allowing Islamabad to move forward with Delhi.

The Better Half

Roshan Ara reminds us that women are playing a pivotal nation building role all around the world

(Ms. Roshan Ara, 45, was born in Warihama, in Budgam district. She attended the Government High School Aripanthan, and the Government Higher Secondary School Beeru. She graduated from the Government Womens College (GWC) Srinagar, University of Kashmir, and the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi. Ms. Roshan Ara has degrees in B.Com, M.Com, M.A. Economics, B.Ed, M.Phil, Diploma in Women's Empowerment and Development, and Ph.D. work underway titled 'Managing Work and Family Roles: A Study of White Collar Working Women in Kashmir.' Until her teaching position is made permanent, Ms. Ara moves from assignment to assignment. She was previously a Lecturer in Commerce, Department of School Education, Government of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar. Presently she is a Senior Lecturer in Commerce, Government Girls Higher Secondary School, Amirakadal, Srinagar. During leisure time she enjoys reading newspapers & journals, staying engaged on Women's Issues, and writing articles for newspapers & journals.)

World is Not Just Men

Since United Nation’s declaration of the ‘Decade of Women’ in 1975, attention and action on women’s concerns have steadily increased. Due to education, emancipation, women’s movements, globalization and industrialization, women have been able to break the glass ceilings and enter into the world of men. Now women are getting organized at the national as well as international level to fight back and bring an end to the domination of men. Thus, women’s movements and emancipation have been indicators of social change.

Women have to be made equal partners of economic development and welfare. The earliest models of economic growth focused mainly on increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP) so that it could help in curbing poverty. The economy was a gender blind economy as its concentration was towards men-folk only and women were ignored in the process of development. Backwardness of women folk in any country is the indication of its being poor and underdeveloped .This view of economic growth was re-defined because of many years dismal experience of developing countries.

Women are the dynamic promoters of social transformation. Their participation and influence in governments, families, communities and economy, and the provision of employment is a common good. It will lead to equitable development, stronger families, better services and better child health care and in holistic human development. There will be decrease in maternal deaths, child marriages and improved nutrition and population control. Discrimination in any form reduces efficiency and slows down economic growth. Gender discrimination affects 50% of our population. Being only 50% of population, women contribute to 75% of the development of the country while men contribute only 25%. Unfortunately, women’s vulnerable but laudable roles which cannot be substituted by men or machines have been neglected all together.

The role of women in the process of development has been changing over the years. It is now realized that empowering women for development is a pre-requisite for increased output, greater equality and social progress. Women play a crucial role in the socio-economic development of a country. For a marked social and political change, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia granted their women the right to vote and also permitted them to take part in coming municipal elections. There are few women involved in the political processes throughout the world. Therefore, it is important to examine and understand the gender differences in power within the government and policy making institutions.

The United Nations Atlas of Women in Politics (2000) shows that women comprise only 13.4% of parliament members throughout the world. In the context of Indian Parliament, few women in Lok Sabha mean minimal contribution of women in decision making. A greater number of women in parliament will automatically have a greater say on issues concerning women – gender justice, human rights and other issues on which women on an average have always been more sensitive than men. Women need to be viewed as targets of welfare policies in the social sector. The researchers and activists have put forth their views for forcing women’s perspectives into national politics. The provision for giving women 33% reservation in Parliament is a step towards making women more powerful. Thus political empowerment of women is an attempt not only to make women empowered but also to make them aware and effective as agents of social change.

In industrially developed countries as well as in developing ones, women are still burdened with cumulative inequalities due to discriminatory practices. They play an active but invisible role in the economy of the country by maintaining a family, taking care of future workers, collecting the produce by providing a free labour without any payment. They cook, wash and process the items of consumption by saving and investing family resources. In addition to an individual woman’s autonomy, dignity and equity, there is a need for support structure by creating alternative options for them. The status of women, their opportunity to employment, their illiteracy and subjugation to men are a negation of the promise of equality. She is still a victim of rape, dowry, trafficking, eve teasing and many other crimes. Women have been suppressed for ages through social sanctions. In all the societies, men were considered primary income earners, enjoying a priority over women in allocation of opportunities for productive work and remunerative jobs. But men were unaware of this fact that their paid work is often the result of joint production, much of which may not be possible if women didn’t stay at home looking after the home affairs and caring for children. Thus women can become more powerful through collective reflection and decision making, building a positive self image and developing ability to think critically. They can foster decision making and action and ensure equal participation in the process of bringing about a social change.

Gender equality should not be misunderstood as a fight between men and women but cooperation and mutual understanding between the two sexes. An equal amount of authority and power between men and women will irradiate imbalance in the society and lead to a parallel and balanced society.

A Retrospection

Isaar addresses the moral degradation that is an outcome of undesirable changes in the society

(Mr. Isaar Kashmiri, 43, was born and raised in Tral, district Pulwama J&K. He completed his matriculation from a local High School, and graduated with a Bachelor's degree from the Government Degree College Anantnag. He completed post graduation in English and received a Master's degree in Education (M.Ed) from the University of Kashmir Srinagar. He is presently working as a school teacher in the Education Department of J&K Government. He writes columns both in Urdu and English for local dailies. In leisure time, he writes short stories in Urdu and a book of short stories is in the process of publication.)

The Cancer of Copying

Well examinations have once again commenced. Once again the reliability of our future is being tested. Once again it is being ascertained as to how much have we invested for our better tomorrow. It is in this backdrop that there is a hustle and bustle at the examination centers. However, the scene at the examination centers both inside and outside is beyond belief.

It has been quite a while since the examinations were considered a holy practice. I still remember those days when we used to take our annual examinations with great sanctity and seriousness. We always counted the days of examinations as the most valued one. The date sheet was just like a Ramzan chart for us and we hardly thought of any entertainment until the examination was over. The day, we were done with the examination, was no less than The Eid for us. The examination hall was like a place of worship and we would enter here with high deal of admiration and reverence. ‘Copying’ or use of unfair means was something we were not familiar with. There was no concept of private coaching either and we exclusively depended upon the classroom labor. Our parents hardly had to do anything for us except routine parental care. Alas! That is history now.

We enroll our young ones in various schools to make them proud citizens. The schools are supposed to serve this cause without fail. The soothing touch of a teacher within the four walls of school makes miracles happen. The authorities, the parents and the teacher all the three play their respective roles, seemingly, with a great deal of zest. However, one fails to understand as to what goes wrong in the end.

When it comes to annual examinations, everyone shrugs his shoulders making examinations a mess. The authorities issue a few statutory warnings and courtesy appeals to the public through the print or electronic media and relax. Pro-copying attitude of parents is quite shocking. The teacher just forgets his fundamental role and makes a giant mistake of compromising his status. There can be no results without a test. Nevertheless nobody seems matured enough to realize the significance of fair exams primarily for the under developed nations like us. Once the examinations start, the parents launch a campaign for their children to help them pass the exams by any means just like elections where there are no quality criteria for winning. However, there are a few exceptions.

Basically our main concerns are corruption. The ways and means to address these concerns obviously can never be legal. We have changed our convictions. We have shifted our focus from soul to matter. We worship money, we are agitated; we want money, we turn out to be unfair; we love money, we forget values; we tolerate bribe, we are moral bankrupts; we live for money, our sense of right and wrong is no longer alive. We run after short-term benefits at the cost of our future. That is not the end; we consume our intellectual as well as substantial vigour to devise new techniques to do all that is no way based on reason.

The situation demands that we must put our heads together to find out a long-lasting solution to the problem of copying or use of various kinds of unfair means. The authorities have to take the initiative. It is quite disgusting as to why a particular group of people is asked to supervise the examinations, the most sensitive part of schooling, every now and then? How credible these examinations are which are mostly being conducted by those distrustful guys who, once upon a time, had been debarred for conducting any kind of examination by the board authorities. However, the teacher has a vital role to play in this behalf. He has to become the flagship of the caravan of the reformers. His commitment and self-sacrificing service can certainly help us to swim against the tide. The nation cannot afford his give and take policy in the current scenario. For the sake of the budding flowers of humankind he has to divorce the mesmerizing life style. This, of course is an uphill task but the teacher is all worthy to do what a common man cannot. The parents come next; however, their role cannot be undervalued. It is not end of the journey yet.

Let us not wait for the day when we would become handicapped to do good to ourselves. Let us not wait to face the dire consequences of overseeing the conduct of unfair examinations. Come let’s pledge to shun and put an end to the use of unfair means or mass copying in all its forms. This will guarantee us a decent reservoir of human resources.

Death of Innocence

Jawad narrates a sad tale of the Pampore Tragedy where a child was killed by a local

(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.)

Killing Kaleem Sends Shivers Down The Spine

Everyone knows death is a real and a natural phenomenon but yet at times it is so horrifying that one regrets as to why one was born in the first place.
Murder of a teenage boy Kaleem at Pampore is one such incident. It has not only shocked his relatives, friends but even the strangers who had never met or seen him in life time were devastated to hear about his untimely death. It had even more devastating effect on everyone’s heart and mind just because the way he was killed by him own friends in a cold blooded way that too in a broad day light and only a little away from his home town.

It shocked his parents and his two sisters most. But the kind of solidarity and sympathy shown by people must have given them a bit of relief at this hour of an unprecedented grief and crisis. He was only at the very threshold of his life and had not seen much of it as yet. He deserved a better deal apart from being around when it would be his turn to come forward and take care and charge of his parents. A budding youth who had in him a promise of becoming a hero of a sort for his family. No one had any right to cut short his life and shatter his dreams or that of his parents

We cannot say that this is the first incident of its kind because in last twenty years we have witnessed a large scale destruction and killings which Kashmiris were not used to or had ever witnessed or tasted before. But this particular death has raised innumerable questions which need to be answered by all of us. Apart from widespread condemnation of this heinous act we need a deeper retrospection to find out as to what has gone wrong with us. Why is it that we have become so wild, callous and stone hearted that we can kill each other even without any reason or guilt particularly as innocent and kind hearted kid as Kaleem was reported to be. One does not wonder what kind of harm he would not have meant nor done harm to any one whatsoever in his short life of 19 years. We as a society shall have to deliberate this issue and do whatever we can do to set right the social order and pattern of lives we want to leave for our next generation to breathe and live in. All our political leaders, social activists and religious leaders need to come together and make a joint effort to retrieve the values and principles our predecessors had left behind for us keep and follow.

There are different versions doing round right now regarding this incident but the real truth has yet to come to the surface and may take a little longer than expected. However a duty is however cast on the investigating agencies to investigate the matter in a fairest way and manner so that the real story is revealed and those guilty of this heinous crime are brought to the book and punished in accordance with law as soon as possible so that some of the wounds of the bereaved family are healed at the earliest.

The Green Warrior

The heart warming story of Sonaullah Parray

Green Warrior Protects Deodar Forests

Khag: Sonaullah Parray, 50, keeps vigil through the night in the the Khag-Tangmarg region of Kashmir protecting the forests from timber smugglers. Gangs of brutal armed timber smugglers run through the Deodar forestline without any officials manning the area.

Parray keeps vigil, watching out for furtive smugglers who drive logs out on horseback. Part-force, and part-motivation, Parray and his team of a dozen youth, have successfully kept the jungle thieves at bay.

Sonaullah Parray said, "30 youth and I have ensured that felling has stopped. We have seized timber worth crores and confiscated hundreds of horses and handed it over to the government."

Parray turned an eco-warrior 20 years back, when he saw a man-made nursery disappearing overnight in Rajasthan. He then swore that there won't be a repeat in his village - where wanton tree-felling and and organised smuggling cartels were happening under the garb of militancy.

"People don't know how big the losses can get. We are losing wildlife and we barely get any snowfall here now," he said.

In an area where massive tree felling has been taking place and where timber smugglers in nexus with forest officials have dug deep roots, Parray and his team's vigilantism has been able to defeat the eco-terrorists.

Parray operates not just in the dangerous Khag-Tangmarg rim but further down to Arizal and Khan Sahib of the mighty Pir Panjal where smugglers have hacked three whistleblowers to death. He, however, is unfazed. In fact, the state has encouraged him to form a village forest committee to patrol some sensitive areas not in government control.

Tangmarg Divisional Forest Officer Saleem Geelani said, "We have already booked 10 persons under the PSA and identified 161 forest smugglers. We will bring all culprits to book."

The forest vigilante-cum-good Samaritan, Parray, is trying to promote tourism in the area to wean the illiterate villagers away from smuggling.

Mohideen Bhat, a villager, said, "Our youngsters need options. If tourists come to this area, we will earn some money to support our families."

In a place where standing between forests and timber smugglers can get risky, Parray is willing to live on the edge even if it means saving a single tree.


The Pathetic State

Editorial in the Kashmir Monitor highlights the strength of land mafia-politician nexus in Srinagar, Kashmir

Woes of Commercialization

The mushrooming of shopping complexes and business centres across the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir even in the residential areas is a serious issue that has been completely ignored by the authorities. With all eyes set on the political developments in Kashmir valley, many other important issues affecting the day-to-day lives of the locals have been pushed to the backburner as a result. Neither is the government being held accountable on these issues that include Srinagar’s commercialization nor have the authorities acted on their own in this regard.

If a look is taken at the city’s residential areas especially those that are in the vicinity of Lal Chowk, all have been hit hard by this problem. Areas like Raj Bagh, Wazir Bagh, Magarmal Bagh and Jawahar Nagar were once considered posh but with the commercialization of these areas, some parts of these colonies have started resembling Lal Chowk. And despite the objections put forward by the residents of these areas, the authorities have not yet woken up to this grave matter. In fact, according to a story that was carried by this newspaper in Friday’s edition, a senior Srinagar Development Authority (SDA) official even refused to comment when asked about the city’s Master Plan that incidentally came up in 1971 up to 1991.

While the government last year had initiated the process to take a holistic review of the Srinagar Master Plan (2001-2021) in a bid to decongest the city, develop heritage sites and put a halt on reckless constructions around, much was not heard about the progress made in this regard. Media reports had even said various reputable companies including some multinational consultancies have submitted their proposals for the mid-term review of the Srinagar Master Plan, highlighting their technical expertise, experience in the relevant field and the annual turnover.

Even the renowned US-based firm, The Louis Berger Group Inc USA, was reported to have expressed interest in offering its services with regard to urban planning, traffic and transportation, infrastructure and environmental projects. But unfortunately, the people continue to face problems as there seems to be check on the rapid growth of shopping centres that continue to get construction permits. Not just the shopping complexes, but the people living in the colonies close to Lal Chowk are suffering on account of the coaching centres, clinics, training centres, hotels and other business establishments. The authorities have failed to realize that it cannot allow the free mushrooming of these centres in residential areas. As a result, the people living in these colonies are subject to lots of hardships.

Not just do these business centres cause mental distress to the residents owing to the heavy rush of people who visit these places, it also leads to other problems like heavy traffic, parking problems and also pollution. And the pollution is not confined to the emissions from the vehicles but a coaching centre or a clinic also causes noise pollution besides littering. And owing to the rapid urbanization and an increase in commercialization of residential areas, it is expected that the there will be increased pollution, traffic jams and security hazards even as the distinction between the residential and commercial areas continues to get blurred.

Ideally, a city’s master plan has to be reviewed after every five years but the same was not done after the eruption of militancy in the state. And since the government has been claiming that the situation on ground has witnessed a sea change, therefore it can no longer afford to keep on ignoring the daily concerns of the common man. The capital city is the face of any state or country and ignoring Srinagar therefore is criminal. Moreover, along with its commercialization, there has hardly been any development in this historic city. For generations now, there has hardly been any change in its state be it the condition of the roads or other issues. And the successive governments have only added salt to the injuries of its residents.

The main political parties of the state have always accused each other of ignoring Srinagar when they sit at the opposition bench. But the truth is that all the parties, whenever in power, have ignored Srinagar. Therefore immediate steps should be taken not only to check the commercialization of the city but also towards its overall development.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

What Planning?

Saleem expresses hope that city planners (in this case, the Srinagar Development Authority) will hear him - but in a city of a million without any traffic lights, crossing zones or dedicated footpaths, is he dreaming or what?

(Mr. Mohammad Saleem Beg, 60, was born and raised in Srinagar. He was educated at the S.P. College and the Gandhi Memorial College, receiving his Bachelor's degree from the latter. He was awarded a EEC fellowship in 1998 which allowed him to attend study courses at Universities of Luven, Belgium, and Trinity College, Dublin. Mr. Beg entered the State government service in 1975 and retired in 2006 as the Director General of Tourism. In the 31 years of public service (which included two deputation assignments in New Delhi), Mr. Beg promoted local arts and crafts, and raised public awareness of Kashmir's rich heritage and architecture. He was a leading figure in getting Srinagar listed as one of the 100 most threatened heritage cities by the World Monument Fund in 2008. Mr. Beg has traveled extensively and has attended numerous conferences, including the 1997 UN Special Session on Environment in New York, and the 1997 Kyoto Convention on Climate Change in Japan. His articles and essays have been published in various publications. Since retirement, he has remained active as the Convener of the J&K Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage - INTACH.)

SRINAGAR - a Walker’s Nightmare

Srinagar is home to about a million people. Add to this regular flow of visitors from other parts of the valley for their daily chores like shopping, going to a good doctor, visiting offices and relatives. All this makes it one of the most congested cities in the country. Mercifully the mess and chaos of traffic has led the tourists, who again number a million now, to generally avoid main city. Of all civic amenities, the most neglected is walking and pedestrian movement in shopping areas, roads and foot paths. Footpaths of Srinagar and pavements adjoining major roads are shrinking by the day making it among the most pedestrian unfriendly cities in the subcontinent.

Like many other historic cities, Srinagar evolved as a city where people were meant to walk. Walking is about getting a feel and handle thereby enjoying the daily life. Thus pedestrians enjoy the first right on the roads. The advent of motor transport has progressively been encroaching on the pedestrian space. The utter disregard to the pedestrian movement in the current mobility plan has resulted in a nightmare where the citizens and visitors have to jostle for space between cars, buses and public vehicles.

We see pedestrians, choosing to risk their lives on a daily basis by walking alongside fast-moving cars and ominous buses instead of fighting for decent and walkable spaces. Srinagar, even in absence of any law, has had a fair mix of roads and foot paths. But all the stake holders managing the affairs of the city from Roads and buildings department to Municipal Corporation are showing utter disregard to the walk ways. The first onslaught on the walkways started in mid 70s when footpaths were allotted for construction of shops in civil lines. This menace grew with every passing year with a mix of encroachment and connivance of the authorities. One thing that we can not blame on militancy or that what was spared by the non governance during the peak militancy in 90s, was illegal occupation of footpaths and roads. This one act took place with the consent and connivance of municipal authorities and lower rung of judiciary where stay orders were dished out for protecting the encroachment.

Compounding the problem, the rampant encroachment by the hawkers with the tacit approval of the authorities has robbed the people of whatever was left out of these walkways. The main road junctions and foot paths also became favorite sites for construction of bunkers by the security forces. With bunkers, the most shabby structures, being now removed, shops have sprung up right, left, behind and along the vacated bunkers at many locations. There is no civil society constituency that protests for the right to decent and secure living in the city. It goes to the credit of local media that they have been highlighting these concerns of the citizenry. Unfortunately there has been a growing trend in the government not to take notice of such issues reported or commented upon in the media. The urban administration has failed the State. The highly insulated and unconcerned beauracracy has damaged the institution of civic administration beyond imagination. It is a very sad day for the citizens of Srinagar that they have been suffering inefficient, uninformed and unaccountable civic set up for too long.

While there has of late been a keen awareness about the plight of people who have to walk on the roads in many Indian cities, it seems the planners and the planning process in J&K has simply given up on this most crucial aspect of the citizens needs. The callous disregard for their rights is evident from the fact that there isn’t a single law, legislation, rule or code that protects or even voices their rights.

There is an urgent need to overhaul and sensitize the institutions like Municipality, Srinagar Development Authority and link Engineering and Revenue Departments. The State political leadership has to take a call on this without any further delay. There are best case scenarios in some Indian cities that can be replicated here. The situation in other towns of the state is equally bad, and worst in cases like Islamabad and Sopore. The success in urban management in Srinagar will have a demonstrative effect on these towns as well.

Secondary Issues Are Hiding the Core Problem

Najib says at the core is a humanitarian problem that unfortunately is overwhelmed by secondary issues that have turned the Jammu-Kashmir issue into a resource and land grabbing exercise between two neighboring countries

(Sardar Muhammad Najib, 33, was born in Trarkhel, Poonch district in Pakistan administered Kashmir. He was educated at the Government Boys College, Trarkhel, and won a Gold Medal during F.Sc. Pre-Engineering as a topper in the entire Pakistan administered Kashmir. He graduated with B.Sc. in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from the North Western Frontier Province (NWFP) University of Engineering and Technology in Peshawar. Mr. Najib is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) from the Project management Institute (PMI), and is pursuing the MBA degree from the University of Atlanta, Dubai campus. He lives in Dubai and is the spokesman for the Jammu and Kashmir National Association of UAE that networks with other Kashmiris. He is an avid reader of historical literature on Jammu and Kashmir.)

Overlapping of Secondary Dynamics on the Jammu Kashmir Issue

The Jammu Kashmir conflict is among the oldest issues on earth which is still unresolved and the international community and organizations have not resolved. This princely and prominent entity in the subcontinent had been the victim of the division formulas of British rule. The British empire while leaving the subcontinent created a lot of complexity which is still under the un-resolvable condition.

With passage of time, the issue becomes more complex due to overlapping of other secondary issues; the prominent one is the water issue which is drastically overlapping with a very thick layer. Hence, the complexity can be visualized that how much strong, precise and dynamic process may lead to some breakthrough. The dynamics of the regional politics and economic interdependency are also in transition.

The terrorism frame work is another factor which hiding the genuine human issues. The confusion is being enhanced to distinguish the genuine human issues and the residual issues as a result of consequence of the regional politics paradigm. The other issues which are hampering to proceed on right road with milestones are the interim declarations, the laws imposed by the major stakeholders.

Because, these modifications in context of the originality of the Jammu Kashmir issue is strongly suppressed by the secondary and residual issues, which in fact are linked with the geographical position, the resources, the regional scenarios with international economic survival of the stakeholders. If we launch the stakeholder analysis for all major contributors than, the primary and secondary risks which can coat a thick layer on the issue can be visualized in view of complexity of parameters actually leading the present position of the issue. It is fact that the issue is unresolved and a lot of humanity and its emotions, sentiments and historical background are involved.

The secondary issues which are now indulge with the main issue must be visualized and their impact analysis should launched by all stakeholders if they really want to resolve the issue for sake of long run regional developments, the peace and the improved conditions for trade and bilateral ties. Although, the construction of mega dams, the hydroelectric power stations and the other such activities are exhibiting the proceedings of major stakeholders. Such type of attempts vowed that the major stakeholders have no concrete road map for to resolve the issue. The hit and trail method is only employed and hence the outcomes are always not durable.

The analysis of the major secondary issue i.e. the water resources are of the most important for the future energy needs, the cultivation and survival. The Jammu Kashmir holds the huge quantity of the snow inform of glaciers, the rivers are flowing from Jammu Kashmir to India and Pakistan the two major stakeholders. The forthcoming energy crisis and food demand highlights this important resource as a secondary but more dominant factor in the issue. The construction of Kishan Ganga, the Baghliar dams (Indian administered Kashmir), Basha, Neelum Jhelum, Kohala hydroelectric power projects (Pakistani administered Kashmir) and lot of other small projects linked with the water resource are contributing a very complex factor in the context of resolution of Jammu Kashmir issue. The race of construction is tremendously and drastically increasing day by day irrespective of the logical footings linked with issue. Hence, this secondary premier issue must be taken up and the genuine concerns of all stakeholders must be considered and frame work of the issue resolution must be managed.

The second secondary issue, the interim declarations between India & Pakistan, the Shimla agreement, the Tashkent declaration etc. have overlapped the layer which is hiding the real posture of the issue. The real posture of Jammu Kashmir conflict in reality was the empowering of the Pakistani controlled Jammu Kashmir and its utilization for the sake of diplomatic improvements to attain the support of international community. If both India and Pakistan really interested to resolve the issue in favor people of South Asia, these dynamics required to be incorporated in the peace agenda. The approach needs to be developed on the humanitarian basis not on the basis of the boarder or resources grabbing issue. The role of international community is to be managed and organized to certify the approach with real posture and right direction.

The Unholy Nexus Destroying Pahalgam

Basharat updates on the court proceedings dealing with the most prominent case among the 174 illegal recent construction cases in Pahalgam (only 3 recent constructions have been legal). The case against the Grand Mumtaz Hotel demonstrates the growing nexus among land mafia, influential hoteliers and serving bureaucrats

(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.)

Pahalgam Illegal Construction Case

Srinagar: The High Court today allowed the residents of Pahalgam to go for renovation of their residential houses but only after they seek proper permission from the court. However, the High Court continued its ban on reconstruction or renovation of any commercial structure within the world famous health resort.

According to Mohammad Ishaq Qadri, the advocate general a division bench of the High Court comprising Chief Justice F M Ibrahim Kalifullah and Justice Verinder Singh today ordered that the Pahalgam inhabitants can go with renovation of their houses but after jointly applying for the same before the Pahalgam Development Authority (PDA).

The PDA in turn has been directed to submit the inhabitants request to the principal district and sessions judge Anantnag who will put forth the same before the High Court.

The DFO Social Forestry Anantnag has been directed to provide trees to Mushtaq Ahmad Ganaie owner of hotel Grand Mumtaz who in turn has been directed to plant at around 100 trees within his hotel premises by the end of November. However, the court directed the petitioner to file objections within a week to the application filed by Ganaie seeking court’s permission to de-seal his hotel at Pahalgam, the advocate general said.

“We find the hotel management has violated the orders of this court by resorting to construction and also by felling the standing green trees. Apart from issuing contempt notice against the owner, we feel it would be just to direct Deputy Commissioner to seal the Grand Mumtaz hotel by evacuating any guest staying in the hotel...,” the Division Bench of the High court has observed in its August 20, order.

Senior lawyer Zaffar Shah had submitted an application on behalf of the hotel owner Mushtaq Ahmad, requesting the court to review its closure orders on August 29. “The hotel owner has not cut a single tree in Pahalgam as is being alleged. And we have properly followed the due course of law before going for repair work in one the bathrooms of the hotel,” Shah had said before the division bench.

On August 27, the authorities sealed off Grand Mumtaz hotel in Pahalgam allegedly for violating High Court orders of December 24, by virtue of which the construction in the world famous health resort was banned.

The Grand Mumtaz hotel owner has not only been accused of construction in his hotel premises at Pahalgam in violation of court directions, but cutting trees in brazen violation of forest rules. In order to probe the nexus between land mafia, influential hoteliers and serving bureaucrats, which has led to brazen violation of Pahalgam Master Plan (PMP), the High Court had on May 5, constituted a high level committee to submit its expert opinion in light of a Public Interest Litigation being heard by the Court in this regard.

Meanwhile, the expert committee appointed by the High Court today submitted its report on Pahalgam Master Plan. The High Court had appointed district judge Anantnag and Secretary High Court Legal Service Committee Abdul Rashid Malik as the member secretary of the committee.

Akhtar Rashid former chief engineer was appointed as the chairman of the committee while as the members include Dr Ashok Kumar Pandita department of environmental sciences university of Kashmir, Dr Mohammad Ayub Dar from law department university of Kashmir and A R Wadoo former chief conservator of forests.

This 5-member committee had submitted a report which besides throwing light on the illegal constructions being carried out in brazen violation of High Court orders had said that the owner of Grand Mumtaz hotel had cemented the stump of Deodar (cedar) trees which had dried up around 100 trees.

Earlier a five-member enquiry committee headed by Chief Executive Officer Pahalgam Development Authority had submitted before the court that out of 177 constructions raised before the existing master plan (2005-25) 174 constructions have been raised without permission while as only three structures are with proper permission.

“Out of 174 structures raised without permission, only 41 were raised before 1980 while as thereafter 40 to 50 structures were raised during every 10 years,” the enquiry report reads. Out of these 174 structures without permission, 122 are residential, 45 commercial, six are commercial cum residential and one is has been mentioned as other.

However, about the construction raised after the approval of master plan (2005-25), the committee has found that 57 constructions have been raised in Kralpora, lower Laripora, upper Laripora and Manzimpora (hamlets of village Laripora). Out of these 57 constructions, 40 have been raised without permission and 17 posses the permission.

Interestingly, out of 40 structures without permission, 21 structures have been raised in non-permissible zone (green zone) and 19 in permissible zone.
In another case of similar nature, while throwing rules and court direction to the winds, a National Conference former legislator started constructing a hut in Pahalgam. However, PDA immediately served a notice to him, which he challenged in through a civil suit in the Munsif Court Aishmuqam.