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.

Friday, November 11, 2011

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.

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