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, January 29, 2012

The Disappearing Legacy

Javed highlights the plight of "other victims" in the subcontinent mired in conflict

(Mr. Javed Naqi, 29, was born in Kargil, Ladakh. He did his schooling from Suru Valley Public School, Kargil. Javed earned a B.Sc. in General Science and a M.Sc. in Zoology (Parasitology) from University of Kashmir, Srinagar. He also holds a M.Phil. degree from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. His research interests include international health, international politics, governance, human rights and human security. He is currently working as Assistant Professor in Higher Education and is based in Srinagar. He has numerous academic and journalistic publications to his credit. Javed has also been associated with organizations such as Amnesty International, International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal, Salaam Balak Trust and India Social Forum. He is the co-facilitator, ambassador and founding member of the Asia Pacific Youth Network, and has attended in representative role at international meetings like the International Criminal Court State Assembly of Parties, Netherlands; Asia Pacific Youth Leadership Meet, Hong Kong; ICJB Annual Strategy Meet etc. In 2010 Javed took the initiative to mobilise the youths of Ladakh region on a common platform to voice for the concerns of the people of Ladakh. This initiative saw more than 1000 youths joining the network called Zojila Watch and actively participated in taking online and offline actions. Javed is also the co-founder of the India Action Network in 2009 - a youth led network that develops leadership skills in young people to take action on issues they are passionate about and provides environmental, social and human rights campaigners with tools and support to build up a sustainable campaign.)

India, Pakistan and the Snow Leopard

Amongst the lesser known casualties of the conflict between India and Pakistan is wild life. In times of war, we hear of the loss of life and property but seldom notice the huge impact on wildlife. Animals found in the vicinity of the disputed India-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir are on the verge of extinction. One such is the snow leopard in the border district Kargil.

Kargil, a district in the state of Jammu and Kashmir in North India is a remote, arid-cold and high altitude area. The region gained in prominence to the outer world after the Kargil War which was fought in 1999. Kargil serve as the suitable habitat for many endangered wildlife species like snow leopard, Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus langier), Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus), Asiatic ibex (Capra ibex), Ladakh urial (Ovis vignei vignei), musk deer (Moschus spp.), pikas, and hares (Maheshwari et al 2010). A joint study by J&K Department of Wildlife Protection and WWF reports 16 direct and indirect evidence of Snow Leopard in Kargil and Drass (Maheshwari et al 2010).

Since the district lies on the ceasefire line, the Line of Control, that marks the territorial divide between India and Pakistan, the region has witnessed the brutal brunt of Indo-Pak enmity. The conflict has impacted not only the lives of the people due to militarisation and cross-border shelling but it also seems the conflict has not even spared the flora and fauna of the region. The enmity has had a particularly bad impact upon the existence of the snow leopard, known as Scion in Balti language in Kargil. Similarly, other wildlife species are now rarely seen in the region. Asihwarya Maheshwari of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says, “It is here in Kargil that one of world’s most elusive creatures, the snow leopard, roams wild and free. During my research I have learnt about the tremendous decline in wildlife sightings since the 1999 Kargil war, so much so that even the common resident birds had disappeared.”

Uncia uncia, the Snow leopard, world’s most elusive feline, usually occurs in the mountains at elevations of 3,000 to over 5000 m (10,000 – 17,000 feet). They prefer steep, rugged terrain with cliffs, ridges, gullies, and slopes interspersed with rocky outcrops (Jackson and Hunter 1996). The total number left in the world are estimated about 4,500 – 7,500 in 12 countries of Central Asia s, viz., Afghanistan, Bhutan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekista (Fox 1994; Jackson and Hunter 1996). The Snow leopards are protected in nearly all countries under national and international laws. The species has been listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act (1972) of India and is listed as endangered in the 2008 International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species as globally "Endangered". They are listed in Appendix 1 of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, 1977) to check export and import of their body parts.

The Line of Control passes through the habitat of the snow leopard and other wildlife. The area is full of military activities including military movement and firing practice. These activities disturb the ecological balance and thus lead to displacement of the snow leopard from its habitat. As a result the animal moves to the inhabited low lands in search of shelter and food for survival. In the struggle for survival, it damages food crops and attacks livestock. Losing livestock is a big economic loss for a rural family. A study on human-wildlife conflict in Kargil and Drass reported 73 cases of livestock depredation by snow leopards; the total livestock loss is estimated around four million. According to the study, domestic livestock comprised 45.5% of the diet of snow leopard s (Maheshwari et al 2010). This shows the high proportion of livestock depredation and the extent of carnivore-human conflicts in Kargil and Drass.

For Kargil and Drass, the snow leopard is a symbol of the survival of life forms in a region with a harsh climate. Ironically, the population that should be protecting such a symbol is forced to see it as a threat to its own survival, making it even more vulnerable to extinction. Wildlife conservation efforts by India and Pakistan, who are both signatories to conventions on wildlife conservation, become futile.

It is time for India and Pakistan to demilitarise the Line of Control and make a trans-border peace park to save the snow leopard from extinction. The two countries could learn from various precedents such as the Åland Islands, Morokulien Peace Park, the Euro city of Haparanda-Tornio and the Oulanka-Paanajärvi transboundary national park. These Nordic examples provide valuable lessons for cross-border cooperation as their experiences of the softening of borders through practical approaches, all of which could be utilised in areas along Line of Control, the most visible site of confrontation and hostility between India and Pakistan. In particular, it provides useful ideas to create a peace park on areas across the LoC itself, which is a heaven for wildlife harbouring endangered species. This is what Dr Nelson Mandela has to say about the idea: “I know of no political movement, no philosophy, and no ideology that does not agree with the peace parks concept as we see it going into fruition today. It is a concept that can be embraced by all.”

Doing so could also be a milestone in joint cooperation between the countries that could help them in the path towards sustainable peace. If men could sort out their differences, it would help prevent man-animal conflict too. Conserving biodiversity is important for stimulating socio-economic development of the region.

Orphans of Destiny

Salman finds victims of conflict suffering from trauma, Stress related Diseases

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

Children of Conflict: Survey Finds 2,14,000 Orphans in JK

Tens of thousands of orphans are suffering from trauma and other stress related diseases including depression, sleeplessness and nausea due to the ongoing conflict in Jammu and Kashmir.

This is evident from a survey conducted by a non-governmental child welfare organization last year. The survey conducted by Save the children has found the presence of at least 2, 14,000 orphans in the state.

Anantnag district of south Kashmir has the maximum number of orphans followed by two districts of north Kashmir-Baramulla and Kupwara. The survey has also depicted the poor financial conditions of the orphans that have forced them to quit studies.

According to the survey, the proportion of children orphaned due to conflict is higher in Anantnag (56%), Baramulla (33 %), and Kupwara (25 %) districts. The survey has also observed that 37 percent of the children were orphaned due to conflict while 55 were orphaned due to natural deaths of parents and 8 percent due to other reasons.

The survey has observed that a large number of children drop out from higher secondary classes, though this is not clearly coming out with respect to primary and secondary segments. While 38 percent orphans are in this age group, only 2 percent of them are undergoing higher secondary education. Only 20 percent of the orphans were attending the same school as the other children of the same age in the same household, implying a less than equal treatment of orphans.

"Around 10 percent of all the orphans are engaged as child labourers of which 3 percent are engaged in paid work and remaining 7 percent in unpaid work. However 7 percent of all households said that taking care of orphans was an economic burden for them and another 4 percent faced other problems because of taking care of orphans such as threats from state and non-state actors," the survey says.

The main reason cited by the children for dropping out of school include poverty or foster parents being unable to afford their education, the other reasons include children being afraid of leaving their homes or school being far away. Stress or trauma in attending school was cited as another reason for dropping out.

"Among the orphans attending schools a large number said that the main distraction in school was that they had worries about families, noise of explosions during conflict and intimidating presence of troops. Around one third of all the orphans had faced emotional stress during the conflict," the survey says.

"While 40 percent felt confused, had a deep sense of lack of control over events, despair and skepticism about the future, 32 percent said that their anxiousness was triggered by sudden loud noises or seeing fatigue/battle uniforms; they had also faced anxiety, sadness and anger after seeing family, friends and neighbours being abused by the militants or the army," it adds

On the impact of the conflict on the young minds, the survey has found that about two fifth of all the orphans (39%) often complained of headache and 29 % had fever occasionally, while 9% had muscle pain and few also felt nausea (4%) and cramps (3%) . The survey found that many orphans experienced various symptoms of trauma - primarily as a result of conflict and the physical and social environment that they were experiencing. Forty Percent of all the orphans showed signs of nervousness 21 percent were very silent, around 20 Percent had depression, 16 Percent reportedly had mood swings, 21 percent were very impatient 12 percent complained of sleeplessness and irritability and 11 percent had withdrawal symptoms.

"On the whole around 5 percent of all the orphans had faced some kinds of physical abuse such as having guns pointed at them, being openly threatened by militants or the army /police being accused of providing support to the fighting sides and being to capture parents or as human shields harassed because of that being illegally detained and interrogated being forced to live outside the house or in hiding (including in forest without any protection being physically assaulted and hurt, being used as bait to capture parents or as human shields)," the survey states.

The overall percentage of the under-18 population of the sample, a crucial indicator for the validity of this study on orphans is 41, which is very close to the corresponding state figure of 42.6.

The socio-demographic pattern of the households surveyed in this study reveals that the average age of the house hold members in the study is young (26.3 years). They predominantly profess Muslim faith (86%) and belong to the general category in terms of caste/ tribe status (71%). Fourty percent of the sample population is engaged in agriculture and non- agricultural work while 23 percent are students.

"The average monthly income of individuals ranges from Rs 1800 (Anantnag) to Rs 5000 (Rajouri). Gainful employment is reportedly low in conflict prone districts," the survey states.

Kashmir and Minority Rights - 2

Paper submitted by Betab at the "Dalit and Minorities International Forum Conference" held in the Vigyan Bhavan, New Delhi

(Mr. Brij Nath Watal "Betab", 55, was born in Akingam, Anantnag district. He attended the Government High School in Achabal, and completed his pre-professional studies at the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He received a Master's degree in Political Science from the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), New Delhi. He is presently employed as a broadcaster/journalist by the All India Radio (AIR), New Delhi. Mr. Betabhas published three poetry collections, and received a National Award for poetry. He has traveled to Central Asia, and attended many national and international seminars. He is a regular contributor to half a dozen magazines, and is the honorary editor of the Hindi edition of the "Koshur Samachar." Mr. Betab is a member of J&K Academy of Art, Culture and Languages (JKAACL) subcommitte on Kashmiri language. He isassociated with various Sahitya Academy projects, and served as its jury. In leisure time, he enjoys writing and reading poetry, oriental studies and Shaivism.)

Kashmiri Pandits and the Minority Status.

I begin by paying my salutations to Goswami Tulsi Das, who says, there is innumerable sorrow and pain in this world, but the most severe is inflicted if a community is humiliated.

Unfortunately this has happened to the community of Kashmiri Pandits, who are forced to live a miserable life, after becoming refugees in their own country.

I shall not touch upon the reasons for the miserable condition of this community, as much is known to the countrymen and the government, and much has been discussed and handled during the last 21 years.

However, before I present my arguments in favour of granting the Minority status to Kashmiri Pandits, I want to give a brief account of the community, its historical background .

According to the 6th century Nilmat Purana, the land of Kashmir was occupied by a vast lake called "Satisara". Modern geological observations have supported this legendary view. On the basis of this fact, the word "Kashmir" is derived from Sanskrit "Kashyapa + Mira" which means the sea lake or the mountain of sage Kashyapa. Kashyapa was the originator of Kashmir.
Kashmiri Pandits are the progeny of this Rishi Kashyapa. Hence the original residents of Kashyapmar, the modern day Kashmir.

These Kashmiri Pandits have a recorded history of more than 5000 years, the only of its kind in India. The History starts from the coronation of a queen, Yeshomati by the Lord Krishna himself.

For the history, as well as for the early geography of the valley, the 5000 year account, given by Kalhana's in his chronicle Rajatarangini is a very important document. In the first Taranga of his work, he gives us an account of the people and the kings of this land.

For geography of this land, like holy Ganga in Indian plains, Kashmir is bestowed with Vitasta that finds a mention in the “Nadi Sukta of Rig Veda. Among the epics, we find the name of "Kashmir" in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, both.

This is a brief mention of the background of this land and the community of Kashmiri Pandits.
This community, as we all know, has been living in different parts of the country during the last 21 years, due to the ongoing militancy particularly in the valley of Kashmir.

Having left behind homes and hearths, the community today faces extinction because of the most un-favorable and inhospitable conditions of their living that are an impediment for any religious, linguistic and ethnic group to flourish.

It is the context of this threat of extinction, that the community faces for the last 22 years, that the Kashmiri Pandit community has been demanding a minority status, that will ensure its survival as a distinct ethnic, linguistic and religious group, as enshrined in different Articles of the constitution of India, like the Article 29, that protects the interests of minorities. The Article says that ‘Any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same’.

Likewise Article 30(1) says that ‘All minorities, whether based on religion or language, shall have the right to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice.’
Minority Status.

The Constitution of India uses the word ‘minority’ or its plural form in some Articles – 29 to 30 and 350A to 350B. But does not define it anywhere. Article 29 has the word
“Minorities” in its marginal heading but speaks of “any sections of citizens… having a distinct language, script or culture”.

This may be a whole community generally seen as a
Minority or a group within a majority community. Article 30
Speaks specifically of two categories of minorities – religious and linguistic. The remaining two Articles – 350A and 350B – relate to linguistic minorities only.

In common parlance, the expression “minority” means A group comprising less than half of the population and differing from others, especially the predominant section, in race, religion, traditions and culture, language, etc.

The Minority Rights provided in the Constitution which fall in the category of ‘Separate Domain’ are as under:-
i. right of ‘any section of the citizens’ to ‘conserve’ its ‘distinct language, script or culture’; [Article 29(1)]
ii. restriction on denial of admission to any citizen, to any educational institution maintained or aided by the State, ‘on grounds only of religion, race, caste, language or any of them’; [Article 29(2)]
iii. right of all Religious and Linguistic Minorities to establish and administer educational institutions of their choice;[Article 30(1)]
iv. freedom of Minority-managed educational institutions from discrimination in the matter of receiving aid from the State;[Article30(2)]
v. special provision relating to the language spoken by a section of the population of any State;[Article 347]
vi. provision for facilities for instruction in mother-tongue at primary stage;[Article 350 A]
vii. provision for a Special Officer for Linguistic Minorities and his duties; and [Article 350 B]
viii. Sikh community’s right of ‘wearing and carrying of kirpans; [Explanation 1 below Article 25]

We know that the UN declaration of 18th December 1992 is the basis of the formation and enactment for the formation of our National Minority Commission. In order to strengthen the cause of the minorities, the United Nations promulgated the “Declaration on the Rights of Persons belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities” on 18th December 1992 .

In India also the National Minorities Commission Act, act no 19 was passed in the 43rd year of republic, in the year 1992. (The National Commission for Minorities was created 1978, and in 1992, it was made a statutory body)

The Act however is not applicable to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, due to constitutional obligations.

Now the question is how do we achieve this.

Constituting a State Minorities Commission is up to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, and its legislature that must enact a law and institute a State Minority Commission on the pattern of other state’s Minority Commissions.

Once the commission is in place the rest of the things will follow.
The question is what these constitutional guarantees will ensure. My opinion is that these constitutional safeguards will ensure that the Kashmiri Pandits will have the constitutional guarantee that they can live in their original abode, Kashmir. Once a state minority Commission is in place, it will ensure that their places of worship is not encroached upon in the name of ‘public utility services’.

Today the dilemma with Kashmiri Pandits is that in the state of their origin, Jammu and Kashmir, they are not part of the Majority and in the country, they are not part of the Minority.
The Minority status would ensure that this distinct race of a distinct genealogical order will be able to continue the race. The constitution will ensure that their, language which is distinct and varied from the majority language in the valley, will survive, with its distinct tone, tenor, form syntax and script, that is not the one used by the majority community.
The community would be able to pursue its tradition of deep research in religious and philosophical spheres, as has been the tradition of Kashmiri Pandits, whose contribution to Indian polity since ages is immense. From Kumar Jiva to Kumar Krishna and from Kalhana to Abhinavagupta, this community has contributed from Buddhism to aesthetics and from History to modern day science. The community under the Minority status, will be able to preserve its Art forms, Cultural moorings, linguistic base, and shall continue to hold their tradition and preserve, conserve, propagate, and adhere to their unique traditions of day to day life, as there would not be a threat of Persecution and annihilation.
Current Position.

The present position is that the state and the centre governments are in knowS of the matter.
The matter was put before them by the All India kashmiri Samaj,AIKS, and an NGO, formed in 1996 by one prof.Gopi kishen Muju, named ‘Kashmiri Hindu Minority Conference’, in Jammu with a view to fight for the minority status for the Kashmiri Pandits.

According to Sh. Muju his organization, on December 18 , 1998 submitted a memorandum to the then state Chief Minister (DR. Farooq Abdullah), with copies to the Union Home Minister (Shri L.K.Advani) and Chairman National Commission for Minorities (Dr. Tahir Mehmood at that time) However there was no response from the state and Central Governments

But the Chairman of the National Minorities commission, responded immediately and sent an official reference from the Commission", stating that "our Hindu brethren are a minority in the State of Jammu and Kashmir and in other five States".

The National Commission for Minorities unanimously endorses each of the seven demands made by the "Kashmiri Hindu Minority Conference"

The Seven demands are:
1. Amendments in the State Constitution to the effect that the regional minorities in the State, without prejudice to any sections and groups which have formally been declared/categorised as SC/ST/OBC etc., be recognised and declared as minorities under the State Constitution and given Minority Status.
2 The State Government should take proper steps, Constitutional and judicial, to provide the extension of the jurisdiction of the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 to J&K State
3.The State Government Constitutes anrepresentatives to prepare a blue print for presentation to the State Legislature in regard to grant of Minority Status to the regional Minority groups in the State.
4.The privileges and facilities which would accrue to the minorities in the State after the recognition of their minority status be clearly stated in the Constitution of the State when a Bill for amendments is introduced.
5. The minority groups should be given their adequate representation in all the three organs of the State viz. executive, legislature and judiciary
6.The amended constitution should also provide an effective mechanism of redressing the grievances of the minorities without prejudice to the interests of the larger sections of the society.
7. while amending the State Constitution it should be made obligatory on all formally recognised political parties to have a Minority Cell each in order to work for the welfare and betterment of the thus declared minorities.

After the NCM’s directives’ The state Chief Minister in 2006, Sri G.N.Azad declared in the state Assembly that ‘the Government would set up a State Minority Commission’. Seizing the Opportunity the KHMC with the help of some legal experts prepared a draft bill at par with the National Commission for Minorities Act and submitted the same to the State Government. Since then however nothing is heard.

After some time, the Kashmiri Hindu Minority Conference’ involved with its struggle other minorities of the State also including, the Buddhists, the Sikhs, and the Christians from Jammu region and an organisation called J&K MINORITIES RIGHTS FORUM was formed. On Dec. 18, 2010 the J&K M.R.F.organised a seminar in Jammu to garner support that was luckily forthcoming in abundance. on the "Political, Legal And Social Status of the Minorities of the J&K State" The demands made earlier by the KHMC were reiterated with some minor changes here and there.

As for AIKS,the Delhi based organization of Kashmiri Pndits, approached the NCM, chief with the request and the commission in principal agreed to the demand. AIkS general secretary Dr. Ramesh Raina informs me that they are in possession of a letter from Mr. Wajahat Habibullah, the Chairman of NCM, wherein he favours the grant of minority status to Kashmiri Pandits.

Advisory Committee comprising representatives of minority groups, legal experts and Government At a programme ‘ Meet your bright stars,’ organised by Kashmiri Pandit United Forum, Mr. Vajat Habibullah participated as the chief Guest and in his speech, he re-affirmed his support, says Mr. Raina.

Again, the a delegation of AIKS in 2008 had a meeting with the Minority affairs minister, government of India, Sh. A.R.Antuley. Sh Antuley showed his keenness and sent reports to the Prime Minister and the congress President.
The case seems to be under consideration.


The conclusion could best be summed up in the words of Mr. Ajay Bharti, who is a social activist of the Kashmiri Pandit community. He says and I quote, ‘Affirmative action or constitutional and legal mechanism to protect rights of minority is essentially an attempt to remedy the effects of past biases. In a democratic set up where majority rule prevails, minority community like ours has to suffer by default.

We have this history of suffering during past six decades. In a systematic manner we have been excluded from all forms of governance institutions. We elected four members to constituent Assembly of J&K in 1952 now we are not in a position to elect a single member to state legislature.

In executive our number is negligible. Hence our role in policy and planning is not adequate.
It is to fight this exclusion from the so called secular governance module that state needs to take some affirmative action. Declaring us a minority and extending all those benefits which are available to minorities in entire nation would only be a logical step’.

(With inputs from Government of India and NCM websites)

Kashmir and Minority Rights - 1

Bhushan assesses the recent announcement from the National Commission for Minorities (NCM)

(Mr. Bhushan Lal Saraf, 67, was born in Batapora, Shopian. He finished his schooling from the Government Higher Secondary School in Shopian, and completed his professional degrees in B.Sc. (Hons.), Diploma L.L.B., and KCS (Judicial) from the University of Jammu and Kashmir, and from the University of Lucknow. Mr. Saraf retired as a Principal District & Sessions Judge. He is presently an Honorary Member of the J&K State Consumer Commission. He has authored a book, "New Lexicon for the Kashmiris," published by UPS in New Delhi. In his leisure time, Judge Saraf, provides complimentary legal counselling, campaigns for legal awareness, and enjoys reading and writing.)

National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 And The State Minorities

Reportedly, Wajahat Habibuallah the Chairperson of National Commission for Minorities has written to the Central government to amend the National Commission for Minorities Act 1992 ( NCM Act ), to make it applicable to the State of J&K and other states , so that interests of Pandits and other state minorities are safe guarded . We are informed that National Commission for Minorities ( Commission ) has taken up the issue with the State Law Minister, Ali Mohammad Sagar ,in this regard .Copies of the letter have been marked to the Union Ministers of Home and Law .In the alternative , it has been suggested that J&K government promulgate a State Act on the lines of model Act developed by the Commission .According to the media reports , “ the State government is not averse to the benevolent recommendations of the Commission.”

It is a long pending demand of the Pandits and some other religious minority groups of the State ,like Sikhs , Christians and the Buddhists that they get statutorily assured benefits available to the minorities elsewhere .They have been peacefully agitating for this purpose and have been regularly interacting with the State and Central governments , as also the Commission . The then Chairperson of the Commission , Dr Tahir Mehmood, was kind enough to write to the then Chief Minister Dr Farooq Abdulah ,in 1999 , and invite his attention to the miserable plight of the minorities of the State . He wrote , “ Our Hindu brethren are in minority in the J&K State . We owe them the sacred responsibility of all that is necessary to protect their lives, properties, human rights and civil liberties .” ( Refer Commission No CH /4/ 88 NCM dt 21 01 1999) There , however , was no response from the governments Thanks to the present missive of the Commission , we at least have the inkling of government’s thinking on the issue .They are in a fix which ,as per the media reports, is reflected as ,“ Complexity in declaring any group a minority arises from the existence of a peculiar region-wise and community –wise composition in the State ,where no community is in minority in all the three regions of Jammu ,Kashmir and Ladakh.”

So far as we know J&K is a single federating unit with the Union Federation . It is so constitutionally and politically . Administratively , it has two Divisions . That being so , the Apex Court has , in number of cases , paved way for the government to come out of the dilemma . In TMA Pai Foundation case - (2002 )8 SCC 481- the Supreme Court has held since India has been reorganized on the linguistic basis , therefore , for determining minority the unit has to be the State and not the whole of India .Both religious and linguistic minorities are to be considered State –wise .In Bal Patil’s case ( AIR 2005 SC 3172 ) the Apex Court has made job of the State government easier by defining Minority in clear terms “ minority as understood from the Constitutional scheme signifies an identifiable group of people or community who were seen deserving protection from likely deprivation of their religious , cultural and educational rights by other communities , who happen to be in majority and are likely to gain power in a democratic form of government based on election .” In any case the nitty gritties could be sorted out well by obtaining expert legal advice on the issue .

Some communities , including the Pandits , are on the verge of extinction . Primarily for this reason they should come within the purview of United Nation’s declaration on rights of Minorities, which General Assembly adopted recalling Resolutions 46/115 of 17. 7 1991 , 1992 /16 of 21 . 2 . 1992 and 1992/ 4 of 20 ,7 .1992 on Human Rights . Articles 1.1 and 1.2 of these Resolutions cast a duty on the Member States to protect existence and the ethnic, cultural , religious and linguistic identity of the minorities within their respective territories ; and call upon the State to adopt appropriate legislative and other measures to achieve those ends . It may be worthwhile to recall that former Chief Minister Gulam Nabi Azad assured Sikh Sangat , Christian Congregation and Pandit representatives , number of times during his rule, that State shall have a Commission to safeguard rights of the regional minorities . Apart from that , one of the major recommendations of Prime Minister’s working group on good governance , lead by Naresh Chandra , is for the State of J& K to have a minority commission . Ajay Sadhotra and S M Bukhari , then N C MLAs , introduced private member’s Bill No 12 /2006 in the Assembly for constitution of State Minority Commission , with a view to safeguard , protect and ensure development of the minorities in the state . The Bill , however ,was not carried through .

Section 13 of J&K Constitution insists upon promotion of welfare of the people, consistent with the objectives of “ Naya Kashmir ” document . Section 25 casts a duty on the State to foster equality and secularism . It would be, therefore, in fitness of things that the State government pays urgent heed to the advice of the Commission and constitutes a Commission for the minorities living in J&K . It must be noted here that extension of NCM Act 1992 to our state would not be a right thing to do .Many insurmountable hurdles are in the way . Besides , if we go by the tone and tenor of prouncements of the Apex Court a concept of National Minorities does not get approval . The matter is well and truly within the domain of the State government The enumeration of the minority groups has to be done at the state level .So , the state government has to take a call .It may not be out of place to mention here the Proclamation issued by Maharaja Harisingh on 5th March 1948 , calling upon his Council of Ministers, lead by Shiekh Mohammad Abdullah , to frame Constitution which shall, among other things , provide adequate safeguards for the minorities. Viewed in the afore mentioned background, there is no escape for the state Govt. from seriously considering the advice of the Commission and to act with dispatch. It is heartening to note that the authorities concerned at state and national level have instilled hope in the leaders of various communities agitating over the matter

Number of times it has been agued that minority rights are inherent in the Constitution and United Nation’s declaration on Human Rights . State is only to recognize them as such and ensure that benefits accruing under law reach the deprived section of the society .

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Kashmir Has More Medical Shops Than All North India Combined

Arshad examines the new State Drug Policy. Arshad's article is followed by an editorial in the Kashmir Images

(Syed Arshad Hussain Kashani, 38, was born and brought up in Srinagar. After finishing schooling, he did my bachelors in Science from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He completed his Masters degree from Kashmir University in Bio-Chemistry in 1996. He worked outside of Kashmir for a short period and then returned to the valley where he is self-employed. Arshad is an independent commentator who writes occasional articles. He loves playing cricket since his childhood, and has keen interest in history, taking great interest in developments around the world.)

The State Drug Policy

The much awaited and debated Drug Policy is drafted and finally approved by the brilliant brains of our society - The Cabinet of Law Makers. The policy was primarily aimed to take
care of the society especially in terms of providing a quality health care. As
per reports in the local media, the main change in the existing status is that
the doctors will have to prescribe the generic names of the drugs and not any
particular brand of the said drug. This the experts found only way to ensure
that quality product is delivered to the customer.This is gross innocence and is
bound to prove counterproductive keeping in consideration the main objective of
the drug policy. This change is going to create a legal mess in the state.
J&K is selling the drugs mainly manufactured and marketed in India under
Indian rules and regulations. As such there is nothing like a Drug monopoly but
instead thousands of the brands of the same product compete in the market that
is mainly defined by the prescription of a doctor.

What this policy will do is that the competition of these products will be
settled at the chemist counter and will be mainly determined by the profit
margins the man in question will enjoy. That is where one feels sick of the idea
we are going to get trapped in. Another tragedy is in the making as certain
molecules are very much resembling but entirely different in character that can
prove detrimental keeping into consideration the rush hour sale of drugs from
the market e.g. the S-Amlodipine and Amlodipine, S-Omperezole and Omperezole,
Cetrizine and Levo-Cetrizine, L-Lysine etc.

This is a fact that a lot of
doctors get obliged by the companies for prescribing their brands and now it
will be a chemist. The drug dispensation level in our state is not a shade of
the same in the markets our cabinet is influenced by to do the same for us. Now
it will be the turn of a chemist to bargain for and sell the brand of his
choice. The question is how this change will ensure a quality drug sale - I
doubt, rather fail to understand the logic behind this move. Instead the risk
factor is quite high given the number of brands of the same molecule that will
be competing only on the margin factor in the market. Since money is involved in
this trade, the only criteria now will be to swell the chemist margin and it is
going to be a mess.

A generic brand is sold to the chemist with approximately
500% margin that is what has been ignored by the policy makers. Given the number
of brands of the same molecule in the market it will be next to impossible to
trace and track the product that patient has consumed as patient has only
generic name with him and the product sold by a chemist has no hold to be
probed. By prescribing a brand there was a proof what patient has consumed by
valid doctor prescription. It will be very difficult now to single out the
problematic brand out of the crowd.

This is going to be a legal mess in the
state soon as high profitability at chemist level may take away the quality from
the product. Agreed doctors are obliged by Pharma-companies for prescribing
their products/brands. However in turn doctors also get periodic medical
bulletins, sponsorship for/on medical updates, conferences and so on. Different
molecules are launched long after a particular doctor is out of a medical
college and the study material, drug trials etc are made available to doctors by
these Pharma-companies only and in return they need business. With this new law
this practice will be a closed chapter and society as a whole is going to

The men behind the Drug policy know better what they are up to;
however they need to know an important factor i.e. going by generic names is
possible in the places where there is monopoly of the molecules and no choice is
left at the chemist counter. Let them consult the proper experts again before
putting it to practice.

Prudent Decision

(Editorial in the Kashmir Images)

The cabinet decision to adopt the State Drug Policy is a welcome step that at last saw the approval from those who have been trumpeting it for decades but could not join heads to give it the final shape. Better late than never may be true but in the context of drug policy, it proved disastrous as its absence consumed thousands of lives. Our state remained the main consumer of the drug and medicines manufacturing companies for the last many decades.

Billions of rupees would just go in purchase of the medicines and in return the benefits were proportionally quite low or at times adverse, to say the least. This is all because Jammu and Kashmir, particularly Valley became a dumping ground for the companies that churned out spurious drugs and made Kashmiris to use them through their tentacles in the form of compliant doctors and the collaborator distributors. While as the general health level elsewhere showed positive trend, the same took a receding curve in the Valley. This is because of the spurious and sub standard drugs and medicines that are easily available and that too in abundance in our markets.

There are more medical shops in the Valley than in entire north India put together. Government on its part remained a mute spectator leaving the masses to fend for themselves in the ocean of spurious drugs. More paradoxical part of this mafia type system is the involvement of doctors in promoting spurious drugs in the Valley thus playing havoc with the health of the people for no fault of theirs. On one hand people are victim of a disease or mishap and on the other those who are supposed to play messiah, turn out to be the cheaters by resorting to drugs that are in no way helpful to the recuperation of the patient but just fattened the pockets of such conscience- less doctors. For decades people have been raising the issue, sometimes vociferously, but the rulers paid no heed because it is thought that many politicians have been part of the mafia and they reaped the ‘benefits’ by delaying the introduction of the drug policy.

If some conscientious doctors are to be believed, more than sixty percent drugs currently in the medical shops is of spurious quality and has the potential to aggravate the disease or ailment that they will be prescribed for. If such is the scenario in the Valley, then how government can afford to close its eyes from such grave issue? Now that the State Drug Policy has got the cabinet approval, the real test has to be seen in the field. An estimated five thousand medical shops are running in the valley alone which are without licenses. Besides, there is an army of quacks found in every nook and corner of the Valley who have been playing with the lives of people for decades. They need to be weeded out without delay.

There has to be strict vigilance on the drugs prescribed by doctors and any doctor found relying on or deliberately prescribing spurious drugs must be punished severely and his certificate declared null and void. Now that enforcing agencies have a weapon in the form of State drug Policy with them, they must use it for the benefit of the people of the state as healthy nations do wonders in every field. Besides, Kashmiris will be ridden of the unnecessary burden on their purses for having to take extra drugs and time in recuperation.

Improving Health Care

Farooq assesses challenges in medical care in Kashmir

(Dr. Farooq Ahmad Jan, 43, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. He was schooled at the New Era Public School, Raj Bagh, and attended the Gandhi Memorial College (GMC), Srinagar. He completed his medical degree (M.B.B.S.) from from the University of Kashmir. Dr. Jan completed the 3-year M.D. program in Hospital Administration Under SKIMS Deemed University. Currently, he is an Associate Professor of Hospital Administration and Deputy Medical Superintendent of the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS), Srinagar. He is a member of the Indian Academy of Hospital Administration, and has published a book on Hospital Care, and numerous technical papers. Dr. Jan has received third best JIMSA article award for year 2010 for the paper titled “Status of Quality Assurances Practices in teaching Hospitals of Kashmir Division," and has participated in various national and international conferences.)

Health Care: Few Interventions Needed

The Health Care indicators of Jammu and Kashmir are improving but there is much more which needs to be done. Although government is providing health care at nominal registration fee but most of the financing of health care is “Out-of-Pocket”. This form of financing is considered worst form of financing health care. A single episode of ill health consumes a sizeable share of poor household resources leading to financial crisis.

In a study at SKIMS we saw that average “Out-of-Pocket” expenses on cancer care are more than average annual income of family and monetary loss due to inability to go for one’s job is 15.2% of the average annual income of family. More than quarter (27.3%) of families had to sell property or borrow money to meet costs of cancer care. Only 9.09% of patients could get this cost of care reimbursed through reimbursement for government employees, assistance in the form of Chief Minister’s relief fund, exemption by health authorities and insurance. Uninsured adults with chronic conditions are more likely than their counterparts to have unmet medical care needs because of the cost which could contribute to adverse health outcomes.

Health care expenditures have been constantly on the rise. Providing access to all the citizens has long been a corner stone of modern health financing systems in many countries. To ensure that individuals have access to health services one of the functions of health system financing is pooling of resources. Pooling is traditionally known as insurance function. Its main purpose is to share the financial risk associated with health interventions for which the need is uncertain. When people pay out-of-pocket, no pooling occurs. Most of the developed countries have done away with this form of health care financing but out-of-pocket expenses account for more than four-fifths of total health care spending in India. The emerging trend towards nuclear families is exposing people to severe economic and social constraints. The traditional mechanisms of social security and adjustment at times of crisis are fast disappearing.

The transformation has resulted in the creation of several problems for individuals and groups particularly the aged and retired populations. These reasons have led to an increased sense of insecurity among the public and prompt us for the necessity of some sort of health insurance over the years. Many low and middle income countries are considering health insurance for adoption into their social and economic environment or striving to sustain and improve already existing insurance schemes. First small informal voluntary insurance schemes may serve as learning models, but in order to achieve universal coverage government action is needed to formalise these schemes and to introduce principle of compulsion. Once compulsory health insurance exists for some people, incremental expansion of coverage to other social groups may be feasible to achieve universal coverage.

Many efforts have been made in India to start such insurance schemes both at governmental level and by private sector, but private for profit insurers only recently allowed by Government may target better off sections of the society when such schemes are needed more by low and middle income countries. Government can contribute towards the annual premium, so as to ensure the affordability of the scheme to families living below poverty line.

Numerous studies have reported on the ineffectiveness of Indian government health departments in executing their administrative and regulatory roles. Administrators display considerable leniency in implementing guidelines, often preferring persuasion over enforcement. Frequently doctors collide with superiors to circumvent policies while maintaining the outward appearance of compliance. In spite of often possessing perspectives and convictions that differ from sanctioned guidelines, practitioners are not able to effectively communicate these ideas and get them introduced into mainstream policy discourse. Studies have shown that stronger regulations and provisions for accountability in Indian health systems need to be balanced by measures to develop intellectual capital and include voices of frontline practitioners in public health discourse.

In addition to public sector, private sector provides a good percentage of health care especially out patient services. The private sector is largely unregulated and encompasses from small nursing homes to local shopkeepers (Informal Private Providers). These informal private providers (IPP) who practice allopathic medicine but have not been formally trained in it are a significant part of the private sector. Drug vendors are often the first providers of care for many common illnesses such as diarrhoea, fever and cough. Engaging them is a feasible way to ensure that appropriate drug regimes or illness advice reaches the broadest audience possible.

For these entrepreneurs, however training alone may not create the desired effect. Additional strategies such as increased regulatory oversight, establishment of referral system to qualified providers and investigation into balancing the profit motives of most informal private providers with the desired health goals of the public is required.

Corruption Breeds Corruption

Soubiya gives a detailed account of how Kashmir lost its way and is now caught deep in the corruption quagmire

(Ms. Soubiya Yousuf, 23, was born in Srinagar. She did her schooling from Salfia Muslim Institute, Parray-pora, Srinagar. After that she went to Iqbal Memorial Institute, Bemina, for 11th and 12th class. She did her B.A. from Govt. College for Women, M. A. Road, Srinagar. She has also done Advanced Diploma in Computer Applications. Currently she is doing Masters in Sociology from University of Kashmir. She loves reading books.)

Why Only The Rules Changed And The Scenario Remained As It Was?

Big government conservatives are spending trillions and wasting billions. Republicans are no longer the party of fiscal conservancy, but the party of runaway spending and corruption - Sherrod Brown

The menace of corruption is deep-rooted and has consumed the vital organs of the society. It is very harmful and detrimental for all aspects of society – social, spiritual, political, economical, educational and moral. It corrodes a society’s beauty, values, strength and resources. Though the term ‘corruption’ has wide connotations but generally it is described as misusing one’s office for a private gain or unofficial end. The Oxford Dictionary defines corruption as a dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.

The main reason of corruption could be mismanagement and disorganization. There is a weak control on various departments and their working. This leads to lack of coordination and control among departments and levels of organization. This uncontrolled and unsupervised administration gives rise to corruption on large scale.

As far as our own J&K State is concerned it figures among the most alarmingly corrupt states of India according to a global organization “Transparency International”. Not a single field or department is free from corruption. Even the State Finance Commission headed by Dr. Mehmoodur Rehman which was constituted by the state government, reportedly warned that corruption has become all pervasive and omnipresent in the State with conventional laws hardly proving effective to curb the menace. The said Commission has termed certain offices as “citadels of corruption and festering sores”. The said report has noticed that laws to deal with rampant graft and blatant embezzlement of public money are failing short of the need and the existing apparatus to deal with corruption has not touched the subject beyond the fringes.

According to a survey Police department tops the corruption chart. The powers enjoyed by the police are so wide that they can accuse, arrest and harass even an honest person. Electricity, education, water supply and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme fell under the other corrupt services. In fact, the menace of corruption has even crept into such institutions which were considered to be sanctimonious such as educational institutions, hospitals etc. In the hospitals corruption is associated with non-availability of medicines, spurious medicines, getting admission, consultation with doctors and availing diagnostic services. Doctors prescribe unnecessary medicines and various diagnostic investigations for commissions. There have been cases of diversion of medical supplies from government hospitals and clinics as well as supply and distribution of medicines of inferior quality.

Furthermore, retention of retired officials also encourages corruption by depriving the deserving youth their rights of employment. Due to lack of employment the youth are willing to pay huge amount for jobs. Many employers take undue advantage of this situation. They take bribe and give appointment letters. The appointed employee then uses all means (legal & illegal) to recover his lost money as early as possible. Hence corruption breeds corruption. In Kashmir paying bribes and influence peddling to get jobs done in public offices is a routine activity.

Corruption is also evident from the activities of other sections of society like contractors and builders are constructing sub-standard roads, bridges and houses. Students are engaged in mass copying. Traders are engaged in overcharging, adulteration and under weighing.

The menace of corruption is not restricted to the J&K State but it is prevalent even in most advanced countries. Even in India in recent past big politicians have been charge-sheeted and even put behind the bars.

In J&K various Laws/Acts were enacted from time to time for eradication of corruption. Prior to 1947 during the Maharaja’s Rule in J&K an Act titled “J&K Prevention of Corruption Act, Samvat 2006” was in force. Pursuant to the provisions of the said Act territorial police was authorized to take cognizance of offences of corruption as and when complaints were received by them. After proper investigation into such complaints the reports thereof were placed before the Judicial Courts. Those cases which were prima facie “proved” were put to trial after framing charge-sheet and then the guilty were awarded criminal conviction.

After that in early 1960’s, without repealing the aforementioned Act of Samvat 2006, a new legislation was enforced under the name “The J&K Govt. Servants Prevention of Corruption (Commission) Act, 1962”. Pursuant to the provisions of the said Act of 1962, two Commissions (Non-Gazetted) and J&K Anti-Corruption (Gazetted), were constituted with a view to eradicate menace of corruption. Besides, a separate Police Organization called “Anti-Corruption Organization” was established. The complaints received by the commission, whether anonymous or otherwise, were properly scrutinized by the Commission and if found necessary were referred to the Anti-Corruption Organization for thorough investigation under laid down provisions of the Act. Pertinently, it was not mandatory for the Commission to agree with the final report of investigation of the Anti-Corruption Organization. Even in “Not-Proved” cases the alleged accused officials were being charge-sheeted where the Commission would have been of the view that the investigating agency has not fairly concluded the case. After finalizing the inquiry by the Commission the recommendations were submitted to the Govt. for further necessary action. The “Non-Gazetted Commission” was headed by one man of the rank of “Session Judge” and “Gazetted Commission” by a “High Court Judge” as its Chairman with members of the rank of Session Judge. In cases where both Gazetted and Non-Gazetted Govt. Servants were involved, cognizance was taken by the Gazetted Commission. In the year 1974 both the Commissions were amalgamated as one Commission.

At present the cases of corruption are being dealt with under the provisions of “J&K Prevention of Corruption Act Samvat, 2006”. The cases that are investigated by Vigilance organization are being placed before the Special Judge after obtaining proper sanction for prosecution from the Govt.

In the meantime Govt. has also enacted new law “The J&K Public Men and Public Servants Declaration of Assets and Other Provisions Act, 1983 (Act No.: 5 of 1983)” making it mandatory for the ministers, Govt. officials etc. to declare their assets.

It could be concluded that any law enforced for prevention of corruption is not defective, but the implementers should be sincere and honest in their duties. Enacting new Legislations/Laws is not the remedy for eradicating the corruption, but the implementation of the laws which are already prevalent need to be strictly implemented in letter and spirit with sincerity/honesty. There should be no political, administrative or any other influence in the functioning of the law implementing agency. The most essential and effective apparatus for eradication of the menace of corruption is introspection by each individual and authority.

The Unsatisfactory Status of the SMC and the SDA

Junaid comments on dysfunctional local councils like the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) and the Srinagar Development Authority (SDA)

(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.)

SMC & SDA’s Obstructionist, Political Role in Srinagar

Municipalities and Town Councils are meant to usher cities into eras of planned development and infrastructural growth. That thumb rule, however, changes when it comes to Srinagar. In Srinagar, the Municipality and Development Authority has over the years taken over the role of obstructionism, of stunting development in the name of baseless and flawed rules that are imposed at will and flouted at will, depending on the political dynamics of each case.
If, for a moment, we are to believe in the supremacy of SMC and SDA regulations, those spelled out in the Master Plan and those written in moth-eaten books elsewhere, should we not wonder why Srinagar has turned into a congested, ill-planned and dysfunctional city? The issues faced by Srinagar, one of the fastest growing cities in the world as revealed in a recent report, are traceable to both a collective political failure when it comes to Urban Development as well as a prolonged system of corruption and obstructionism in SMC and SDA. It appears that both departments, under the shadow of the government of the day, have shut their eyes and presumed that Srinagar has stopped growing and with a cessation of its growth, its infrastructural needs have stopped growing too. Fountains and seasonally painted pavements seem to be the priorities in a city that is under-served when it comes to both commercial and residential spaces. In imposing its obstructionist power, both departments have thrown Srinagar into the clutches of a new-age License Raj. Both departments have disincentivized obedience to both law and logic.
A significant part of the old-city is morphing into a large slum with narrow, congested roads and a hotchpotch blend of old and new, residential and commercial construction. As pontificators who have in their minds stigmatized progress, sit in their living rooms and lament about the state of this city in this context, they fail to account for two things – 1) The realities and needs of a growing city and 2) The failure of successive NC and PDP governments in charting out a policy that provides for commercial zones in the city.

Agreed that Kashmir is a beautiful tourist destination but are we to delude ourselves to believe that tourists can be so enamoured by Kashmir’s beauty that they can come and live under open skies? Our Tourism department might go to the seventh sky to hold road-shows to attract tourists to Kashmir but our Urban Development department, our Municipality and Development Authority have ensured that it’s easier to re-enact World War II than making a new hotel in Srinagar. We have already started witnessing an acute shortage of hotel rooms in Srinagar during months that witness a heavy inflow of tourists. Existing hoteliers cannot dare to dream of adding to their existing infrastructure due to a punitive, obstructionist atmosphere that has become the face of this government’s urban policy. The rule of the day is to make young entrepreneurs run from pillar to post and post to pillar for years as they jump over numerous insurmountable no-objection-certificates. Why have we penalized development in a city that is in such a dire need to usher itself into prosperity? Do common Kashmiris who don’t belong to NC and PDP or are not affiliated to these twin parties bereft of their constitutional right to grow and aspire for a modern, metropolitan city?

Service-sector across India is providing this generation with hundreds and thousands of jobs – be it shopping malls, office aspaces and hotels. With jobs in the government sector in our State having long dried up, the need for private sector to grow in terms of providing more jobs becomes absolutely essential. But how will Private Sector provide jobs to Kashmiris when SMC and SDA have ensured that private sector in Srinagar cannot muster the courage to add new infrastructure or make improvements to our existing, dilapidated infrastructure. By-passes across India, including Jammu, are zoned as commercial zones with the exception of Srinagar. We need to wonder if this is because of a deliberate unstated policy that aims at pushing Kashmir into Stone Age?

We can go on macadamizing Gupkar road and giving NC and PDP the political right to ration on dreams of prosperity, of making obstructionism a part of official State policy. Or, we can hold not only our government, our twin mainstream parties but also our bureaucrats accountable for starving Kashmiris for growth and development. We need to ask questions. We deserve answers. Why has Jammu been allowed the liberty to grow into a city while Srinagar has been suffocated into a slum? Is this the reconciliatory hope Srinagarites deserve after having reeled under political and social turmoil for close to a decade and a half? Our estate, hospitality and protocol departments can go on spending crores after crores on ministerial residences as this city starves for basic infrastructure because as it has become apparent, we are all children of a lesser God. Our CM can grandstand about snapping electricity to the CM house while all representatives and bureaucrats sun-bath in the warmth of Jammu.

Our State government has convinced itself that it can play the role of Private Sector by making shopping malls and shaadi-halls rather than focussing on what are the integral responsibilities of any responsible, efficient government. SDA can make ugly, ramshackled shopping complexes in Srinagar but a private enterprise will not be allowed to make a modern, beautiful shopping mall right next to that ugly, dilapidated SDA shopping structure. Look at Sangarmal Mall! Had a private enterprise made a shopping mall where Sangarmal exists today it would have been functioning as a fully-occupied, booming shopping mall today! But alas, our government wants to monopolize development and in that process, ruin all possible opportunities of growth.

Unfortunately it is the tax-payers that contribute to the salaries of government employees including SMC and SDA departments – but what could have been a constructive means for growth has become a collective drain for the tax-payers money. Could someone please tell the quixotic SMC Chairman that Municipalities are not all about obstructionism and demolitions! What about a non-existent waste management system, a defunct and chaotic garbage collection system? What about our stinking lanes and overflowing drains?

Let us allow this city to grow – not chaotic, unplanned growth but well-planned and visionary infrastructural growth. Let us chart out a new future for Srinagar – one of modern buildings, wide roads, sparkling hotels and booming shopping malls. Let us stand up to obstructionism and tell the power that be that we have a right to dream too!

State in Doldrums

Iqbal conducts an assessment of how the state government has performed

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 65, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. Dr. Iqbal is the Vice Principal, Controller and the head of department - Operation Theater Technology at Tahira Khanam's Paramedical Sciences Institute, Lawaypora, Srinagar. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

State in Disarray

Admitted that a concerned Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah preferred to stay put in freezing cold of Srinagar as the snowfall put the administration out of gear, instead of taking the plea of his job entitling him to be in Jammu secretariat, the concern could be read as self-satisfactory as well as generally gratifying.

Granted CM, young in years as well as in spirit, is a well meaning gentleman, with a pronounced preference for doing the right thing at the right time, at the right place. Accepted that more often than not, CM voices public concern, as he did when Altaf Ahmad in Uri died of bullets fired by Central Industrial Police Force, when as per numerous accounts firing was unwarranted.We may concede all that vis-à-vis the chief minister, who has been elected by popular vote. On his own admission, the vote was purely for running an administration; in no way did it imply a survey of opinion on the future of what in its short form is called the ‘K’ issue. Still, CM comments frequently on ‘K’ issue. His critics say, it is because of his propensity to be one-upping on separatists, or to take the wind out of their sails. Whatever it might imply, he is within his rights to say, what he says loudly.

Having conceded CM’s right, he, however, remains open to question on whether whatever the steps he takes are result oriented or not. That is the litmus test of performance. On that the CM’s record is not laudatory at all. However even on result oriented assessment, CM may get a partial let-off, as it is extremely difficult to get through the web of bureaucratic hurdles. The sclerosed arteries of administrative circulation are so hardened, as to make its health highly suspect. Nothing ever seems to move it, be it Omar Abdullah or anyone else. Having served for three decades in Middle East, where regimes are dictatorial, anyone from our parts with similar experience would swear that things move faster and much more meaningfully than the democratic system, we subscribe to and swear by. However this may not be taken as a plea for supporting dictatorship, with its obvious flaws and squeezing of political space for dissent.

JK state’s health is suspect, it rates high in negative sense…on corruption, on administrative in-aptness, with its summer capital---Srinagar rated the fourth filthiest city. This is in spite of nature having endowed the Valley with attractive water bodies, and with majestic hills surrounding it. The Valley has a salubrious climate. All that the Valley is decorated with in natural scheme of things stands nullified by an administrative system bent upon reversing what the nature has provided. In the process of reversal, the administrative anarchy in the state has left nothing undone! A liberal dose of political favours has provided the support base for the anarchy. What is true of the Valley holds well beyond it. In Chenab Basin, in Pir Panchal range, in the plains of Jammu, beyond Zojila, on heights where vegetation is un-sustainable and life sustenance challenging, the story of administrative anarchy repeats many times over.

JK State is unable to get its act together; nothing demonstrated it better than the recent snowfall that threw the administration out of gear. Life in the Valley was back to where it stood a century or two back, in spite of the technological advancement having made it easier in much of planet earth. In spite of the fact that we stand quite high in educational advancement, whether our textbooks strengthen the moral fibre within is highly suspect. There are some lessons we have readily learnt, squeezing the 14 feet alleys and side alleys to 10 feet, by advancing our lawns by a foot or two on either side. Inside our cosy homes, we can proudly claim to have the best of tapestries, wooden panelling, and wall-to-wall carpets covered by woollen or silken rugs. Our kitchens, pantries, crockery and cutlery are indeed a state of art exhibition, custom made, so as to say. Yet a snowfall over a few hours or a day is enough to throw life out of gear, as personal comfort, the comfort of the family remains the concern. The societal care stays much outside the realm of our scheme of things, as well as the concept of a community life.

Our politicians, bureaucrats---many if not all, our police force, the administrative system, or what we in our propensity of being political liberals call politico-bureaucratic nexus remain part of us—first cousins, second cousins, close or distant relatives, friends or acquaintances. Before blaming the system, we need to go on a self-assessment exercise. We need to accept that it is collective failure---failure to get acquainted with what life is all about…its subtleties, the finer aspects, the spiritual upbringing and the moralistic tuning. We may cite just one example, if only to illustrate the point, and also dwell in what hurts us most---the power cuts in spite of having the potential to generate 20,000 MW, the lower estimate being 16,000 MW from our water sources.

Figures relate that National Hydroelectric Power Corporation [NHPC] a government of India [GOI] subsidiary has grown from a 1975 initial investment base of 2000 million to an approximate investment base of over Rs 3,87,180 million with an authorised share capital of Rs 1,50,000 Million. From 2000 million to 3, 87,180 million works out to an enhancement of 193.5 times in its capital outlay. The huge gain has made it a ‘Mini-Ratna’ [analogous to Emperor Akbar’s Nav-Ratans] No grudges, except that out of its 5295 MW capacity of power generation, J&K state contributes approximately one third…1680 MW, and it is widely felt the state gets peanuts in return!

NHPC did what it thought serves its interest, what about our collective inertia? The government might have been on exhibition drive of its in-aptitude, what about the civil society? Was its slumber so deep, that it allowed happening, what eventually did happen? And then our bureaucracy, a societal arm paid for safeguarding socio-economic interests. For 15 years, it forgot to make proper financial transactions with NHPC. Thus we have 1984 agreement, which entitled Jammu and Kashmir State to 47 percent power from Salal project including 35 percent energy at Busbar rates (generation cost) and 12 percent royalty. Instead it continued to get only 23 percent on these rates; the losses have grown up to Rs 2340 crores.

A leading Srinagar daily reported the loss quoting sources privy to it, in its 4th January dispatch. News agency KNS also carried the news. Could all this be explained, unless we admit collective inertia? Instead we take the easier way out, blame the government, raise a few slogans, go on hartals now and then, stage a protest demonstration, pelt a few stones, and the get into a state of selective amnesia! We may still fuel an argument that whatever we may do, NHPC has no right to fiddle with our resources…leave the water resources, what about our water bodies? The state of water bodies may leave us with hardly an option, but to hang our heads in shame. We are the worst sufferers of our own cruelty…the cruelty of spirit!

The society at large remains obsessed with ‘K’ issue resolution. That may remain a priority; times have shown that we need resolution of the conflict within our societal order. The conflict within is one-upmanship in proportions rarely seen outside the Valley. Ours is a society in disarray. Whileas the planet is getting into post modernistic gear; it remains questionable whether we could call ourselves modern, as implied in its definition. Questionable, as merely a day of snowfall takes us back to medieval times. It calls for some serious introspection, the question remains are we up to it? Your guess could be as good as mine!

Toxic Milk Sold in the Valley

Kashmir Observer investigates the latest shameful scandal in the State, followed by an editorial in the Greater Kashmir

83% Milk Consumed In JK Contaminated

Nazir Ganaie (Kashmir Observer)

Srinagar: In a shocking revelation, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India has claimed that 83 per cent of milk produced and consumed in Jammu and Kashmir is contaminated with components like salt, detergents and several other harmful substances being found in it. The milk not only has weak nutritious value but has several other side effects for human health as well.

According to a study conducted by the FSSAI, experts fear the consumption of contaminated milk by the gullible people across the state could lead to gastroenteritis, food poisoning, endocrinology and several other chronic diseases. They said the onus for this lied on the government which had given a free hand to the companies for adulteration.

The study revealed that hazardous substances like detergent, starch, soda, glucose and other synthetic substances were being mixed with milk which becomes harmful for human consumption.

In its first-ever country-wide survey on milk adulteration conducted in 2011, the FSSAI found that of the total 1,791 samples tested throughout the country, including Jammu and Kashmir, at least over 68 per cent i.e. 1,226 samples were either diluted with water or mixed with harmful detergents.

The situation is worse in the states like Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Daman and Diu, Jharkhand, Orrisa, West Bengal and Mizoram where all the samples collected were found to be contaminated or not conforming to the prescribed standards.

For instance, in Manipur, 96 per cent samples did not conform up to standards, in Meghalaya it was 96 per cent, followed by Tripura with 92 per cent, Gujarat 89 per cent, Sikkim 89 per cent, Uttrakhand 88 per cent, Uttar Pradesh 88 per cent, Nagaland 86 per cent, Jammu and Kashmir 83 per cent and Punjab 81 per cent.

In Rajasthan, the FSSAI study revealed, the level of contamination was 76 per cent followed by Delhi 70 per cent, Haryana 70 per cent, Arunachal Pradesh 68 per cent, Maharashtra 65 per cent, Himachal 59 per cent and Chandigarh 48 per cent.

In urban India, nearly 70 per cent of samples were found to be contaminated, compared with 31 per cent of samples in rural areas. Only two states - Goa and Pondicherry - sold unadulterated milk, while all 250 samples from four eastern states were found to be contaminated with detergents.

The snap shot survey was conducted with a view to identifying the common adulterants in milk in rural and urban areas in different states besides finding out the non-conforming samples in loose and packed forms throughout the country.

Reagents like salt and glucose are added to alter the thickness and viscosity. Adding starch prevents curdling of milk. Salt and detergents are added to adjust the lactometer reading to add thickness to the milk.

The survey has proved how authorities concerned had failed to check this blatant violation of the standards for milk in various states which is otherwise meant for strengthening bones, cardiovascular improvements and oral health.

The survey said that addition of water reduced the nutritional value of the milk. The contaminated water and detergents pose health risk indicating lack of hygiene and sanitation in milk handling. Immediate effect of drinking milk adulterated with urea, caustic soda and formalin is gastroenteritis but the long-term effects are far more serious.

“This is a crime; government should react on this issue immediately and take strict action against the companies indulging in adulteration. It is something which kills people slowly. The contaminated milk, which contains substances like detergents, caustic soda, and unsafe water give rise to incidence of various diseases in the valley. We have seen an increasing number of patients complain of food poisoning, gastric troubles and some other serious problems. It can even cause cancer,” the director, SK Institute of Medical Sciences, and noted Gastroenterologist, Dr Showkat Ahmad Zargar, told Kashmir Observer.

“People consuming adulterated food and contaminated milk develop some bizarre syndromes. When these substances go beyond concentration, people complain of disorders of gastrointestinal tract, including esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, pancreas, liver, gallbladder and biliary system. This is very harmful for pregnant women and can even affect the growth of the new born and children. It can give a new trend of diseases in our state,” Dr Zargar added.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, heath officer, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr Rubeena, said they had been examining certain samples of milk in which they had even banned the sale of milk produced by certain companies.

“During inspection and sampling, we found that some of the milk companies used caustic soda, unsafe water and synthetic substances, which can cause serious health problems,” Dr Rubeena said.

“Being a concerned health official dealing with all these things, I have given the report to the higher authorities and my role ended there. Now it is for the food commissioner and other authorities to take action against them,” said the health officer, when asked why the SMC had not taken any action against the companies found marketing adulterated milk.

“Daily Taaza milk supplied mostly to the army was banned recently. We moved very fast in the regard. Besides there are some unsafe and misbranded products as per the Act, they should get a clear cut ban,” Dr Rubeena said.

She said the sale of adulterated milk would be completely eradicated only with a joint effort of common people and the authorities. “We are introducing a new technology in the state shortly which will help the households to check the milk at their doorstep and also help the civic body to conduct more sampling in the market,” Dr Rubeena said.

Even after NGOs and other organizations in various Indian states have started raising eyebrows on the concerned agencies, the state government here seems to be ignorant about the contaminated milk being marketed with impunity, which is taking a heavy toll on the entire society without any discrimination.

“I don’t know about any survey and adulteration in milk products, I am hearing it from you,” Law and Parliamentary Affairs minister and senior National conference leader, Ali Muhammad Sagar, told Kashmir Observer.

Asked, what would be the immediate reaction from the government with regard to the companies involved in adulteration, Sagar said “Please give me a day, I will enquire into it and come to you with full details.”

Kashmir’s Poisonous White Revolution-JK’s Food Safety Agencies “See No Evil, Hear No Evil” For Years

Nazir Ganaie (Kashmir Observer)

Srinagar: Clueless that the constitutional morning cuppa in Kashmir is actually a delivery mechanism for disease, the state’s food safety agencies on Thursday switched into the Hum Dekhen Gey mode on reports of almost the entire milk supply in Jammu and Kashmir being contaminated.

While the deputy drug controller here has, according to his own admission to the Kashmir Observer today, been “conducting sampling of dairy products from time to time” but appears to have not even the faintest inkling of their safety and standards, the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has found that 83 per cent of the milk consumed in Jammu and Kashmir is laced with hazardous contaminants.

The (FSSAI) has found that virtually every cup of tea grown-ups here have been taking for years, and every ounce of milk infants have been brought up on, is actually a deadly cocktail of detergents, soda, (even caustic soda), starch, and other unspecified synthetic substances, but all that the Srinagar Municipal Corporation has been able to do is ban one dairy producer, and remain understandably silent on the nature of its “violation of standards and norms.”

No one bothers to explain why possible “violations” by others – dairy companies, doorstep delivery boys, neighbourhood gojris – have been ruled out. The FSSAI findings, actually an indictment of the state’s food and drug safety agencies, have been confirmed in their deadly impact by no less an authority than the director of the SKIMS, Dr. Shaukat Ahmad Zargar, a gastroenterologist of international repute, and many of his colleagues, who have long been assailed by heavy incidence of serious health disorders traceable also to serious food contamination.

While the Drug Control Authority, the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, and even the most powerful of ministers, have done a virtual-double take on the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) report, people in the dairy business point fingers, and trade associations demand action, both washing hands off an issue amounting to the slow poisoning of the valley.

It has taken an all-India survey to confirm what every housewife in Kashmir has always feared, but the state government’s food safety institutions appear to have been the classic “hear no evil, see no evil” lumps of lard capable only of knee-jerk reactions even on massive sale of sub-standard and spurious pharmaceuticals.

Food Adulteration: ‘Higher-Ups Sleep On Field Reports’

Nazir Ganaie (Kashmir Observer)

Srinagar: After the shocking revelations by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India that 83 per cent of milk produced and consumed in Jammu and Kashmir was contaminated with components like salt, detergents, caustic soda and several other harmful substances, the Drugs and Food Control Organization, Kashmir, Friday asserted 30 per cent of food items in the Valley were “highly adulterated,” while Kashmir alone consumed 75 per cent of contaminated milk.

“Kashmir consumes 30 per cent of adulterated food items - spices, biscuit, edible oil, salt, and many other eatables, which is shocking. Besides, the Valley people alone consume 75 per cent contaminated milk being produced by local companies,” public analyst/ designated officer, Drugs and Food Control Organization, Hamidullah Dar, alleged while talking to Kashmir Observer.

He said the food safety officers had been working in different districts and sub districts to check the menace of contamination and they had been collecting samples of milk from time to time, for which they had already sent reports to higher authorities to take action against the companies involved in adulteration.

“We collected samples from every corner of the valley and during their testing we found that out of eight samples, six were adulterated with starch, detergent and some synthetic substances,” Dar said, adding “In many other food and edible items, our experts found that turmeric and chili powder, sounp, sweets, ghee, pickles, oils, salt had been adulterated with toxic colors, starch with other harmful substances”.

He said his team had done the sampling and prepared the report before FSSI. Asked why he did not take action against the companies involved in contamination, Dar said, “As a concerned officer, my job is to frame the report and highlight the areas and companies involved in contamination and my work remains restricted to laboratory only, rest is the job of higher authorities.”

Reliable sources in the Drugs & Food Control Organization said contaminated products were a source of income for various law enforcement officials and other unscrupulous elements.

“Contamination is possible only when concerned administration officials adopt a non-serious approach towards the companies involved in the crime. Although lower rung officials do their job like sampling, testing and reporting their findings to the food commissioner and other authorities who, on their part more often than not prefer to look the other way. The chief minister should order appropriate action in the matter,” said a well placed official, wishing anonymity.

Refuting claims of the commissioner, Food Safety, that food inspectors had been asked to collect samples, sources revealed their earlier reports had been ignored.

“On August 5, 2011, we started sampling in different areas and all the food inspectors worked very hard, and then we found most of the products, milk as well as other eatables contaminated. We sent the report to the commissioner sahib, what happened to that, please ask him,” said the official.

Pertinently, Kashmir Valley alone produces 11.32 lakh tonnes of milk annually.

“If Omar Abdullah is serious in improving the health sector, he should not let people die. He should immediately check the menace of adulteration to bring down the incidence of diseases. But, they are busy in their own world,” said a senior citizen, Muhammad Abdullah of Budgam.

When contacted, Commissioner, Food Safety, Jammu and Kashmir, Satish Gupta, said he was looking into the report and would take action very soon. Then, he dropped the phone. When this reporter made attempts to ascertain his response to reports of drug inspectors about contamination of milk and other edible items already lying with him, the commissioner finally answered the call for a few seconds and said. “Right now there is no light here, we will talk tomorrow about this”.

Meanwhile, the director, Animal Husbandry, Kashmir, Dr Farooq Ahmad Kaloo, said, “I think majority of our milk producers in the state don’t even know about the harmful chemicals added to milk elsewhere in the country. Our milk producers, I mean the dairy farmers, are innocent. Their intelligence and knowledge is limited to water and water chestnut flour adulteration whereas outside they use urea, soaps, vegetable fat and even formalin. But this too has to be stopped immediately,” he said.

“Whatever milk we import, I do not hold a brief for that. My unit is not allowed to test the tankers of milk coming daily to Kashmir, which is another issue,” Dr Kaloo said.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, deputy commissioner, Srinagar, Baseer Ahmad Khan, said that they will soon take action against the companies involved in adulteration.

“On the priority basis, I had ordered constitution of three committees comprising experts from Health and Drug departments, SMC and others to monitor the markets and check the level of adulteration. We will not spare anybody found guilty in adulterating food items or milk,” he said, adding the officials had done video sampling of certain companies as well and once the report came these companies were going to have tough time.

Milk Scam: ‘Politicians Trying To Stall Action’

Nazir Ganaie (Kashmir Observer)

Srinagar: In a shocking revelation, the civic authorities here have accused politicians of attempting to prevent them from initiating punitive action against those allegedly found involved in adulteration of milk in the valley.

“For taking bold steps at the administrative level, one will have to go through a virtual hell at the hands of unscrupulous elements who would not hesitate in pressurizing an upright official against taking any action under law,” health officer of the Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr Rubeena, told Kashmir Observer.

Sources in the premier civic body in the state’s summer capital said the health officer was subjected to lot of harassment by certain politicians after she initiated legal action against a milk producer allegedly for violating food safety laws.

According to reports, the health officer, accompanied by a team of food safety officers and a police party from Pantha Chowk police station, had sealed the milk processing unit of M/S Daily Need Processing and Milk Products, at the Industrial Area, Khonmoh, on the city outskirts, engaged in selling pouched milk under the brand name of “TAAZA Milk”.

During routine inspection on December 8, some milk samples were taken from the plant in presence of the SMC health officer and after laboratory tests, it was found that the samples were contaminated.

“The sample contained thick layers of fat with black particles visible to the naked eye,” public analyst-cum-designated officer, Drugs and Food Control Organization, Hamidullah Dar, who had examined the sample, told Kashmir Observer, alleging the milk was misbranded and unsafe for human consumption.

He said the sample was found containing 4.5 per cent of fat in violation of the provision of Food Safety Act. “The sample contains foreign fat, as the butyro-refractometer reading more than 44 at 40 degree Celsius. Besides the sample wasn’t found labeled. So according to the provisions of FSSA rules 2011, as the date of package and batch is not given, you can take immediate action against the persons involved,” said the public analyst.

“I would appreciate the role of the civic authorities. In face of pressures, she managed to get the owner of TAAZA Milk Products prosecuted under the Food Safety Act, 2011,” he said.

When contacted, the SMC health officer, Dr Rubeena, refused to disclose the name of the politician for obvious reasons, but alleged she had been subjected to mental torture for initiating legal action against the accused milk producer and getting the company’s license, under the name of M/S Daily Need Processing and Milk Products, cancelled and its Jammu-based owner prosecuted. A senior Congress minister from Jammu also played a role in the matter, sources told Kashmir Observer.

Sources said it was due to the efforts of the public analyst and SMC health officer that the TAAZA Agro Farms, who supplied bulk of its production to the army here, was prosecuted allegedly for marketing highly contaminated milk in the valley.

A senior official in the SMC, wishing anonymity, said that the health officer was pressurized by the political circles over her bold step to close down the TAAZA milk plant here.

Talking to Kashmir Observer, Dr Rubeena said she would never succumb to the pressures from the political circles.

“I got so many pressures. I was harassed in meetings and even threatened but I didn’t budge in my resolve to discharge my duty in the larger interest of public health,” she said.

“For every honest administrator, I guess, these things come and they will come until they remain honest. I then took leave for a couple of days to relieve myself from the mental trauma I had gone through after I took the decision to close down the TAAZA plant,” she said.

Sources in the Drugs and Food Control Organization, revealed that the “political pressures” were largely responsible for the food and milk adulteration having assumed the dimension of a menace.

Milk is Toxic (Editorial in the Greater Kashmir)

Disturbing reports about large scale milk adulteration in J&K have caused genuine concern among the consumers. Apart from the waste of their money, the contamination of the white product poses a direct health hazard to the common man who apparently has little means to check the menace. Although the degraded quality of the milk has somehow become an acceptable phenomenon in the society given the slipshod approach of the authorities supposed to keep a check on it, the revelations by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) are simply shocking.

The study conducted by the FSSAI has found that 83 per cent milk produced and consumed in J&K is contaminated. Shockingly, the substances found to have been blended with the milk include detergent, starch, soda, glucose and other synthetic materials making the milk highly harmful for human consumption. Such substances, any medical practitioner would say, contain toxic values which in the long run could deleteriously affect the health of a consumer by exposing him or her to disease ranging from gastroenteritis problems to multiple organ failures.

The study should serve as an opener for the government, which till now has seemingly not been so proactive in taking a call on this issue. Any casual approach in this regard would be criminal. As of now different government agencies either seem to be not clear about their role in checking the food adulteration or there seems some overlapping of the roles between them, something that gives them a reason to evade responsibility. Such an ambiguity needs to be cleared by strictly implementing the Food Safety and Standards Act. Interestingly, the Act provides for a separate department of Food Safety and appointment of a commissioner, Food Safety, for the state, along with some designated officers for districts. The law empowers the designated officers to issue/cancel licenses of food business operators, prohibit the sale of any article of food not subscribing to prescribed standards, etc, something that could really help check the food adulteration. So what the government is waiting for?

Only in Kashmir

Only in Kashmir, does one find stray dogs around a hospital outnumbering the hospital staff and patients

Patients Resent Lack of Facilities in City Hospitals

Mansoor ul Hassan

Srinagar: Patients admitted in various hospitals here had to face a tough time today due to non-availability of doctors and improper facilities.

Few inches of snowfall today affected the functioning of all the major hospitals including SMHS, Lal Ded and GB Panth here causing immense inconvenience to the patients and their attendants.

At SMHS hospital people staged protests this afternoon against the non-availability of ambulances. The protest erupted after a family from Shopian was allegedly denied ambulance to ferry body of a woman.

“My mother died this afternoon and I approached the medical superintendent of the hospital for providing me the ambulance to ferry her body to back home. But he refused to provide me the service saying that ambulance can’t be send to such a long distance,” Muhammad Amin, son of the deceased woman told Greater Kashmir.

Amin said he had to wait amidst snowfall with the body for three hours till his relatives reached there with a vehicle.

Meanwhile, attendants of patients in the hospitals alleged that the doctors were not present there during evening hours.

Source said in Valley’s lone maternity hospital Lal Ded, the shortage of paramedical staff and doctors had delayed discharge of 20 patients from the hospital.

Muhammad Latief of Islamabad alleged that his wife was supposed to be discharged few days ago. “I have been searching for the concerned doctor but couldn’t find him,” he said.

The attendants, who accompanied their children to GB Pant hospital, alleged that no doctor had visited wards during evening hours.

“After 12 noon, all doctors disappear from the wards. In case any complication occurs or our kids need consultation, we have to carry them to the casualty section,” alleged Mushtaq Ahmad of Pattan, who son is undergoing treatment in the hospital.

Chaos and confusion was witnessed in the corridors of GB Panth hospital as the attendants had occupied it complete in absence of a separate space.

Although, the attendants in most of the hospitals expressed satisfaction over the heating system and electricity supply but the inadequate water supply is giving tough time to them from last few days.

Istiyaq Hassan of Pattan alleged the wards received inadequate water supply causing problems to the patients. The unhygienic condition in bathrooms and wards has aggravated the patients problems. During on-the-spot assessment different wards and rooms of GB Panth, this reporter found huge cockroach population present in its wards.

“There is every chance that infants are at risk of infection or swallowing them by chance,” Haleema, an attendant from Pohru Nowgam said.

At SMHS hospital the situation was no different. A good number of rats could be seen moving in the wards. “Is this hospital for humans or animals?” Gowhar Muzaffar of Hawal questioned.

“If we count dogs and rats in and around hospital complex, they will outnumber human population,” he added.

When contacted the Medical Superintendents of SMHS and LD hospitals refused to comment on the issues. “We cannot talk on the issue as we are not at the helm of affairs,” they said.

Only Medical Superintendent of GB Pant hospital Dr Kaiser gave his version about the problems in the hospital.

“Absence of attendants shed is the biggest hurdle in the process of accommodating good number of attendants coming to the hospital. We have already sent a request to the higher ups for the construction of the attendant shed to relieve pressure from the hospital,” he said.

On the absence of doctors during evening hours he said: “In emergency wards, the doctors remain available round the clock. In cold wards the doctors make rounds twice a day. In case of emergency the attendants can immediately contact causality department.”