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, March 18, 2012

Guess Which is the Most Polluted City in the Country?

Sad to say, but even in comparison with Jammu city Srinagar has 25 times more population living in slums as elites squeeze poorer sections of the society to inner city pockets

Srinagar - City of Slums Under the Rule of Urban Elite

Jammu: It may sound unbelievable that in the summer capital of Srinagar city, the slum population has touched 2 lac mark while as in Jammu the total slum population is at 7997 only.

The figures about slum population in major cities and towns of the state, which was ruled for decades by urban elites of Srinagar who consider the city as their political fiefdom and are still ruling, was provided in a written reply to a question raised by PDP leader and MLA Darhal (Rajouri) during the ensuing budget session of the assembly. There are 199557 people living in shanty slum colonies in Srinagar city and in Jammu city the number is 7997.

As per the definition slum has been identified as, "A compact settlement of at least 20 households with a collection of poorly built tenements, mostly of temporary nature, crowded together usually with inadequate sanitary and drinking water facilities in unhygienic conditions According to a survey most of the areas identified have primitive drinking water and sanitary conditions, annulling the claims of government that many projects have been taken up to improve living conditions in neglected areas.

Only recently Peoples Democratic President Mehbooba Mufti has raised a question about the development and beautification of Srinagar city but the Minister for Rural Development Ali Muhammad Sagar supported by Advisor to Chief Minister Mubarak Gul, Peer Afaq Ahamad MLA Zadibal and Shamima Firdous MLA Habakadal created almost fuss in the House on the issue as if PDP MLA A R Veeri, who raised the question in absence of Mehbooba, has committed some heinous crime. But only a couple of days after this furore the reply to a question raised Ch. Zulfkar by a member of same party, the real picture of the political fiefdom of National Conference was uncovered before the world. There are eight National Conference MLAs and a Member of Parliament from Srinagar and the city since long is being considered as the foot hold of the party which is ruling the state for last 32 years. But unfortunately the city is fast growing as city of slums.

Interestingly according National Urban Sanitation Policy 2009-10 Srinagar is the most polluted city in the country figuring a serial No. 420 with Pilibhit and Lakhimpur two least known towns in Utter Pradesh and Churu in Rajasthan below it.

Even then our ruling urban elites get exhausted while counting their achievements and the initiatives taken for the development of the city. It is a fact the ever growing trend of migration of rural people towards Srinagar for last two decades or so, has of course a very drastic effect on the cost of living, yet it is a bitter truth the Sher-e-Khas (Old city) has become a slum centre due to the lack of basic infrastructure and amenities to the people and the living conditions of the people of the city has worsen over last two decades for the want of better socio-economic avenues.

The traditional handicraft and handloom industry which was the major source of livelihood for the people of the old city has been dying thanks to the inaptitude of the government led by urban elite. In the fast coming new residential colonies in the city outskirts are populated either by the A and B class government employees or the rural people who settled in the city for many reasons while as the city presents the centuries old picture of poverty and neglect, yet out rural urban elite claim to be the real representatives of the city.


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