Introduction to KashmirForum.org 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.
www.kashmirforum.org

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cannon to Canine?


Junaid points the finger at facts, and facts speak for themselves

(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. He is also the Srinagar District President of J&K Peoples’ Conference, led by Mr. Sajad Lone. In his leisure time, Junaid likes to engage in reading, gardening, watching movies and listening to music.)

Cannon-Fodder to Canine-Fodder

Kashmiris have been victims of fate’s cruelest jokes. We have lived through the trauma of a political turmoil that saw thousands of our young men lowered into adolescent graves; thousands of brides widowed, thousands of apple-cheeked children orphaned. From massacres to molestations, from arson to crackdowns and from curfews to teenager executions, we have seen the darkest wells of hell and have shuddered in a fear of our own shadows. Now when the violent phase of armed turmoil, militancy and counter-militancy seems to be behind us, our tyrannical, deaf-and-blind rulers have resolved to disallow Kashmiris from experiencing the dividends of peace. Growing up amidst the crackle of gun-fire and the omnipresent aroma of gunpowder, this generation of Kashmir was reprimanded to the relative safety of their homes before dusk lest a stray bullet finds a youthful forehead. Two decades later, we still have to ensure our children and elderly are safely locked up within the compounds of our homes lest a rabid, stray-dog feasts on their conflict-zone flesh while a dyslexic, “dynamic” young government is busy painting our footpaths black and white. Wonder, apart from the rhetoric and cosmetic semblance of governance, what has really changed? 

We have inherited a habit of accusing Delhi for everything – our unmotorable roads, our power deficiency, our state of economic rot and almost every other thing under the sun. It has been four long decades and our diagnosis has always stopped short at escapism. We have subconsciously chosen to absolve our own traditional political families and their parties from the sins they have committed, the war-crimes they are primarily and singularly responsible for. Kashmiri children being mauled and shredded by hundred thousand stray dogs is not Delhi’s problem – neither its creation. The buck stops with us as a people. Are we so undignified a nation that we will watch our children traumatized by animals into nightmares and sleeplessness while the children of our tyrants blossom in metropolitan cities in India and abroad? The Dog Menace has now reached a stage where technicalities and legalities cease to matter. This lunacy has now gone from the scale of a menace to a clash of civilizations – a clash between ordinary Kashmiris and the protectors and political patrons of our stray dogs. Our “government” is lost somewhere between the ever trendy feeds of Twitter and the scam/scandal-firefighting that we witness almost bi-annually. Drowned in corruption and moral malignancy, successive NC and PDP governments have ridiculed our issues and pressing grievances even when, as is the case now, it is about the safety and survival of our children.

Did a hundred thousand Kashmiris die so that the third CM from the Sheikh Monarchy would be cowed into a corner by Maneka Gandhi’s frowned brow while our toddlers are chased into rivers by packs of stray dogs? Did a hundred thousand Kashmiris die so that four dozen people in Srinagar city alone could be mauled by stray dogs in a single day? Did a hundred thousand Kashmiris die so that a government would have the audacity and nerve to talk about Dog-caretakers and Dog-pounds as our streets become humo-canine war-zones after sunset?

This government has the nerve to talk about sterilizing a hundred thousand stray dogs by a process where it would not be able to sterilize more than five thousand stray dogs a year! Net result – a negligible decline in the rate of reproduction. Negligible decline! As every single day goes by, our stray dog population is increasing geometrically and will increase despite dog-pounds, Rehbar-e-Hoons and Pied-Piper, folklore “solutions” from our Divisional Commissioner. Crores of rupees have been allocated and spent on lunatic measures that won’t so much so put a ding into the dog menace issue. Soon contracts for stray-dog food and infrastructure will be doled out to chosen political workers of NC and PDP.

Srinagar Municipal Corporation is a criminal accomplice in this issue. Had the former Municipal Commission of Srinagar been one-tenth as concerned about the safety of our children as he was about pleasing those in power by allowing and disallowing constructions based on political affiliations, maybe this menace wouldn’t have reached this alarming stage! Maybe 51 humans wouldn’t have been mauled by stray dogs in a single day! But alas – SMC’s role has been defined as an obstructionist, chaotic force of negativity and not one of development, sanitation and growth-friendliness.

What’s the solution you ask? In simple, politically-incorrect English – We need to kill stray dogs – humanely and scientifically – but kill them without further delay. Either this government borrows two ounces of self-respect and humanity from a State government elsewhere in India and starts eradicating the stray dogs OR Kashmiris take the issue in their own hands and form Mohalla Committees to eradicate stray dogs as and when required. We now need to protect, if not our own lives – but the lives of our young children – (borrowing from Malcolm X)  “by any Means Necessary”.

Is the Place Tourist Worthy?


Shiban raises a valid point, and goes beyond issues raised by Rauf Tramboo about why Kashmir has failed to attract foreign tourists

(Mr. Shiban Dudha, 51, was born in Srinagar. He went to government schools in Chandilora (Tangmarg) and Srinagar, and matriculated from the D.A.V. High School in Srinagar. He attended the S.P. College, Srinagar (1980 batch), and completed the Chartered Accountancy course from the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India. He runs his own Chartered Accountancy firm with offices in Srinagar and New Delhi, and divides his professional and personal time between the two cities. He is a well known social activist and a community volunteer. He is also a strong proponent of Kashmir's pluralistic culture.)

Do We Deserve to be Visited?

One reads a lot about failed African States, causes and effects of their failures and the phases those countries went through prior to their downfall. On two fronts there appears a striking similarity of pre perishing phase of those States with situation in Jammu and Kashmir over the last near decade or so. These are i) inability to handle the plummeting economy of Jammu and Kashmir and ii) inability of Chief executive of our Government to govern with full independence, authority and strong fist. As a natural consequence of aforesaid two glaring and perceptible facts, we hide the realities.

Normally, manifestos of political parties determine the roadmap they will follow in period of their governance, if elected by electorate. When we holistically study the manifestoes of political parties in 2008 elections, the economic development had taken a back seat to “sadak, bijlee and paani for aam admi”. The economic development of State was not the primary agenda of manifestos as the aim was to somehow regain the political space that political system of our state had lost to civil society and separatists on account of Amarnath land row.

Generally, the council of ministers and respective portfolios are the sole discretion of the Chief Minister. But second week of January 2009 presented altogether a reverse situation when we noticed state President of Congress assigning four plum portfolios and departments to its four Cabinet ministers only to much embarrassing situation of Chief Minister. One hardly knew that New Delhi would follow suit on this practice five months down the line when allies of UPA like DMK and TMC not only chose but dictated the portfolios for their cabinet ministers.

We have so far not moved effectively towards economic self reliance measures for our State for which the State offers reasonable potential. Tourism Industry, the backbone of our State’s economy has not got the priority and attention it deserves. We are not ready with a long term and short term tourism policy, which could serve as a bible for whosoever governs the state. We need to move fast on implementation of Master Plan of Srinagar city, which has today become a dump yard of garbage. Commercial establishments are mushrooming in entire city without fear of authorities, pavements and footpaths are occupied by small time traders selling the substandard stuff to tourists thereby killing the mainline shopkeeper who watches helplessly duplicate stuff being sold outside his shop on pavement. Traffic congestions and illegal parking of vehicles in entire Srinagar city especially on entire Boulevard is a nightmare for an average Srinagarite and tourists who wish to take a stroll of city. The footpath of entire Boulevard from beginning of Dal Gate on both sides till culmination of Nageen lake needs Johnson type athlete to do hurdles. As a tourist you come out of Srinagar “International Airport”, you need to be lucky if you can maneuver the first circle of airport complex which has normally three lanes of illegally parked vehicles with full permission of traffic constables. Then you reach Hyderpora crossing where you are welcomed by half a kilometere of stone age track for which we need to possibly have a Global tender issued as we have been unable to mend this half a kilometere track since last four years now. The construction of Hyderpora Bye pass bridge, gateway to Srinagar city has taken eight years so far and yet it may require a decade more. Is this our Tourism Policy? As a tourist, you take the courage of taking a stroll of twin lakes of Dal and Nageen. You are confronted by heaps of weeds which have not been lifted and allowed to decay causing stink all around. As a tourist you see huge boulders and Teh Bazari stall on Charpoys on footpaths for two kms from Dalgate and ahead the entire stretch has potholes and mounds making it difficult for tourists to walk. If tourist visits grand Lal Chowk there he faces yet another dejection of traffic congestion, unauthorized traders on roadside and if he wishes to walk down the Amirakadal bridge to Harisingh high street, he says Srinagar city is an apology in the name of a tourist city. My question is- What is my USP as Srinagar city for a tourist to visit me? Should not I as Srinagar city say after introspection that I don’t deserve to be visited by tourist and that I have been failed by the governance.

Let us make no mistake. Development and cleanliness of Srinagar is an integral part of Long Term tourism policy. Still most of the tourists keep a day or two for visiting Srinagar city. SDA (Srinagar Development Authority) needs to be given more teeth and SMC & SDA need to operate conjointly for development of Srinagar city along with lakes And Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA).

Paradoxically, Tourism Department has recently issued advertisements in publications of Singapore, Malaysia, middle east countries soliciting the tourists to visit Kashmir and enjoy in Srinagar, Gulmarg and Pahalgam. A good move and effort to boost tourism but is it backed by the infrastructure required for the purpose? Have we done our home work and are we prepared to receive our guests whom we are inviting? Have we bothered to develop a third five star or a four star hotel besides Grand and Taj Vivanta where an International or a high networth national guest will stay? Srinagar city does not have more than 200 excellent rooms and they too do not meet International standards in the truest sense. We have not developed a second SKICC which that versatile visionary gave us in seventies. All subsequent CMs of the state have been much more travelled and thereby educated than him but are no match to his vision.

We need to have an overall strong monitoring body of State that will have enforcement powers and which will oversee the existing and developing infrastructure relating to tourism. One feels ashamed to see present Gulmarg and Pahalgam. Till the suggested monitoring body is set up, the senior officers of Department must camp at these and other tourist destinations. One fails to understand how gradually Gulmarg has over the last few years got converted into a slum type area with no town planning and architectural concepts. Consequently, low budget hotels have mushroomed unabatedly and forest land has been encroached shamelessly. You see a primitive style of dumping garbage at Gulmarg. Open trolleys on wheels remain stationed outside hotels and hoteliers dump the garbage and entire solid waste including polythene bags in the trolleys.

Street dogs climb the trolleys and spread garbage on entire road which goes for a further toss by moving vehicles. You find tourists covering their nose with handkerchiefs. A painful and pathetic sight to watch. Most of the lettable Government huts are in shambles with very poor outside ambience. Walls are broken, roof is dingy and perimeter wooden fencing is missing in most of the cases. Tons of accumulated garbage is adjoining well known hotels which used to be landmark destinations of yesteryears. Is this the Gulmarg to which advertisements by tourism department in overseas publications invite the tourists? In Gulmarg till the under construction property of Khybers comes up, we don’t have a single room of International standards in Gulmarg. Tourism department should very well understand that today’s tourist is conscious of a) the value of his time and b) entertainment opportunities that this sub continent and far east countries offer him for same money.

Skiing is a tourism product that we sell to tourists but are we aware what infrastructure the International skiing rules prescribe to be in place at skiing destinations? Do we have a full fledged specialty hospital in Gulmarg very near to skiing course for bones and joints? Answer is No. Do we have properties for guests which meet international standards at Gulmarg? Answer is again No. Do we have International standard public transport connectivity to destination by both surface and air? Answer is again No. Can we explain why the earlier hospital at Gulmarg has been closed? Can we explain why there are unauthorized people at Tangmarg forcing the tourists to avail the facilities of unhygienic long Boots against sums not accounted for anywhere? Who are these people and at whose behest do they indulge in monetary collections? Net work of High Tension electric wires and communication lines can easily be made underground that will beautify entire Gulmarg.

The hotel and houseboat industry can be the harbinger of eradication of unemployment. To the contrary, in absence of any monitoring body, the staff hoteliers employ are underpaid even much below the minimum wages who feel cheated and exploited. Nowadays, the tourist season in Kashmir has extended to 7-8 months and most of the properties are sold above break even point on average. The overall contribution permits the hoteliers and houseboat owners to pay at least the minimum prescribed wages to staff. They have also to be partners in this great challenge.

Do Laws Prohibit Militants From Carrying Guns?


Mehmood believes changing the law that prohibits eradication of terror faced by populace will do the trick with prowling dogs. But is Kashmir really a place where laws of the land are universally obeyed?

(Mr. Mehmood-ur-Rashid, 39, was born in Srinagar. He graduated from the Amar Singh College, Srinagar. He has been active in journalism for over ten years, and currently works at the Greater Kashmir (GK), having worked in the past at the Rising Kashmir as the Features Editor. The columnist is presently the GK Magazine Editor.)

Leashing the Beast

Horror. This is the only word to explain what people face these days in the streets of Kashmir. Just two days before newspapers in the valley brought out the scale of that horror once more on their front pages. It looked like a report from a war zone. Kids crying while treated for dog bites, bruised body parts, and mauled faces – dogs have declared war against people. Animal Rights Activists must be cheering from the galleries!

The pictures were spine chilling but more depressing was the fact that we are completely helpless in this situation. Dogs can maul our children but we cannot touch them back. They can bark at us with all ferocity but mind it, you cannot even whisper back. Law has placed an embargo on humans, courtesy Animal Activists. One wonders what is the difference between Animal Activists and Activist Animals!! Who is the real beast, Dog or the Law!

In the year 1992 when the law was framed we had some stray dogs who posed no danger to us. Had the alternative ways of dealing with them been adopted then, we would have rid our streets from dogs long back. But nothing was done for years till it grew into a life threatening problem. From past some years when the instances of dog bites went alarmingly high and newspapers consistently covered the stories of children being bitten, the government and the animal rights organizations came to the rescue of dogs, as if it was really about dogs. From day one the subject was confused. It was about the threat posed to the human life and not the question of animal rights. The crackpot idea of sterilizing the hundred thousand dogs was presented as the solution to the problem. How many years would it take to sterilize these dogs and when will finally we have dog free streets; and for all those decades who will take care of our children, men, woman, old and young. And the pens and pounds and the millions earmarked for them; it is so stupefying. Had people somehow put across their problem to the canine kingdom better solutions could have come forth. The latest idiocy is to assign a dog to a human – a well built young man from Kashmiri - for a monthly salary of some thousand rupees. Absurdity has a limit. This government and all its organs have failed; it’s a multiple organ failure that can only culminate in death.

The solution to this problem lies in questioning the law that has put the human life to peril. Normally problems in a society or a state are solved in accordance to law or tradition. Deviation from either the law or the tradition invokes some sanction, and all this is done to maintain an order in the society. But there are times when law or a tradition in itself becomes a threat to human life. After all the entire institution of lawmaking is based on this. What is the point doing legislation if law is considered final and binding for all the times and situations. States have intervened even in the areas usually considered religious when it was found to adversely affect the human life. All the legislations that laid the foundation of the modern society were done only by rejecting the earlier bodies of law and tradition.

The situation that has risen in the valley is an occasion to stand against the logic of the law that was framed in 1992. It is not the question of Animal Rights now which it could have been then. Law in this regard has turned into a beast. The culpability rests with those who framed the law without taken care of its consequences. Why is it a crime to cull the dogs that threaten human life when in the same world we see millions of chickens culled when some disease breaks out in chickens that can transmit to humans. Someone may point out that law doesn’t forbid the culling of rabid dogs either. True, but is it a rabid dog alone that poses a threat. Of course, it is not. Rabid is not the reference, it is threat. The essential point is the safety of human life. Sterilization cannot ensure it, pens and pounds don’t seem to do it. Employing young men to take care of dogs is a detestable idea. If law is to decide on the question of what constitutes nuisance, it is time for our civil society and the lawyers to make a strong case for humans. The pictures of children mauled by street dogs must be a convincing argument.

Reality Check Regarding Adventure Tourism


Rauf has some advice for the government regarding adventure tourism

(Mr. Rauf Tramboo, 53, was born and raised in Srinagar. He completed his school education at the Islamia High School located at Rajori Kadal, and his college degrees - B.Com. and LLB (Hons.) - from Islamia College of Science and Commerce located at Hawal. He is an Adventure Travel Consultant and an Adventure Tour Operator. Mr. Tramboo recently was re-elected as the President of the Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK). He is also the senior Vice President of the Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir (ATOAK). His personal interests are reading, photography ane environmental advocacy.)

Absence of Infrastructure, Western Tourists Spelling Doom for Adventure Tourism

Srinagar: Bestowed by nature with alpine scenery, high slopes, crystal clear streams and rivers, mountains and abundant snow, the Valley of Kashmir has been the first choice among the adventure sports lovers across the globe.

To give the much needed zing and teeth to the flourishing of adventure sports here, a tourism trade body Adventure Tour Operators Association of Kashmir (ATOAK) emerged on the scene during the late eighties in Kashmir. “Kashmir is always a heaven for adventure tourism, but, the lack of a body which could organize and channelize its full potential was missing from the scene here. It was during the 1987-88 period, that a conglomeration of 12 tourism traders including me decided to form ATOAK,” says senior vice-president, ATOAK, Rouf Tramboo.

But, ATOAK’s task of catering to the adventure tourism in the Valley was cut short before it could tread any distance. The inception of militancy, according to Tramboo left the adventure sports activities half way between and those who had desired to pursue careers in it had to switch to greener pastures both for continuing their first love and earning the means of sustenance.

As the success of adventure tourism survived mainly on the participation of western tourists, Tramboo said that the emergence of militancy related activities on the scene forced the western tourists to pursue adventure sports in other parts of the world.

“The repercussions of militancy cost adventure tourism dearly as we could not host events for the visiting tourists from England, Australia, USA, France, Canada etc. Moreover, the abduction of six foreign trekkers by an armed organization led to the imposition of negative travel advisories by western countries. Strict orders were passed on to their citizens to refrain from visiting the interiors of Kashmir,” recalls Tramboo.

Shifting to other places to carry on with the adventure activities, Rouf informed, “After the insurgency broke out western tourists began to arrive on scant levels forcing me to conduct events in Nepal, Bhutan and Sikkim.” But, after the normalcy began to return slowly, Tramboo said that those who had moved to different corners to pursue their jobs in adventure tourism returned home to give the much needed impetus to adventure sports in the Valley.

“Tour operators like Highland journeys, Adventure call, Destination South Asia and others arrived back to cater to the adventure sports here. Besides, other tour operators who joined at the later stage also merged with us,” Tramboo said. “But, in the absence of proper infrastructure and western tourists, adventure tourism is yet to reach zenith here,” added Tramboo.

Commenting on the potential of adventure tourism in Kashmir, Tramboo adds that Kashmir is a heaven for it as with its alpine scenery, high slopes, rivers, mountains, abundant snow, water bodies and beautiful streams for angling. “To cash in on the natural facilities, government should woo foreign tourists besides giving thrust to the infrastructure here. Tourism department needs to do a lot to bring the adventure tourism in Kashmir on par with best of destinations,” demands Tramboo.

Informing that ATOAK is leaving no stone unturned in taping the full potential of adventure tourism in Kashmir, Tramboo said that Department of tourism Kashmir, ATOAK and Adventure Tour Operators Association of India(ATOAI) conducted a successful convention last year at SKICC. “The convention was praised from all quarters. Officials from ATOAI spoke highly about the potential for adventure tourism Kashmir has,” Tramboo informs.

But, Tramboo hastened to add that flourishing of adventure tourism mainly depends on the western tourists. “We are in the process of involving the corporate section of Indian people as they are very fond of adventure sports. But what will give the much needed respite to such activities here is the rush of western tourists. Therefore, government should try its best to woo the western countries.”

Besides, Tramboo says that infrastructure needs a special caring from the state government. “Kashmir can give tough competition to the best of tourist destination provide government delivers on the infrastructure front. “I am not criticizing the tourism department completely as what they have done for the revival of tourism sector here is appreciative. In order to promote adventure tourism, they are offering incentives on adventure sports equipments, but, what we are demanding is government’s complete support in developing the requisite infrastructure and getting as much western tourists back here.

Saving Jehlum


Two wonderful commentaries from Peerzada demonstrates his concern for today's environmental and social issues

(Mr. Peerzada Aarif, 22, was born in Kalantara, Baramulla. He passed his 8th grade from the J & K Sainik School, Manasbal, and passed the 10+2 examination from the Government Higher Secondary School, Kachwamuqam, Baramulla. He completed my Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication & Video Production from the Degree College, Baramulla in 2010. In the same year he was ppointed as a teacher in the J&K School Education Department. Presently he is enrolled in the my B.Ed program of the University of Kashmir.)

Saving Jehlum

Jhelum is the life line of Kashmir. Interiors of Jhelum once added to the beauty of the city, now on the edge of depletion. Parts of Jhelum which flow through the City look like a bad smelling drain which has only waste water coming out of houses.

Our ancestors say that the cool breeze of Jehlum used to be calm and sweet. But our new generation prefers to stay away from the banks because there’s filth all around. Jhelum is the gift of God to the people of Kashmir. We need to wake up to keep it clean and restore its glory. So far many steps have been taken up by the government but all in vain.

The waste material which lies on the banks of Jhelum is enough to feed dogs and to help them grow healthy. Time and again the miserable condition of the water bodies has been brought to the notice of the authorities but nobody seems interested in taking cognizance. The results are obvious. Slowly but surely the city is turning into a cesspool. While many tears have been shed over the dying Dal Lake, Nigeen and Anchar lake, the lifeline of the Valley (Historic Jhelum) has been totally ignored.

Both the people and the authorities must bear in mind that the historic river forms the lifeline of the Valley. Everything ranging from irrigation to power generation is dependent on this river. Doom of the river shall have disastrous consequences on this paradise on earth. The government must also undertake an awareness campaign to make the people realize the importance of this historic river. This can be done by various means including introduction of environmental preservation as a subject at the primary level. The authorities, therefore, need to wake up before it is too late.

SOCIAL NETWORKING

Social networking sites have become exceedingly popular in recent years. This increased popularity has caused concern among many parents about how these sites are affecting their children.

Parents are becoming aware of many disadvantages of social networking sites including their affect on a child's ability to concentrate. Constant online communication affects children, making it difficult for them to communicate and concentrate when away from the screen. It is, therefore, important for parents to monitor their children's online social interactions andplace a time limit on how longthey can spend on the computer.

Notable among the disadvantages of social networking sites is the presence of cyber bullying. Parents should monitor their children's online social interactions to prevent them from becoming victims of cyber bullying. Social networking can affect children negatively if they are inadvertently dragged into some sort of cyber bullying, which may lead to teen suicides.

Social networking affects children to the extent that these networks sometime encourage interpersonal relations that are unrealistic.A child's online interactions with people who could influence them in a negative manner may expose them to quite serious threats and potential dangers. Sometimes a child's online social interactions may not be appropriate. The luxury of hiding behind a screen where they are unknown gives them the opportunity to say anything. This freedom could result in fightsor online bullying.

Despite their disadvantages,social networking sites havemany advantages. Children may make some good friendsonline, become more aware of current affairs, and get career guidance. A child's online social interactions, if properly monitored, can be beneficial to their career andlife.

Social networking affects communication among children, which can be both positive and negative. The disadvantages of social networking sites can be offset by having some kind of plan in place where parents can supervise their child’s internet activities. Children should be educated about how online communication affects them and about the negative effects their online social interactions may have.

First Dogs, Now Rats ...


Here it is .... Rodents terrorize staff and patients in the Chest Disease (CD) Hospital, Srinagar

Rats Rattle CD Hospital

Shafat Farooq (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: While stray dogs have been hogging headlines, rats seem to be not far behind. Concerned by their growing number and increased activity, authorities at Chest Disease Hospital, Dalgate have hired a rodent control agency to get rid of them.

“Rats can be seen jumping around in the wards causing inconvenience to patients, attendants and the hospital staff. Besides, they are carriers of infection so we need to get rid of them as soon as possible. The hospital is in desperate need of a pied piper,” said a senior official of the hospital, wishing not to be named.

The hospital authorities committee has been constituted in this regard which decided to hire a rodent control agency to clear the hospital of the rats.

“We have already approached a rodent control agency which has been approved by the purchasing committee. They will arrive here in next 10 days and after assessing the situation they will take action accordingly,” Medical Superintendent CD Hospital, Dr Mirza said. “This is a big hospital and it will take some time for the team to clear the hospital of the rats. The team will measure all the areas where the rats have entered and they will be paid according to the space covered by them,” Mirza said.

Besides eating the eatables, rats have also bitten some people in the hospital while the officials have failed to curb their movement and population.

“I was in sleep and suddenly four rats swooped on me. I was lucky to be bitten only on my right foot. But the behavior of the authorities was more shocking as I was asked to go outside the hospital for treatment,” said Bashir Ahmed, who is attending his ailing father in the hospital.

He said they can’t sleep peacefully at night for fear of rats.

“It’s impossible to sleep in the hospital, particularly for the patients. Yesterday half of the bread kept in a drawer vanished,” Bashir said. About the complaints, Dr Mirza said, “They should take care of themselves. It is chest disease hospital, we can’t cure rat bites here.”

Presence of rats in hospitals is not uncommon. Rats nibbled on a 70-year-old paralysed man at a Jodhpur hospital in January earlier this year. The incident had evoked widespread concern with Rajasthan government coming in for strong criticism, especially from media.

Challenges Facing Women Entrepreneurs


Wajahat offers a short synopsis of challenges faced by women entrepreneurs, but glosses over a key hurdle - Kashmiri women are unable to secure credit without a male co-signer

 (Mr. Wajahat Hussain Mattoo is Coordinator at the Jammu & Kashmir Entrepreneurship Development Institute (JKEDI), Pampore.)

Women Entrepreneurs

Government of India has defined women entrepreneurs as an enterprise owned and controlled by a women having a minimum financial interest of 51% of the capital and giving at least 51% of employment generated in the enterprise to women.

Economic globalization has encouraged the expansion of female business ownership. “The growing economic power and influence of women-owned businesses are changing the shape of the global economy,” remarked Sakiko Fukuda - Parr, director of the UN Development Program’s Human Development Report. The global impact of women entrepreneurs is just beginning to gain intensity. Worldwide, the number of female business owners continues to Women Entrepreneurs in the Global Economy increase steadily. For example, women produce more than 80 percent of the food for Sub-Saharan Africa, 50-60 percent for Asia, 26 percent for the Caribbean, 34 percent for North Africa and the Middle East, and more than 30 percent for Latin America. Female entrepreneurs are active at all levels domestically, regionally, and globally.

Characteristics of Women Entrepreneurs:

Woman entrepreneurs tend to be highly motivated and self-directed. They also exhibit a high internal locus of control and achievement. Researchers contend that women business owners possess certain specific characteristics that promote their creativity and generate new ideas and ways of doing things:

1) Autonomy: Entrepreneurs have a strong desire for autonomy. Women at midlife often lose patience playing by corporate rules and want to call their own shots and put their own values first.

2) Resilience: Entrepreneurs have the ability to bounce back from setbacks. It takes resilience to get through the roadblocks that will inevitably show up. At midlife and beyond, women have learned to be resilient, as they’ve weathered life’s ups and downs.

3) Initiatives: Entrepreneurs are self-starters. The most successful entrepreneurs also keep the momentum going after the initial burst of energy.

4) Confidences: Entrepreneurs believe in themselves and get others to believe in them too. They have the confidence to find the resources they need and the ability to ask for help and support.

5) Intuitive: Entrepreneurs have good business instincts. They use left-brain rational thinking to analyze problems, but they also trust their intuition, which is often correct. Women tend to trust their intuition in business more often than men.

6) Decisive: Entrepreneurs are action oriented. They make decisions and take the actions required to get them to their desired results. Midlife women have had a lifetime of experience to fine-tune their decisionmaking ability.

7) Connects: Entrepreneurs build relationships. They build networks and thrive on seeing opportunities for connections for mutual benefit. At midlife, women have well developed networks, which is an advantage in starting and sustaining a business. (Grossman Amy, 2009).

Overall, men's and women's motivations for business initiation are quite similar. As with male entrepreneurs, females seek independence, autonomy, higher income, and the opportunity to be their own boss.

One difference between men and women in their motivation to initiate a business is that men often cite economic reasons, whereas women often cite family needs. Whereas men generally see entrepreneurship as a business decision, many women view it as a life choice-a way of integrating family and career needs. 

Reasons Women Become Entrepreneurs:

Many studies indicate that women start businesses for fundamentally different reasons than their male counterparts. While men start businesses primarily for growth opportunities and profit potential, women most often found businesses in order to meet personal goals, such as gaining feelings of achievement and accomplishment. In many instances, women consider financial success as an external confirmation of their ability rather than as a primary goal or motivation to start a business, although millions of women entrepreneurs will grant that financial profitability is important in its own right.

Women also tend to start businesses about ten years later then men, on average. Motherhood, lack of management experience, and traditional socialization has all been cited as reasons for delayed entry into entrepreneurial careers. In fact, over 30 percent of women entrepreneurs reported that they started a business due to some traumatic event, such as divorce, discrimination due to pregnancy or the corporate glass ceiling, the health of a family member, or economic reasons such as a layoff. But a new talent pool of women entrepreneurs is forming today, as more women opt to leave corporate America to chart their own destinies.

Many of these women have developed financial expertise and bring experience in manufacturing or nontraditional fields. As a result, the concentration of women business owners in the retail and service sectors—and in traditional industries such as cosmetics, food, fashion, and personal care—is slowly changing.

The Importance of Women Entrepreneurs:

Women entrepreneurs encounters only one third of all entrepreneurs. And as half the population on this planet is women there is an unnatural gap between genders. There is thus potential to enhance the level of women entrepreneurs. Women entrepreneurs have a massive potential which are yet to be unleashed. Not only due to the gender gap, but also because women bring in diversity to the innovation process. More women will provide per se entrepreneurs with a more diverse perspective. Solutions to market inequalities are not solved just by male entrepreneurs with male thinking innovation. Now women also brings in solutions to market inequalities and their innovations may not be alike those of the man. Thus women entrepreneurship is to be seen as part of the diversity question.

Education Without Learning


Ishfaq wonders if enough is being done to bring about improvement in the quality of education

(Syed Ishfaq Noor is a teacher at the Government Middle School in Mir Mohalla Hygam Zone, Sopore.) 

Towards Quality Education

Quality education is possible when academic support in terms of quality resource persons at zonal, District and state levels is made available. Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (universal education programme) helped bring 20 million children into school. It also plans to quadruple the number of universities to 1,500 in 10 years. In the last ten years, there have been tremendous strides in the field of education in Jammu & Kashmir despite its abysmal educational sector. But the question is, ‘have we fulfilled the fundamental goal of education i.e. Quality education’?

The population of children in a country makes up its human resource for the future. The social, economic and cultural growth and development of any society hinges upon the quality of its human resource. Three and a half decades after the adoption of the National Policy for Children, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram allocated the seemingly huge amount of Rs. 34,400 crores exclusively to the education sector in his Annual Budget last fiscal year. The much-hyped Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan was granted a handsome Rs. 13,100 crore in the year 2008-2009 Policy makers have devised good schemes under the banner of widening access to quality education at pre-primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Now the question is `are these schemes really implemented at grass root level or are they thrown into dustbins by our much hyped CEOs and ZEOs. Quality education is missing in our education system. This calls for a paradigm shift in our perception of the goals of education.

In District Baramulla about 60 ReT teachers, with teaching experience between 2-6 years, work as ZRPs and CRPs for SSA. If the government circular requires teaching experience of more than 15 years for fulfilling of the said vacancy, then why is it so? Can they impart quality education? Do they really provide academic support to the schools? These deputations and unnecessarily deployments and amalgamation of schools have deteriorated the foundations of our education system. On the other side deputation or deployment of ReT teachers is in complete violation of SSA norms.

An education that fails to inculcate basic values in the people is worse than ignorance and illiteracy. It is time we change our attitude to achieve wonders in revamping our education system. All of us should join hands and focus on one cause so that there will be a perceptible change in the quality of education.

The resource person should be a person with an iron will. Apart from knowledge of his subject, he should have a thorough knowledge of approach to life, national goals, history, geography, basic sciences, current affairs, and he should be well equipped with modern scientific techniques and national and international policies. He should stand before the child like a learned saint and be able to satisfy all queries of the child.

Where the Savior is the Criminal



Pandits are saying that under the guise of "public good", J&K Government is grabbing ancestral land of Pandits and provide token or no compensation in return

Govt Itself Involved in Grabbing Land Belonging to Community: KPs

Jammu: Ridiculing the Government claims on return of Kashmiri migrants and submission of plan to Union Government for enhancement of financial package from Rs 7.5 lakh to Rs 20 lakh per family for construction of houses on their return to Valley, Kashmiri Pandits term it a great drama to befool them.

The State Government's claim seem to be totally hollow in this regard said Vir Saraf, convener, Roots in Kashmir (RIK) J&K. He said how the Government is claiming to take Pandits back when its own agencies have encroached hundreds of kanals of land belonging to KPs for construction of Government offices, dispensaries, pump sheds, water reservoirs, bus stands, transport yards etc in length and breadth of the Valley.

Saraf said there is hardly any village in Kashmir valley where the Government agencies have not grabbed the land of Hindus including their religious places for public purposes without prior information to its owners or the members of the community leading an exiled life for over last 23 years in Jammu and other parts of the country.

He said while the members of the community are demanding removal of encroachments already made by Government agencies in different parts of Valley from KP land and religious places, another land grabbing case of KPs religious place by Government agencies have surfaced in village Areh, Kulgam district of South Kashmir.

Saraf said entire cremation ground and its adjacent land belonging to Ahal Hindoo totaling 28 kanals has been grabbed by the Government agencies in this village for bus stand despite the objections raised by the Hindu population of the village leading an exiled life for last 23 years like their other brethren. This shows half hearted approach of the Government towards the return formula and PM's package in this regard, he added.

The Pandits from the village are running from pillar to post for restoration of land to them but to no avail, he said adding when the cremation ground which exists for hundreds of years in the village and the people belonging to Hindu minorities were cremating their dead there prior to mass migration where the Government will settle the community on its return when it has itself grabbed their ancestral land.

Saraf said every one including non Government organizations, land mafia and Government agencies are out to capture the left out Pandits land in Valley. The historical Abhinav Gupt's Cave at Beerwah, Budgam is also facing the threat as the entire hill lock housing the cave is being excavated for stone quarry purposes by some vested interests.

This cave has a great significance as it is linked to the great Shivachariya and world famous scholar of millennium, Abhinav Gupt on whose works researches are being conducted in various universities all over the world. Saraf said this great Shivachariya is believed to have entered the cave along with his 1200 devotees for meditation over one thousand years ago. This has been mentioned in Shiv Sutras of Kashmir and the cave has an aesthetic value as well and even the Muslim scholars of Valley have expressed their resentment over the encroachment of hill lock on which the cave is situated, he added.

Supporting Saraf, Kundan Kashmiri KPC chief said that already KPs land in almost all villages which were inhibited by KPs prior to 1989-90 has been encroached by Government agencies or land mafia. The cremation ground at Sagam, Wanpooh in South Kashmir district of Anantnag have already been encroached by Rural Development and Health departments respectively. In addition to it the land of Hindus in Tikker Kupwara and Sopore cremation ground has also been encroached by Government agencies. Besides in Shopian, Batpora the residential area of Pandits was converted into a Bus Stand and that too without the approval of the owners of the land, he added.

Kashmiri said that recently Vaital Bhairav at Motiyar Rainawari is fresh case of encroachment which has generated a lot of resentment among the community. He, while questioning the Government's sincerity on return said on the one hand it is talking of PM's return package and on the other hand it has launched a sinister campaign to grab the remaining land of the Pandits in Valley to its agencies

(Early Times Report)

Development or Defacement of the City?


A Kashmiri architect/planner based in the USA, offers his perspective on infrastructure development plans for Srinagar as proposed by the Government, and requests readers to provide inputs to the funding agency and the project organization

Defacing the City

Rafique A. Khan

Construction of the overhead bridge on the Srinagar Airport Road, at its intersection with the Srinagar Byepass road, is a familiar commuting heart ache and an ugly site to behold. The “flyover”, a crossing over the airport road, is only a few thousand feet in length; However, its construction took almost ten years. Now the Kashmir Government’s Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA) is proposing to construct another “flyover” on the airport road. This time it is to be within the existing road way. This proposed flyover will be an elevated structure about two and half kilometers in length, starting from Jahangir Chowk all the way to Rambagh. The Rambagh Bridge is to be also made into a double decker bridge. As proposed, the flyover project will be an ugly intrusion in the area. It does not fit with the heritage design character of Srinagar city; nor is it appropriate given that Srinagar is an earthquake prone area. Moreover, the project will severely damage business activity on the street during and after construction of the flyover. And the worst part is that flyover will not improve the existing horrible traffic conditions. This project is part of a gigantic $400,000,000 boondoggle being bank rolled by the Asia Development Bank. The stated objectives of the project, namely, decongestion of traffic on the road; improved long term traffic management in Srinagar; reducing the number of vehicles passing through the area etc., are laudable. But you do not need the brain power of a rocket scientist to figure out that the project is a boondoggle. To get an idea of what this flyover will look like imagine the existing flyovers at Jahangir Chowk and Byepass Road like structure, in the middle of the airport road, all the way from Jahangir Chowk to Rambagh. As per the Environmental Impact Assessment report for the project, prepared by the ERAgency of the J&K Government, the proposed project will be built in three years and it will have no significant adverse impacts on the environment.

The report is posted on the Asia Development Bank (Site: www.ADB.org).  Sorry, but this conclusion is wrong.

It is obvious that the traffic congestion on the airport road is unacceptable. It is also important that smooth traffic flow is essential to the economic well being of Srinagar. But as proposed the project will not solve the traffic congestion problem, except for the few “lal-baati” cars who will use the upper level of the flyover. But please consider what will happen at the existing street level. Can you imagine the night mare of traffic gridlock and economic devastation to the existing shops along both sides of the street during the construction period of this monstrous structure? And just think of the conditions at the street level after the construction is done. Imagine the shops, overshadowed by the elevated structure. Imagine the lives of all the poor people who live and work on the floors above the shops. The traffic will be whizzing by their windows less than 20 feet away. Think of all the vibrations, the dust and the noise on the surrounding communities. The ERAgency report states “immediate positive impact on the area by significantly reducing the number of vehicles passing through the area by approximately 58% . . .” (Exective summary). I do not get this calculation: The flyover will add four lanes of traffic on top of the existing street, how will that “reduce the number of vehicles passing through the area.” A study of the project report makes it obvious that as proposed the flyover will cause severe negative environmental affects that are not being mitigated. And yet, the ERA report concludes that, “As per Indian laws, the proposed subproject does not require an environmental clearance.” (Exective summary).

And here is the irony, the stated objective of the flyover project: to relieve traffic congestion along the Airport route in Srinagar, could be possible by alternatives that will be cheaper to build, can be completed in a shorter time and will have a positive affects the environment and economy of Srinagar. But who cares? 

Requests to reevaluate the proposed project, with written recommendations for alternatives, have been given to Kashmir Government authorities a number of times. These requests were done over a period of three years, and even included a petition with 150-signatures addressed to the Chief Minister of Kashmir. Six letters, several phone calls and one petition got zero response. The Asia Development Bank did acknowledge receiving the requests and appropriately responded that the project was a Kashmir government undertaking. The ADB also asked the Kashmir government to respond. That too has been ignored.

So what is the problem. Why won’t the flyover project fly?

Here is the problem: The existing Airport Road from Jahangir Chowk to Rambagh Bridge has three lanes of traffic in each direction. Encroachments and ineffective street geometrics have reduced the street to two moving lanes in each direction. But the real problem is that at the Rambagh Bridge six lanes of traffic (Hyderpora, Rawalpora and Sanatnager) meet. In a similar manner at Jahangir Chowk, multiple traffic lanes merge into two lanes of the Airport Road. For solving traffic related problems, you need to divert the traffic away from the area. Besides, in traffic engineering parleys improving the traffic flow at the intersections is necessary, first and foremost.

The proposed flyover project will do none of that. As stated earlier the proposed project will

(a) At best improve traffic movement for a limited number of vehicles for a limited portion of the traffic corridor.

(b) The pylons and elevated structure will, by restricting access and natural light result in permanent damage to the economic viability of the existing businesses along the Airport Road, from Hazuri Bagh to Rambagh Bridge.

(c) The increased noise, vibrations and air pollution, will cause environmental degradation of Srinager in particular the Hazuribagh, Magarmal, Rambagh and Natipora communities.

(d) The flyover structure as proposed is out of scale and character with the existing building pattern and landscape of the area. The project as proposed will have a four lane elevated road less than 20 feet from the windows of an estimated 1,000 habitable units in the Silk Factory Bazaar area; thus effecting the privacy of the property.

(e) The flyover will increase congestion in Natipora and beyond.

(f) Given the complex nature of the project the completion time may will be in decades. The traffic congestion in the area during the construction period will be most severe.

Well that is all well said and done. Traffic is a big problem, what is the alternative to solve the present traffic problem?

Fair question: The answer is to divert the traffic by building a new road away from and parallel to the Jahangir Chowk Rambagh road. A new bridge parallel to the existing Rambagh bridge on the flood channel opposite the old Reshim Khanna can be a mid-point for a new road joining the Batmaloo area with the airport area. It could be a new alignment along the old Reshim Khanan property, as a combination of new and widened streets built parallel to the airport road. The new street would add “traffic carrying capacity”, divert the traffic and thus reduce the traffic volume on the existing airport road also; unlike the proposed flyover that adds traffic volume and does nothing for improving the intersections.

An alternative in the lines of above was in fact proposed by the Kashmir Public Works Department back in 2008 in a report titled: Project Report for Widening /Upgradation of Road from Batmaloo Bridge to Barzalla Bridge . The proposed PWD project’s estimated cost was considerably less and could have been completed in a much shorter time than the ERA Flyover. The PWD proposed new road was along the Doodganaga Channel from Rambagh to Batmaloo. The Doodganga Channel has since had encroachment. Removing some of the encroachments will be challenging. However, with modifications, the PWD proposal or others like it can be effective alternatives. These alternatives can open up new areas for development, help conserve and improve traffic movement in the Silk Factory Corridor (the corridor has historic structures and mature landscaping). In addition it will cause minimal disruption to the business and traffic flow during and after the roadway construction period.

Srinagar is a designated UNESCO Heritage City. In a book published by UNESCO Professor Randolph Langenbach Srinagar’s unique historic character is characterized as a “cultural landscape.’” Srinager is a city made up of series of islands, once known as the Venice of the East. Long ago River Jehlum served as the main transport corridor for the city with its joining canals for secondary transport around the islands of the city. The existing roads in Srinagar, for the most part are of “medieval” era. Srinagar city population was 4.57 lakhs in 1971, and is estimated to have a population of 23.50 lakhs by 2121. Widening old roads, building bye pass and flyovers are no solution to Srinagar’s traffic congestion. The traffic movement needs to be addressed to accommodate the growth that is projected. In short, Srinagar City needs a plan for new street (and transport) system to accommodate the projected growth. New roads that meet the demand of increased fast moving traffic and at the same time help conserve existing areas. This new road building must be part of a Kashmir Valley wide regional land use and infrastructure development plan that addresses transportation needs, including segregation of fast and slow moving traffic and balanced development of various traffic modes, including river transport.

As noted above all this has been communicated to the Kashmir Government. But as also noted the official arrogance and ignorance of the government is mind boggling. Forget studying alternatives and comprehensive planning, the 400,000,000 million ERAgency project is done on the fly. The project is not part of the City’s Master Plan; it is not even supported by a credible traffic study.

And here is an interesting side bar. As part of the relocation plan, the project builds two new shopping areas. Both are proposed at the two most congested intersections: Jahangir Chowk and Rambagh Bridge. Thus adding to the congestion problem. And the published report says that the flyover will “reduce “ traffic.

Bottom line: The JCRB Flyover project as proposed does not serve public good. The flyover will create permanent damage to the physical and economic environment of Srinagar.

My appeal: Please do not sit on the side lines and watch Srinagar getting destroyed. The Economic Reconstruction Agency seems to be on an auto pilot to destroy the heritage and economy of Srinagar. This proposed flyover boondoggle will not solve but will worsen the existing traffic congestion and destroy the urban design character of Srinagar. It is recognized that there is traffic congestion along the Srinagar Airport route. And that smooth traffic flow is essential to the economic well being of the city. As noted, there are a number of alternatives that will be better effective, will cost less and take less time to build. Demand that the Flyover project be reevaluated.

Express your concerns to Asia Development Bank (www.adp.org), and the J&K Government (plan-jk@nic.in).

(Greater Kashmir)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Sops for the Elites


Ashraf feels that excessive investment in tourism is misplaced and the J&K Government needs to put its money in activities that enhance state's GDP. He should know

(Mr. Mohammad Ashraf, 68, was born and raised in Srinagar. He attended the S.P. High School and the S.P College before joining the Regional Engineering College at Naseem Bagh in Civil Engineering. However, he changed his career to adventure sports like mountaineering and skiing, completing his training at the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, Darjeeling and Gulmarg. He also completed a diploma in French language from the Alliance Fran├žaise in New Delhi. He joined the J&K Tourism Department in 1973, rose to become its Director-General in 1996, and retired in 2003 after 30 years of service. He has been associated with the Adventure Sports at the national level and was recently re-elected as the Vice-President of the Indian Mountaineering Foundation, the apex body of adventure sports in India, for two years. To commend his efforts in introducing rescue measures in Kashmir Mountains, he was awarded “Merite-Alpin” by Swiss in a special function in Les Diablerets in 1993. He continues to be a member of the Governing Council of IMF and is also the President of Jammu & Kashmir Mountaineering & Hiking Club.) 

Kashmir’s Tourism Mania

One of the most common fallacies used by one and all in Kashmir is that the Tourism is the back bone of Kashmir’s economy. There are no two opinions that Kashmir is one of the best year round tourism destinations. The potential for the development of all types of tourism activities is immense. However, at the present moment it is merely an additional income generating resource and gives temporary seasonal employment to people in tourist areas. It does not constitute even 10% of the state GDP. One has to remember that the very basic essential criterion for development of any leisure activity is peace. Once peace prevails in Kashmir, tourism could be the most important sector of the economy provided other inputs to develop the industry are also freely available. There are three main criteria for development of tourism to a particular area. Potential, accessibility, and infrastructure. Firstly, an area has to have the requisite potential such as environment, heritage, pilgrimage, and so on. Next, the area has to be accessible both physically and politically. Finally, it has to possess requisite infrastructure to be promoted as a tourist destination.

The potential of Kashmir for development of all varieties of tourism, such as leisure tourism, adventure tourism, heritage tourism and even the health tourism are unmatched. Every part of the valley is a potential tourist destination. However, the catch is the accessibility. Both the physical and the political accessibility. Some of our best potential tourist areas are politically inaccessible being near the line of control. These include Bangus, parts of Lolab, Gurez, Tulail and so on. Physical accessibility of the valley itself is limited to a single exit and entry point through the national highway. All other routes which were used for trade and tourism before 1947 are closed. The easiest traditional route of Jhelum Valley Road too is closed for tourism even though it has been partially opened for travel of blood relations and barter trade. These days one cannot think of real tourism without an international air connection. We do have an international airport but without any international flights! Finally, comes the question of infrastructure. We are terribly lacking in international standard infrastructure in accommodation, food, and transport. We have enough facilities available for budgeted and middle level tourists but are absolutely low on high end tourism. In spite of being in the tourism business for over half a century, we are now framing a tourism policy and a vision document with a 15 year perspective plan!

Tourism is a double mixed blessing. It can bring prosperity to an area but can at the same time destroy it by irretrievably damaging the environment. Tourism and environment are everywhere in conflict unless one is careful to go for sustainable tourism only. Many tourist destinations in the world have faced damage to the environment because of the excessive tourist arrivals. One has to assess the carrying capacity of a potential area and then take measures to restrict the arrivals to ensure preservation of the main attraction which in our case is the environment. After having failed to control the mushroom growth in existing resorts which are getting virtually urbanised, we are destroying new potential areas by following the same procedure. It is time for the Government to get out of the commercial side of tourism and act strictly as a promoter and a regulator of the industry. Somehow, the vested interests have created an impression that the tourism is a queen with a magical wand wherever she goes the area gets economic boost. It may be temporarily true but in the long run the area gets tremendous environmental damage. We end up killing the golden goose! One of the prime examples is the Amarnath Pilgrimage. The uncontrolled rush has caused tremendous damage to the fragile ecology of the area both from Pahalgam and Sonamarg side. If one can limit the numbers to Rishikesh, why not to Amarnath? Again politics comes in. The pilgrimage is espoused as the ancient Kashmir’s religious link to India!

Apart from the vested interests bent upon destroying our ecology for some easy quick bucks, the tourism refrain has political connotations. It suits politicians both in the state and the centre to use tourism as a barometer of political normalcy. Both claim Kashmir is normal because hundreds of thousands of tourists are flocking to it. Tourism is not the real indicator of the ground situation especially the extreme alienation of the people which bursts out from time to time. This all round out of proportion espousal of Tourism to the level of a mania is also responsible for neglecting other important sectors of the economy. In fact, even in tourism the amount of noise made is not in proportion to the attention actually given to its planned development. One is not against tourism development. The state department of tourism has been taking many major initiatives to develop adventure and heritage tourism. Again they are handicapped by non-availability of funds where actually needed. In fact, more focused attention needs to be paid to certain critical aspects such as physical accessibility and infrastructure. Political accessibility will have to wait the return of peace.

While espousing the cause of tourism, it must be remembered that certain critical areas need urgent attention not only because these are tourist attractions but because these represent the very life of the valley. For instance Dal Lake is to be saved not only because it is a tourist destination but because it is the very heart of Kashmir. If Dal stops living, the whole Kashmir is dead! Similarly, we need to protect our heritage and our history not for tourists but for our own future generations. It is a pity that the departments meant to protect our heritage and preserve our culture are in a mess and the tourism department has to step in to save the both! It is time to give up the obsessive attachment to the word tourism for mostly political lip service and take practical steps to give due and focused attention not only to this industry but all other sectors like agriculture, horticulture, floriculture, and fisheries. If we desire a sustainable economy then we have to rise above the political gimmickry and be realistic and practical in our approach. Mere slogans for media coverage will not do!

As Rabid as Dog Menace on Our Streets


Ashraf is talking about corruption in Kashmir, and he calls political corruption as the mother of all corruptions

(Dr. Mirza Ashraf Beg, 71, was born in Sarnal, Anantnag. He did his primary schooling at the Primary Hanfia School in Anantnag and completed his F. Sc. from the Government Degree College in Anantnag. He completed his medical degree (MBBS) from the Government Medical College Srinagar, University of Kashmir, in 1967, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Pathology from the Government Medical College Jammu, University of Jammu, in 1981. He served as the Medical Director of the Civil Hospital, Pahalgam, until 1983 and subsequently held senior administrative positions in the health service system of Saudi Arabia, including participation in a joint program with the Johns Hopkins University and the University of South Florida for a United Nations project related to environmental and ecological impact of the 1991 Gulf War. He is an Executive Member of the Jammu and Kashmir Red Cross (nominated by the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir), Member of General Medical Council, Jammu and Kashmir, Medical Council of India, Saudi Medical Council, and General Medical Council, London. He is proficient in Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi, English, Arabic.)

 Corruption and Kashmir

These days there is lot of hue and cry about corruption in Kashmir so much so even the accused also cries foul. ‘The pot calls the kettle black.’ It is said a thief once entered a house with the intention of committing burglary. Somehow he felt the owner was awake thus tried to run away. The master of the house gathered his guts chased the thief shouting loud, ‘here goes the thief-please catch him.’ The thief stopped-had a deep breath and shouted back, ‘Hay-anybody around, please save me the genie is attacking me!’ Since the thief was a respectable personality from the neighborhood people had to believe him. They caught hold of the poor house owner taking him for a genie and beat him blue and black. Seeing him in a pool of blood the thief laughed at the house owner saying, ‘thus far and no further. How dare you challenge my credibility?

No doubt corruption is a pandemic phenomena but corruption in Kashmir seems as rabid as the dog menace on our streets. So much so the rare ‘honest breed’ has become such a rare commodity that one doesn’t get even the feel of it. Thus the community needs to rise up in an organized manner to address both the dog menace and the corruption. Every day dogs on our streets are mauling our kids and women. The irony is instead of finding ways and means to get rid of ever increasing dog population the government increased the supply of ARV (anti rabies) injections to our hospitals thereby giving a free license to the stray dogs to do the job. On the contrary during my morning walks on KP road in Islamabad I advise my fellow joggers to carry a stick for their defense lest they are butchered by a platoon of dogs raised and patronized by the CRP jawans for their self defense occupying the animal husbandry hospital at Sarnal Anantnag. I know we can’t apply the same yard stick for corruption and rabid dogs but something like ARV and my ‘cane’ needs to be researched. I am sure carrying a cane and a joggers dress adds to your respectability besides scaring the dogs and their godfathers.

Sometimes I ponder if the solution lies in creating or activating the agencies like anti-corruption etc; then I am reminded of the story of the thief and the house owner! Surprisingly I am told to believe that anti-corruption itself is the greatest source of corruption in the country. So where do we go from here? Have we come to the dead end of the road! I am not a pessimist and by nature I am a great optimist. I always see the light on the other end of the tunnel. I strongly believe in the old saying, ‘where there is a will there is a way’ and have always welcomed the challenges of life. Having said that let me remind my readers that I hail from a rural agricultural background. When the land becomes barren or ceases to give good results we concentrate more on the better seeds rather than on the land itself. We change the seeds and plough the land deeper.

Coming back to ‘corruption and Kashmir’ we know Kashmir is the paradise on earth. There can be no two opinions about the fertility of the land. It has also been the abode for Rishis and Munies hence corruption here seems an alien phenomena. Unfortunately the ground situation is very grim. Hence we need to close the ‘chapter of present generation’ and concentrate seriously on our future generation in our kindergarten schools colleges and universities.

From my kindergarten days in Hanfiya primary school at Sarnal to my matriculation in state government school in Lal chowk Islamabad I remember we used to have morning meetings beginning with prayers like, ‘Lab pe aati hay dua bun kay tamana meri—Zendagi shama ki soorat ho khudaya meri.’

Thinking retrospectively I don’t find anything wrong in that type of moral building right from the childhood. While analyzing the graph of corruption morning prayers seem to have had positive effect on that generation of people. The graph of Corruption has definitely had a steep rise in quality and quantity in the last couple of decades when we stopped to think about moral building. I wonder what was wrong in our morning meetings and why did we stop the procedure. When I say quality of corruption I mean other shades of corruption like moral social and spiritual corruption. When I say social corruption I mean corruption through socialization and spiritual corruption is when the corruption takes the refuge under a religious ploy.

As we know every coin has two facets similarly we need to find other facets of corruption where a salaried government employee accused of corruption is at the receiving end. I don’t want to defend or justify the corruption in bureaucracy on the pretext of sky high prices in the market and the cost of living for a salaried babu. And then his electric bills grocery and education of his children. But even if the babu strictly follows the family planning of, ‘Hum doo and Humaray doo,’ in our joint family system he will at least have to support his ailing and aged parents where only his medical bills shall be bone breaking for the family. Subsidizing the education and ensuring the health care services through health insurance would lessen the burden on the salaried babu to a great extent and work as an incentive against the corruption in government sector. So we need to look on the problem of corruption in totality rather than through a narrow prism. Definitely we will be able to curtail the menace to a great extent if we stop buying ‘what we don’t need today with the conception lest we have to sell what we need tomorrow’. By saying so I am hinting at cultivating the thought of contentment in our society. That is possible by adapting to simple living and high thinking.

I know my readers are eager to know my views on political corruption. My honest opinion stands that corruption in political hierarchy is the mother of all the corruptions. It definitely trickles down from the top. There are accusations that currency printing machines and all sorts of contraband business work under the patronage of our political activists irrespective of their political thoughts or propensity. I also know we are all sick of the system but there is no way out except to follow the system and resort to the ballot. Thus the ball is in our court. No doubt the field of politics has become muddy and the role of politicians murky yet the nation has hope in the younger generation and they have to prove their worth.

Town Planner's Perspective on Resolving the Traffic Mess


Shafat offers his ideas

(Mr. Shafat Ahmed Reshi, 46, was born in Brane, Nishat, Srinagar. He completed his basic schooling from Shaheen Public School, Srinagar, and his advanced schooling from MPML Higher Secondary School, Srinagar. He completed his diploma in civil engineering from the J&K Government Polytechnic, Srinagar, and a planning diploma in Town and Country Planning from the Central Institute of Tecchnology, Chennai. He is employed in the State Roads & Buildings Department in town planning organization. He works on traffic management issues. Highly conscious about preserving Kashmir's environment, Mr. Reshi is a member of the "Tree Talk Campaign" and "Green Kasheer.")

 SOLUTION TO TRAFFIC MESS IN KASHMIR

The Kashmir valley has seen unprecedented increase in the number of vehicles within a short span of time. With the result, the traffic mess that we all encounter each day, has become somewhat like a daily experience and a routine causing serious inconvenience to the people from all walks of life. People are stuck in traffic jams and fail to reach to offices, institutions, appointments and even hospitals in time. A way-out is what we all would appreciate at this juncture of time.

The state Chief Minister who, with all due respect to him, knows very little about traffic management and is not a qualified traffic engineer, must not forget that the various limbs of his government concerned with this issue need a little exercise now. The problem arises when the concerned authorities are not held responsible for Traffic management. People including Chief Town Planner, Chief Engineer R&B, Transport Commissioner, Srinagar Municipality, R.T.O and at last Traffic Police wing of J&K Police must buckle up and take up the challenge of sorting this mess on our roads.

Just because we have had very less information drives or campaigning with regard to the nuances of traffic and transportations, people generally tend to take liberty with the rules and regulations set forth by the law and hence add pepper to injury. We have not understood the meaning of Roads, Road Engineering, Traffic Engineering, Road signs and Markings, Traffic Signs and signals, importance of Transportation and value of emergencies and regencies and this, unfortunately, is the main reason of Traffic mess in Kashmir. Secondly the traffic wing of J&K Police (Traffic Department) alone is, quite bizarrely, held responsible for traffic management or the mismanagement while as the other units of the management are simply not included when it comes to blaming. It is infact the lack of coordination among the above mentioned departments which has set the scene for traffic mess in our state. The tremendous increase in the number of vehicles in the urban areas have given rise to numerous added challenges which and hence regulation of traffic and maintenance of transportation routes is to be essentially attended with better co-ordination for smooth traffic regulation with less number of accidents.

A comprehensive traffic management policy is required which will be achieved only after engaging a qualified town planner with a specialization of traffic management or Engineering and not a police man or a bureaucrat. The cops deployed for Traffic Management are not qualified for the job as there is no subject taught regarding Traffic Engineering and its regulation etc. The fact that the cops vested with the duty of traffic management lack necessary training is evident when we see them stopping vehicles for checking essential documents at a crossing or a four-way. they do not know that their action is actually causing serious inconvenience by halting traffic. They could easily do the document checking thing at a specific point keeping in mind that such an action was not hindering traffic.

Bus stops and passenger sheds are being constructed without any proper planning while drivers are not trained to stop their vehicle at Bus Stops. Hence Traffic engineering is required before informing and training the driver community to respect the laws. Hence proper infrastructure is required for better Traffic Management which will be at an approximate cost of a few corers only. There is no need of flyovers at every nook and corner in Srinagar which cost in hundreds of corers. Bus stands are to be renovated otherwise drivers use the main road for the same purpose and cause traffic jams. Take a simple example of Batmaloo and see how you can not differentiate between the bus stand of Batmaloo and the main road, you will find all the buses on the main highway from Fire-station Batmaloo up to RTO office at Totu Ground. Is this the Traffic Management our law makers and their functionaries in administration have achieved so far?

Constructing Flyovers, widening of roads alone will not solve any problem. Huge amount is spent on the purpose but unfortunately without application of proper engineering designs. Different Traffic Surveys, studies and inventories or required for better Traffic Management, such as Number of vehicle and volume of Traffic, inventory on road network available with their capacities, Travel time and delay study, origin-Destination study, parking inventory, Accident data inventory of public Transport, Inventory of good Transport, Trip Generation, Trip Distribution, Trip assignment etc and analysis of all the above inventories and surveys. The proper Goal of Traffic Management can be achieved only by adopting the below mentions schemes or policies.

Organization (Traffic Management Team)
Inventories Surveys and Studies
Analysis
Forecast, Planning and evaluation
Operation and Implementation
Performance assessment and Review

The Hon’ble Chief Minster must appoint a traffic management team among the above mentioned professions to have short term and long term planning and solutions for a smooth and safe Transport Policy and for better traffic management in the State. There is no such issue or a problem that can’t be handled and solved. It only takes a strong decision to put the right person at the right place. Otherwise things will gone wrong and in Kashur, we have a proverb ‘Kari- Najar Ba Dast Gilkar ’ which sums up the scenario.

Srinagar Enters the 20th Century


So what if it is only a century behind? A bigger question is will it really happen? Lead story followed by an editorial in the Rising Kashmir 

Srinagar to Get 4 Traffic Signals by First Week of May

Rising Kashmir News

 Srinagar: The summer capital is all set to get modern traffic signals as decks for the much needed service have been cleared by the State Level Contract Committee. Talking to Rising Kashmir over phone, Commissioner Srinagar Municipal Corporation, Dr G N Qasba said, “To overcome frequent traffic snarls in Srinagar city, 32 traffic signals will be installed at all busy junctions by the end of June this year.”

 Dr Qasba, said that on trail basis four traffic signals will be installed at vulnerable places like Tourist Reception Centre, Jahangir Chowk, Sangarmal junction and at Badyari-Chowk in the first week of May. He said by the end of June, 2012, SMC will be installing traffic signals in two major areas where jams are frequent. “By the end of June, we will install signals from Airport to Raj Bhawan and from Pantha Chowk to Batamaloo to control frequent traffic jams on these two essential routes,” Dr Qasba said. He said the initiative will be taken in collaboration with City Traffic Police, Power Development Department and Roads and Buildings Department.

According to Dr Qasba, the project would cost around Rs 2 crore to cover all the 32 junctions in these two crucial corridors. “The installation of signals was the demand of time and we are sure people will cooperate and make this experiment successful,” he said. He said after the trial of four traffic signals, the work on remaining signals will also be completed in due time.

Following the public outcry about the uncontrolled traffic jams in city, Deputy Chief Minster who also holds the portfolio of Urban Development Ministry informed the Legislative Assembly in March this year that installation of traffic signals in Srinagar and Jammu was under active consideration of the government and bids in this regard have been finalized by the State Level Contract Committee (SLCC).

Srinagar Traffic

Traffic jams have become common in Srinagar city owing to various contributing factors including exponential increase in the number of vehicles, narrow roads, dearth of traffic policemen manning the streets and violation of traffic rules. Infact, long and frequent traffic jams have become part of our daily life. There are many factors marring the prospects of streamlined traffic system.

Some people blame Regional Transport Office for issuing driving licenses without conducting proper tests increasing the risk of road accidents involving the untrained drivers. In fact the prevalence of fake driving licences is common in the valley. Barring some instances where fake license rackets have been busted, there has been no sustained crackdown on the fake licence holders. India overtook China to top the world in road fatalities in 2006 and has continued to pull steadily ahead, despite a heavily agrarian population, fewer people than China and far fewer cars than many Western countries.

The way road accidents have increased in the state over the years, J&K may also compete for the top spot in the traffic accidents chart of India in coming times. According to statistics, whereas in 1982 a traffic cop had to handle 36 vehicles, he is now overwhelmed with the burden of managing 500 vehicles. This imbalance severely hampers the traffic management efforts. There is huge concentration of vehicles with, as per some official accounts, about 79 per cent registered for a meager 28 per cent population in the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu. Although the government is undertaking road-widening projects, it is unlikely to address the problem of traffic jams any time soon unless the number of vehicles does not continue to swell at current rate. With Darbar Move just round the corner, the summer capital is likely to witness surge in vehicular movement. With tourist arrivals also increasing, one can find long tourist buses and VIP motorcades adding to the traffic chaos.

Besides being a common cause for public inconvenience, traffic jams can often prove life threatening in cases like medical emergencies and fire incidents. It is anybody’s guess as to how worse the traffic scenario will get unless some comprehensive plan is formulated and is implemented on war-footing basis. The successive governments have been sleeping over the issue for long. Though one cannot expect the problem to be addressed overnight, the need for urgent redressal measures cannot be ruled out. It is high time that the incumbent government gives serious thought to the issue.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

J&K Has No Fire Safety Act


The Kashmir Monitor makes a frightening revelation - hospitals and other public building may have inoperable fire-fighting equipment. Report followed by an editorial

 JK has no Fire Safety Act

 Firdous Hassan

 Srinagar: While the fire service week is being observed all over the country with much fanfare but the ground reality in Kashmir is far from comforting. Despite the Government claiming to have enough fire stations laden with modern and highly sophisticated equipment yet it seems to have forgotten to implement Fire Safety Act.

In a shocking revelation a senior official at the fire service headquarter Batamallo told The Kashmir Monitor that the Act is not being implemented in the state through which the people could be forced to adopt fire safety measures. Mohammad Rafiq Khan who is working as divisional fire officer at Fire service Headquarters Batamaloo told the Kashmir Monitor, “Here we have enough fire stations and all the modern fire fighting equipment but the problem which lies here is the non-implementation of the fire safety act as it is being observed in other states of country. This act is under process and the matter should be brought into public domain. Here the hospitals, petrol stations, schools don’t have the fire extinguishers and we often advise them about its usage but we can’t force them as this act is not being given preference here.” He said that the non-implementation of the fire safety act is the prime reason for the growing number of fire accidents in the valley. “The locals are selling highly inflammable objects like petrol, LPG openly which should be not done and due to the ignorance of people we often witness many fire related incidents in our state,” Khan added.

Furthermore Khan blamed the Government for not making it mandatory to construct water reservoirs in the newly constructed colonies. These water reservoirs are used as water –refilling stations for the fire fighting vehicles. “Government has set up different colonies in the city but none of them is having any water reservoir. Whenever we face any of such incidents we have to move kilometres to fill our water tanks,” said Khan.

 Playing with Fire

 Making a lot of noise over the fire safety week makes no sense when the situation on the ground across the state is worrisome. While there has been almost negligible implementation of fire safety measures in most of the private as well as public sectors, the major hospitals in Jammu and Kashmir according to a fire safety audit lack proper fire protection putting thousands of lives at risk.

According to the preliminary report prepared by Jammu and Kashmir Fire and Emergency Services last year, the safety measures are “almost negligible” in 157 hospitals, nursing homes and health centres of the state. Among the hospitals reviewed included Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) Soura, Shri Maharaja Hari Singh (SMHS) hospital, Bone and Joint hospital and SKIMS (Bemina). Besides, nursing homes across the valley have also been found wanting in this regard. Although some of the hospitals are equipped with some fire fighting equipment, it is not enough. Moreover, the electric line makes the hospital vulnerable to accidental fires and more importantly makes fire tendering more difficult.

Last year, Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah had issued instructions to the home department for the fire safety audit of all major hospitals in the state following the fire at Kolkata's AMRI hospital on December 9 that left at least 90 people dead. However, mere audits and fire week celebrations are not going to help. Action needs to be taken as any incident of fire wreaks havoc.

If one visits the prime government hospitals it is common to see the fire extinguishers covered with dusts and not at an operable ready state, no water hydrant points, no sand buckets placed at vantage points, above all one doubts whether the staff of the hospitals are even trained to handle any catastrophe if struck. Even the private hospitals are no behind government hospitals in the safety management regime. And according to report carried by The Kashmir Monitor on Friday, most of the city-based business establishment, hotels and malls do not have the required fire extinguishers. On top of that, most of the people are unaware about the proper usage of the fire extinguishers or fire safety measures.

Besides hospitals and shops, most of the hotels too tell the same story even though there have been a number of fire incidents in the hotels in the recent past. Yet many of the hoteliers in the city have not bothered to install proper fire fighting equipment, while as some do not even have a fire extinguisher. Some of the hotels which happen to have those, few were expired or empty. Even inside the high profile government owned shopping centre, Sangarmal, the lack of fire safety regulations is clearly visible. Even though the complex has an inbuilt fire safety mechanism in the form of sprinkler and fire indicators, according to the shopkeepers at Sangarmal the government is yet to make them operational. Fire accidents have always created havoc in congested areas where even the fire tenders can’t reach. Such kind of problem usually happens in the most congested localities of the old city.

All this calls for extra vigilance and proper care on the part of authorities in the state ensuring that they are well equipped and prepared to cope up with any unfortunate incidents. The people need to be educated about fire safety too. In fact, the awareness should begin from the school level so that incidents of fire are prevented or the damages minimized in case of fires. However, any sort of education would make no sense if there are no fire fighting equipment in place at homes and public places.

An Annual (Meaningless) Ritual


The World Hemophilia Day has come and gone, and Kashmir's civil society, after doing its once-a-year ritual, will ignore the topic until the next anniversary day. Two reports marking this year's ritual (er .... anniversary) 

Govt Criticized Over Ignoring Hemophilia Patients

 Mukhtar Ahmed (Kashmir Images)

 Srinagar: Experts on Monday criticized the state government for making the lives of Haemophilia patients miserable. They alleged that instead of working on their specifications and recommendations, government is backing some charlatans and unscrupulous elements.

 As a result of this grave injustice with the patient’s lives, the experts further alleged that such a lackadaisical approach on government part has led to the thinning of pure and quality medicines from the market and thriving of “substandard” medications. These accusations came to the fore during a seminar-cum awareness camp and an interactive session for the patients on the occasion of World Hemophilia Day (April 17), organized by Society for Hemophilia Care in a local hotel here.

The experts lamented that how the state government’s pathetic attitude towards the Hemophilia (children) is ruining the chances of their recovery on time. “Substandard drugs facilitated by government into the markets are threatening a huge disaster for the patients,” the experts rued.

Speaking on the occasion, Vijay Kaul, Executive Director, Society for Haemophilia (SHC) , New Delhi stressed that drugs meant to cure Haemophilia (Anti-haemophilia factors) are first approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services) world over. “

But, J&K government has prioritized charlatans over professionals. By giving a slip to our specifications and recommendations, it has empowered charlatans to play with the lives of the patients. After following our recommendations for a certain period of time, government not only sidelined our views,” Kaul said. With an aim to safeguard the afflicted children’s lives, Kaul said, “I even filed a PIL in the J&K High Court to provide free and safe treatment to the patients. Subsequently, the court ordered the government in my favour and rupees two crores were provided for the same.”

Criticizing the hospital administration in J&K for failing to address the grievances of the haemphilia patients properly, Kaul accused, “The hospital administration has compromised on the lives of hundreds of children, besides the substandard drugs provided to them is taking a heavy toll on their lives.” Urging the state government to take the preventive measures forthwith, Kaul said, “We urge the J&K government to make available the safe and quality factors as per the specifications accepted by various hospitals in the country.”

Underscoring the need to create maximum awareness among the suffering children, Dr. Ruby Reshi, HOD, Dept of Blood Transfusion and Hematology, SMHS hospital, Srinagar underscored said, “The awareness levels on Hemophilia are remarkably low. We have to create more awareness to enable people to identify the symptoms and come forward for diagnosis. Also, it is very important to provide the existing list of patients in Jammu & Kashmir with highly purified factors so that the threat of blood borne disease like HIV & Hepatitis is eliminated completely.” “We have so far registered close to 138 patients. We know there are more that is why organizing this seminar is a step forward to create awareness about Hemophilia care through continuous supervision of all the medical and psychosocial aspects of bleeding disorders,” added Dr. Ruby, who was the chief guest on the occasion.

Talking to ‘Kashmir Images’ Syed Majid, a patient alleged the government of being insensitive to them.“We need FDA approved drugs to overcome the disease. Government’s support for some unscrupulous elements has thrived the trade of substandard drugs in the market. Besides, we demand that Haemophilia Society of Kashmir should be recongnized by Haemophilia Federation of India,” says Majid, who hails from Ganderbal.

Many pateints who highlighted their grievances accused that the Superintendent of one of the valleys leading hospital disgraces them with invectives. “Describing us lames will only worsen our condition. It is the people’s love which is of utmost importance for us. But, the treatment from top notch doctor only rubs salt to our wounds,” scores of patients complained on the occasion. “We also demand that all the patients suffering from the life-threatening disease should be immediately registered for treatment on time,” they added.

Notably, the event kicked off with discussions on hemophilia management followed by an interactive session with patients with hemophilia (PWH). On the same platform the scholarship program for Hemophilia patients called “I Believe I can fly” was also launched. The program will provide an education scholarship for three years for 20 students across India. This directly ties to this year’s theme for World Hemophilia Day, “Close the Gap,” which focuses on supporting positive change for people with hemophilia.

Hemophiliacs Living Under Persistent Threat

Sana Altaf (Kashmir Times)

Srinagar: The condition of 35 year old Firdous Ahmad, battling for life at SKIMS for the past one week, gives a clear picture of the health care facilities for Hemophilia patients in Kashmir. A week back, Firdous, resident of Hazratbal, underwent Hemphilia attack which resulted in severe headache. He consulted doctors at Srinagar’s leading hospital, who instead of giving him life saving Anti-Hemophilic Factor (AHF), referred him to SKIMS. “At SKIMS he was asked to do a CT scan first. For four days, he was under attack without AHF,” said Syed Majid, member of Hemophilia Society of Kashmir.

By the time the medical reports revealed hematoma in head, Firdous was partially under coma. “For Hemphilia patients AHF is a life savior. He should have been given AHF at first instance, whether he needed it at that time or not. AHF would not have caused any harm even if he was not under hematoma,” Majid, who pays regular visits to Firdous, says he has been put on ventilator. “He is in a very bad condition. Now the hospital authorities have ordered safe AHF for him but it is already late,” adds Majid.

While Firdous battles life, hundreds of other hemophiliacs live in constant fear of facing a fate like Firdous. In absence of required health care and medication, they live under persistent dread.

Manzoor Ahmad, father of 11 year old Hemophiliac, says the corruption in the health sector has adversely affected the health care.“The funds which are allocated for improving the healthcare, land into the pockets of corrupt officers. They are completely insensitive towards public health,” he said.

He criticized the non-availability of safe medication across the Valley. According to the Hemophiliacs, the AHF available here is unpurified and thus unsafe. Most patients are forced to use Fresh Frozen Plasma (FFP).

Syed Majid added that the establishment of a hemophilia care center is imperative from the proper treatment. Hemophilia patients demand reservation of seats at various education levels and employment.