Introduction to Blog

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

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

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

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

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

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Healing Touch

Pervez provides a close-up view of the great Janam Ashtami festival at the Khir Bhawani, Tulmulla where throngs of internally displaced Kashmir Pandits reacquaint themselves with resident Muslims

(Mr. Pervez Majeed Lone, 35, was born in Ashpora, a hamlet located in Handwara Tehsil in the Kupwara District. His primary schooling took place in government schools in his hometown, and he finished his higher secondary education from the Government Higher Secondary School, Kupwara. He graduated from the University of Kashmir as a Continuing Education student with Sociology, Philosophy and English Literature as major subjects. In 2004, he completed his Master's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Kashmir. He has worked in various local Urdu journals (Chattan, Pukar) and the Radio Kashmir (Sheharbeen) before joining the Sahara Time, a weekly national news magazine from the Sahara Group. He is passionate about the Urdu language and poetry, and loves to listen to music, read English literature and traveling.)

Amity Still There

A frail Kamlavati takes small, slow steps as her son Veerji Bindroo holds her hand guiding towards the shrine. After twenty years, Kamlavati, 80, visits the Mata Khir Bhawani temple, one of the most revered shrines of Kashmiri Pandits. Overwhelmed by emotions, she gazes at the Chinar trees abundant in the temple complex. “Ye bounae shehjar chum ravmout (I am bereft of the cool shade of Chinars)” the old lady gushes in Kashmiri with a tone filled with agony caused due to two-decade separation from her birthplace.

Kamlavati lived in Syed Kareem locality of North Kashmir’s Baramulla town. Like other Pandit families, she too had to leave her home in the tumultuous year of 1990. The Bindroo family, which lived in the picturesque locale, on the banks of Jehlum river were forced by the explosive situation to live a tormenting homeless life in exile in the tropical Jammu. Though the family is settled now with their own house in Janipur area, but the pangs of loosing the native land are embedded in them.

For the first time after they left their home in Baramulla, Kamlavati visited Kashmir alongwith her son and grandson to pay obeisance at the Khir Bhawani temple on the occasion of annual festival . “This visit is a real pilgrimage for us, not only because of the mela Khir Bhawani but also to see our beloved motherland,” said Veerji, assistant executive engineer with the Public Works Department. When asked about their return, Veerji poses a counter question. “Though the situation has improved but still an unseen fear surrounds us; otherwise who will not want to return his very own home!” On the other hand Kamlavati exudes the hope of old generation of Kashmiri Pandits, who see an end to their traumatizing wait. “I am sure we will come back and live peacefully with our Muslim neighbours as we have been since long,” she asserts. Her grandson Naveen Bindroo, 20, symbolises the trauma of sorts the young generation of Kashmiri Pandits have witnessed.

These generations, who was young children at the time of Pandits’ migration or were born after that, is living life of like a split personality. Their parents want them to be brought up as typical Kashmiris-with Kashmiri as their first language and Kashmiri culture in their lifestyle. But in Jammu, Delhi and elsewhere in India, the children are exposed to varied cultures. With this identity struggle within the families, the Kashmiri Pandits are face to face with numerous challenges of survival. The gleam of being at his birthplace was visible on Naveen’s face, who was just six months old when his family left their home. “Do you want to come back and live here?” Naveen, who studies engineering in Mumbai, replies in Kashmiri with a heavy Hindi accent. “I want but it is difficult. I am pursuing education outside Kashmir and all my friends are there (in Jammu and Mumbai).”

In fact this is the dilemma of Pandits. They do want to return but they say here they have to begin their lives afresh! The festivals like the one of Khir Bhawani clearly shows that despite all the bad things that happened around mass exodus of Pandits, the relations and trust among Pandits and Muslims is intact. On the eve of mela Khir Bhawani in Tulmulla, 26 kms northeast of Srinagar in district Ganderbal, the local Muslims as well as those from other areas of Valley were at the temple to meet their erstwhile Pandit neighbours. Emotional scenes were witnessed as Muslims and ‘guest’ Pandits, who arrived from various parts of country and abroad, hugged and kissed each other, while as some were seen crying.

Many Pandits had arrived days before the festival and stayed with their Muslim friends and neighbours. The locals had set up stalls where free services like drinking water were being provided to devotees. Youth had volunteered to assist and guide the pilgrims in performing rituals at the temple. Ghulam Hassan Mir a local, who was serving drinking water at one of the stalls, set up by Public Welfare Committee, Tulmulla said, “I am extremely happy to serve my Pandit brothers. There were had lots of Pandits in my village and we were living a harmonious life. Their separation is a personal tragedy to me.”

Sabir Ayub, a local journalist and social worker of Tulmulla said that the inhabitants of Tulmulla and adjacent villages were preparing weeks before the festival to greet the Pandit pilgrims. “For us, this is a sort of reunion with our Pandit compatriots, though sadly it is brief,” he remarks. Since their exodus in 1990, this was their biggest congregation at the shrine. And what makes their pilgrimage beautiful is the warmth and love showered by Muslims. “I am very emotional; I miss my friends and neighbours. Many of them had come to meet me here,” said C K Koul who lived in Shalla Kadal Srinagar. Koul’s young daughter Prakirti is born in Jammu and this was her first visit to Kashmir. “Papa told me we lived here. I like this place. Its cool here while as there is very hot in Jammu,” said Prakirti in broken Kashmiri.

The Koul family, who lives in Bhodi, Jammu visit Kashmir for Khir Bhawani festival, like most other Pandit families do. While lighting diyas and offering milk and kheer at the Goddess Ragnya’s temple, Pandits prayed for their homecoming and peace to their motherland. “The enthusiasm, with which our Muslim brothers received us, is a proof that the two communities have no problems with each other. It is just damned politics which is responsible for our separation and also a hindrance in our return,” gushes Deepak Kumar who lived in Habba Kadal, one of the largest localities of Pandits in Srinagar. As the Muslims and Pandits greeted and talked to each other in and around the temple complex, the Muslim shrine of Baba Haider, barely 100mtrs away from the Khir Bhawani temple stood testimony of Pandit-Muslim harmony and amity in Kashmir. (Sahara Time)

Corruption in J&K Transport Department is Also Fatal

Corruption is more than pocketing money and breaking laws. When licenses are bought by unqualified drivers, it results in a mayhem

Driving Licences on Sale

Mudasir Tariq (Kashmir Monitor)

It is no secret that road accidents today are the biggest source on unnatural deaths in Kashmir. But have we ever wondered why this is happening? Based on a tip off by some concerned citizens, The Kashmir Monitor conducted a detailed investigation into what seems like a huge scam.

Over the investigations The Kashmir Monitor found out that every day the Regional Transport Office issues driving licences, ranging from scooters to trucks without proper procedure and verification. Without going through formal trials, anybody, literally anybody in the state can secure a driving licence just by passing some money to the agents who then provide them with these easily available driving licenses.

According to sources in the transport department, there are various agents who have ties with higher ups in the transport department and make these licenses available to anyone who can pay them.

As per The Kashmir Monitor's investigation these agents demand a payment of Rs 3500 to Rs 5000 for LMV (Light Motor vehicle) licences and Rs 7000 to Rs15000 for HLV (Heavy Load Vehicle) licences, depending on how urgently you need the licence. “The department is lacking proper mechanism; they provide licences as if they are giving out some charity without thinking that they are committing a crime. People who don’t even know how to drive a bicycle are possessing heavy vehicle licenses, by doing this they are playing with lives of the people. This is the reason that road accidents are growing day by day,” said Abdul Rashid, a retired traffic department employee.

While going through the rules for securing a valid driving license an applicant has to fill an Application in Form no. 4, Medical Certificate in Form no 1 A, a Valid Learner License and after that he has to go through trails. As per sources only seven to ten percent of applicants pass those trails while as all others secure licenses through unfair means. “When I went through trials, there were seventy two candidates among which only five passed the trials. When I went to get my license I found some thirty licences issued by the department, these were the licences of all those candidates whom I saw during trails and all of them had failed in trails,” said Bashir Ahmad (name changed).

While as the worst case is said to be securing a heavy load vehicle licence, as per norms a person who is heaving a light motor vehicle licence can acquire a heavy load vehicle licence only on the conditions if he passes in trials while driving a tipper but as against this people prefer to pay agents and get these licences easily. “There is hardly any tipper used for conducting tests for Heavy Motor vehicles. So those who want a licence just pay up”, says an RTO insider.

However after securing these licences there is nobody to catch hold of those drivers as the traffic police cannot determine whether the licence is issued officially or unofficially. “We cannot differentiate whether the licence has been issued officially or unofficially, because every licence is having the stamp and sign of ARTO’S. We cannot determine whether it is fake or genuine,” said a traffic cop wishing anonymity.

Meanwhile another prospective driver Aaliya (name changed) told The Kashmir monitor that she couldn’t get a driving license as she fails to drive well in reverse gear but now after paying an agent rupees four thousand she has obtained a driving license. “I can’t drive well in reverse, so I contacted an agent whom I paid 4000 rupees and I got my license just in a month,” said Aaliya. Few day’s back The Kashmir monitor talked to a person whose minor son was arrested in connection with drugs while driving a Maruti 800 in Mumbai. A asked how could he drive to Mumbai when he has not attained an age to secure a license he replied, “Anything is possible here, he got a license just by paying some money to an agent, but he was knowing the driving very well,” father said.

Earlier this a year a city court had observed that in a number of cases the accident victims and/or their dependents are left without any remedy against the Insurance Company where the offending driver is found to have invalid and defective license. On February 16, the Court had directed the department to keep available online details of all the licenses issued in J&K. However, as per reports the department has till now failed to make all the records available on the internet.

Tourism, Kashmiri Style

Tourists put to great inconvenience as no one worries about logistics of endearing hospitality

Srinagar Out of Rooms, Visitors Sleeping in Vehicles

Mudasir Tariq Lone (Kashmir Monitor)

 Srinagar: As the valley is witnessing a huge tourist inflow, the hotels across all the tourist places are said to be booked choc a bloc. As there are literally no rooms available in the valley, many a tourists are now spending the nights in various tourist cabs and lorries.

The Kashmir Monitor spoke to the tourists who have been spending their night in the open air as they could not find any room in Srinagar. “Every hotel and guest house here is having an advance booking for months, while as the tourist inflow is increasing every day, despite all efforts I couldn’t get accommodation in a hotel, so I along with my wife are spending last four nights in a tour bus that we have boarded from Gujarat, now I am deciding to leave Kashmir as soon as possible as we are facing immense inconvenience,” said Vejnath Gupta, a tourist from Gujrat.

Another tourist Vinay Pelgoankar, from Delhi said that he had booked a hotel in advance but was in a waiting list and couldn’t get a room in the hotel.“I was on holidays so I decided to spend them in Kashmir, I booked the hotel in advance from Delhi, on reaching Srinagar, I found that all the rooms in the hotel were already occupied so I couldn’t get a room, though I was able to get my money back but now after day’s sightseeing I am spending my night in a tempo traveller,” said Pelgoanker.

Meanwhile many locals in the Dal gate area and along the Boulevard have started accommodating the tourists in their homes.“Many locals have now turned their houses into hotels and are earning handsomely, while the tourists are bound to take accommodation in these houses, the locals are taking its full advantage,” said Rafiq, a local.

According to sources in the tourism department, the government keeping in view the rush of tourists has also decided to be lenient as far as registration of guest houses is concerned."There is such a rush that we are allowing tourists to stay with locals. For now we will not seek any permission or registration as we want economy to grow", said an official.

The local tour operators in the valley on the other hand are blaming the non -local agents for this phenomenon and recommend on the hoteliers and tourists to go through local agents.“This is true that tourists are going through huge problems in terms of accomodation at the movement, but this is all due to the non- local agents, these agents are paying huge sum to hoteliers and deceiving tourists. Because of this the guest houses and lodges are charging extra , one can see more than five persons in a single room. If this all goes via local agents the tourists will not face such a problem,” said Mumtaz Ahmad Dar, a local tour operator.

Meanwhile the local tour operatots have demanded that government must immediately put up toilets and bathing points at various places so as those who not get rooms in Srinagar can at least have space to wash their faces.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Disappearing Forests

Zeenat says it is business as usual for the timber smuggling mafia

(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 27, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.)

Timber Smuggling Going Non-Stop in South Kashmir

Srinagar: Timber smuggling is going non stop in various areas of South Kashmir and concerned authorities are winking at the smugglers. According to the locals, Byari Angan, Watrasu, Sheikh Pora, Pathribal Forests and Pandal Bal in Kokernag area have experienced a high degree of forest damage. The smugglers fell green trees particularly during night hours and sometimes even in the broad daylight and ferry them on horses for sale in the adjoining villages, the locals said.

“The thick forests here are fast depleting. The smugglers ferry the timber on horse back and sometimes on their shoulders and cross several villages without any inhibition. They later sell the timber in diverse parts of the district and other areas of the Valley Kashmir,” said Abdul Majid of Watrusu.

Felling of lush green trees is also going on unabated in compartment No 66-67 of Gudhar forest range of Kachwar area of Kulgam “The timber smugglers are chopping the trees without any hesitation”, said Ali Mir of Kachwar village. The villagers alleged that the officials have completely failed to stop the cutting of trees.

The picturesque Kalihar of Daksum, (compartment no 27-28) falling in range Islamabad (Anantnag) has no different story. Last time a major fire erupted in these compartments of Daksum forest range. The fire spread in other compartments which damaged hundreds of trees in the range. If locals are to be believed, it were the smugglers who put these compartments on fire.

“There is a nexus between smugglers and the forest personnel and these things are happening under their nose,” the residents said and asked the government to initiate action against the officials conniving with the smugglers. “The officials of Forest Department and Forest Protection Force, are in complete know how about the axing of trees. However, they are not taking any stringent action against the smugglers and are giving them free hand,” the residents of the area told Kashmir Images’ adding that the vehicles carrying illicit timber cross the check points established by the Forest department without any hassles. “In the coming years, we won’t see forest cover in the area if immediate measures are not taken,” lamented Sharif uddin of Kokernag area.

Smugglers have almost shaved off Chiralla Forest Range. The worst hit here is Compartment No 1, 2 and 7. The story is no different in Lidder division where felling of trees is going on in compartment no 1-2, in Goriwan compartment no 4, in Sonuch Rakh area of Ranipora (Achabal range) compartment no 107.

The areas that suffered irretrievable damage include, Akhal Block of Briyal Lamad in Kokernag area, Souf-Shali in Zalangam and Sona Byari in Magam area of South Kashmir. In Verinag timber smuggling during the night hours is going on at Phal Halsidar, Thaman and Kapram.

A forest official privately told this newspaper “proper awareness about forests among the public is lacking. Besides the department also lacks man power to tackle the problem, he said adding “mugglers cut trees ruthlessly and do not follow any scientific procedure with the result large tracts are denuded which becomes hard for the forest people to treat afterwards. In order to curb smuggling, smugglers should be dealt with seriously under law. Most importantly social and economic enlistment of these smugglers is needed which can be done under employment schemes,” he said.

The official stressed for revival of Forest Development Agencies for participation of the locals in conservation, development and management of forests. The scheme however has failed miserably because of indifferent approach of higher ups in the forest department. The scheme could have ensured provision of livelihood to the people against their participation.

Smuggling can also be engaged under National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) that aims at enhancing the livelihood security of people in rural areas by guaranteeing hundred days of wage-employment in a financial year, say the experts. Under NREGA there is a provision of 46 percent of total amount of the scheme for soil conservation activities. The rural development department is almost reluctant to take assistance from the forest department for execution of this part.

“Last year, Forest Division of Kupwara submitted a project of rupees. 2.25 Crore under NREGA for soil conservation activities to District Development Commissioner. But the project is still to be approved, a forest official wishing anonymity said. Forest higher-ups lack resolve otherwise we could have easily engaged them in other schemes including medicinal plants or in eco tourism projects, he said adding “ unless we don’t engage them under certain schemes, smuggling will continue,”

The minister for Forest and Environment, Mian Altaf Ahmad could not be contacted despite repeated attempt.

Where Dogs Rule

As hapless infants continue to die, dogs enjoy superior healthcare

Govt ‘Celebrates’ Zero Mortality Of Sterilized Canines

M. Hyderi (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: At a time when the state government has failed to ensure the well being of hospitalized infants at Valley’s sole children’s hospital, where over 360 new-born babies have died since January 1, stray dogs undergoing sterilization seem to be enjoying better care at state-of-the-art dog pound at Shuhama here. The resort-type sterilization centre for dogs located near the foothills of the picturesque Zabarwan range was constructed out of the money meant for human welfare. The SK University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), which is providing expertise to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) for sterilization of dogs, has expressed pleasure over the successful sterilization of the canines at the facility hailing “zero mortality”. Pertinently, prominent animal rights activist Manika Gandhi recently hailed the Jammu and Kashmir government for its endeavor of ‘dog safety’ when she phoned SMC Commissioner Dr GN Qasba to know about the welfare of dogs and presumably got a convincing reply.

Prominent vet and Head, Veterinary Clinical Services at SKUAST, Dr Dil Muhammad Makhdoomi, in an email, a copy of which is with Greater Kashmir, has apprized his higher-ups at the varsity that over 100 stray dogs have been sterilized at the pound since the beginning of sterilization earlier this month. Though believed to be costly and time-consuming process, the government has banked on this Animal Birth Control-Anti Rabies (ABC-AR) program as the sole solution to dog menace, which has broken all known records of attacks on humans. While hailing the sterilization, the vet says in the mail: It gives me great pleasure to convey that ABC-AR is going on very smoothly and professionally. We have Sir, completed more than 100 surgeries from May 4, 2012 without any complications. You will be happy to note there has not been a single mortality.” “All the operated dogs have been released and rehabilitated in concerned areas,” the vet added.

Prof Din who along with SMC’s veterinary officer, Dr Sajad Mughal, is looking after the Shuhama sterilization process plans to sterilize around 20 dogs a day. “May I request you that keeping in view our potential and vast experiences and infrastructure we need to undertake a minimum of 20 surgeries a day,” Prof Din writes in the mail. “I look forward that the steady supply of the requisite number of dogs are received by this centre now onwards,” he added. When contacted Dr Makhdoomi said the number of sterilized dogs crossed 114 mark on Saturday afternoon adding that none of the canines died or was in bad health.

The National Conference government has come under severe criticism for its alleged preference to the welfare of dogs over humans. While around a dozen humans, mostly children on an average fell prey to dog bites everyday in this historic City, the government disallows any harm to the stray dogs. Last year it even revoked the shoot-at-sight orders to kill rabid dogs while last month protests against dog menace were prohibited.

Visitors could be venturing into the ‘deadly’ GB Pant children’s hospital wards wearing shoes, but at the picturesque Shuhama dog pound one has to remove shoes outside the facility and wear rubber gloves. While the government has failed to make available basic minimum equipment and infrastructure at GB Pant, crores of rupees have been spent on the upkeep of the dog sterilization centre equipping it with high-tech surgical paraphernalia alongwith related facilities. On the other hand, lack of proper ventilation could be a problem at the children’s hospital. But this isn’t the trouble at the dog pound on the City outskirts as each kennel is equipped with exhaust fans and lighting arrangements apart from the glazed tiled walls and shining floors.

As about the eco-friendly surroundings, the government could be finding it difficult to maintain greenery at GB Pant hospital, but the dog pound at Shuhama, is surrounded by ample trees at the beauteous site.

While the dog sterilization goes on, a million dollar question posed last year by the then Chief Justice FM Ibrahim Kalifullah remains unanswered: “Will a dog stop biting after sterilization?”

It is all a Fake!

A commentary in the Greater Kashmir says it is the same old story

On Fake Appointments

This refers to the news “Fake Appointments scandal surfaces in Health Department” (GK, May 4, 2012). It is no way a matter of concern for those who are used to these scandals and ultimately get exposed sooner or later as and when the scandal comes to surface. However, there has been no action taken against the defaulters at the proper time. And it is evident that our society is poised for fake standards of life. We are not prepared for a fair deal in our administrative setup.

Fake appointment orders, fake currency, fake encounters, fake interviews, fake examinations and fake certificates have become the order of the day in our society. And our younger generation is, unfortunately, facing the brunt of malpractices, favouritism, nepotism and above all the malicious corruption, which are the ultimate motives behind such fake appointments. We cannot rule out the monitory considerations, which have promoted the higher authorities of the cadre of CMOs, BMOs and others alleged for appointment of doctors, Sr. Assistants, Jr. Assistant, Health Educators, Extension Educators, Field Workers, Safai Wallas in North Kashmir, South Kashmir, Budgam and Srinagar Districts without follow up of a proper recruitment process through Service Selection Board (SSB) on written or oral interviews.

It is the media that has all along given a thorough coverage to the scams and scandals masterminded in the administrative hierarchy of the State Government. The state of J&K has emerged as a leader in the list of most corrupt states of India. Those appointed on the merits of nepotism, favouritism and by greasing the palms of higher authorities are behaving as parasites and are only for the detriment of the meritorious, the eligible, capable and industrious youth of our society. They are made to run from pillar to post in search of jobs on the basis of their hard earned academic and technical qualifications in many streams of engineering, medicine, computers and business management etc.

The people of the State in general and the valley in particular have gone through untold miseries since the last more than two decades due to mass uprising, militancy and military related operations which have almost collapsed the government, the law and order machinery and the economic structure of the state. The Government in power has to examine the causes behind its failure from time to time so that its wrong policies of the past are not repeated in future and better governance is made possible.

In the words of the Governor of J&K State, Shri N. N. Vohra (GK May 12, 2012), “Poor governance fuels alienation, government must provide food, employment, education, security to the people. Our younger generation is our future leaders who will have to play a proactive role in eradicating corruption from our society. It is the corruption that leads to mis-governance, inequality, disparity in development of different regions.” Shri Vohra and other dignitaries expressed their views in a three-day international seminar on Peace, Conflict and Disturbance on economic development process at Kashmir University. Many dignitaries also spoke about achieving economic and financial stability in the State.

Poor governance brings forth many evils of corruption. The evil designers are looking for more ways to make fake appointments, bypassing the formal recruitment process. Such state of affairs makes the government organs helpless in dispensation of transparent governance.

G. N. Wadoo

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Call Against Corruption Has a New Face in Kashmir

Watch out Kashmir! There is a new NGO in town determined to put a dent into organized corruption. Two reports on the march held by the Kashmir Corruption Watch (KCW) led by Rubina

(Dr.Rubina Lone, 36, was born in Handwara. She did her schooling first from Wood Lands High School and then Mallinson Girls Higher Secondary School, Srinagar. She completed her MBBS from the Government Medical College (GMC) Srinaga,r and then her MD from the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). Dr. Lone did her fellowship in Molecular Microbiology and Genetics form CJIL, Agra, in 2003 and is currently working as Assistant Professor, Department of Microbiology, SKIMS Medical College, Srinagar. Apart from her job, she is involved in many community based social issues and and writes a weekly column, Postmortem, for the Kashmir Images.)

Call Against Corruption in JK Goes Shriller

Sameer Showkin Lone (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: Dozens of students, doctors, social activists and media professionals held a candle light vigil to raise their concerns against the rampant corruption in the state of J&K here on Tuesday evening. Holding placards reading “Let us light the candle for betterment of tomorrow”, the anti-corruption activists under the banner of Kashmir Corruption Watch (KCW) assembled on Dal banks and vowed that they will never give any kind of bribe to any official and will instead lodge a complaint against the person.

Falak Ara, a student of medicine science who participated in the vigil said, “Let us all join hands and eradicate the menace of corruption. We should come out of four walls and hold awareness camps, painting exhibitions and other programs in schools to make young students aware of the harms and ill effects of corrupt practices.” Dr Rubeena Lone, who runs KCW-a forum to fight corruption said, “Our aim is to inspire students and to discover the ill effects of corruption in our everyday life. Corruption is the biggest social evil confronting the people.”

Dr Rubeena said in future more innovative things will be done to fight corruption. “Everybody is welcome to participate in this sacred cause. We have started a war against it and we will fight it,” she said. Dr Yasir, who was a part of the sit-in said it is a protest against corruption suffered by a common man. Choudhary Bashir Ahmed Naz, Vice Chairman, State Advisory Board for Development of Gujjars and Bakerwal and other passersby including auto drivers hailed the move. “Good job, keep it up”, an auto driver told the protesters. Students Cash Union (SCU), General Secretary Medical College Bemina, Dr Irshad Muntazir highlighted the bad effects of corruption on society. “We have woken up and appeal others to join us and see the tree of corruption falling down before our eyes,” he said.

Meanwhile, tourists who were strolling along Dal banks also joined the protesters. They were keen enough to raise their voice against corruption which has penetrated deep in India. Later the protesters most of them students of Medical College, Bemina shouted in one voice: “Say no to corruption” and invited people beyond the lines of region, religion and politics to come and join the sacred cause to eradicate menace of corruption from the State.

Besides others, prominent among those present on the occasion included social activists Dr Muzzafar Bhat, Tanveer Ahmad, Sheikh Ghulam Rasool and students of journalism from Kashmir University.

Candles lit to Curse Kashmir Corruption

Srinagar: The civil society of Kashmir finally seems waking up to the menace of corruption with activists holding a holding a candle light vigil in Srinagar to convey that the curse was no more acceptable. The initiative was taken by Kashmir Corruption Watch (KCW), a social networking group on Facebook and in response scores of youth joined a candle light vigil on the banks of Dal Lake in the city here to create awareness against corruption in the state. “The vigil, held on Boulevard road along the banks of Dal Lake, was held by students and professionals who had responded to a call on social networking site Facebook,” sources said.

“Agreed, Facebook could be a nuisance but it can also help raising issues on vital importance for the societies,” said a participant, Shafqat Ahmad. “Though I am too pessimistic about the issue because I know that in Kashmir corruption has, sort of, been legitimized,” said Sabreena, a University student, adding if ‘this kind of demonstrations were held regularly, “these may give some jolt to our collective conscience.”

The organiser of the event, Rubina Lone, who is an Assistant Professor at a local medical institute, said the vigil was meant to create awareness among the youth. "This event is to raise awareness about the menace of corruption in the state," Lone said. She said the vigil is being held under the banner of Kashmir Corruption Watch, which she defined as an "idea". "It is not an organisation but an idea. We want to tell young people that corruption and corrupt people should be detested," she said. Lone said they will also hold essay competitions and cycling events in the near future to create awareness against corruption.

While appreciating Rubina Lone’s initiative, a junior engineer, Aijaz Malik said that the things will not change unless corruption continues to enjoy ‘social sanctity.’ “We have accorded a social sanctity to corruption. Ministers, officers, officials who have been found in corrupt practices are not being detested. Instead we have accorded social sanctity to the corrupt,” he said. (Kashmir Images)

Corruption Has Sucked Compassion Out of Kashmiri People

Ashraf feels that compassionate, emotional, and sentimental Kashmiri is no more

(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 Française 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.) 

The Callous Kashmiri

Many foreign authors who have had the chance of staying in Kashmir and working here for substantial period of time have written about the character of Kashmiris. Quite a few have commented upon the weaknesses of our character. Kashmiris have been called timid, cowards, cheats, liars and greedy. Sir Walter Lawrence in the “Valley of Kashmir”, though mentioning the bad traits of Kashmiris states that these weaknesses are not by nature but due to an extremely long period of external suppression. According to him Kashmiris are good at heart and it is the survival instinct which has made them timid and cowardly. According to him after a couple of generations live in an era of freedom, the real characteristics of honesty and bravery of the people will get restored. However, Kashmiris have yet to get that era of freedom where the future generations could grow unmolested and bring out the best of their character. Similarly, Canon Tyndale Biscoe in his book “Kashmir in sunlight and shade” has also remarked about the resilience of the Kashmiris in the face of the adverse conditions. According to him if the British had faced what Kashmiris have gone through, they would have lost their manhood!

In spite of all the bad things said by some of these foreign authors about the character of Kashmiris, almost all have highlighted his compassion. Kashmiri is supposed to be very emotional and sentimental. According to one British author, a Kashmiri is always suspicious of outsiders and never reveals his true heart to any foreigner. He further says that a kind word and a joke can get the best out of a Kashmiri. The valley is called in Kashmiri the bowl of saints. One of the reasons for compassion has been the teaching of these mystics and saints. They not only preached compassion and humanity but themselves led a life of simplicity. 

However, the last two decades have completely changed the scene. The violence all round has made a Kashmiri totally callous. He seems to have apparently lost that feeling of compassion. Killings do not move him. Too much bloodshed everywhere has dehumanised and brutalised him. Material greed has grown so much that all other finer values have taken a back seat. In earlier times, a single killing would shut down the whole city and people would be in mourning all over the place. Not now! People are lying dead or injured in one street and the life is completely normal on the neighbouring one!

Corruption has seeped into our blood and it is not frowned upon at all but taken as a normal way of life. Not only material but even moral corruption is at its height. The worst part is the proliferation of ill gotten wealth which has given rise to a class of nouveau riches! These people go to any lengths to display their dubious wealth which has shattered the values of the society and the have-nots feel dejected and helpless. Modernisation and globalisation have shattered the traditional way of life. Joint family system which was a strong pillar of the society is breaking up fast. In the upper middle class it is virtually gone due to nuclear families created by jobs all over the world. One finds children going to every place on this globe for better prospects with parents left behind alone in huge houses spending their last days in virtual solitary confinement. In the west it has been a way of life for quite sometime. Additionally, they have old age homes and citizens’ groups to look after the needs of the old. After some bitter experiences even they in the west are now trying to return to joint family system, while we are breaking it up! Unfortunately, we always pick up the flashy and jazzy things from the west and leave their stronger values. Honesty, truth, respect for normal laws, and the care of the aged taken as routine in the west are missing in our part of the world. For us the material greed is more than the human love and affection.

Apart from the break up of joint family, even the normal social interactions have been severely affected. People very rarely visit relations and friends and have become some sort of islands in themselves. Everybody claims to be busy in various chores. However, the reality is that the people have become callous. There are only two occasions these days when people especially friends and relatives meet each other. Marriages or funerals! On many such occasions one gets a shock on seeing a friend after a long gap of time. People change! All are aged, some have grown beards, some have become thinner and some more bulky!

Another important trait which has come up starkly among most of us is impatience. We all seem to be in a hurry. Whether on the roads, in a store, or in any other public facility we seem to be in a mad rush. We have no patience to wait for our turn! The worst part is that apart from being impatient, we are arrogant. We never admit our mistakes but try to brow beat others. Unfortunately, the situation of uncertainty has been managed deliberately in such a way so as to bring out the worst in our character. There is encouragement from all sides for bringing out the worst part and the best part of the character is choked by all means. There is no escape by putting blame on others for our own weaknesses. One has to boldly face the reality and take corrective steps lest we perish altogether as a civilised people. Someone has to begin the process. We need leaders who set examples to follow and not deliver sermons which they themselves do not adhere to! Will someone please take the initiative to bring back compassion and civility in our society?

The Great Tragedy at the Pediatrics Hospital in Srinagar

The sudden public indignation and media coverage dealing with horrific deaths in the G B Pant Pediatric Hospital was prompted by simultaneous editorials in the Greater Kashmir and the Rising Kashmir in mid May 2012, and yet the author became aware of the issue during his trip to the valley in February 2012. He discussed the alarming rate of infant deaths at the hospital 5 weeks before the publication of the two editorials at a University seminar which evoked no response from Kashmiris in the audience. 

A collage of reports is presented below beginning with authors report, followed by other reports, including those by Iftikhar Ashraf, Nazir Ganaie, Manzoor-ul-Hassan, Junaid Mattu, Mohammad Ashraf, Javaid Malik and a closing news item that reinforces the functionality of the State. 


I could not hold back my sadness when I read the following two editorials in the Rising Kashmir and the Greater Kashmir that appeared on the web today - I cannot fathom the feelings in mothers who were robbed of their delight and joy.

But my sadness has another perplexing dimension. You may recall that I gave precisely the same news as the following editorials during my talk at the UNT over a month back ( You can check the youtube recording of my 6th April lecture if you want to see me talk about the G B Pant Hospital ( What I said during my lecture was that horrific as this tragedy is, it is mostly ignored by Kashmir's civil society and represents another measure of dysfunctionality of the state. So finally today, in a surprising manner, both the two leading newspapers in Srinagar have published editorials on the subject.

But why now? I do not know - but if I have to guess it is become, possibly, a "big wig" lost a child and hence it has became a story. The tragedy of Kashmir is that on one side you have local elites hogging a good life, on the other side you have local intellectuals and mostly outside scholars promoting their political and social agendas while indifferent to ground realities, and somewhere ignored in between the two are ordinary people of Kashmir bearing the brunt of a woeful life in the valley of sorrows.


Vijay Sazawal 

Hospital or Morgue? (Editorial in Rising Kashmir)

Sunday: What GB Pant admin is doing to counter this alarming situation is intriguing Kashmir is perhaps the only place where death is so frequent. In the last week alone seven deaths were reported from G B Panth, Valley’s lone pediatric hospital. It may be a figure for government or statisticians but it is an irreparable loss of the families.

According to hospital sources 22 deaths were recorded between June-December 2010. 2011 was no different; the year also reported high infant mortality. This year it looks the figures will exceed all the limits. The prime reason for these deaths is medical negligence; however there are other important factors which have contributed for this appalling situation. The hospital completely lacks infrastructure, emergency medical care and equipments.

Though projected as the tertiary health centre for children the hospital lacks a full-fledged centrally connected oxygen plant. Besides the corruption and embezzlement of hospital funds have put brakes on the development of the hospital. The hospital is also short of important medicines and vaccines and diagnostic facilities. What the hospital administration is doing to counter this alarming situation is intriguing. The protests and demonstrations have become a norm rather than an exception in the hospital, what is surprising is the lackadaisical attitude of the government that has failed to overcome the infrastructural requirements and in bringing the culprit to the book.

The state government is under the constitutional obligation to provide quality healthcare to its citizens. How can government turn a blind eye to the grievances of the people? What has aggravated the problem further is lack of accountability and internal bickering that has brought the hospital on the verge of disaster. Early in the year, 65 officials from the hospital where found absent from their work. This shows how our hospitals and health centres work. However it is never too late to mend. The time has come to set GB Pant hospital on the right track; the state government has a job in hand if it has to made the hospital, a tertiary health centre, it has to work at the infrastructure, provide it with latest and advance medical equipments and importantly it has to act on the complaints filed by the attendants. It is time to fix the responsibilities and weed out the menace of corruption.

Though the state government started this hospital in collaboration with army, it is time to revisit the terms and conditions. If the state government can spend crores on dog rehabilitation, why can’t it work in improving pediatric healthcare in the valley? 

G B Pant Deaths (Editorial in Greater Kashmir)

 For the past some days, Valley’s only children healthcare institution, G B Pant Hospital is in news. But not for good reasons. There are reports of several children dying from lack of the timely attention by the doctors. Notably, drawing attention to this messy state of affairs at the hospital is a Bangalore based businessman Sahil Bhat who claims that twenty children died of neglect in ward No 4 in 24 hours.

The report carried by this paper on Friday quotes an attendant witnessing the death of six children on the night of Monday last. And on Saturday evening, one more child was reported dead. Statistics are shocking. Surprisingly, the hospital administration has done little to explain the rise in deaths. It almost appears that the hospital regards these deaths as normal. True, being the only children hospital in the Valley, G B Pant has to cater to a huge rush of ailing children, many of them newborn. In fact, there is little space and the infrastructure to accommodate the unbroken throng of children, their parents and other relatives. On any given day, the wards are crowded, with sometimes three to four babies occupying one bed.

While the hospital has only a sanctioned strength of 170 beds, the occupancy on any given day is upwards of 350. Attendants who don’t have a proper space to sit also crowd the beds and wards. Shortage of doctors and paramedic staff only worsens the problem. This creates a suffocating environment of noise, disease and desperation. Ironically, there is hardly an effort to highlight the hospital’s grave problems. In fact, the government has been the most indifferent. Since its creation through late seventies, the government has hardly done anything to strengthen the hospital and expand its infrastructure. The best way out would be the construction of a new children hospital to keep up with the increase in population and the growing demand for the children’s healthcare. But as things stand, such a prospect appears remote. And with no commensurate alternative available in private sector, all we are left with is G B Pant.

Kashmir’s Healthcare Mess

Iftikhar Ashraf  (Kashmir Times)

During my college days (outside valley) I used to boast of Kashmir having the world class doctors. Whenever there was an argument with respect to valley not being able to sustain itself on its own, the quality of Kashmir's doctors, leading to medical tourism, was always one of my key points for rebuttal. I would use the case of Cuba to prove my point, of how Cuba even being under U.S sponsored embargo for almost 52 years (now), became the world leader in healthcare, biotechnology, Cancer treatment, Drug research & development etc.

The first step towards the continuation of the tradition of producing world class doctors is the selection process. But of late some people have been able to bypass or fox the selection process through money, reach or appropriate connections. The people from this lot magically get transformed into a serial number on the qualified candidates list. All among us personally know at least one of these “Munna Bhai's” , somehow we all expect the medical education system either to weed them out or make them well trained and educated for the profession they choose.

What we can currently see of our healthcare has proved both these assumptions wrong, almost every serial number on the qualifying list sooner or later gets a degree and regarding making them better qualified for the profession I have my reservations. Regarding the current status of Kashmir's healthcare, there seems to be no better word to describe it then "Chaos". Kashmir sans a proper referral system, which leads to overcrowding of the major hospitals or by the time the patient reaches a specialist precious time has been wasted.

A patient even with minor ailments wants to visit the major hospital in Srinagar as no or few specialists are available at Sub District Hospitals (SDH). Due to lack of grass-root infrastructure couple of hospitals are being forced to coup up with the requirements of the whole state. It is humanly impossible to try to deliver healthcare services through only couple of hospitals. Even these highly vital hospitals are not well equipped to help our doctors serve better. SHMS hospital's CATH lab is ill equipped so all the procedure can't be performed despite one of the most renowned specialist being available.

Recently patients died in SKIMS because oxygen supply was stopped due to some technical snag, the G.B Pant Children Hospital has recently transformed a graveyard for the want of ventilators and what can one say about Lal Ded Maternity Hospital, which happens to be Kashmir's only Maternity Hospital! Taking into consideration that every doctor in any major hospital is working extremely hard, at times working for at a stretch for 48 hours or more! We have to commend them for their excellent services. With everyday our doctors challenging the humanly limits, the least they deserve are "better working condition" Government needs to keep politics aside and help doctors and other stakeholders in improving Healthcare practices and facilities. We all know what happened to Dr. Shawl’s dream project of a super specialty cardiology hospital. If government instead of creating hurdles would have only ignored, not even supported or encouraged the initiative Kashmir would have a Cardiology Hospital by now. Who knows it might have even encouraged some other people to take some other initiatives, but now it is what deters them from making any such efforts.

Only encouraging private sector to invest in healthcare won't solve the problem here, it is high time that this sector is regulated properly through laws and regulations, which should be implemented with rigorous zeal. The enactment of Drug policy with proper implementation seems to be a good beginning but we have long way to go. We need to look into our medical education system, try to restore the past glory of Government Medical College, Srinagar, which in near future has too often come too close to de-reorganization from Medical Council of India. Unless we take thing as seriously as they are, a poor man will continue to pay with his blood and the saviors will continue to be enticed to embrace their darker side.

Many a people have been asking for banning of private practice of doctors, well it won't be possible till there is a demand for it and there will always be demand. So why not try to better regulate private practice. As long as the doctors sincerely deliver their duties in their respective hospitals or places of posting, no one should have a problem with what they do after their duty hours. What needs to looked into is the undue advantage that some doctors take of their position and reputation. Some well established and reputed doctors in Srinagar (and other towns) in their quest for a complete monopoly, have trained their wards in complementary services like radiology or pathology and they don't accept reports from any labs other than the ones they recommend. So among the family members a patient is sucked till the last drop of blood. May I ask what gives the doctors the right to declare all labs, other than their wards (or recommended) to be pieces of junk. Can government dare to take some action against such doctors and also raise the standard to labs in government hospitals?

With healthcare becoming costlier with each passing day, every single J&K resident needs to be given access to a Health insurance. Government had started this initiative for its employees but suddenly it has lost all steam, May we ask why? For this dismal state of Healthcare government is more responsible than doctors. The government apathy is such that it many a times it sends rules and regulations flying through the window. In government hospitals we find Ayurvedic (Unani) doctors practicing homeopathic medicine, which happens to be completely against Supreme Court guide lines.

There is also no proper planning while identification of sites for new hospitals or even when implementing these projects. I would like to ask the government, pardon my language, who was the idiot who approved the construction of Unani (Ayurvedic) Hospital at the HMT chowk (square), didn't he know that the road widening will happen. Does environment of one of the busiest squares on a national highway qualify for a site for any Hospital? Regarding how efficient our government machinery is in implementation of projects let's take the example of Sub-district Hospital (SDH) Sopore, the founding stone of this hospital was laid in 1984 and still it has not been completed! Well we can say it confirms another entry for Sopore in Guinness Book of World Records, first one being for it’s yet to be completed by-pass bridge. SDH Sopore is operating through its OPD Block, which itself is not complete!

Coming back to comparison of Cuban Healthcare with that of Kashmir's, there are many similarities (having large number of qualified, hardworking and intelligent doctors and paramedic staff etc) but there is one major difference that hinders our transformation into one of the leaders of healthcare and that is government will.

Deaths At GB Pant Hospital: Govt Or Docs To Blame?

Nazir Ganaie (Kashmir Observer)

Srinagar: Lack of infrastructure, inadequate staff and insanitary wards, compounded by the growing number of referred neonates – three times higher than its current capacity - has added to the woes of the GB Pant Children’s Hospital where nearly 45 babies have died in the past fortnight, experts say.

Doctors at the hospital strongly refute charges of negligence over the deaths, putting the onus on the government which, according to it, acts only when the issue boils over. “This hospital is a big mess and government does not pay any heed to its development. If the government can macadamize and paint roads when it move its durbar here, why can’t it see the dismal condition of hospitals?” an attendant, Syed Mashkoor of Habba Kadal, asks “When doctors don’t have ventilators available, when they are running short of medical supplies and life-saving drugs, or equipment, what can doctors do? What can you expect? This is not doctors’ negligence, but government’s negligence towards patients,” he adds.

According to official records, the hospital admitted 4274 neonates (new-born patients) in 2011. While as in the same year the hospital recorded 475 neonatal deaths including 320 pediatric deaths, which they say was higher than this year. The officials due to the inspections by the higher authorities couldn’t trace the data of the last three years.

“This is certainly not an alarming mortality rate in Kashmir. This happens in developing countries and it is considered normal. In Kashmir when you have such heavy rush in the hospital every day, how can you manage? Even then doctors have been trying their best that patient care doesn’t suffer,” registrar, department of anesthesia at SMHS Hospital, Dr. Masood Rasheed, said. “I don’t understand the move from the government. If they can announce 300 more beds to maternity care LD hospital, why cannot they shift this Pediatric hospital to that place, which would benefit and improve patient care and I am sure the mortality rate will also come down,” he said.

Official records at the GB Pant Hospital (January 1, 2012) show that around 358 children died during the period in the hospital against 1229 admissions. A large number of 105 deaths occurred in March. The number of deaths in January was 68 while in February the figure stood at 66. In March 105; in April 85; in May (up to 12th) 34 deaths occurred. But paradoxically, there are only five ventilators catering to around 1700 patients on average at G B Pant Hospital. “We will be adding more trained and technical staff, and soon tenders would be floated to add some more infrastructures to the hospital. We would be happy if the government provides us more equipment, but unfortunately the G.B Pant Hospital has become a victim of official apathy,” a senior pediatrician at the hospital said, asking not to be named.

The Valley’s staff-starved GB Pant Children’s Hospital has a capacity of admitting 135 patients (135-beded hospital), however records say that the hospital receives 110-120 patients on an average every day including back admissions, leaving the hospital in extremely difficult conditions. “In G.B Pant Hospital, we have a pouring-in from Kupwara, Baramulla, Banihal, Doda, Bhaderwah and Kargil. And in some cases the patients’ condition deteriorates after traveling a long distance- so government should have taken measures that would give relief to the patients as well as improve patient care. I think the onus lies with the government and they need to address the issue,” said another noted pediatrician at the hospital, wishing anonymity. 

According to the doctors, over the years, the hospital has witnessed a huge rush from the peripheral district hospitals, which, they say, is a huge challenge for its administration. Authorities said that around 62 doctors have already been posted in the hospital. “The government is already in the process to engage more para-medics and also to upgrade the existing equipment so that patient care is substantially improved,” minister for medical education R S Chib said.

It may be recalled that 45 children have died at the hospital over the past last fortnight, after which the Jammu and Kashmir government on Wednesday ordered an inquiry under the director of the SKIMS, Dr. Shaukat Zargar.

Talking to the Kashmir Observer, Dr. Zargar said that the government needed to work on some alternatives to ease the pressure on the hospital. He said that he had suggested some measures to the hospital administration during a three hour meeting. “There are some flaws in the hospital on issues like ventilation and insanitary conditions. Besides, the security staff can’t be seen discharging their duties properly, which adds to the problem,” he said.

Pertinently, the Valley’s only pediatric hospital runs on an annual budget of Rs 13 crore, of which Rs 9 crore alone is spent on staff salaries. With a mere Rs 4 crore being spent on drugs and equipment, patient-care has invariably become a casualty, courtesy official apathy. Observer News Service

Infants Continue to Die at GB Pant Hospital - 9 More Fatalities In 24 Hrs 

Manzoor-ul- Hassan (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: At a time when the authorities at GB Pant hospital continue to be in a denial mode on alarming increase in infant fatalities there, the hospital shockingly recorded 9 deaths of newborns in the last 24 hours – reportedly highest ever in the institute. With the latest deaths, the infant fatalities at the hospital during the past 15 days have shot up to 41.

While official records said that 32 infants in the age group of 0-1 year (neonates) had died at the hospital in the last 14 days, death of 9 infants on May 14 and May 15 presents the gory picture of the shoddy healthcare and administrative affairs at the valley’s lone children’s hospital. “Nine babies mostly new born in the age group of 1day and 4 months died in the NICU Unit of the hospital during the past 24 hours mostly due to the flawed management,” sources told Greater Kashmir.

A four month old baby boy, Mohsin son of Muhammad Riyaz (MRD no 2785) of Islamabad died this morning at around 7am after remaining admitted in the hospital for 17 days. Another 40 day old baby, daughter of Hilal Ahmad of Shopian, died this morning at around 11:30 am in the NICU ward of the hospital after she was admitted there on May 3 with MRD no: 4179. Similarly, the babies with MRD number: 3941, 4285, 4295, 4296, 4146, 8311 and 4151 died during past 24 hours in the hospital’s intensive care unit.

“Though the neonatal deaths is a common phenomenon, lack of facilities and the dual control of the GB Pant hospital involving state government and the Cantonment Board adds to the mess there,” sources said. The civil society in the Valley is fuming over the mounting deaths in the hospital. “Our children are on death beds as hospital has turned into a graveyard as possibility of infants coming out alive is remote,” the attendants said. An attendant from Pulwama said the condition of his daughter deteriorated due to the callous approach of administration. “She was admitted in the ward no.5 and was crying with pain but doctors never come to see her,” he said.

When contacted, Medical Superintendent of the Hospital Dr Javaid Choudhary said there had been no deaths in the hospital due to negligence. Asked whether the administration had ordered any inquiry into the increasing infant deaths in the hospital, Dr Choudhary said: “We have not ordered any inquiry.”

Pertinently, the Children hospital was established in year 1976 at Hazuribagh adjacent to LD hospital with 185 bed capacity. In 2005 it was shifted to its present location at Sonwar. Ironically, the bed capacity over a period of 36 years instead of increasing to the requirement got declined to 135. As one of the main referral hospitals for Children including infants the staff strength was never increased to cater the referral flow of patients.

An official wishing anonymity said that while the Pediatric Department of GMC got MCI recognition subjected to sub-specialty and various other improvements and developments in the department, but very less has been attained till date. “Residential staff hostels are not available that is the basic and important need of the hospital. The lack of hostel facility often results in delayed treatment of patients during odd hours,” he said.

What are the Priorities of This Political System?

Junaid Azim Mattoo

The Valley’s only neonatal care hospital, as it turns out, has become a disguised butchery. With around 360 plus deaths in the last 5 months, the G. B. Pant Children’s Hospital in Srinagar has achieved the dubious distinction of a slaughterhouse. Our sick children have apparently been dying for lack of care and facilities while our Government has cut no corners in constructing and refurbishing ministerial and bureaucratic residences with the finest construction materials and interior furnishings known to man.

Various voices, both within and outside the system, have been crying hoarse about the plight of our only Children’s Hospital for the last so many years. A single trip to the G. B. Pant Hospital is enough to indict this and previous governments for criminal negligence and ruthless malfeasance. The last two decades have seen Kashmiris being deprived of basic governance while successive governments have been swimming neck deep in rampant and blatant corruption. The Children’s Hospital mess is just another heart rending example of how a certain section of our society has inflicted grave misery on a people who have, as it is, been at the receiving end of depravity and disempowerment.

Successive State Governments in J&K have spent hundreds of crores of rupees to construct and refurbish palatial Chief Minister Mansions. Be it Azad Sahab, Mufti Sahab or more recently Omar Sahab, our successive Chief Ministers have chosen to build huge, grand palaces for themselves while ordinary Kashmiris have been starved for healthcare, public services and infrastructure. Our Chief Minister turned Emperors live in the verdant lap of luxury. For them, the plight of sick, dying, unattended children at G. B. Pant is a reality that is stranger than fiction. If we compare the costs incurred by the Estates and Protocol department on the upkeep, protocol and residential services extended to our bureaucrats and ministers to the dismal spending on our Hospitals, Schools and Roads, we come face to face with a shocking, haunting revelation – we are all second class slaves in a system, in a polity that works for the interests of a select few.

Governments that deliberately choose not to equip our only Children’s Hospital with adequate ventilators, oxygen cylinders and incubators for so many years are legally liable for criminal negligence. If an accidental fire in a hospital elsewhere in India indicts the management and owners of the hospital for gross and criminal negligence, why can't 350 plus deaths in 5 months be enough for the judiciary to indict this administration for a bumbling failure to protect and save the lives of our young children?

Mufti Sahab gave Kashmir a renovated estate on Gupkar Road – renovated at a great cost to the tax-payers. Azad Sahab gave Kashmir a beautiful, breathtaking Tulip Garden. Omar Sahab gave this city another luxurious, royal residence constructed at a cost to the exchequer. Why did our three successive Chief Ministers so conveniently forget to give us ONE single Children’s Hospital where parents take their children for a hope of life, not an apprehension of death and negligence? Why have our politicians chosen to impersonate medieval emperors and dictators by prioritizing walls of china and castles over the succor and survival of our children?

The lack of ventilators at our hospitals is an immaculate metaphor for where our State lies today. Our nation is struggling and gasping for air on dilapidated ventilators as our policy makers are either too incompetent or too corrupt to take notice of our day-to-day struggle for a dignified survival. Our nation needs an urgent dialysis to filter our system for leadership impurities. We need to flush out our traditional politicians for they and they alone are responsible for our miseries. The sick need to become this nation’s doctors and treat it by throwing our garbage out.

When will, you might ask, Kashmiris get good hospitals and schools for their children and blossom in an atmosphere of dignity and prosperity? The day a government department shows as much efficiency and eagerness in procuring ventilators for our children as it does in clearing the gate for a CM’s residence at the excise toll booth. The day a Minister is as concerned about the quality of our schools and education as he is in ensuring his son passes an examination by hook or by crook. The day a Minister allocates half as much money he allegedly dished out to buy a villa in Dubai to construct a modern, well-equipped hospital in Kashmir. The day Kashmiris come out to vote for the interests of their nation, not for their individual interests. The day we say – ‘Enough is Enough’ and get our act straight as a people. That day is as near as it seems far as long as we remember that the first step is the longest leap. (Greater Kashmir)

Children of a lost God!

M. Ashraf

In any pediatric hospital anywhere in the world single death of an infant sends alarm bells and an automatic enquiry starts to pin point the causes to enable remedial measures. Imagine 359 infants dying in a matter of just four months! It is not only gross criminal negligence but rather mass murder. Some people have termed it genocide. Well, even if we call it genocide, it has not been perpetrated by a foreign power but by our own people! The height of callousness is the administrator saying nothing is wrong in the hospital and everything is working well. How can one administer a facility staying sometimes hundreds of kilometres away from it? Well, the responsibility does not end at the level of the administrator. It goes all the way up. The least that should have happened on moral grounds was for the health minister to submit his resignation. Not to speak of the western countries, if such an incident had taken place in any other state or even in any other developing country, the entire government itself would have been toppled. It is a pity that a single dog’s death in Kashmir starts alarm bells ringing from Srinagar to Delhi but the death of over 300 Kashmiri children due to criminal negligence has not even sent a ripple. If no one else, at least the Union Health Minister should have been himself at the hospital to look into this tragedy beyond belief. Have Kashmir’s new generations become so cheap and expendable? People deserve an answer and that too fast!

As usual the government has ordered an enquiry. However, the enquiry has not to remain confined to the hospital infrastructure but has to go beyond. The moot point is why should so many infants die? It has been alleged that the hospital is short of equipment and staff. They have only 4 ventilators and need 34. But the question is why so many infants need ventilators? Are these all pre-maturely born infants? Why have so many infants developed breathing problems? Is their delivery in order? There is a possibility of some epidemic within the hospital premises. Some years back one of the hospitals had an epidemic of tetanus. Normally, in such an eventuality, the hospital needs to be totally burnt down but this thing does not happen in our part of the world. In any such eventuality, the enquiry needs to be conducted by a team of experts in the field including people responsible for infection control. Here it needs to be emphasized that the Indian government had been aiming to get the neo-natal mortality rate down from 60 per 1000 births to 30 per 1000 by the year 2000 itself. The rate has already been reduced 30 per 1000 births in many southern states. In the present case in Kashmir, the average works out to almost 3 deaths per day! It is not known as to what is the proportion in relation to births and total admissions in the hospital. This needs to be ascertained by a medical audit. It is reported that apart from lack of equipment and mismanagement the hospital does not have a blood bank most essential for such a tertiary facility.

Another important aspect of the mismanagement of the hospital administration is that the entire burden of managing the services without any supervision is on the shoulders of junior interns while the senior consultants are busy with their private practice. There has been lot of dithering going on regarding banning of private practice by doctors working in government hospitals. This has happened in spite of court directions in the matter. The tragedy is as usual being taken hold by politicians of various hues and shades to grind their own axe. Kashmiris should be in mourning and should not get swayed by vested interests. It is a tragedy of immense proportions and needs unity from all sides to ensure tangible steps are taken by the government visibly to save our future generations. (Greater Kashmir)

Infant Deaths

Javaid Malik (Greater Kashmir)

More than 350 babies dying in G B Pant hospital since January this year has once again brought to fore the poor state of healthcare in the Kashmir Valley. These deaths were going unnoticed till media highlighted these. Soon after the news reports appeared politicians cut across the party lines and demanded action against the people responsible for these deaths. Even separatists joined the chorus.

Hue and cry raised by the Kashmiri leadership and the civil society made government acknowledge neglect. It swung into action and axed the Medical Superintendent. The government also gave approval for purchase of ventilators and medicines. At last government woke up from a deep slumber. Why government took so long to react? Why didn’t it act on its own rather than waiting for media to highlight the issue of infant deaths? Had it acted on its own many kids could have been saved.

Commissioner Secretary Health and Medical Education M K Diwedi while addressing a news conference here earlier this week said that preliminary inquiry has established the institute lacks capacity on all fronts like manpower, equipment and overall management of the services. One fails to understand why it took government so long to establish that hospital lacks capacity on all fronts. Why did it sleep over these issues for such a long time? It seems deaths only can rattle the government. It doesn’t wake up till fatalities take place.

Government leaves no stone unturned to claim that Health Sector is a priority and crores are being spent to develop this sector, but it seems to be a mere rhetoric. Plight of the lone children hospital of the Valley proves that lot needs to be done to improve the health sector.

Certain issues like healthcare have got nothing to do with politics. These are the issues which touch everyone’s skin and cannot be taken lightly. Healthcare has got nothing to do with resolution of Kashmir issue nor can the people at helm say that turbulence in Kashmir for past two decades is responsible for poor state of healthcare. It seems the “lackadaisical attitude” of the people at the helm has pushed the health sector in Kashmir towards stone age.

The G B Pant hospital was thrown open for public amidst lot of fanfare a few years ago. The government had promised that it would have all the facilities and would become a model institute of healthcare. But tall claims have remained confined to papers only. It is shocking to know that there are not enough ventilators and other machines to accommodate neonates. Suddenly government has realized that there is shortage of paramedical staff in the hospital and institute lacks capacity on all fronts. One wonders why it took so many years for the government to realize the shortcomings and why weren’t any steps taken till date to overcome these problems. The government has woken up after the disaster has struck, had it anticipated the trouble the disaster could have been averted. Soon after the news about infants dying in G B Pant came to fore, the chairman of Hurriyat (M), Mirwaiz Umar Farooq issued a statement saying that if government has no money it should tell the separatist leaders. “Our next generation is very dear to us. We can collect lakhs from people as donation to save their lives,” Mirwaiz had said.

People of Kashmir need to consider his suggestion and they should try to put in efforts to build one more Children hospital in the Valley and handover its management to some Trust so that people who reach the G B Pant with lot of hopes do have an alternative. The G B Pant being the only place where children are treated has made the administration and doctors complacent.

People who run the G B Pant hospital should realize that patients and attendants who reach there after Almighty pin their hopes on doctors and the staff members present there. They need to be polite and assuring rather than being ignorant and uncooperative.

358 Deaths Since Jan: Chib Calls it Normal

Firdous Hassan (Kashmir Monitor)

Srinagar: In a shocking admission the state government on Wednesday said that 358 infants had died since January this year. This was revealed by Minister for Medical Education R S Chib who toured the GB Panth Hospital on Wednesday. Though as an afterthought Chib tried to downplay the issue terming the deaths as 'normal'.

According to documents handed over to the media at GB Panth Hospital, in the month of January out of 2315 admissions in the hospital 68 children including neonatals died. In the month of February out of 2517 admissions 66 deaths were reported. In March 2012, 2705 admissions were reported and 105 deaths. In April 2012, 3021 admissions were reported with 85 deaths. Finally in May so far 1229 admissions have been reported with 34 deaths. In total, 358 deaths have taken place this year only.

The Minister said that a team of Government Medical College specialists would conduct a thorough probe into the functioning of G B Panth Hospital and file their report within a week. “If these deaths occurred due to the negligence of the doctors then an inquiry committee will be established, that won’t be from this hospital, to look into the matter and they will be asked to submit the report within a week to the government and after that any action will be taken”, Chib told reporters while paying a visit to the GB Panth Hospital. Chib said that the deaths in the hospital were 'normal' according to the previous records .He said that blaming these deaths on negligence of the doctors would be premature as some of the children have died of encephalitis. “I went through the records of the previous six months where I found that the death rate was normal .Even if there is a single death we can’t stay silent we have to look into it, ”said Chib. Ironically minutes after Chib left another infant died at the hospital.

When asked about the matter of the dual administration over the G.B Panth Hospital , he said, “I agree that there might be sort of misunderstanding between the Medical superintendent and the deputy superintendent and now we need to bridge that. There is dual administration but both these units come under the medical college.” He further said that the infrastructure as well as the facilities of the hospital will be improved to promote the smooth functioning of the hospital. “We have a dearth of the nursing staff and we are now going to recruit them on the casual basis to the hospital. Apart from that many facilities will be upgraded to the hospital as we are going to introduce some more ventilators in the hospital,” added Chib. The hospital has literally become a death trap as in the past two weeks alone, 30 infants have allegedly died due to doctors' negligence and inadequate health equipment to tackle the crisis.

The doctors claim that they are unable to cope with the huge overload because of a shortage of trained staff and machines. In the ICU, as against a required 20 to 30 ventilators, there are only five which is affecting the services. For grieving relatives, coming to terms with the loss has not been easy. Infuriated by the lack of infrastructure and support that resulted in so many deaths, many assaulted the doctors present.

Srinagar’s only paediatric hospital runs on an annual budget of Rs 13 crore, of which Rs 9 crore alone is spent on the staff salaries. With the remaining Rs 4 crore being spent on drugs and equipment, patient-care has invariably become a casualty. But the death of 62 infants in the past 90 days is a grim reminder to the Omar Abdullah government and the Union Health Ministry of the unhealthy state of affairs in Jammu and Kashmir.


Srinagar: A dlegation of Civil Society Forum Kashmir led by prominent doctors, educationists and people from other walks of life on Tuesday met Minister for Medical education R S Chib, Commissioner Health and Principal GMC on the reports of deaths of infants at G B Panth Hospital.

A CSF statement said the Forum highlighted that in the year 1976 first Children Hospital was established at Hazuribagh adjacent to LD Hospital with 185 beds capacity and population at that point was 30 lakh. “In the year 2005 Children hospital was shifted to G.B Panth Hospital but the bed capacity over a period of 36 years instead of increasing to the requirement got declined to 135 only. The inflow of patients has increased to a huge number but infrastructure remains same.”

The delegation mentioned that district level Hospitals should be strengthened to reduce the referral flow of patients. “In the year 2010 Pediatric Department got MCI recognition subjected to sub-speciality and various other improvements and developments in the department, but very less has been attained till date,” the statement said, adding that residential staff hostel facilities are not available which is the basic and important need of any hospital. “The lack of hostel facility often results in delayed treatment of patients during odd hours. It was also brought in the notice of Minister that in a Hospital where there is tremendous inflow of patients both in OPD and in House admission, the responsibility and role of HOD and Medical Superintendent have been put on the shoulders of a single person which even is against the rules and regulations of (MCI) Medical Council of India.” Further the problems like poor sanitation, poor drainage, lack of ambulance services etc were discussed. Responding to the issues, the Minister assured that all the important issues will be addressed. The statement added that Chib committed to immediate increase in the number of ventilators in ICUs, increase in the number of beds, improvement in the nursing staff and various other issues. Speaking on the occasion, Vijay Dhar said the basic thing is that doctors on duty should be patient sensitive and should immediately attend to the problems of patients.

The Minister directed the Secretary Health & Medical Education Department to prepare a proposal for making available one critical care ambulance for both G.B. Pant Hospital and L.D. Hospital in consultation with the Principal, Government Medical College, Srinagar. “The defense authorities will be approached to acquire the piece of land adjacent to G.B. Pant Hospital for its further expansion,” he said.

Chib stressed upon the need to carry out surprise check of the Children Hospital by the Medical Education Authorities including the Principal, GMC, Secretary Health and Medical Education to keep a vigil on the functioning of the institution. He agreed with the suggestions of the delegation that an Advisory Committee consisting of Civil Society Members, Medical Faculty, and Cantonment Authorities will be constituted in order to advise the Medical Superintendent, G.B. Pant Hospital for its effective functioning.

Among others, Secretary, Health and Medical Education M. K. Dwevidi, Principal, Government Medical College, Srinagar, Dr. Qazi Masood, Dr. Bilqees Jamila, member of civil society Omar Tramboo, Vijay Dhar were present in the meeting.

GB Panth in Mess, JLNM Gets Children Ward

Mudassir Kuloo (Kashmir Monitor)

Srinagar: It is a classic example of how the bureaucrats and political workers can misguide the political leadership. Last Monday the Chief Minister Omar Abdullah 'inaugurated' the child specialty unit at the Jawahar Lal Nehru Memorial Hospital (JLMN) hospital in Rainawari. This inauguration went ahead despite valleys only child specialty hospital, GB Panth Hospital recording nonstop deaths due to lack of life saving equipment. .

While the Chief Minister inaugurated the child specialty unit of JLNM on Monday, The Kashmir Monitor on visiting the JLNM hospital on Thursday found out that the block was still under construction and all the sensitive child care equipment was rendered useless under locks. This state of the art equipment includes four photo therapy machines and three ventilators. All the seven are lifesaving equipment'

A senior officer in the state medical education department told Kashmir Monitor that due to misguidance by a few officials and the cold war between R S Chib and Sham Lal, this much needed equipment is lying without use at JLNM hospital." Ideally there was no need for a new children’s block as we have GB Panth Hospital. These machines would have made much more sense at the GB Panth hospital considering its state. It is a sorry state of affairs", he told Kashmir Monitor wishing anonymity.

The functioning of GB Panth Hospital has raised eyebrows as till now 358 deaths have been reported since January 2012. The children’s ward at JLNM fares no better as there is still no admission in the ward. Four phototherapy machines and three ventilators were procured for this hospital however these machines are yet to be functional, which are ‘locked’ in a room.

Even the police persons who were standing outside the gate of IPD new block at JLNM hospital are restricting the public movement. Sources said that the newly inaugurated building is still under construction and the hospital authorities have only taken control over SNCU unit for children which itself is not in use. 

Sources in the Health and Medical Education department insist that this equipment should be shifted to the GB Panth hospital at the earliest but we unsure if that would happen." Everyone knows that Sham Lal and Chib are out to outdo each other. Chief Minister must intervene and take the equipment to GB Panth hospital. It is rotting at JLNM", a senior official told Kashmir Monitor. “I fail to understand why government has first procured machines for the JLNM hospital when there is an immediate need for upgrading facilities at the G B Panth. On an average five children dies daily here due to lack of machinery and negligence by the hospital authorities,” says a parent at GB Panth Hospital adding," It is surprising that Chief Minister first inaugurated the child care unit at the JLNM hospital and paid no heed towards the G B Panth hospital, which craves for attention".

Kashmir's Struggling Cottage Industry

Traditional heritage crafts and artisans are a dying breed Kashmir

Cottage Industry Struggles For Survival

Rising Kashmir News

Srinagar:The cottage industry in the Valley which employed hundreds of the artisans in the past is on the verge of extinction.

The industry watchers said the official apathy and the mass production in the factories have dealt a severe blow to the industry which produced unique hand-made products craftily designed by the local artisans. The art and the craft of the products in the cottage industry were mostly introduced here by Persian travelers. The experts said about lakhs of people were associated with cottage industries in the past. Now the number of the people earning livelihood from this art has reduced considerably. The demand for the products has also decreased.

Former President Federation Chamber of Industries Kashmir Shakeel Qalander said they state’s cottage industry had a great significance representing Kashmir’s history and economy. “The industry provided livelihood to the lakhs of people in the valley. Unfortunately, this ages-old art and craft is diminishing,” said Qalander. He said the less wages given to the artisans has also led to the decline of the industry. “Artisans have opted out of this industry as they don’t get proper wages. Besides, local products are also lacking proper marketing facility. Government is taking little steps for its revival. The cheaper and less quality products from outside the state are sold under Kashmiri brands,” said Qalander. Qalander, however, said the Carpet Technology Centre and Craft Design Institute have provided hope for the survival of Kashmir art and craft. “The craft institutes will also help revive the cottage industry,” said Kalander.

Federation of Commerce and Industries Kashmir (FCIK), Vice President Javed Ahmad Bhat said that the cottage industry has the credit of producing fine quality hand-made products. “Our fascinating craft received a severe blow after the cheap and low quality goods where dumped in the markets in name of quality products. As a result of the lack of patronage, the artistic craftsmen had to wind up the business and work as ordinary laborers,” said Bhat.

Bhat said they have already presented a proposal before the government for the branding of locally produced items to distinguish quality products from the cheep ones. “And if government provides some incentives to the artisans only then this art can be revived,” he said. Abdul Rahim, 58, who had been weaving the carpets since his childhood before switching over to another job for better returns. “Our work demands great amount of hard work and skill. It would take me months to make one carpet and the returns that I would get were not enough to meet both the ends. I have a big family to support, so I had no option but to switch to other work,” said Rahim.

The officials at the Khadi and Village Industries also said illegal and low quality machine made products have dominated the market share hitting the cottage industries badly. He said the owners of the industries are exploiting the workers by providing them less wages which has disgorged artisans to continue with the trade.

Without a Civic Sense

To save Kashmir, we have to export Kashmiri habits out of there

67% City Dwellers Throw Waste in Water Bodies, Lanes: Report

Asem Mohiuddin (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: As many as 67 percent people in Srinagar city throw away waste and garbage in water bodies and public places like roads, lanes and by-lanes, reveals a report of Environment Committee 2011-12. “Only 23 per cent use dustbins provided by the SMC,” the report quotes the door-to-door survey conducted by Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC).

However, according to the report, SMC claims to have initiated massive campaigns by involving NGOs, schools and community-based organizations to educate the masses to make use of dustbins.

\As per the report Dal Lake and Brari Nambal Lagoon suffer the most due to the people’s un-civic nature. To preserve these water bodies, SMC claims to have launched cleanliness drive of those unattended areas around the Dal Lake and Brari Numbal Lagoon. “With the help of special boats like Kuchues, the SMC has launched a drive for the retrieval of polythene and solid waste from these water bodies,” the report reads.

What has been the major hurdle for SMC in conducting cleanliness drive efficiently is shortage of scavengers. It has said in the report that SMC had only 2700 scavengers against the requirement of 3700 thus posing a major challenge to keep all areas clean and hygienic.

The report also reveals that SMC has inadequate, old and outdated fleet available to transfer the garbage to the dumping sites.

Even though the Pollution Control Board has lodged FIRs against many hospitals and served notices for failing to use modern treatment plants for bio-medical waste treatment, the committee said PCB, Health department and concerned agencies need to do a lot to ensure an eco-friendly environment.

“Despite the directions of Supreme Court to ensure use of modern Bio-Medical Treatment Plants by hospitals, work done by the Health Department, PCB and other concerned agencies is not up to the mark and all have to put lots of efforts to ensure eco-friendly environment,” the committee rued. The committee said that the State not only lacks modern devices and equipment but also faces shortage of manpower required in the process of bio-medical waste management. “The comprehensive action plan is required for the treatment of bio-medical waste. The sufficient budgetary provision is also required for the purpose of management of bio-medical waste of hospitals,” the committee suggests.

Interestingly, hundreds of crores of rupees have been pumped in for last many years to preserve the water bodies especially the Dal Lake, Wular and Hokersar.

Three Young Journalists Awarded Fulbright Fellowship

In spite of it all there are nice flowers blooming among weeds 

Three Kashmiris Scribes Bag Fulbright Fellowship

Reyaz Ahmed (Kashmir Monitor)

Baramulla: Three young Kashmiri journalists, including two women, have been awarded the prestigious Fulbright Master’s Fellowship to pursue higher studies in top American journalism schools.

Ashwaq Masoodi, a Delhi-based correspondent with the ‘Asian Age’, Showkat Nanda, a freelance photojournalist and formerly Assistant Editor with a local weekly, and Maroosha Muzzaffar, correspondent with ‘The Indian Express’ in Delhi were recently declared as the recipients of the 2012-13 Fulbright fellowship, a highly competitive exchange program, given by the US State Department to people who demonstrate excellence in their respective fields of study.

Ashwaq, a former media student of Baramulla Degree College, having a PG Diploma from Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) will go to the Columbia School of Journalism in New York, for an MS in Journalism with specialization in Magazine journalism. Showkat, a postgraduate from Kashmir University’s MERC, will be going to Missouri Graduate School of Journalism in Columbia for a specialization in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography. Maroosha, also a former MERC student, will pursue an 18-months program in Long Form Narrative Journalism at the New York University.

The three Kashmiris will join 17 other scholars from different parts of India to embark on this prestigious fellowship this summer.

Kashmir University Shows The Way

What else would you expect from the State ranked among the most corrupt

Kashmir University Buys ‘A’Ranking

Srinagar: Kashmir University officials say the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) minutely scrutinises nearly a thousand parameters before it gives its seal of approval to a particular institution, a startling reports, that shames University authorities, in New Delhi based Mail Today newspaper.

But they will never tell that the 'thousand parameters' include expensive gifts and extraordinary hospitality to the accreditation council's members when they call in for a ground check or random quality evaluation. The university showered a NAAC team last summer with high-end Pashmina-mixed Tosha shawls, a dozen intricately designed Samawars (Kashmiri tea pots) and Kesar (saffron) - the world-famous emperor of spice grown by Kashmiri farmers.

For the record, pure saffron comes at a prohibitive price of around Rs235 per gram and the university shelled out Rs12, 028 on this exclusive herb-spice. And that's not all. The university spent Rs1, 289,137 on the NAAC members during their 'stay' from July 18 to August 12.

Documents reveal the break-up: Rs311,235 on travel and dearness allowance, Rs83,000 as honorarium, Rs1,26,235 to library café for lunches, Rs70,000 to camping agency, and Rs5,87,994 to Hotel Taj Vivanta, where the team stayed. This includes Rs33, 150 for a dozen Tosha shawls. Besides, the university paid Rs6, 120 to bookseller Sheikh Usman for books that the NAAC members borrowed but never returned. Rest assured, going this extra length helps as the Valley's topmost institution takes pride in being an NAAC-accredited university with an 'A' rank - the highest possible.

The team checked all the parameters - curriculum, faculty, research, infrastructure, learning resources, organisation, governance, financial well-being and student services - and found them in order. University registrar Syed Fayaz said the NAAC normally reimburses the tour and dearness allowances (TA and DA) of its visiting team. 'But money spent on gifts is not reimbursed,' he added. Senior NAAC official Sham Sundaran said the team wasn't supposed to accept any gift, though the university might have given these things out of respect.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) formed the NAAC in 1994 with its headquarters in Bangalore. It was accorded autonomous status to assess and accredit institutions of higher education in the country. (