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, July 25, 2012

Manasbal Goes the Dal Way

Aijaz looks at the dire condition of the Manasbal Lake and sees a large eco-system in neglect and decay just like in Dal and Anchar lakes

(Mr. Aijaz Hassan Ganie, 35, was born in Anantnag. He graduated from the Gandhi Memorial College in Jammu, and completed his M.Sc. from the University of Jammu. He completed his Ph.D. degree in Cytogenetics and Reproductive Biology from the Department of Biology of the University of Kashmir, where he is presently a researcher.)

All is Not Well for Manasbal Lake

Manasbal Lake is located about 30 km north of Srinagar, surrounded by five villages namely: Kondabal, Monabal, Baghwan-Mullaha, Gratbal and Kolpura (Jarokbal). It is the deepest lake of Kashmir valley and perhaps the only one that develops stable summer stratification. Close to the northern shore are the ruins of a fort which was built in 17th century by a Mughal king to cater the needs of caravans that used to travel from Punjab to Srinagar.

On the south, side of the lake is a hillock-Ahtung which is used for limestone extraction. The eastern part is mainly mountainous and towards the north is an elevated plateau known as 'Karewa'; Kashmiri- Wedder. Besides there is a beautiful park (main Mansbal) and on Kondbal side a famous temple which is built inside spring with crystal clear water. The lake has no major inflow channels except Kurhama-Yousrung nalla and the water supply is maintained through spring water inflow. An outlet channel connects the lake with the Jhelum River at village Naninara. The outflow of water is regulated artificially. The local population uses the lake as a source of water, for fishing and for obtaining food (Nelumbo nucifera-Nadroo, Nymphaea alba, N. maxicana-Buom and Trapa natans- Goar/Gadegool) and fodder plants (Nymphoides peltatum-Khor, Potamogeton natans-Kolhoun and P. nodosus- Auv). Many people are involved in harvesting and marketing of lotus rootstocks (Nadroo) which are extensively eaten in the State. The large growth of lotus at the periphery of the lake (blooms during July and August) adds to the beauty of the clear waters of the lake. In recent years, tourism has caught up with the Manasbal Lake in a big way and as a consequence there is lots of pressure on this valuable ecosystem.

The pollution level of the lake is increasing at an alarming rate. Two years back when we visited the lake there was a series of small springs around the famous temple with crystal clear water and lot of aquatic plant diversity and the clear water of these springs inflow into the lake. Recently we found all the springs were filled and changed into newly constructed parks and a market, which is not a good sign for the ecology of the lake, this has also prompted the locals to fill their land around the lake, the authorities should bear in mind that tourists visit this place to see and enjoy the beauty of the lake but not the market and gardens. The other major problems which we observed are; the polluted water of Kurhama- Yousrung nalla which enter the lake on Kondabal side. On interacting with the elderly people of the area they told that the water of this steam used to be very clear and before entering the lake were stored in the small pond and ditches on left side of the temple. Even two years back we also saw the small pond and water of this stream before entering into the lake used to enter this pond and after losing the sediment and other pollutants there, enters into the lake. But unfortunately as I have mentioned earlier that authorities have started the filling process and the locals also started this practice and planted willow saplings (Salix sp.) in the particular area where previously the pond used to be. This resulted into the serious problem that water of this channel loaded with lot of sediment and pollutants enter this prized ecosystem directly. The other big problem is the sewage and fecal matter of the village Kondbal which enters the lake. The indication of this increasing pollution level on that side (from temple to Kondbal) is that the emergent aquatic plant species particularly those tolerant of high pollution are growing in abundance there which include: Ranunculus secleratus, Typha angustata and Phragmites sp. The other aquatic plants which are indicators of eutrophication are growing abundantly from this side are Potamogeton crispus, P. pectinatus, Ceratophyllum demersum, Myriophyllum spicatum, Azolla sp. and growth of plant species particularly Myriophyllum aquaticum from this side indicating that depth of the lake is decreasing due to the heavy loaded sediments of Kurhama-Youstung nalla, even some patches looking like small islands has also been formed from this side. The increased levels of pollution in the lake and abundant growth of aquatic weeds has adversely affected the growth of Lotus (Nadroo) and its production has reduced upto 30% during the last 4-5 years said Fayaz Ahmad a local resident of Monabal. The area from Monabal to Kolpora is blessed with large number of springs and most of these springs are in bad shape, little efforts are needed to clear these natural gifts, otherwise there is no problem from this side as per the lake ecosystem is concerned. The positive step which the lake authorities have taken is the construction of concrete boundary (Bandh) from Kondbal to Monapora which the authorities should have constructed upto Kolpora. From Naninara side (out let of lake) there is no demarcation between agriculture land and bank of the lake, the irrigation water of the rice fields loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers directly enters into the lake which results into eutrophication of the lake. Steps are needed to be taken in this direction so that the water of rice fields should not enter the lake and construction of concrete boundary from this side is also necessary to conserve this pristine ecosystem.

Korhama-Yousrung nalla heavily loaded with sediments and pollutants

At last we conclude that this prized ecosystem can be managed and conserved for many more years to come if the pond from Kondbal side is restored, providing proper sanitation to the villages surrounding the lake, construction of concrete boundary from Baghwan-Mullaha to Jarokbal and from Naninara side also avoiding water of rice fields from Nanirara side to enter into the lake.

Not Without a Price

Mehmood raises valid concerns given that the State has hardly any infrastructure to cope with large influx of tourists

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

More Tourist Destinations .. but where will the mountains of dust that tourism raises in its wake go!

This week we heard Mufti Muhammed Sayeed talk about exploring new tourist destinations. His point is obvious and needs hardly any explaining. Kashmir, for its natural beauty, is bound to attract tourists all over the globe. The flow of tourists this year woke us up again to the potential of tourism as an economic avenue. Understandably this has set people, politicians, and the administration talking about it.

The idea of exploring more destinations for tourists is on the face of it very attractive, but all is not well with this idea if it is not qualified. First, does it mean that tourists should find some less utilized, but known destinations, as attractive as Pahalgam and Gulmarg. If yes, there are certain things that need to be done before expecting a similar rush to these places. One, it has been after a long gap of two decades that people from outside Kashmir are pouring in in such huge numbers. Prior to 1989, when people would come here, the numbers would never be so high. Second, we did not have this explosion in the automobile industry. The number of cars and SUVs that are these days plying on our roads is frightening. If we promote the idea of a place like Kokernag or Acchabal turning into a prime tourist destination, do we have the required infrastructure in terms of roads and parking lots! We don’t have and we know that we don’t have. The existing infrastructure would not suffice even the locals going to these places. And once we respond to this, it entails widening the roads and creating spaces where vehicles can be parked, and tourists can shop and have food. And the gardens and the water bodies, it asks for a 24 hour management. The widening of roads and creation of spaces for the movement of tourists at the destination spots means utilizing more land for this purpose. Do we ever do any calculations on how much agricultural land we lose in building infrastructure for tourism. Does it go into making calculations on how profitable the tourism industry finally is to us! And how should we accommodate the tourists who wish to stay for a night or two. Should we allow the rich people to raise concrete monsters near these destinations or do we have an environment and people friendly means of hosting the tourists. The arrangements must benefit the local populations and take into account the environment and the cultural sensitivities.

This was with the already know but not so utilized tourist destinations. If we are now asking to explore new destinations and build macdamised roads to make them accessible, the problem is even bigger. Kashmir has lost much of the agricultural land and the effects of this loss will strike us on our head very soon, if they have not hit us already. If the nascent and virgin spots are now brought in the tourism net, it will speed up the arrival of disaster. Our pastoral economy is already dwindling because we have lost pastures and grazing fields. If we compare a goat and a tourist from outside Kashmir in terms of economic benefit we will realize that our economic calculations are skewed. The areas that can be thrown open to the tourists are almost invariably those used for sheep rearing. It is like inviting disaster if we throw them open to crowds in the name of tourism. In fact political parties working in Kashmir, who think seriously about the well being of Kashmir, must give a thought to it. Then we have the water sources located in these areas. Why put them to peril.

When we pitch for tourism its adverse impact should not elude us. Just take an example of how many vehicles are pouring into Kashmir these days. The trouble they cause and the damage done to the environment have to go into the economic calculations that we make. Isn’t it possible to restrict the number of vehicles by arranging high end luxury buses that accommodate more persons and cause less pollution for the tourists once they reach Kashmir. Tourism department can also issue guidelines to the tourists so that our environment stays clean. The hotels and resorts have also to be made responsible towards environment. But do we ever think on those lines!

These are some of the questions that we need to answer before tourism is projected as the sole indicator of our economic and political well being. In its present form tourism is as much a problem as an avenue. May be more of a problem than an avenue.

Mental Healthcare

Zeenat sees very little emphasis by authorities on mental healthcare in a valley full of anguish and lawlessness

(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.)

Kashmir Lacks Mental Health Programmes

Srinagar: Despite increase in the graph of juvenile crimes in Kashmir, there are very less provisions of mental health programmes or counseling for the youth of the valley to control the crime rate.

Unlike other places which have school mental health programmes and counseling for children and youth to fight the menace of juvenile crime and delinquent behavior, Kashmir has very little options available.

As per experts, none of the schools, colleges or universities in Kashmir has counseling programmes for students. As per social activist and lawyer, Abdul Rashid Hanjoora, juvenile crime has increased in the past more than two decades of turmoil and if we go with the latest figures, it is much higher than those of 2011.

“In order to curb such crimes, there is a desperate need for long term programmes at a massive scale”, he suggested.

“Despite recommendations by different commissions for the implementation of mental health programmes or counseling in the Valley, we still don’t have regular and organized counseling or mental health programmes in schools, colleges and higher institutes of learning,” said educationist and psychologist, Prof A G Madhosh.

Studies have shown that more than two decades of armed conflict has played a major role in psychological ailments like Schizophrenia, depression and neurotic problems.

In order to make such programme effective, Madhosh says, “need of the hour is to implement these at two stages: one is at school, college and higher education level and two at mental health hospitals.”

“Counseling at school, college and university level can reduce the juvenile crimes drastically. School level counseling can help in understanding the attitude of children at young age. If anything delinquency is found, it can be treated at the right time,” said he.

Prof Madhosh said that trained counselors should be appointed in educational institutions with varying roles at different levels.

He said that if a child is facing conflict with his friend, family, parents or within himself, it can be traced well in advance and will not develop into criminal behaviors.

As far as mental health hospitals go, “manpower (doctors, psychiatrists, nurses etc) needs to be increased”, he said.

Noted psychiatrist, Dr. Mushtaq Margoob says that mental health is integral to overall health and well-being and should be treated with the same urgency as physical health. “Mental illness can influence the onset, progression and outcome of other illnesses and often correlates with health risk behaviors such as substance abuse, tobacco use and physical inactivity. Depression has emerged as a risk factor for such chronic illnesses as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes and can adversely affect the course and management of these conditions”, added Margoob.

However, he added that, “the District Mental Health programmes are going on at different places. We have outlets at Mental Health Hospital (MNH) Rainawari, SKIMS (Soura), JVC, SMHS hospital where such special programmes are going on. In MNH Rainawari we have started a programme in which psycho- emotional problems of an individual are being taken care of without prescribing drugs.”

Night Watchman for Adult Children

The author met numerous elderly couples in Kashmir living by themselves in homes built by their children who themselves work overseas. One couple told me, "We have become a nation of chowkidars."

Abandoned by Children, Elderly Parents Struggle to Survive

M Hyderi (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Bedroom of this plush house looks unusual at least for the number of clocks pinned on the walls! There is not one, but three timepieces mounted high on the walls of the room inhabited by this elderly couple. While one clock reveals the local time, the other two show US and European zone time, where their sons are settled.

Over the years, gazing at clocks has evolved as “favorite pass-time” for this “abandoned” couple. And, this way of spending time has a reason: before making a phone call to their loved ones, parents have to “bear in mind the timings as to when it would be feasible” for the sons to respond.

Over a decade-and-a-half on, this has evolved as a routine in the life of Ghulam Muhammad and his wife Sakina, a cancer patient, forsaken by their children, the son-duo settled seas apart.

Though the children keep sending to their parents some money or gifts on rotational basis from time-to-time, the couple lives alone, often at the mercy of domestic help, whenever they find one or some compassionate neighbour.


It all started way back in ‘90s when Ghulam Muhammad, an engineer then in the state government left no stone unturned to make his elder son go abroad for studies. Finally the deal realized. After, a degree in Computers from an advanced country, his elder son shifted to the US, never to come back.

“Seeing him prosper the way we had longed for, I made my younger son too follow the footsteps of the elder one,” the retired official recaps.

After going overseas, the sons, who did schooling from prominent schools in Srinagar, would keep visiting their homeland at least once a year. Or, the parents would manage a trip abroad for family get together.

But this was till seven years back when their elder son visited his Srinagar home to marry a Kashmiri girl and took her along. Some two years later, the younger one, did the same. By now the father, an old time diabetic retired from government services, would spend time with his homemaker wife Sakina at their plush residence in Nishat area.

Four years back, Sakina complained of stomachache. The couple went to doctor for routine consultation. And this was when their wildest fears came true. The woman was diagnosed of the life consuming disease.

The medicos left the couple with two options: Take her out for advanced treatment or rely on the local resources. “We contacted our children but they were busy with their work. So we banked on the second option,” Ghulam Muhammad confides adding; “I could have alone taken her for treatment outside but that could create troubles because of some social reasons back home.”

But the treatment back home didn’t come easy in this conflict zone where situation at times goes out of control. The old man had to literally play hide-and-seek with bullets and brickbats to manage taking his wife for treatment to hospital as and when required.

Since then their sons visited homeland but just once and pleaded that they were so concerned about their parents that “they have joined international groups online to fight ailments which elderly people suffer.”


Ghulam Muhammad and Sakina are not the only parents who have been left alone by their wards. In fact many such victims are much elder and some even richer to this couple in mid 60s.

Plight of one such husband and wife was recently discovered by a paramedic who happened to visit their residence to administer injections to the ailing old woman.

“The couple was all alone as their domestic help was out on leave for a week. While the old man was unable to walk without support, his wife was bedridden. The moment I lifted her bed linen, I was shocked to see it drenched in urine,” the paramedic says adding he got heartened towards their plight and himself got the linens changed.

But the worst, he witnessed, was while leaving their palatial residence. “Though initially, I declined to charge them but on their insistence I had to open their locker to take the money myself. You won’t believe bundles of cash were decked in the shelf,” the paramedic reveals. “Money is not the criteria, humans are for us. Go and take as much you want, it’s of no use for us, just keep on visiting us,” the couple told the visitor as he left with a heavy heart.


If many parents are living alone, some even die alone. A similar scene came to fore recently for an elderly couple in Bemina area of this summer capital whose bodies were discovered by neighbors earlier this week and police was subsequently informed.

At times, neighbors or relatives have to take care of the deceased till their children arrive to attend the funeral. But then all are not lucky. Many children arrived to mourn the demise after weeks or sometimes years. “Life is very fast, leaving work halfway is impossible abroad. And what’s the fun of coming quickly or late when the person is dead?” pleads a man who visited his home a year after the death of his father.


Prominent cleric Mufti Nazir Ahmed Qasmi, who is known for preaching Islam in the perspective of social issues, in his sermons often highlights the issues of deserted parents.

Mutfi Qasmi believes that lack of religious knowledge in this Muslim dominated society was a key cause of this growing menace. “Nowadays role of elderly parents has been reduced to that of being a caretaker for the property to be inherited by their children,” Qasmi often laments adding that such incidents were shame for the entire community.

“If people are well aware of Islam in the light of Quran and Sunnah, this will never happen,” he opines.


Prominent psychiatrist, Dr Arshad Hussain says the “situation is very pathetic.” “Every month I have receive around a dozen such cases where parents have been left alone,” he says adding mental health of such people is worst affected. “Their condition is very pathetic,” he adds.

“We humans are not atoned to living alone and as such this problem brings depression,” Dr Arshad, an Assistant Professor says.

Reckoning that suicide rates were highest among elderly in the Western countries, he fears: “Given the erosion of our social, cultural and religious values the day doesn’t look far off when such cases will be highest in Kashmir as well.”

Dr Arshad has coined a term to explain plight of such parents. He calls it: Empty Nest Syndrome. “This is because the birds feel the same when their nests go empty,” he adds.


As for Ghulam Muhammad and his wife, maintaining clocks has come at a cost, though their sons have gifted them the same with labels of USA and London pasted on the face. Recently while changing the batteries of the clock, mounted on the tall wall, the old man had to use a stool. But in doing so he slipped and fractured his leg.

For now Ghulam Muhammad is bed ridden but he hasn’t disclosed it to his children. “We don’t want to disturb them,” he pleads.

But then there’s a problem. With batteries exhausted, the clocks don’t function and so doesn’t their means of contacting the children. Who will replace the cells? This question haunts the couple. Because for now their sole caretaker, the domestic help has left them for want of better wages as they long to get in touch with their sons, settled abroad!


Harvesting Misery - 2

Basharat comments on the Zargar Report dealing with the G B Pant Hospital tragedy

(Mr. Syed Basharat, 31, was born in Kreeri, Baramulla, and did his schooling in Kreeri, and later in Uri and Sopore. He graduated from the Degree College in Baramulla and completed his Master's degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from the Kashmir University in 2005. He has been a reporter for Kashmir Images, a Srinagar based daily, London based website Gaashonline.Com, and a Srinagar based journal, Globe. Currently, he is working as a special correspondent with Jammu based daily newspaper, The Kashmir Times.)

G B Pant Hospital Horror

Srinagar: The government constituted one-man commission of inquiry led by Dr Showkat Ali Zargar; director Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) today submitted his final report on the mounting infants’ deaths in G B Pant hospital.

Sources revealed that Dr Zargar handed over a sealed report to M K Divedi in presence of the House Committee that met here today. The director SKIMS, has also briefed the House Committee, on the main findings of the final report. Later the House Committee chaired by MLA Handwara, Choudry Muhammad Ramzan, concluded that the Committee will go through the report and discuss it on July 24.

Dr Showkat Zargar, when contacted said: “Yes I have submitted the final report to the government but sorry I cannot comment on its details.”

Informed sources revealed that the report will go the chief minister Omar Abdullah who had constituted the one man commission of inquiry and R S Chib, minister for medical education.

Sources said that Dr Zargar while highlighting the main findings of his report before the House Committee said records pertaining to admission and infant mortalities have not been maintained properly in G B Pant hospital. “He said that out of some 6000 admission he found only 3000 cases. And the mortality rate is high than the figures shown on hospital records,” informed sources disclosed.

During the meeting today some of the members of House Committee have said that a specific doctor should not be targeted for the high rate of infant deaths and the role of other doctors responsible for the worsening situation of the hospital be fixed, official sources said. However, the chairman of the committee while disagreeing to the assertions made by some of the members of the Committee stressed for a threadbare discussion on the report.

Ramzan has also said that any conclusions would be drawn only after the Committee goes through pros and cons of the Dr Zargar’s final report on July 24.

Pertinently, Kashmir Times had exclusively carried detailed news about the preliminary report submitted by Dr Zargar in its June 6, 2012 issue.

Informed sources revealed Dr Zargar’s final report is almost repetition of his preliminary report with some elaborated recommendations to improve the healthcare at G B Pant hospital.

The preliminary report of Dr Zargar had said mortality rate in G B Pant hospital has exceeded 20 per cent and the figures put forth by the hospital authorities were unreliable.

It (report) had also indicted Dr Javed Choudry, the former Medical Superintendent cum Head of the Department G B Pant hospital (presently attached) responsible for the crisis in the hospital. “Keeping into consideration above observations, I am of the considered view that Medical Superintendent-cum-Head of the Department of Pediatrics is responsible for the present crisis,” the preliminary report had said.

Giving reasons for high mortality in NICU of G B Pant hospital, Dr Zargar had said he was shocked to see almost negligible presence of doctors in NICU when the hospital is well armed with ‘adequate doctors and staff’ needed for 135 bedded hospital.

Dr Zargar had revealed that former Head of The Department Dr Javed Choudry has never held a meeting with faculty to discuss the problems of the hospital. “It only shows callous attitude of HOD towards hospital affairs. Even no meeting ahs been held during this turmoil [since the issue of high infant mortality came in media] until on May 17, when I assembled the whole faculty for the first time.”

The one-man commission has blamed administrative failure for the high infant mortality at G B Pant hospital. “I understand the administrative mismanagement is the reason for mess of NICU. The situation cannot improve unless rationale deployment of doctors, nursing and para medical staff is ensured. Attendant traffic is totally eliminated and sanitation is given top priority. Nursing has to be reinforced immediately.”

Dissuading the general notion of infrastructure deficiency being a reason for high infant mortality at G B Pant hospital, Dr Zargar had said: “There are five ventilators; more than 40 warmers and adequate number of monitors and phototherapy units. Adding 3 or 4 more ventilators to the fleet of already existing 5 ventilators is not going to change mortality significantly unless the security, sanitation and rational deployment of staff is ensured completely and immediately. There is total apathy and mismanagement but the hospital administration.”

The preliminary report had said the surroundings of the NICU are dirty beyond description because people were eating freely and chatting. “….I blame the HOD and the faculty for poor management of NICU. I understand the quality of drugs including antibiotics are not from standard reputed companies.”

Harvesting Misery - 1

Medical profession in Kashmir is a disgrace, though it cannot be said that there are not some conscientious and professionally dedicated doctors

Medical Mafia

Kashmir is really a gold mine, and the rush is on. Everybody is busy milking the society and its systems to the best possible advantage and that too without any hassles. Although like elsewhere laws are here as well, but unlike anywhere else, nobody bothers to heed these laws as there is no mechanism for their implementation. All one has to do is to open a ‘shop’, and start minting money by preying upon the gullible. Here the ‘shop’ does not mean just a grocery or some something like that, but the ‘shop’ is the term used to describe the business in general. So as the situation is, we have all kinds of shops here - right from the ones that are run as political establishments to those who actually sell some merchandise; and everybody is doing just too well.

Of late medical profession has turned into a virtual gold mine for all those who are associated with it. So huge is the money in this field that not only the trained doctors but even the semiliterate quacks too are amassing wealth by either posing as doctors or simply offering some other supplementary services like clinical laboratories, diagnostic centres, X-ray clinics and the like. No wonder that a huge industry has sprung up in the Valley to prey upon the already distressed lot. Now see the irony, these ‘medical shops’ (read private clinics and diagnostic centres or nursing homes and hospitals) have spread their tentacles everywhere so much so that it has become practically impossible for the people here to conceive of a healthy life without paying some ransom to the Kashmir’s medical mafia.

Although the Directorate of Health Services here is well aware of the machinations of this mafia, yet they prefer not to do much about it for the sheer reason that the wealth amassed by these private practitioners has brought them huge clout and influence. And here as the hindsight has it, government and its agencies have always played a prostitute to the rich and powerful. No wonder that people of Kashmir, particularly the chunk already troubled and distressed by disease, have been left to the mercy of the greedy diagnostic centres, clinical labs and so-called medical institutes and hospitals. At places doctors themselves have put together some big medical centres where besides the doctors’ consultation so many other facilities like lab and diagnostic tests are offered under the same roof. In most cases, these so-called facilities are add-ons for ensuring more and more easy income for the owners.

One such so-called medical facility has come up in erstwhile Khayam Cinema in the City. Known as Khyber Medical Institute, although on paper the facility is run by a Trust and as such feigns to be a charity hospital, but fact of the matter is that it is just one of the other lucrative business ventures of a powerful business family. There is nothing for the ailing patients here except for those who are willing to turn a blind eye to the cheating by the medical institute in the name of medical care and help. While the facility remains grossly mismanaged as far as the patient-care and comfort is concerned, what makes the matters worse is that the staff here is ill-mannered and lacks even in basic human niceties like talking pleasantly with the visiting patients and their attendants. Even though the hospital is a private one wherein patients have to pay through their noses some 50-100 percent more than the actual market price of things and facilities and services, yet the arrogant hospital administration and staff behaves as if they are manning a charity.

Khyber Medical Institute is just one of the many examples of a large malaise plaguing Kashmir. It is time for the government to wake up and initiate action against these white-collared robbers who are simply sucking at the bleeding wounds of distressed and diseased Kashmir.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Civil Society Wakes up - But is it for Real?

Javid reports on the KCSDS Roundtable

(Dr. Javid Iqbal, 65, was born in Srinagar. He attended the D.A.V. School, Srinagar, and graduated in Medicine from the Government Medical College (GMC). His professional service in medicine includes work in the Middle East for three decades. During his days at the GMC, he captained the cricket team. He enjoys writing and staying close to his children in far away lands.)

Getting Serious About HERITAGE

(Kashmir Center For Social And Development Studies, a research and advocacy center, conducted a round table conference recently to promote the concerns about our heritage. It was in the backdrop of tragic incidents in which Kashmir lost some of its glorious heritage signposts. In this roundtable conference KCSDS brought the question of the safety of heritage buildings to fore; expert opinion was also invoked on the question of the proposed skewed bridge on Jhelum.)

Heritage accounts for whatever has been bequeathed from generation before to the existent one. Many a face looked sullen— concerned - as the citizens gathered around a roundtable to discuss safeguard of places ranging from venerated to valued in the vale of Kashmir. The citizens - cademics, legal consultants, doctors, engineers, columnists and writers, businessmen from chamber of commerce and industry - heeded the call of Kashmir Center for social and development studies (a research and advocacy center) to express concern and suggest remedial measures. Measures which could be suggested to the concerned officials and the public in general in order to arrest the trend of fiddling with or taking a lighter view of physical and non-physical assets of our cultural heritage. And of natural heritage as well…a gift of nature provided to the most charming of the vales around the globe. The vale which has attracted the saints, the seers, the poets like Ghani Kashmiri…who left his native Khorasan to settle in and say of the vale:

Husan-e-sabzai baa khat-e-sabz kardah mara aseer

Daam hum rang’e zameen bodh giraftar shudam

It could be read as:

Green glow of green land captivated me

Net with the same shade enmeshed me

Heritage has multiple shades; given that the prior generations lived a multi-sided life in much more relaxed a manner with a lesser stress level than the present one. A part of what they left has a physical presence…the buildings, the artifacts, machines related to the age denoting the industrial attainment, books etc, what is labeled as tangible. Much of what was left may not have a physical presence…non-physical in essence, yet a part of our being—intangible though, the linguistic essence, the customs, the traditions, the behaviour pattern…holistically constitute our cultural basis, beliefs and aesthetics. The intangible needs greater guarding, as it is constantly subjected to cross cultural trends, which may either be healthy or unhealthy. The safeguard concerns resisting efforts aimed at diluting non-physical cultural assets. Healthier trends may be imbibed to enrich the cultural traits, however the sorting out is easier said than done. Knowledge is another heritage feature that requires added value with every passing generation to develop a pool with a utility value.

Physical assets extend from places venerated to valued. In some recent instances, places held sacred for generations…the mausoleums of Sufi saints have been gutted by fire. Episode after episode concerning sacred places raises an alarm that needs to be addressed, before such episodes are constructed to be an inexplicable pattern. The concern multiplies, as most of the constructed buildings of Muslim period of Kashmir history, forming a part of our heritage have an abundance of timber. Experts, analysts and historians have ascribed reasons, the consensus however remains that a rapidly expanding faith 14th century onwards needed multiple places of worship, easy availability of timber provided the needful. This is in contrast with the Hindu period; the earlier physical assets are stone buildings. Wooden structures served another purpose, providing the needed warmth in the cold of the vale. The emphasis also apparently was on aesthetics. Timber could easily be worked out into finest of designs, a marked feature of wood used in the halls of venerated places is the intimacy and delicacy of detailed work of architectural art.

Sir John Marshall notes “Well finished timber work of walls, with its pleasing diaper of headers and stretchers, the magnificent pillars of deodar in large halls, and the delicate open work traceries of window screens and balustrades, skillfully put together out of innumerable small pieces of wood, all help to enhance the charm and the stylishness of architecture”. Sir John continues “As a protection against heavy rain and snows of Kashmir, the use of birch bark nailed in multiple layers above roofs and overspread, in turn with turf and flowers, could hardly have been improved upon; and planting of irises and tulips on the roofs was a singularly happy inspiration, not only because of their own intrinsic beauty, but because their tenacious roots gave added strength to the roof covering” (quoted by G.M.D Sufi in ‘Kashir’ Volume: II, page: 509).

This is what we are bequeathed with and that is what we need to treat as a sacred trust, instead of linking these religo-historical monuments with concrete structures build in the vicinity. The net result of these needless additional structures is merely an attempt to minimize the magnificence of what we are endowed with. And such attempts may prove historically insignificant. The name and fame of sacred saints and seers may not be fiddled with, by adding names which may not stand historical scrutiny. Yet, the fiddling goes on with the citizenry in deep slumber. The insensitivity is marked. And only a shaking and shocking event like the recent one of fire consuming one of holiest of holy places—the ziarat-e-sharief of Peer Dastgeer in the heart of Srinagar, the capital city, provide the wake-up call. With the episode recurring in Lawaypora and Budgam, as two more venerated places were gutted down, the concern multiplied.

The question remains…do we have to have only shaking and shocking events wake us up and deliberate. The faulty electrical connections, the open wiring, other hazards that our heritage buildings of religo-historical significance are exposed to has to be seen to be believed. Power point presentation of Mr. Salim Beg…the heritage luminary of the vale paints a scenario of insensitivity…collective insensitivity, where the erring official, the up-keepers of sacred places, the average citizens may not escape blame. Collective insensitivity could only be remedied by collective effort with holistic involvement and total commitment of the officials, the citizens and the up-keepers of the holy places. What the British call conservation and Americans call preservation should be the abiding concern, which entails expert advice in its various aspects.

Vis-à-vis the natural heritage concerning the flora and fauna…the bio-diversity, as also the geo-diversity---covering the mineralogical, geo-morphological (covering the form of things) and palentological (study of life in the geological past) aspects, the propensity to undo what nature has endowed the valley with is beyond description. Forests might have shrunk beyond biological rejuvenation, say some experts. The human habitations on water bodies have squeezed their biological space to a level where mere survival has a question mark over it. Anchar Lake is a tale of past, Dal Lake and Wular Lake stand testimony to our insensitivity. Laws are in place for preserving our natural assets, however they are more pronounced in violation than in implementation. Take the state laws or national laws for preserving national parks and look at Dachigam. Way back in 1980s, it was declared a ‘National Park’ yet the V.I.P facilities remain with the needed security cover. VIP’s do need recreation, the American President has a retreat in Camp David, and so has the British Premier in Chequers. However, there are enough places in the valley apart from Dachigam, where our VIP’s could unwind and enjoy a free period, burdened as they remain with the affairs of the state.

Skewed Bridge on the bund formed a part of round table debate. There were several engineers who have served the state with distinction in the past, rising to highest ranks in the profession providing the needed input. The roundtable discussion took cognizance of the problems that the citizens face in Rajbagh, Gogjibagh, Jawahar-nagar areas. Given the jams witnessed on and around Abdullah Bridge, some of them want remedy, any remedy that could take them across Jhelum; in order to get to their businesses, attend offices. Buses plying with school going kids attending Burn Hall or Delhi Public School find it difficult to get across in time. However, the consensus that emerged was against Skewed Bridge on technical grounds, as well as on heritage concern. Bund, a famous landmark of Kashmir may not be disturbed, the consensus implied. It has remained for long a place of exhibition of the delicate art of Kashmir, besides providing a riverbank serene walk. The people are reacting adversely as would a Londoner do, if the Thames bank is fiddled with or a Parisian, if Seine bank is disturbed.

The expert opinion of several former Chief Engineers deliberating in the roundtable, in its concise form ruled the site selected for the proposed skewed bridge as technically not feasible, besides being an environmental and aesthetical hazard and an eyesore in the most fashionable part of the city. It was stated that the present road on the left protection bund of river Jhelum from Abdullah Bridge to Lalded Hospital junction and onwards is a very important arterial road parallel to Residency Road and Maulana Azad road which are already optimized to heavy intensity of traffic. The proposed bridge, either a hunchback design like that of infamous Amira Kadal [bridge] or even in through type super structure shall be directly at right angels on this road without any approach length, which is not technically desirable and shall entail initial raising of this road for some length thereby causing an ugly hump near the bridge site.

Keeping into consideration the highest flood level in the river and clearance for inland water transport, the deck level of multigirder bridge shall be approximately same as that of Abdullah Bridge, which shall necessitate construction of approach with permissible gradients on either bank and a viaduct (under Passage) for the left protection bund road, which my further raise the deck level. This approach on right bank to connect with the residency road in the limited space shall have a steep gradient; hence it is technically not feasible. Besides, it was made out that the approach on the right bank shall block the access to Residency quarters, J&K Arts emporium, General Post office and Sher-i-Kashmir Park. It was deemed to be a disaster for Chinars dotting the residency road. Even the proposed construction of this third bridge within a distance of half a kilometer [unheard of anywhere in the world, said the experts] shall not ease the traffic problem, as traffic shall any how converge towards Tourist Reception Centre [TRC] J&K bank road, opined the engineers.

Consensus on the bridge apart, a technically sound alternative needs to be worked out to ease the pressure on Abdullah Bridge. Zero Bridge could be rebuilt as an alternative. The present wooden structure, opine the engineers, may not last. Hence, a concrete three lane bridge could be provided to ease the pressure on Abdullah Bridge, with an alternative road to the present J&K Bank/TRC link-up. Whatever is ultimately decided would need pooling of opinions on a wider scale than the limited advisory pool governments resort to. The civil society may remain on board, ever and always. It is the right of citizens to be consulted on matters which concern all and sundry…consensus is the name of the game.

KCSDS constitutes committee to Investigate Dastgeer Sahib (RA) Shrine Fire

Arjimand's team wants to make an independent assessment

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 37, is from Srinagar and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University. He is also an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit. His books include: " Kashmir: Towards a New Political Economy", and "Water: Spark for another Indo-Pak War?")

Srinagar: A Civil Society Group Kashmir Centre for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) on Wednesday constituted a committee to look into the circumstances of the fire at the Ziyarat-i-Dastgeer Sahab (RA) at Khanayar in old city here.

The Committee comprising Abdul Majeed Zargar, Arjimand Hussain Talib, Dr Hamida Nayeem, Dr Javed Iqbal, Shakeel Qalander, Z G Muhammad, Zareef Ahmed Zareef would study the circumstances which led to the outbreak of fire and prepare a report which shall include recommendations for the preservation and conservation of state’s heritage monuments, including Dargahs and Khankahs.

The KCSDS organized a round table conference here to discuss the recent fire incidents at some of Kashmir’s prized heritage sites, particularly at Ziyarat-i-Dastgeer Sahab (RA).

Speaking on the occasion participants called for inclusion of localized heritage literacy programs in the school education system to promote heritage literacy. Expressing deep concern over a lack of disaster prevention systems and protocols at the heritage sites, particularly at fire-vulnerable Dargahs and Khankahs, the participants called for immediate and time-bound implementation of the J&K Heritage Conservation Act 2010, and notification of heritage sites as per the laid down criteria.

Participants, representing diverse fields like heritage conservation, environmental protection, media, activism, education, business, etc. discussed at length the possible ways and means for the preservation of Kashmir’s heritage sites, including Dargahs and Ziyarats.

Saleem Beg, director INTACH (J&K chapter) made a detailed Power point presentation about the current state of conservation of heritage sites in Kashmir and the steps required for their preservation. The presentation was followed by a discussion in which participants maintained that drastic steps are required to be taken at governmental and non-governmental levels for the protection of the state’s heritage sites.

In or Out, It is Dirty Air

After already scoring high as a state with one of the most polluted cities (Srinagar), J&K scores another triumph as a Smokers Heaven

J&K Fast Becoming North India’s Puffing Capital

Aditi Tandon (Tribune)

Jammu and Kashmir is fast emerging as the smoking capital of north India. Fresh analysis of tobacco prevalence data in the country has revealed that adults in J-K are spending more on cigarettes and bidis than their counterparts in other northern states.

Smoky haze

• J&K has the highest spending on cigarettes, bidis in the North, says a latest survey

• It also has the highest cigarette use prevalence in north India

• The state has highest number of adults who are exposed to tobacco smoke at workplace

The state even beats the densely populated Delhi. Also, J&K’s monthly spending on ‘smoking tobacco’ far outstrips the national monthly expenditure averages. While nationally, smokers aged 15 and above spend Rs 399.20 a month on cigarettes and Rs 93.40 on bidis, those in J-K spend Rs 513.60 and Rs 134.20, respectively, on these tobacco forms. Bidi expenditure in J&K is thus 1.5 times the country’s average.

Consequently, health hazards due to passive smoking are also more in J&K than elsewhere in the North.

The latest Global Adult Tobacco Survey reveals that J&K has the highest cigarette smoking prevalence among the northern states -Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Chandigarh, Uttrakhand, Haryana and Delhi. Prevalence for J-K is 12% as against 9.9% for Delhi. Punjab and Haryana have the lowest (3.7% and 3.8%, respectively) proportion of adults smoking cigarettes.

J&K’s cigarette use prevalence (12%) is almost double the nationwide prevalence of 5.7%. “These are huge areas of concern for J&K, not traditionally seen as a state where the use of smoking tobacco would be so high. The analysis will help state governments focus better on problem areas. While nationally the use of smokeless tobacco forms is twice than that of smoking tobacco, north India bucks the trend and reports the reverse,” Monika Arora of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), told The Tribune.

Trends on state-level second-hand smoke (SHS) exposure have also been made available for the first time. It has come to light that the highest proportion of adults (67.9%) exposed to tobacco smoke in offices are in J&K and the lowest (15.4%) are in Chandigarh.

On another major indicator of health impact of tobacco — SHS exposure at home — Uttarakhand fares the worst with 85% adults reporting smoke exposure followed by 82% in Himachal. Punjab reports the lowest (32.1%) SHS exposure at home. Even on tobacco cessation, Jammu and Kashmir lags behind most states in the North. Whereas Haryana reported the highest proportion of adults (34.2%) who attempted to quit smoking, Jammu and Kashmir reported only 29.6%. The national average of quit attempts is 38.4%. The Valley lags far behind.

PHFI and HRIDAY (Health and Related Information Dissemination among Youth) conducted the crucial analysis on tobacco burden in north India in association with the Health Ministry. The data is being disseminated to states.

"World Looking for Mars, We are Still in Dark Ages"

Proof that community related issues are of no concern to Kashmiris

In 2012, Srinagar Has no Bus Stop

Shafat Farooq (Kashmir Monitor)

Srinagar: The lofty claims of the state government that it will make the Srinagar city one of the finest in India may be a distant dream even for the residents of Srinagar as even in the 21st century this summer capital is without the bus stops.

Though in the past the government had taken initiatives to construct the bus stops here in the Srinagar city alone, but the bizarre schemes of the successive regimes produced nothing till date.

Srinagar city has a population of over 13lacs and over the years the population of private vehicles plying on the streets of city has grown tremendously, but to the utter shock of the commuters the city has no bus stops resultantly adding to the day to day traffic woes in the city.

A cursory look at the bus stop system of the Srinagar city presents a gloomy picture of this city. Although the city has near about 50 bus stops but majority of them have either been captured by the road side vendors or the bus stops are lying unattended at many places.

“Commuters are forced to wait for buses while standing on the roadside under severe weather conditions during the summer season due to the absence of bus stops,” said a resident of civil lines Manan Syed.

“In the past, many bus stops were constructed in the civil lines and the downtown but the municipal authorities never bothered to maintain or to repair them subsequently. The problem here is that there exists no such culture to board a bus at a bus stop, people have to be educated first about their use,” Manan added.

Although the Srinagar Municipal Corporation had constructed many bus-stops across the city, but due to its negligence, the commuters could not take advantage from them. Sheds of various bus stops set up on different routes, are either broken down or have holes in them.

At Dalgate two bus stops were erected five years ago, not by the municipal authorities but by CRPF, today these bus stops have become the haven for the non-state beggars and some mentally retard persons who have erected the make shift tents with these bus stops.

“The passengers, including women, students and old-age citizens have to stay for long under these broken sheds. Commuters have to wait on footpath or by standing on the roadside for the transport due to the absence of proper bus stops or sheds. And in the summer season and after monsoon rains, it becomes very difficult for the commuters to wait without sheds,” Sarwar Hussain, a commuter waiting at Regal Chowk for public transport, said.

Asking the authorities to talk less and do more on the ground, Kashmir’s veteran poet and President Valley Citizen Council, Zareef Ahmed Zareef said the district administration should wakeup and ‘fulfil their otherwise hollow slogans’

“Municipal authorities have to look over such issues. The government is totally responsible for this grim picture of the city,” Zareef said.

Zareef in his typical style while mocking at the government said, the “West is planning to conquer Mars after having landed on the moon but we in Kashmiri still dream about having better footpaths.”

The residents of the downtown said due to the non-availability of the bus stops, the downtown witness’s heavy traffic jam every other day.

They said the commuters are forced to wait for passenger buses on the roadside due to which traffic jam occurs frequently.

“The drivers of the passenger buses stop their vehicles where ever they want, even some times in the midst of the road due to which many vehicles are forced to line in a queue resulting in a traffic jam,” Said Faizan Syed Naqaush a resident of downtown.

“Bus stops at many places can be of immense convenience to streamline the traffic mess in the city. It will not only serve residents of Srinagar and other townships in an effective way, but also help in mitigating vehicular congestion in the valley,” SP traffic city Haseeb-ur-Rehman told The Kashmir Monitor over phone.

He said the traffic department has identified 164 spots in the Srinagar city alone for the creation of bus stops out of which 25 are under construction.

“I have already submitted a proposal to the Srinagar Municipal Corporation by which city will get a different look in the coming months. Out of 164 bus stops, 25 bus stops in the city are going under construction and the rest of them will be completed in the next 6 months’ time,” Haseeb claimed.

One Way Street

In a culture that has been skillful in taking other people's money without accountability, it is difficult to give something (anything) in return

Property Tax Related Issue Evokes Mixed Response

Sana Altaf (Kashmir Times)

Srinagar: After being endorsed by chief minister, the issue of levying property tax in the state is receiving a mixed response from various main stream political parties.

Main opposition party, PDP has adopted a guarded approach. Congress leaders have welcomed the introduction of property tax in the Valley, CPI (M) has opposed the property tax.

Senior Congress leader, Abdul Gani Vakil, told Kashmir Times that the decision of chief minister would be the collective decision of the coalition partner.

“It is a welcome step which would prove beneficial for the state,” Vakil said.

He, however, stressed that it would be better if a provision is introduced for recovering the money from sales tax defaulters.

“The sales tax defaulters owe state over Rs 500 crores. There must be some agency to recovery this huge amount of money,” he added.

As per the media reports, chief minister Omar Abdullah on Friday told planning commission that his government would try to build consensus in the next assembly session over the issue of introducing property tax in the state.

Vice president PDP, Muzaffar Hussain Beig reacted saying if the provisions of the property tax bill, are beneficial for the state, they would favour it in the assembly.

“When any such bill is introduced in the assembly, we would go through it thoroughly. If it’s provision are good we shall favour it, if not, we shall oppose,” Beig revealed.

However CPI(M) member, G.N.Malik revealed that property tax would add burden to common man.

“We oppose property tax for state because it would make people suffer.”

President, Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Abdul Hamid Punjabi, suggested that government must loop in various stake holders before introducing the bill in the assembly. He stated that government should undertake proper planning and marking of residential and commercial areas before going ahead with the property tax bill.

“If we look at government record, a place which was once identified as a residential area is now commercial too and vice versa. Besides many abandoned places have been converted into residential and commercials hubs. Who shall identify them,” said Hamid.

He adds authorities should identify the residential and commercial places for which the tax would be levied.

“It is only when we have them clearly marked; the property tax can be levied.

Hamid viewed government should discuss the issue with the various business organization; come up with a proper model and confidence building measures.

Electricity Woes in J&K - The Story Behind the Story

Quick - if you want to know the real truth, the two related news items below should do the trick

JK Gets CERC Stick on Power Mess - State Asked To Pay Rs 637 Cr Arrears To Northern Grid Within 3 Weeks

Muddasir Ali (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Already battling a severe power crisis, Jammu and Kashmir faces a drastic cut in energy allocation from the Northern Grid (NG) in case the State Government fails to remit, within three weeks, Rs 637 crore towards the cost of electricity overdrawn since 2002.

In a petition filed by various states affected by overdraw of power by JK, the Central Electricity Regulatory Commission (CERC) has directed the State Government to clear the remittance within three weeks or face drastic reduction in allocated quota of electricity under Unscheduled Interchange (UI) pool.

The Rs 637 crore arrears comprise Rs 295 crore principal amount and Rs 342 crore interest accumulated over the years. In its order (139/12 (suo-moto) dated July 9, 2012) CERC has also imposed penalty of Rs one lakh on J&K government for each case of non- compliance of the Commission orders. The CERC has pointed out eight such instances where JK government has violated its orders.

CERC is a quasi-judicial body having authority to regulate power sector and redress energy disputes between states.

A senior official in the State Power Development Corporation (SPDC) said the state could have avoided overdrawing of power had it properly managed its demand and stuck to the schedule.

“The situation speaks volumes about the gross mismanagement in the power sector. Given the financial position of JK, people should ready themselves to face more unscheduled cuts as it remains to be seen whether state government would comply with the Commission orders on time,” the official said.

The CERC order said it was noticed from report of Northern Regional Load Dispatch Center (NRLDC) that Rs 330 crore including surcharge was outstanding against state Power Development Department (PDD) towards UI payments as on November 30, 2011. On March 19, 2012 the Commission had observed that the state did not comply with its earlier directions on the matter asking PDD, its Secretary and Chief Secretary to show cause as to why action should not be initiated against them for non-compliance under CERC provisions for UI charges and related matters.

However, the state government had submitted that it was in the process of finalizing a payment plan for outstanding UI dues.

The state government had requested the CERC for a lenient view and extension in time for payment of outstanding UI in equated monthly installments by March 31, 2013.

“After the issue of the notice the respondents –PDD- has not made any payment even though the outstanding UI dues against PDD are increasing,” the CERC order reads. “We are constrained to note that respondents are not paying attention to payment of outstanding UI charges.”

The order observes it is clear that any constituent utility drawing power from the NG over and above its schedule is getting the energy at the cost of other constituents (states). “Consequently, it (JK) is under obligation to make prompt payments for consuming the power which legitimately belongs to other constituents. (But) by not making prompt payments respondents have not only deprived other constituents of their legitimate UI dues but created impediments in the operation of the commercial mechanism. We expect the respondent to liquidate the UI dues by due date as per the regulation,” the CERC orders reads.

A senior official in SPDC said state gets fixed power allocation from the Northern Grid as per the projected requirements.

The official said though the daily power schedule (requirement) changes and same is communicated to the NG, the state gets the allocation as per the agreement.

However, during peak hours when demand for power increases Jammu and Kashmir overdraws the energy. Every unit of power overdrawn is charged many times more than normal rate. The cost depends on the frequency on which the power is overdrawn and low the frequency, the higher is the cost per unit.

“The problem with JK is that it does not stick to the schedule, resulting in overdrawn of power. Ever unit of power overdrawn is charged around rupees five to six,” said the PDC official. He said JK and Uttar Pradesh are the only two states which continue to violate the schedule while other of the states has stopped the practice.

The state’s peak power demand is over 2200 MW against which the local production is almost 760 MW. The gap in the energy demand is met through import of power from the Northern Grid.

There has been increase in the unscheduled power cut across the state in recent time. Due to increase in this phenomenon people are facing tough time in heat conditions.

Reacting to the development the Kashmir Center for Social and Development Studies (KCSDS) said the eminent possibility of reduction in power allocation from Northern Grid reflects “gross mismanagement” in the PDD with regard to energy procurement. In a statement the KCSDS said that the PDD has miserably failed to draw its power procurement plan and take power procurement seriously over the years.

“The state shall have to face huge losses besides more curtailments in energy supply to the consumers in case of any such reduction ordered by the Commission,” KCSDS said.

It said the PDD has “miserably failed” to maintain discipline in the power drawings and the excess power required at any point of time could have been procured through long term or short term trading with power trading companies.

PDD Replaces 30000 Faulty Meters - Exchequer Loses Rs 4.5 Crore Due To Official Laxity

Umer Maqbool (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: In a glaring instance of laxity in the Power Development Department (PDD), the state exchequer has suffered losses worth millions of rupees on account of replacement of around 30,000 ‘defective’ electric meters in the Valley.

Highly placed sources told Greater Kashmir that the faulty electric meters installed by PDD in different areas of the Valley, particularly in Srinagar had to be replaced due to their abnormal functioning during winters.

“Around 30,000 defective electric meters have been replaced as these showed lower reading during winters due to sharp decrease in temperature,” they said, adding that it has caused loss of nearly Rs 4.5 crore to the state exchequer as all these faulty meters had to be dumped.

“The installation of each meter costs us around Rs 1500 and replacement of around 30000 meters amounts to around Rs 4.5 crore,” they added.

According to the sources, PDD had procured one lakh defective meters in 2001 at exorbitant rates and 50000 of the said lot were to be installed each in Srinagar and Jammu.

“They were purchased at higher rates and their original market price was around Rs 700 each,” they added.

Pertinently, PDD has installed around three lakh meters in the Valley with several areas still without meters. Although the state government has kept several deadlines for metering entire Valley but it has failed to meet the same.

An official said, the faulty lot was purchased by PDD without requisite testing before procurement.

“In other states, different agencies test meters before procurement and installation, but it seems that no such exercise was conducted here by officials of PDD,” he said.

He added that the procurement deal needs thorough probe and investigation to find how the officials of PDD committed serious blunder of not testing the meters before their installation.

Not only squandering public money, replacement of meters also triggered widespread resentment among public in the Valley. People in several areas staged protests and resisted the attempts to install new meters as they feared that they will show higher reading.

A Step in the Right Direction

Kashmiri youth finally realize that there is no future without a broader vision

600 Youth Get Job Letters

Srinagar: The Centrally-sponsored Himayat programme should make merit the criterion for selection of unemployed youth to ensure its success in Jammu and Kashmir, Chief Minister Omar Abdullah said today.

"Merit should be only criterion to select the youth for training under Himayat, keeping political and other influences strictly away from this programme to ensure its success," Omar said addressing a training-cum-placement letters presenting programme under 'Himayat' at JKEDI complex at Pampore.

Himayat is a Centrally-sponsored training-cum-placement programme for unemployed youth in Jammu and Kashmir. Youth are provided short-term training for at least three months, in a range of skills.

Omar said the youth of Jammu and Kashmir are talented enough to prove their mettle and ability at all fronts.

"They only need opportunity and exposure to prove their capacity and capability of rendering meritorious service in any organisation," he said, adding that Himayat is right initiative in this direction.

The state government has flagged skill development and employability enhancement as important aspects to open up employment for the youth, he said.

He said government jobs are not answer to the huge unemployment problem.

"We have to create new avenues for youth and enhance their employability to get easily jobs in private sector," he said, adding that Udaan and Himayat programmes have been launched to achieve this target.

Omar said that during his recent visit to Kolkata, he interacted with the first batch of trainees selected under Udaan for skill upgradation trainings in various trades.

"I was pleased to learn that 96 per cent trainees have been short listed for permanent jobs in private companies on their outstanding merit," he said.

He expressed gratitude to Union Minister Jairam Ramesh for extending support to Jammu and Kashmir.

Speaking on the occasion, Ramesh announced enhancement of post-placement support for the youths who have been provided jobs in various companies within and outside the state after receiving training under Himayat programme.

He also announced raising the monthly financial support from Rs 1,000 to Rs 2,000 per person and increasing the stipend period from two months to six months.

Ramesh said the Rural Development Ministry will facilitate accommodation facilities for youth of Jammu and Kashmir outside the state and involve more private companies in the Himayat programme.

Over 950 trainees were provided job placements in the programme held at SKICC in December last year, he said, adding that as many as 600 young boys and girls were handed over job letters today.

He said a target of imparting training to 7,000 youth and facilitating their placement in various companies within the State and outside has been set this year.

Later, Omar and Ramesh handed over the placement letters to the successful passouts of various vocational courses.

(Kashmir Images)

Divinity Marred by Excesses

Imran says in Pahalgam divine boon of a green belt is being replaced by material mania


Imran Yousuf (Kashmir Images)

When someone imagines about natural creation, natural beauty, Kashmir is the first word which strikes his mind. Kashmir is well-known in every corner of this world for its unique, incomparable, matchless and eternal beauty and Pahalgam has been the crown. Pahalgam is the place where comprehensive combination of divine beauty is found, green landscapes, thousands of years old Devdars are spotted everywhere in the valley, but one more advantage that adds the magnificence is the Majestic Lidder. The sparkling water of River Lidder flows through the valley of Pahalgam and therefore it is also called as Lidder Valley. Majestic lidder makes Pahalgam more precious, exceptional and beyond comparison. The Lidder River is popular among travelers because of its cold water flowing right from glaciers. Pahalgam is surrounded by mountains and crossed by the cascading waters of river Lidder, it has been a popular tourist destination for years. The snow capped peaks in the background and abundant green pine forests soothe the eyes of the visitors. Virgin pine forests, apparent mountain streams, and meadows of wildflowers mark Pahalgam as part of the paradisiacal beauty of Kashmir.

Pahalgam is the finest tourist resort blessed by deity from each and every corner. On the other hand Kashmir has faced some ugly days as well as Pahalgam is also suffering due to the recklessness of people of Kashmir. When we go through Pahalgam we come across new structures everywhere, new huts, hotels, houses are built through the whole valley, nonetheless govt. has stopped and banned the new constructions but things are going on. We are losing the greenery and natural beauty. We don’t see Pahalgam as fine-looking and eye-catching as it used to be. Natural beauty is being replaced by artificial, nearly entire place has been built in new pattern and concrete structures are surfacing which doesn’t gel with the environment and thus are diminishing the loveliness and attractiveness of Pahalgam. The natural beauty has its own unparalleled magical charm.

About 15 years ago I went to Pahalagm with my Dad, I do remember, at the very first glance I was fascinated and I could not stop myself to get lost in the divine beauty of Pahalgam. I saw some wooden huts or houses built that time look fantastic, now I identify perfectly that these huts were also constructed in concrete, they looked like creator has itself constructed them to boost the charm. Today we find modern constructions all over the place - hotels, shops, houses, and huts have occupied the whole space. No doubt it has made life a bit easy but a tourist misses the calmness of mountains, noise of fluxing water which used to attract visitors from different corners of the world. One misses that old elegance, the glimpse of deity beauty.

Shouldn’t we care for this magical place with magical atmosphere, magical climate which changes its complete pattern within seconds.

Doesn’t this place belong to us, which Deity has created with his own hands, Doesn’t Pahalgam deserve a close attention to protect it and restore its earlier magic?

That Pahalgam which used to bless the visitors eyes.
That Pahalgam which used to offer divine presence.
That Pahalgam which used to be the spiritual place for saints
That Pahalgam we are losing bit by bit, please save it now or it will be too late.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Gross Injustice

Afsana's commentary on continuing discrimination of females in the valley demonstrates weakness of the civil society in Kashmir

(Ms. Afsana Rashid, 33, was born and raised in Srinagar and attended the Minto Circle High School. She graduated from the Government College for Women with a Bachelor's degree in science, and completed her post-graduation degree from the University of Kashmir, obtaining her Master's Degree in Mass Communication and Journalism. Ms. Rashid works as a senior journalist in the Daily Etalaat. She has received numerous world-wide recognition and awards for covering economic depravation and gender sensitive issues in Kashmiri journals, which include Sanjoy Ghose Humanitarian Award, Bhorukha Trust Media Award 2007, and the 2006-07 UNFPA-Ladli Media Award. Her work on "Impact of conflict on subsistence livelihood of marginalised communities in Kashmir and Alternatives", was recognized by Action Aid India in 2005-06. She has travelled abroad attending a workshop on "conflict Reporting" by Thomson Foundation, Cardiff, UK, and a seminar for women in conflict areas by IKV Pax Christi, Netherlands. In February 2008, she compiled a book, "Waiting for Justice: Widows and Half-widows.")

Unfair Attitude Towards Fair Sex

There are still many pockets in the Valley of Kashmir where women face injustice on account of various fronts and their voices remain unheard. Caught up in a tangle, women at times find it hard to break social taboos that hinder their growth and development. Often women get discriminated and they don’t get a suitable environ to exhibit their skills. But whenever they get an opportunity, they avail it and prove their worth.

Rehmat Self Help Group formed under the aegis of Indo Global Social Service Society and supported by European Union and Welthungerhilfe, Germany in Moulaabad-Pattan in district Baramulla in north Kashmir is one such example.

The group formed five years ago is on roads towards success. This year, the group for the first time started an agricultural activity and planted potatoes on two kanals of land that they’ve taken on lease for 10 years.

“We’ve been involved in such an activity for the first time and we ourselves decided to plant potatoes this season. It gives us a satisfaction and an urge to work more. We are planning to take more land on lease next year,” said Fatimah Begum, a group leader.

The group informed that they got 60 kilograms of potato seeds from agriculture department. “We looked well after the farm. We got the land ploughed by carts and paid him an amount of 400 rupees and spend 200 rupees on fertilizers. Then, we ourselves planted potato seeds and did de-weeding as well. Everyone contributed well. We are expecting a good crop this season (in July). We’ve to give half production of potatoes to land owner as the land is on lease,” said the group leader.

She added once the crop would be ready, they’ll sell it to a trader from Pattan or Batamaloo. “We can’t consume entire production in a local market here as everyone in the village grows potatoes. So we’ve to find an outside market. We’ll plant carrot, spinach and other green vegetables in the next season,” she said.

The group has taken a remarkable initiative in the village and formed a local welfare committee, Razaa Committee. Though the initiative has been started by most of the group members but other village women too have joined hands. Begum heads the committee as well.

“Since men in the village never took any such initiative, so we decided to take a lead. We used to face immense problems during wedding season and in an event of death of any person like arranging many things from nearby areas, which was quite cumbersome and painstaking. As such, we took an initiative and committee purchased its own accessories like tents and utensils,” said Khazeerah Begum, treasurer of Rehmat self help group.

She added that the group purchased tent for 10,000 rupees and utensils for 3,330 rupees. The group plans to purchase more such utensils. Based on 14 members, group started its functioning in August, 2007.

“Initially, we had certain apprehensions, but today we are satisfied with our contributions. We started with 30 members, which later on reduced to 14. Many people scorned us. Today, many women wish to join us,” said Shafeeqa Begum, a group member. The group leader added that the group meets four times in a month, but during working season, it meets only once or twice a month. “In case of death of any group member, other family member would be appointed in her place,” said the leader, adding that the group started its contributions from one rupee per day and today it is 80 rupees per month.

The treasurer of the group stated that they had no concept about savings and they never stepped out of their houses. “Now, we feel lots of change. Earlier, we weren’t unaware how to deal with the bank. It was an alien concept for us. We lacked health awareness and had hardly been to city. Today, many of us have been on exposure visit to areas outside Jammu and Kashmir. We’ve been to Amargarh for 15-days training and then 4-days training at Raj Bagh and Manasbal,” she said.

Apart from members, the group says it has offered assistance to non-members also. The group has turned boon for Khazeerah Begum as she has set-up a provisional store in the area as part of her individual activity in a group. She has pinned high hopes with the shop and expects it to financially support her family.

Begum has a dispute with her husband for past 11 years. She was married to her cousin, who lives in the same village. Begum’s husband lived with his in-laws after his marriage. The couple has four children out of the wedlock. She said that her husband, who was a labourer, used to beat children, unnecessarily and she asked him to refrain from beating them. This led to a dispute between them.

As part of conflict resolution, Begum’s family was asked by the village elders to pay one and a half lakh towards her husband, shared Begum. “It was an amount that was calculated as his earnings during his stay in our family. They further said that he would utilise the amount to construct a tin-shed for himself. But he never built that shed,” said Begum. Though the couple lives separately, neighbours believe that there could be reconciliation between them some day. Begum however, is not of this opinion. She lives with her brother, who supports her and her family. “He has his family also. He has to look after 11 family members – his own family and mine. He is a labourer and it is hard for him to manage both families, financially,” quips Begum, adding there has been no support from her husband, in any form, since their separation.

Five years back, Begum came across IGSSS and like many other women found concept of self help group unique and helpful. She joined the group as treasurer and engaged herself in various activities of the group. To begin with, the group started sheep rearing as a joint activity and then as part of individual activity she set-up a provisional shop. “The activity has helped me a lot. IGSSS came as a rescue for me. I plan to look after this shop and get my daughters well-settled. That is my aim in life now,” she comments, while adding “apart from sending my daughters to school, I want them to learn handicraft skills. I believe one has to be financially independent and skills always help.” She remarked “even today a differentiation is made between a boy and a girl child in rural areas. I am often made to realise that I have no son. The feeling is made stronger by the people around, who always keep hammering this and make you realise this every moment.”

She pointed that awareness among parents to send their wards to schools has increased manifold. “When we were young, we couldn’t study due to poverty and parents weren’t interested in sending their children, especially daughters, to schools. Now, times have changed.”

Begum’s eldest daughter, Fahmeeda couldn’t continue with her studies due to her ill-health. She studied up to fifth standard only. Her second daughter studies in 10th standard whereas her third daughter, Sabika studies in sixth standard and the youngest one, Kowsar Jan is going to ICDS centre. “I plan to send my second daughter to Iran for further studies,” said Begum.

Few kilometers away, Ghulam Mohammad Bhat, a village elder from Buren-Pattan in Baramulla district said that the concept of ‘ghar path’ (boy living with his in-laws after marriage) continues even in the contemporary society. “But this happens in exceptional cases like being the only child of her parents or being physically challenged or likewise.” He added in past, ghar-path was a regular feature in the society that led to several problems.

Another such example is Shahi Jamal Self Help Group framed just two months back in north Kashmir’s Narinara- Sumbal in Bandipora district. Its group leader, Asmat Ara shared that 10 local women gathered together and thought to move ahead as a group and earn benefits.

“Earlier, we were engaged with ari-work and middlemen usually exploited us and offered us peanuts. We decided to form a group so that we can work independently. Ari work is our group activity and we plan to work without interference by the middlemen. Currently, we are working with middlemen as we don’t have resources to work on our own,” said the group leader.

Explaining further, Atiqa Begum, treasurer of the group said that they are paid Rs 150 per piece for embroidery (ari work) of bed cover per piece when its market value is more.

“Similarly, we get Rs10 for the embroidery (ari) work of bag per piece when its market value is more than Rs 100 per piece.” She added if they had enough financial resources, they would invest in the activity and reap more benefits. Lalli Begum, a group member said though ari work is a collective activity of a group, the members work on individual basis as they’ve to spend time on household chores as well.

When asked if women in their area inherit property rights, the group members smilingly replied that those from well off families get a share in their fathers’ property.

Men and young boys in the area mostly work as vendors and often move outside their village to far-flung areas within valley and across country to earn their livelihood.

The group members have cultivated a piece of land belonging to Atiqa Begum’s family. “We thought the activity would fetch us more benefits. We’ll sell the produce in a local market,” says the group member. Though the area has availability of tap-water, it lacks water for irrigation purposes. “As such tube well is required for cultivation of vegetables. No tube well has been offered by the government till date. We asked Sarpanch to grant us the same, which he promised but so far we haven’t received the facility. An alternate source, River is far away from here.”

The group members further share that they contribute 100 rupees per head per month. “There were 2-3 self help groups already existing in the area, but we weren’t aware about such a concept.” Shafayat Hussain, IGSSS local organizer said as they were conducting survey about below poverty line (BPL) families in the area, the concerned village level worker (VLW) told them about the village and interest of women here.

The group conducts four meetings in a month, on every Monday. Group members emphasized that IGSSS made them aware about number of things including utilization of land that they had never thought about.

Domestic violence

Situation in urban areas is no different. Sabreena Akther (name changed) alleged that her husband, Showkat Ahmad (name changed) often harass her that he will go for second marriage and doesn’t care well about her and the child.

She shared that due to torture at her in-laws place she asked her husband for separate accommodation, which he did. “We live in a tin-shed, few steps away from my in-laws, but he doesn’t care about me. He often returns late in evening. Even if I cook food for him and wait for him he says he has already taken dinner at his parents’ house. This is a greatest torture for me and I can’t bear it,” shared Akther.

She added that her husband doesn’t even provide her the expenses incurred on treatment of the child and asks her to get expenses from her parents. She further added that she has been living with her parents for more than a year and her husband never bothered to look after her and the child or pay their expenses.

Ahmad in his argument said that his wife regularly goes to her parents’ house after he leaves for his routine work and she misbehaves with her in-laws.

Akther filed a suit in the court of law. The court had forwarded the case to a mediation centre established last year. After hearing to both sides, the mediator observed that husband should pay 25,000 rupees as amount of maintenance to his wife and child and wife shouldn’t visit her parents on daily basis but once in 15 days.

In another case, Shabnam Jan (name changed) had filed a suit against her husband Mohammad Ashraf (name changed) wherein she demanded maintenance from him. She said that her husband ignores her, doesn’t care about her and the child and pays no expenses towards her.

Her husband claimed that she often goes to her parents’ house and since past six years of marriage she has hardly been at his home. The wife also demanded separate accommodation as she refused to go with her husband on the ground that her in-laws harass her. This led to accusations and counter-accusations. The mediator after hearing both sides deferred the case for next hearing.

Ghousia-ul-Nisa Jeelani, retired district and session judge and mediator said “increase in court cases led to establishment of mediation centres. Due to awareness about their rights, masses start approaching courts for redressal of grievances.

Courts took time in disposing of matters and at times aggrieved party used to go for revision or appeal. This way cases in the court of law took more than 20 years and judicial system got very expensive as counsels had to be engaged, plus there are other expenses like court fee. To overcome all these problems, it was thought that some other procedure be adopted so that cases are settled at the earliest.” She said that a mediator facilitates parties to settle disputes on their own terms and conditions. “A mediator only facilitates parties and never gives his/her decision or terms and conditions. A mediator is third independent person who takes two parties in cordial manner away from judicial atmosphere and then conducts individual sittings and joint sessions with parties; listen to both parties and then make parties understand advantages and disadvantages of settling their disputes amicably on their own agreed terms and conditions.”

Jeelani said “mediation is infact win-win position for both parties. After settlement of terms and conditions, an agreement is drafted. That agreement is then referred to concerned court where from the case was referred for mediation. Then concerned court decides the case as per agreement reached by parties. Not only the case that was referred for mediation gets settled but all other cases pending disposal and those which are outcome of dispute between parties get decided in same agreement. These cases get decided by the court after they receive a copy of settled agreement.” The decisions in mediation centres aren’t challengeable, she emphasized.

(The article is part of Indo Global Social Service Society’s (IGSSS) Media Fellowship Programme under European Union’s EIDHR project jointly implemented with Welthungerhife in J & K. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect views of European Commission, Welthungerhilfe and Indo Global Social Service Society.)

(Kashmir Images)

Mehraj-ud-Din's Next Big Idea

Sajad introduces reader to a prominent adventurer of Kashmir

(Mr. Sajad Kralyari, 29, was born in Kralyar, Srinagar. He had his early schooling at the General Public Mission (GPM) School, and his higher secondary education from the Government High School. He completed his B.Sc. from the Gandhi Memorial College, Rainawari, Srinagar, and Master's degree in journalism from the Media Educational Research Centre (MERC), University of Kashmir in 2008. He subsequently did a brief stint in New Delhi before returning as a correspondent for the Rising Kashmir, working on business and economy related stories.)

Srinagar Man Brings Adventure Attraction for Tourists

Tourists need better services and different recreational activities for their longer stays in the Valley.

This is exactly what Valley’s prominent adventurer from Sriangar-Mehjraj-ud-din, believes in to attract good number of tourists to Valley. Mehraj-ud-din, 55, has introduced new services for the tourists to extend their stays in the Valley besides guiding them for trekking, skiing, paragliding, ski-mountaineering and other adventure related activities.

Recently, the businessman introduced remote controlled aero-ballooning-a new service and attraction for the tourists- on the banks of Dal Lake. Aero-ballooning is a joint venture by the adventure companies-High Land Excursions and River and Raft. At an estimated projects cost of nearly Rs 2.70 crores, Mehraj-ud-din and his partner Mohammad Afzal launched a new company Kashmir Eye to introduce this new services and attraction at Zabarwan Park on the banks of Dal Lake.

Minister of state for Tourism Nasir Aslam Wani, Director Tourism Kashmir Talat Parveez inaugurated the aero-ballooning as a part of effort to boost tourism sector in the state. The tourism department has provided all the support to the company to introduce the services.

The 10-minutes flight of balloon to 350 feet high gives tourists a best aerial view of the Dal Lake, Zabarwan hill, Pir Panjal ranges and also Shankaracharya Temple. The ride costs Rs 500 for adults and Rs 300 for children and it has already attracted good number of tourists and locals.

Tourists don’t have much activity here in Srinagar except for water skiing, Shikara ride and also newly introduced jet skiing. However, the services like aero-ballooning will be an added attraction for tourists giving them reasons to prolong their stays in Srinagar.

“We have to attract tourists with more services. If we provide them new additional services and activities, they will prolong their stays in Kashmir which will create more livelihood opportunities for the locals,” believes Mehraj-ud-din. The giant balloon uses helium gas to hover in air which they import from Qatar. “We are investing huge amount in this services. Besides investing around Rs 2.70 croes, we have Rs 13 lakhs yearly expenses. But we know, this will attract good number of tourists and locals who will want to enjoy the ride and get aerial view of the Dal Lake,” says Mehraj-ud-din.

Kashmir Eye has employed at least 10 local youth who run the service from morning to evening at Zabarwan Park. The tourists can enjoy the rides from 8.30 am to under normal weather conditions. Mehraj-ud-din has already introduced white water rafting in Pahalgam in 2004 which also has become a huge success.

Tourists and locals are enjoying the joy rides in the rafts now in Pahalgam and in Sonamarg which has also given opportunity to many unemployed youth to earn decent livelihood from this tourism sector.

Kashmir Eye future projects

Mega eco-adventure amusement park In order to provide world class adventure-cum-recreational facilities at one place to the tourists, Kashmir Eye plans to develop a mega eco-adventure amusement park in Kangan of Ganderbal District. The park will come at an estimated cost of Rs 25 crores on 100 kanals of land which Kashmir Eye expects would employ about 500 local youth.

The tourists will get to have a rollercoaster ride in the Valley at this park besides they can enjoy ice-skating, roller-skating, swimming and other aquatic recreational activities for children. The park will also have a big conference hall for MICE tourism. The park is expected to be ready by two years of time.

“We will invest heavily for adventure and tourism services. We have best natural environs and resources which we have not utilized for tourism activities. We can’t emerge as the best tourist destination unless we provide good recreational activities for the tourists. We will come up first ever and biggest eco-adventure amusement park in Kangan,” said Mehraj-ud-din.


Though Kashmir offers ample opportunity for parasailing, the activity has not been introduced at the commercial level. It was introduced in Kashmir on water in Dal Lake Aero Sports Association of J&K in 2006 to organize courses for youth.

Kashmir Eye also plans to introduce parasailing at commercial level in Srinagar. “We will also introduce winch-controlled parasailing in Srinagar. We have enormous potential in tourism sector which youth should use for their livelihood,” suggests Mehraj.


Mehraj-ud-din has invested his past 32 years in adventure tourism. From a local snow-ski instructor 32 years ago, Mehraj now claims to be a third highest foreign exchange earner from adventure tourism in Nepal.

At the age of 25, Mehraj-ud-din completed his first basic snow ski course in 1974. It was the first ever course organized in Gulmarg. Former Kashmir University adventure coach Mohammad Yusuf Mandoo and Mehraj-ud-din were the only two participants in this course from Srinagar. Later Mehraj completed ski-instructor course in 1979 before flying to Switzerland to do advanced ski-course. Besides, helping tourists in snow skiing in Gulmarg, Mehraj-ud-din earned his livelihood as a tourists guide. Mehraj-ud-din also introduced paragliding in Sonamarg. However, after the militancy hit tourism sector in Valley in late 80’s, Mehraj-ud-din shifted to Nepal for his services in adventure activities.

In Nepal, Mehraj-ud-din organized adventure trips in trekking, rock climbing, river rafting for foreigners. This time, the Kashmiri adventure guide, attracts 2500 foreigners from Australia, New Zeeland, UK, USA, Canada to Nepal for adventure activities. As the situation improved in Valley, Mehraj-ud-din resumed his adventure activities back home and launched white-water rafting in Pahalgam under Highland Excursion India Private Limited in 2004. The white water rafting has become an instant hit among visitors at this scenic spot which is bestowed with gushing streams and waterfall.

“Today, in Pahalgam, there are 18 rafting companies which provide livelihood to over hundred people,” said Mehraj-ud-din.

The river rafting has also become popular in Sonamarg where couple of companies also provides services to the tourists.