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 4, 2012

"Brick Mafia"

Necessity being the mother of invention, yet another mafia comes into existence to extract their share from wealthy Kashmiris

Illegal Brick Kilns Mushrooming in Budgam'

Srinagar: Even as the authorities have threatened action against the black marketing of bricks and illegal kilns, several such kilns are coming up in district Budgam, while the prices are shooting up to Rs 7 per brick.

Brick makers say the menace is likely to threaten Kashmir’s Rs 600 crore brick manufacturing industry. When contacted, District Development Commissioner, Budgam, Khursheed A Shah admitted that the government order issued in this behalf, continues to be violated in the district, which houses 205 kilns out of Valley’s total 294 brick making units.

“We are trying to implement the government rates, which are Rs 4400 per thousand for Grad A, and Rs 3100 for Grade B,” Shah said, adding that the violations continue “because the consumers rarely write complaints.” Sources said that over half a dozen new brick kilns have come up in Kaneer Ranger, Kathair Gund, Chitru and Nasrullah Pora areas of the district.

Shah did not rule out illegal constructions of kilns saying that the district administration had insufficient manpower to check the menace. “We don’t have bulldozers to pull down the illegal structures. Police cover is often not available. But we are still trying to implement the government directions as effectively as we could,” he said, adding that a survey was being conducted to list the kilns operating without “proper registration.”

Sources said some brick kilns, which were earlier asked to close down “because they had not official sanction have started functioning again with the official connivance.” The Deputy Commissioner of Budgam, however, said no such complaint was formally lodged with his office. Official records show that there are 205 brick kilns in Budgam, 40 in Pulwama, 35 in Islamabad (Anantnag) and 14 in Kulgam. Average production from each kiln, depending on weather conditions, touches 25 lakh bricks per season.

The industry that directly employs nearly one lakh persons, most of them outsiders, experts say, records an annual turnover of Rs 600 crore. Brick makers have long been lobbying with the government for a “mutually agreed upon rate list”, but the authorities, they allege, have come out with a unilateral tariff.

“We tell them (Govt) let’s mutually discuss and fix a price because the just released price list is illogical. There has been tremendous hike in the prices of raw material especially coal. One truckload of coal now costs Rs 40,000 more than it used to cost last year. If the government agrees to a mutually fixed rate, then that needs to be enforced with seriousness,” said a brick maker from Budgam. (Greater Kashmir)

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