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.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Yes, This Too is Kashmir

Sadaf takes us on a personal journey that suddenly seems so distant and surreal

(Dr. Sadaf Munshi, 38, was born in Srinagar and received her early schooling there. She completed her B.Sc in Bio-sciences from the University of Kashmir, followed by a M.A. and M.Phil in the Department of Linguistics from the Delhi University, and her doctorate (Ph.D.) from the Department of Linguistics at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in Burushaski. She is currently the Assistant Professor in Linguistics and Technical Communication, at the University of North Texas (UNT) in tenure track. She has written columns for Kashmir Observer, Rising Kashmir, and Kashmir Times. She is also an artist and a poet.)


As a child I grew up in a fairly peaceful period of Kashmir, listening to the stories of Heemaal-Nagray, Zehra Let, Lal Ded and Haba Khatoon. Weekends were spent waiting for Doordarshan to broadcast the one and only Hindi movie a week on a well-to-do neighbor's black-n-white television set. Life was quite laid back and everything was seemingly normal. My ancestral home was situated in one of the narrow lanes of a small neighborhood by the banks of river Jhelum. The locality is named Khankahi Sokhta, or in Kashmiri Dodmut Khankah, which literally means 'the burnt shrine'. The name always intrigued me, though I still do not know about the shrine after which the area was named. There were mosques – both Shi'a and Sunni mosques, and there was a Hindu temple in the area. It was a fairly cosmopolitan neighborhood.

After school, we would play saza-long (hop-scotch) and tule-langun (another game popular among Kashmiri girls in those days). In the evenings I would take private tuition lessons from my Hindu (Pandit) teacher who lived a few blocks away. After the tuition lessons, I would often stand by the kitchen door observing the lady of the house as she cooked for dinner -- dam-olav 'steamed potatoes made with seasoned curry', neni-haakh 'mutton and collard greens,' and so forth. However, that was the boundary-line. Being a Muslim, I was not allowed in the inner parts of the kitchen by the Pandit household. Further, my mother – a conservative and devout Muslim – had strictly advised me not to eat their food lest I should be committing a gonah ('sin') for which I "will receive a punishment in the hereafter." It would be okay, however, to eat dry snacks or cookies as these were bought from the market in sealed packages. It did not matter who made those cookies; as long as you didn't know, it was Halaal.
Sometimes, I would break the rules of communal discipline and disturb the purification rituals of my mother by deliberately mixing the cups and saucers she had kept aside for use by the non-Muslim guests with the rest that were for use by the family and other guests. My father, who was more secular and open-minded than my mother, would often make fun of her by reminding her of an incident many years ago when Toth, my grandfather, had singled out my father's only Pandit friend at their wedding reception. Grandfather had made a fuss about the fact that he had had to arrange a separate meal for the groom's Pandit friend who would not have shared, nor been able to share a plate with a Muslim (In a traditional Kashmiri Muslim wedding, four people eat together from the same plate called Traem; for a Hindu and a Muslim to eat from the same plate would be no less than a blasphemy). On Heirat, or Shivaratri, however, everybody at home would impatiently wait for and merrily relish the water-soaked walnuts (heirat-dooyn) offered by the Pandits. I also had the fortune to enjoy some Pandit weddings in the neighborhood – listening to Henzee, the Hindu version of the traditional Kashmiri folk song Vanvun, admiring the rangoli, dancing and singing along with other girls.

Coming from a fairly conservative family, I had learned to follow a strict Islamic dress code from when I was 9 years old. This, however, was not a common trend in the Kashmir of the eighties. In fact, I was the only girl in my classroom to observe hijaab. Women were quite up-to-date when it came to fashion. Figure-hugging Kameez and skin-tight Shalwaars were in vogue; purdah was only popular in certain families. Burqa was already viewed as old-fashioned. Nevertheless, traditional Kameez-Shalwar was the most acceptable dress code for women. Many women would put the thin georgette or chiffon dupatta over their head as a mark of respect in front of elders and remove it elsewhere. Occasionally, I would see a young woman or two in western clothing walking in a neighborhood street and, like many other girls, secretly admire them. Cinema halls were a common recreation for the young and the old. A number of movie theaters were running in the city – Palladium, Shiraz, Khayyam, Neelam, Firdaus and Regal; many parts of the city are still named after these cinema halls, though none of them exists today. As a child I participated in sports and other activities at school-- race competitions, singing, dancing performances, and so on. And on Independence Day we sang Allamah Iqbal's composition saare jahan se accha Hindostan hamara.

During those days of my childhood, the majority of the Kashmiri people were divided along the Sher-Bakra political lines (and in a way still are, though the terms are outdated nowadays). Sher ('lion') and Bakra ('goat') were the terms originally used for the two political rivals and later their followers – Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah and Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah (the latter for sporting a beard; Shah was the uncle of Mirwaiz Muhammad Farooq, the father of the current Mirwaiz, Maulana Umar Farooq). Sheikh Abdullah had, in 1938, parted ways from the Muslim Conference to form National Conference, which became the largest political party in Jammu & Kashmir claiming a secular ideology. Pertinently, it was Mirwaiz Yousuf Shah, later his political opponent, who had initially introduced Sheikh as the president of the Muslim Conference at its inception in 1930. Sher-Bakra became a very strict political dichotomy in Kashmir after 1938 and continued over generations. Ironically it was Sheikh Abdullah who launched the Quit Kashmir movement in 1946 when Yusuf Shah had supported the government led by the Maharaja. Two groups that were more or less outside the purview of this blanket distinction of Sher-Bakra were the minority Shi'a and the Pundit community, whose loyalties to the either side were generally suspect. Often one would have to face questions like: "Are you Sher or Bakra?" Imagine the disappointment and surprise if you were to say, "Neither" and/or the sense of fear at being encountered with a supporter of the opposite side. This was besides: "Are you Shi'a or Sunni?" -- a question I often had to face at school. It was very common in the Kashmiri society to identify people through these denominations. My father used to tell us stories about how my aunt would sit by the windowsill, watching people come and go on the street, and wondering, "Is he Shi'a or Sunni?"

There was one more subtle division -- amongst the Kashmiri Muslim sections – that of supporting either India or Pakistan during a cricket match. This, however, was not a very clear-cut division. Within my own family we had supporters of both the countries. So, there always used to be a possibility of "conflict" during a cricket match. Pictures and paintings of Quaid-e-Azam (Jinnah) and Allamah Iqbal decorated the walls of almost every Muslim household. These figures were highly revered and even deified by many elders, so much so, that any "disrespectful" comment was highly admonished and disapproved of. I often used to wonder why somebody in my family would support Pakistan and not "Hindustan", their own country, during a cricket match, or why a fellow Muslim girl in my school would sometimes put butter on the bald head of Mahatma Gandhi on a picture hanging in our classroom. But then I realized later that for many of these people "Pakistan" was simply an ideology, an emotional matter, something they had been associating themselves with since its very inception. Many friends and close family members, which included my father's and my mother's immediate cousins, aunts and uncles, lived across the border; brothers and sisters, even husbands and wives were separated. It had been a very cruel partition back then in 1947.

I remember it was September 1982 when the "Lion" of Kashmir -- Sher-e-Kashmir, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah passed away. We were told that his body was kept in a refrigerator for a few days before it was put to rest in a grave next to the famous Dargah (Hazratbal) on the banks of the Nageen Lake in Srinagar. Hordes and hordes of people had gathered in the Iqbal Park to pay homage to the deceased Lion. My grandfather carried me on his shoulders so I did not get trampled upon or lost in the maddening crowd. It was a great frenzy. There were people everywhere -- on the ground, on treetops, on every thing they could possibly hold on to -- to get the last glimpse of Sheikh Sahab. Some said that his giant body could not fit in the coffin. Such was the strength he had exhibited and the charisma associated with him during his lifetime that people did not believe that Sher-e-Kashmir could actually die. Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister, had arrived to pay her tributes as well. Many days followed in quiet mourning and disbelief. Sheikh's son Dr. Farooq Abdullah became the next chief minister.

Over the course of its electoral history, the central government, for a record, never allowed a single dominant political party to successfully emerge or flourish in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Dr. Farooq's nascent government collapsed in 1984 when the Governor Jagmohan dismissed him; apparently, the Congress-led government at the Center was not happy with the rise of the National Conference. A Congress-led government was put in place with Abdullah's brother-in-law, Ghulam Muhammad Shah, as the new chief minister. Shah too was replaced after a short span of time in 1986 by a new Congress-National Conference government, again led by Abdullah. Shah's reign was a particularly unstable period in Kashmir. A new party, Muslim Mutahida Mahaaz, or Muslim United Front, came into existence in 1987 and apparently managed to garner a strong support base. The party, however, could not win the (notoriously "rigged") 1987 elections (which gave rise to armed insurgency in Kashmir) against the Congress-National Conference alliance, and Abdullah became the CM once again.

While all these political changes were taking place, Kashmiri politics entered an era of increasing communal influence. A lot of madrasas (Islamic schools) had mushroomed in many parts of the Valley. For us, girls, a women's organization to impose a strict Islamic dress code, had been established in 1987. The 'daughters of the nation' Dukhtaran-e-Millat (led by Asiya Andrabi) became the women's aide to the freedom fighting organizations in the years to come. Post-1989, the 'daughters' would pay regular visits to schools and colleges providing lectures on azaadi and shariyah. A strict dress code was imposed, which included, for a short period, wearing burqa. A number of hand grenades were hurled at women crowds near educational institutions on the pretext of not observing purdah. There were incidents of smearing girls with color if they did not follow the rules. This was one of the worst forms of public humiliation for women of "respected families," and hence led to an immense pressure of following the norm. Non-Muslim women were instructed to disclose their identity by wearing a bindi on their foreheads lest they were not made a target in mistake.

1989-90 was the landmark year when life came to a standstill in Kashmir; all fun activities came to an end for us. I was taking my tenth class examinations when I found myself amidst the first crossfire. During that period I lived at my maternal grandparents' house in Kamangar Pora, a small neighborhood very close to Jamia Masjid -- the grand mosque in Srinagar. Jamia Masjid and its surrounding areas became the epicenter of political activity in the coming years. For the first time we heard about mujahids (Islamic militants pursuing a holy war, Jehad, in Kashmir) having arrived from across the border in order to "liberate Kashmir from the Indian occupation". We also heard about the "UN Resolutions", "the promise of Plebiscite by Jawaharlal Nehru," and the "(forced) cultural domination of Hindustan." What followed was an atmosphere of extreme tension on the one hand and an immense enthusiasm amongst the (Muslim) youth to "fight for freedom" on the other. Songs of azaadi were broadcast on Radio Azad Kashmir and aired from the loudspeakers of the local mosques: watan hamara azaad Kashmir 'our homeland is Azaad Kashmir', jaago jaago subah hui 'Wake up, wake up the morning is here.' Slogans of azaadi resounded on the streets, from the rooftops of the houses, at night and in the broad daylight. More and more young people – teenagers, little boys aged 12, 13 and onwards -- were recruited for the "freedom struggle."

Anybody who was seen as a threat to the "movement" or as being a mukhbir '(government) informant' became a target. The minority communities -- the Shi'a Muslims and the Pandits -- were warned to either "join the movement or face the consequences". I still remember when the head of Tehseen Billa, an alleged mukhbir belonging to the minority Shi'a community, was seen flying in our neighborhood near Kamangar Pora reportedly in a grenade attack; the entire locality was dumbfounded. In a similar incident, a retired sessions judge from the Pandit community, Neel Kanth Ganjoo was killed at Hari Singh High Street. Ganjoo had held Maqbool Bhatt, the co-founder of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, guilty of a said crime back in 1984 after which Bhat had been hanged to death (Note that the death sentence was in fact upheld by Justice Murtaza Fazal Ali; supporters of Bhatt alleged that the verdict was given in a hasty manner. Further the court had denied handing over the remains and the belongings of Maqbool Bhatt to his family). Having foreseen the consequences of not joining the "freedom struggle," which was initially largely a Sunni-dominated movement, the Shi'a community finally succumbed to the pressure; the Pandits, however, did not see a future within what was very likely projected to become an Islamic state, and, therefore, opted to stay aloof. Many killings, kidnappings and death threats took place in the times to come.

By the winter of 1990, the situation had so drastically changed that it seemed as if azaadi were round the corner. People started talking about Pakistan as if it were our imminent destination. Many even changed their clocks half-an-hour behind. Slogans of Pakistan se rishta kya: laa-ilaha-illallah ('what is our relationship with Pakistan? La-ilaha-illallah (Arabic. There is one and only one God)'), azaadi ka matlab kya: laa-ilaha-illallah ('what is the meaning of azaadi (freedom)? La-ilaha-illallah'), became more and more vocal on the streets and on the loudspeakers of the local mosques. It became more and more evident that it was a "movement" towards the formation of a conservative Islamic state where mullahs and maulanas stood at the forefront of giving directions for what was claimed to be a "political struggle for independence". Most of the political speeches were offered from the pulpit of the Jamia Masjid. Often the armed militants sought refuge in mosques or shrines; what followed would be the "desecration" of the shrine/mosque by the security forces and bloodbath.

In January 1990, Jagmohan was reappointed as governor to control the situation and crush the rebellion. Within a day or so, people gathered in overwhelming numbers protesting at Gowkadal (Maisuma, Srinagar) and chanting slogans of hum kya chahate: azaadi ('what do we want: freedom'), yahan kya chalega: nizame-mustafa ('what will prevail here: the order/government of (the Prophet) Muhammad'). About fifty people were killed on the spot when the Central Reserve Police Force opened fire on the protesters. One of my neighbors had been caught under a pile of dead and injured; for a minute, he thought he "was dead". Blood-smeared bodies of people were horrific to look at. We closed our eyes and howled: it was a gory episode. Amidst this entire frenzy, the small population of the Kashmiri Pandits was petrified by an all-abiding fear, terrified and cringed. Truckloads of Pandits left the valley in the dark of the night on January 21, 1990 and many more followed suit in the next three months or so. An extraordinary silence followed. Many people from the majority community saw the exodus as a "conspiracy by the governor" who was planning "a large-scale operation to kill Muslims indiscriminately" in order to clean the valley of the mujahids and "crush the movement." Nevertheless, the migration of Pandits was largely seen as temporary, and it was believed that "within a few months the situation will be stable and the Pandits will return." That, unfortunately, was never meant to happen.

For us, the leaving of the Pandits meant no more Hindi teachers in schools. Some of the very dear friends were never to be seen again. No heirat walnuts, no more bhajans to be heard from the nearby temples, no more visiting Pandit neighbors and friends. The deserted homes of the Pandits slowly turned into ghost houses. The militants occupied some, while others became the abode for the security forces; some lucky ones, however, were able to sell theirs off (some of these sales were "distress sales" and properties were sold for peanuts).

My first encounter with a Kashmiri Pandit as an adult was after a period of about eight years in the winter of 1996-97. I had left Kashmir to pursue a Masters program in the University of Delhi. On my first day in the women's hostel, while tightening the laces on my sports shoes in front of the hostel canteen, I was greeted by someone who turned out to be a Kashmiri Pandit girl— "Hi! Are you Kashmiri?" I could not hide my Kashmiri look; my nose was a testimony to my identity. I said, "Yes!" Soon after we exchanged a brief greeting and our names, the question that followed put me in a state of great unease: "The entire Kashmiri Pandit community was uprooted from their homeland. Who do you think was responsible for it?" I felt like the whole world had come to an end, the earth had shattered and the ground was slipping from beneath my feet. I did not have an answer. I do not have an answer.

The migration of the Kashmiri Pandits was the strongest blow to the Kashmiri ethos of Hindu-Muslim communal harmony and the much-harped notion of Kashmiriyat ('Kashmiriness'). A stringent bitterness and suspicion had developed between the two communities, which continued and crystallized over the two decades or so post 1990. After leaving the Valley, many Pandits had lived in extreme circumstances, in makeshift tents in refugee camps in Jammu and Delhi for years to come. Only the affluent ones had been able to find better opportunities and better places. The hot weather of the plains did not suit the people who were used to the lush green valleys and the snow-covered mountains. The pain of separation from the beautiful homeland, reshwair ('valley of saints') and the anger and dissatisfaction at the silence of the majority community as well as the government's incapability in rehabilitating them was immeasurable. Back home in Kashmir, the majority community was busy wailing over the loss over the years and the atrocities and human rights violations by the security forces. Tens of thousands of people had lost their lives – some fighting for freedom, some innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire and some soldiers on the roadside. A strong void had developed between the two separated communities, which seemed to be widening over the course of time. There was an increasing need of a sense of acknowledgement of the pain and suffering from each side.

Today, when I look back at these many years of great yearning and loss, I inspire myself by these powerful lines attributed to Lal Ded, the mystic poet of the 14th century Kashmir:

Shiv chuy thali thali rav zaan

Mau zaan Hyund ta Musalman

'Lord Shiva abides in everything that is,

Do not differentiate between a Hindu and a Muslim'

Perhaps that day is bound to come when the expectations are met, the acknowledgements are exchanged.

Land of Barbarians

Dr. Iftikar ponders on societal response to Kashmir's greatest tragedy

A Society Which Sleeps Over the Deaths of 500 Infants

Dr Iftikar (Rising Kashmir)

If you want to know that society which slept over the death of 500 tender souls, just look around and then look at your own self, you will surely find it. As state subjects, we all are equally responsible for these deaths as is the government of our state. ‘Kashir Manz chini kah health care, yeti mare insan Tap seeth’ these are the most common words which all of us use, when we need medical facilities or when we carry someone to hospital. Trust me; this is our only contribution to medical setup of the state.

Proactive, intellectual, educational class is the backbone of any society which we have but when it comes to doing good for a healthy society, almost everyone is a failure. I am not provoking any one for ‘kani jang’ against the government but yes I am provoking every one for being a responsible positive and constructive citizen.

In 2012, we lost nearly 500 infants due to one reason or the other. These figures could have been controlled and reduced by 50 percent but unfortunate approach of Medical education Minister and his team left us nowhere. If it would not have been our local media which highlighted these unfortunate deaths, the rate would have been much higher. Thousands of kids at an alarming rate would have been lost. It could have been possible the way government and our Society responded to these 500 deaths.

Apart from media, the personnel intervention of CM on regular basis improved the setup to reasonable level. After all he himself is a father of two kids. His role needs to be appreciated considering the improvements that happened in GB Pant hospital, valley’s only pediatric hospital, after the fiasco. At the same time, being head of the state, he is responsible for whatever happened.

As far as the Health Minister of the state is concerned, it is an irony that he is still occupying the chair. Strange very strange. I am not against him. I don’t even know him but can someone please tell me what he and his team had been doing for months together which brought the system down to the level of a disaster.

Ventilator tubes are supposed to be changed from patient to patient or sterilized but take a shocker here. For 6 months they were not changed. It was shameful of such doctors, who used to put babies on these ventilators which proved to be the major cause of deaths. Allegations of strong drug mafia, PG student being forced to give money and even forced to prescribe specific brand medicines are no small allegations. All this continued for three-four months. Bohat shor howa, sabne afsoos kiya, HOD attach hova, kahani khatam.

There are many organizations working for the development of J&K but no one came forward to raise a question. GB Pant mess also brought to surface the confused and divided political control in the congress. Peerzada’s resignation came so fast as if he had himself copied in the exams. I am not defending him rather I am trying to understand is copying a more serious crime than a criminal negligence which led to 500 deaths?

Every political party is getting ready for2014. No one is speaking against the deaths. Even the opposition has decided not to utter a word. Open assaults were made by CM on the credibility of Health Minister but even that didn’t make any visible impact. May be Delhi had a greater say.

I hope that the Hon’lbe Health Minister does not get angry at me. I wanted to take these things out of my mind. Don’t mind. By the way, in your opinion, who is responsible for these hospital deaths? Somebody needs to answer.

Alarming Deaths, No Outrage

Why is it that no one cares about the quality of medical care in Kashmir? The numbers are as shocking as they are disturbing

After GB Panth, Deaths in SKIMS Shock People

Early Times Report

srinagar, Aug 28: Even as the state is yet to recover from the shock of infant deaths in GB Panth hospital, official documents with Early Times reveal that the SKIMS is no different as far as mortality rate is concerned. The documents show that 3400 deaths have occurred in the Valley's lone super specialty hospital from January 2011 to July 31, 2012.

The neurosurgery department, documents reveal heads the list with 714 deaths. It is followed by neurology with 626 deaths and urology department with 602 deaths.

The Accountant General of the state ascribes the reason to alarming death rate to lack of staff and infrastructure. The audit party of the accountant general's office has exposed the rot behind the rosy picture projected by the management.

The party said the hospital's casualty and accident/ emergency ward was overcrowded, dingy and shabby. The party found patients lying on the floor outside the casualty. There are some wheel chairs but no nurses to ferry the patients."
The audit party found long queues of patients at different counters waiting for their turn. Pertinent to mention the hospital can cater to needs of 600 patients on a daily basis in the out patients department (OPD). But it receives around 1200 patients.

There is acute shortage of drugs in the hospital, said the audit party. Even normal saline (glucose) is not available in the super specialty hospital. The patients have to purchase it from the market. Curiously the Institute purchases drugs worth crores of rupees every year but the patients have to rush to the market for most of the medicines, a senior doctor said.

The mortality rate attracted the attention of Speaker, Mohammad Akber Lone. He has constituted a committee of the members of the house to investigate the alarming death rate. The committee has not submitted its report.

The Ostrich Syndrome

An editorial in the Rising Kashmir asks readers to recognize turmoil among the young people

Alarming Situation

It is high time for people in the society to come out with a strategy to fight the menace of suicide

The rate of suicides in Kashmir valley is increasing alarmingly. Only in three days seven young boys and girls took this extreme step in the jurisdiction of one police station in north Kashmir. Out of those seven four have died. Suicide is part of giving vent to frustration related to failure in one’s endeavour to achieve some goal. By that standard it is part of the long list of evils in the society.

However, Kashmir being a Muslim majority region, Islam as a religion also strictly prohibits such an act and even there is restriction on offering the funeral prayers of such a person. However, given the societal compulsions the clerics also remain tight-lipped over the issue. This could have proven to be a deterrent in decreasing the number of such incidents. As rightly pointed out by leading psychiatrist of Valley Dr Arshid Hussain, the trend has gained momentum due to degradation in socio-religious and cultural values in the society.

It is pertinent to mention here that most of the attempts of suicide are related to failed love affairs between a boy and a girl as parents generally do not approve of such a relation and disallow the marriages which they think are against the set standards of Kashmiri society. It is also a fact that Islam allows the liking and disliking in choosing ones life partner and gives maximum space to manoeuvre on that but that cannot come as a result of waywardness. There have been more than 1100 reported cases of suicide in Valley in one year. This is an astounding rate and needs to be countered.

It is high time for the right thinking people in the society to come out with a strategy to fight this menace. This is spreading like the drug addiction, which is also taking heavy toll of youth. There is strong need of introducing moral education in the school curriculum and revert back to teaching of Dinyat at the primary and middle level. While parents also have responsibility to ensure proper upbringing, the clerics and Imams of mosques could play an important role in disseminating the guidelines for being good human beings. Giving much access to mobiles and Internet to young kids is also an important tool, which drives them towards such a disastrous path. Technological advancement can be used for doing good to society and these should not be used for acquiring status symbol and showing one another down. The penetration of mobiles, Internet and the Television has badly affected the Kashmiri society. Serials on various TV channels are also playing a dangerous role in shaping the young minds in this direction. It is time for us to ponder over these issues to put a break on a phenomenon such as suicides that is taking a heavy toll.

Building a Culture of Quality

Ashraf has a lengthy explanation about what Quality means which is necessary given that Quality is treated as an oxymoron in Kashmir

(Mr. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili, 68, was born in Srinagar. He received his early schooling from the Government Middle School, Nowhatta, Srinagar, and from M.P. High School, Baghi Dilawar Khan in Srinagar. Mr. Fazili completed his F.Sc. from the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar, and received his Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the Annamalai University with honours grade. He joined the J&K government service upon graduation and steadily rose up the ranks to the position of Chief Engineer at his retirement. He managed a number of important infrastructure projects during his government service, including the Model Town Chrar-i-Sharif, Lower Jhelum Hydro Electric Project, Solid Waste Disposal Scheme Srinagar City, Circular Road Project Srinagar City, etc. He has numerous publications to his credit, including Srinagar the Sun City, Our Ancestors and Saints of Kashmir, etc., which were presented in seminar and symposia. He writes for various journals and is presently working on the Jhelum Valley Civilization.)


In J&K State many huge and small construction activities are in progress almost in all the districts, but who monitors their quality control carries a big question mark. Normally the engineer in charge has to satisfy himself for the prescribed quality of the end product after getting the samples tested from a licensed laboratory. Whether the private laboratories existing in J&K State are licensed to carry out the required tests needs to be got verified. Sometimes the tests are got performed in the laboratories of the NIT with some charges shared by the Institution and the staff, who again have to be properly registered by the competent authority for conducting the tests. The test results need to be got counterchecked at other places too to ensure their authenticity, in the interest of the safety of structures involving the risk of lives of many people. Setting up of testing laboratories for the engineering construction duly licensed by the competent authority is a must for ensuring effective quality control. It has to be watched that the tests are got conducted confidentially and that the executing agency is not allowed to exercise its influence to obtain the test results of its choice from the testing laboratories as has been suspected earlier.

The fair testing is all the more necessary as our J&K State falls in high seismic zone and with poor bearing capacity of the soil, needs safe structures to save lives on any unforeseen catastrophe.

In my engineering course in sixties, we were told about a 16 story structure that was near completion in Mumbai. The engineer and the architect were sipping coffee in the next building at the 16th story level. On one sip they looked on the building getting completed and on taking another sip, they saw there was no building and it had crumbled down killing about 300 workers.

Investigations revealed that the quality of steel was substandard, besides the construction was resumed from the plinth level after a pause of several months and the surface was not cleaned properly to join with the new concrete. Proper overlaps were not provided in the steel. The case took a couple of years to decide and the Engineer in charge and the contractor had to suffer punishment imposed by the concerned justice late Mr.M.C.Chagla.

Another incident related by an engineer of our state, who served on a bridge construction in USA in sixties, stated that the bridge on which he was working along with other engineers collapsed on its inauguration. The Government spent double the cost of bridge to investigate the cause of failure. It was revealed that one important aspect of design was not taken into consideration and a circular was issued to consider this missing aspect of design henceforth and the engineer in-charge was awarded for providing the fraternity a chance to include this missing aspect of design in future constructions. This is quite unbecoming of our state of affairs, where engineers are discouraged on every defect, which may not be their fault.

While constructing a building in seventies, I was representing the executing agency and the departmental designer had to furnish the design details of the reinforcement. Two identical cantilever slabs with a span of seven feet were to be laid as portico. The main steel was shown bent at the very entrance point itself, which was challenged by me. However the designer insisted on his being correct. After removing shuttering of one slab after a passage of about two months with due curing and all that, the slab collapsed within hours. Still the designer was adamant and stated that if his design is wrong, then the second slab should also collapse. As we removed the shuttering next day, this too collapsed within the same span of time.

Thereafter I gave the details as per the specifications and got laid the two slabs afresh, on which my boss was unhappy, as he wanted to recover the damages from the erring department, which would have even involved a punishment to the officer responsible.

Another example can be cited of a reputed designer, who furnished the design of a 40 ft. span beam stuffing the beam with over safe steel quantity, leaving hardly the needed cover over the steel rods. Again this was challenged by me, but since the authority had engaged him for the purpose, there was none to hear my plea, though I registered my protest. The beam developed hair cracks on removal of shuttering, which was bound to happen in absence of proper cover of the steel rods. The matter was exploited by others and I asked the boss to put the structure on load test, on which he asked, what shall happen, if it collapses. I told him the erring designer and others shall be taken to task. He however felt safety in eating the humble pie and the structure has stood for the past over two decades, but without raising a superstructure doubting its stability.
Thus any creation by mankind without quality control remains in the vortex of dubiety so far as its sustainability and acceptability are taken into consideration. From the stroke of a painter’s brush down to the task of making paper-made containers, this axiom holds good. And, in the art of engineering, no construction is acceptable without quality control. From the view point of this conception, a number of organizations like ISO, ASTM, AASHTO, BS, TRL, IRC, etc. have been evolved all over the world, especially in the developing world. The functions of these organizations are to find out ways and means to control the quality and to identify the norms of acceptability of building materials.

‘Quality control’ is a small coinage of words, but the extent of its related works is gigantic. All building materials are needed to be under quality control as far as possible for healthy existence by ensuring any construction work’s utility as per its design life. It is now the bare truth that no construction work is scientific without the provisions of quality control. In civil Engineering works, a laboratory with modern equipment is essential, and to run it well, skill engineers and technicians are needed.

Some states have taken the lead to make an all-out effort regarding quality control at the Government level. Specifications of work quality are an important feature of facility designs. Specifications of required quality and components represent part of the necessary documentation to describe a facility. Typically, this documentation includes any special provisions of the facility design as well as references to generally accepted specifications to be used during construction.

General specifications of work quality are available in numerous fields and are issued in publications of organizations such as the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), or the Construction Specifications Institute (CSI). Distinct specifications are formalized for particular types of construction activities, such as welding standards issued by the American Welding Society, or for particular facility types, such as the Standard Specifications for Highway Bridges issued by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. These general specifications must be modified to reflect local conditions, policies, available materials, local regulations and other special circumstances.

In recent years, performance specifications have been developed for many construction operations. Rather than specifying the required construction process, these specifications refer to the required performance or quality of the finished facility. The exact method by which this performance is obtained is left to the construction contractor. For example, traditional specifications for asphalt pavement specified the composition of the asphalt material, the asphalt temperature during paving, and compacting procedures.

In contrast, a performance specification for asphalt would detail the desired performance of the pavement with respect to impermeability, strength, etc. How the desired performance level was attained would be up to the paving contractor. In some cases, the payment for asphalt paving might increase with better quality of asphalt beyond some minimum level of performance Quality control in construction typically involves insuring compliance with minimum standards of material and workmanship in order to insure the performance of the facility according to the design. These minimum standards are contained in the specifications described in the previous section. For the purpose of insuring compliance, random samples and statistical methods are commonly used as the basis for accepting or rejecting work completed and batches of materials. Rejection of a batch is based on non-conformance or violation of the relevant design specifications.

Procedures for this quality control practice are described in the following sections.

An implicit assumption in these traditional quality control practices is the notion of an acceptable quality level which is a allowable fraction of defective items. Materials obtained from suppliers or work performed by an organization is inspected and passed as acceptable if the estimated defective percentage is within the acceptable quality level. Problems with materials or goods are corrected after delivery of the product.

In contrast to this traditional approach of quality control is the goal of total quality control. In this system, no defective items are allowed anywhere in the construction process. While the zero defects goal can never be permanently obtained, it provides a goal so that an organization is never satisfied with its quality control program even if defects are reduced by substantial amounts year after year. This concept and approach to quality control was first developed in manufacturing firms in Japan and Europe, but has since spread to many construction companies. The best known formal certification for quality improvement is the International Organization for Standardization’s ISO 9000 standard. ISO 9000 emphasizes good documentation, quality goals and a series of cycles of planning, implementation and review.

Total quality control is a commitment to quality expressed in all parts of an organization and typically involves many elements. Design reviews to insure safe and effective construction procedures are a major element. Other elements include extensive training for personnel, shifting the responsibility for detecting defects from quality control inspectors to workers, and continually maintaining equipment. Worker involvement in improved quality control is often formalized in quality circles in which groups of workers meet regularly to make suggestions for quality improvement. Material suppliers are also required to insure zero defects in delivered goods. Initally, all materials from a supplier are inspected and batches of goods with any defective items are returned. Suppliers with good records can be certified and not subject to complete inspection subsequently.

The traditional microeconomic view of quality control is that there is an “optimum” proportion of defective items. Trying to achieve greater quality than this optimum would substantially increase costs of inspection and reduce worker productivity. However, many companies have found that commitment to total quality control has substantial economic benefits that had been unappreciated in traditional approaches. Expenses associated with inventory, rework, scrap and warranties were reduced. Worker enthusiasm and commitment improved. Customers often appreciated higher quality work and would pay a premium for good quality. As a result, improved quality control became a competitive advantage.

Of course, total quality control is difficult to apply, particular in construction. The unique nature of each facility, the variability in the workforce, the multitude of subcontractors and the cost of making necessary investments in education and procedures make programs of total quality control in construction difficult. Nevertheless, a commitment to improved quality even without endorsing the goal of zero defects can pay real dividends to organizations.

Bureau of Indian Standards

Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) is a national standards body engaged in the preparation and implementation of standards, operation of certification schemes both for products and systems, organisation and management of testing laboratories, creating consumer awareness and maintaining close liaison with international standards bodies.


Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) came into existence, through an Act of Parliament on 1 April 1987, with a broadened scope and more powers taking over the staff, assets, liabilities and functions of erstwhile Indian Standards Institution (ISI) with following objectives.

Harmonious development of activities of standardization, marking and quality certification To provide new thrust to standardization and quality control To evolve a national strategy for according recognition to standards and integrating them with growth and development of Industrial production and exports.

BIS is involved in multifarious activities like Standards Formulation, Certification, Product/Schemes. Laboratory Services, International Activities, Consumer – related Activities, Promotional Activities, Training Services, Information services, Sale of Standards & Publications Standards formulation Under Standards formulation, it is engaged in formulation of Indian Standards for 14 sectors namely Chemicals, Food and Agriculture, Civil, Electrical, Electronics & Telecommunications and Information Technology, Mechanical Engineering, Management & Systems, Metallurgical Enginnering, Petroleum, Coal & related Products, Medical and Hospital Planning, Textile, Transport engineering and Production and General Engineering, Water Resources under Division Councils which have 308 Sectional Committees working under them. As on 31 March 2008, 18424 Standards formulated by BIS, are in force. These cover important segments of economy, which help the industry in upgrading the quality of their goods and services. BIS formulates need-based Indian Standards in line with the national priorities as a time-bound programme.

Product Certification Scheme

BIS Product Certification Scheme is basically voluntary in nature. However, keeping in view the health and safety of the consumer, it has been made mandatory for 68 items by the Government through various statutory measures such as Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, Coal Mines Regulations and Indian Gas Cylinders Rules besides BIS Act. Some of the items brought under mandatory certification on consideration of health and safety are milk powder, packaged drinking water, LPG cylinders, oil pressure stoves, clinical thermometers etc. As on 31 March 2008, 20025 certification marks licences are in operation under the Scheme, covering about 1000 different items ranging from food products to electronics.

All foreign manufacturers of products who intend to export to India are required to obtain a BIS product certification licence. Towards this, BIS launched its Product Certification Scheme for overseas manufacturers in the year 1999. Under the provisions of this scheme, foreign manufacturers can seek certification from BIS for marking their product(s) with BIS Standard Mark. Under this scheme, about 101 licences of foreign manufacturers in about 15 countries are in operation as on 31 March 2008. Under the scheme for Indian importers, Certification Marks Licence can be granted to Indian importers for the product imported into the country and are not covered under Regulatory Requirements. Indian importers can apply for BIS licence on such products and they are treated as Indian manufacturers. Three licences are in operation under this scheme. BIS also runs other certification schemes like IECEE-CB, IECQ and IECEs Schemes of IBC under different provisions. India is a certifying member of the IEC System of Quality Assessment of Electronic Components (IECQ) and IEC System for Conformity Testing to Standards for Safety of Electrical Equipment (IECEE). Further, BIS has taken new initiatives like simplification of procedure for grant of licence, basically to reduce the procedural time. This has yielded some encouraging results.


To support the activities of product certification, BIS has a chain of 8 laboratories. These laboratories have established testing facilities for products of chemical, food, electrical and mechanical disciplines.

Approximately, 25000 samples are being tested in the BIS laboratories every year. In certain cases where it is economically not feasible to develop test facilities in BIS laboratories and also for other reasons like overloading of samples, equipment being out of order, the services of outside approved laboratories are also being availed. Except for the two labs, all the other labs are NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration

Laboratiories) accredited. BIS has recognized about 116 laboratories for product certification purposes. BIS has undertaken the project of modernization of all its testing laboratories in order to increase the in-house capacity of testing of samples as well as to reduce the time taken in testing.


Hallmarking of Gold Jewellery started in April 2000 on voluntary basis under BIS Act 1986. It is aimed at to protect the consumer’s interest and providing third party assurance to consumers on the purity of gold. Till 31 Mar 2008, 91 hallmarking centers have been recognized. Since the launch of the scheme, over 5403 gold jewellers have taken licence from BIS, a figure which stood at 186 in the year 2001-02. So far, over 381 lakh jewellery articles have been hallmarked. The list of hallmarked jewellers with BIS licence and BIS recognised hallmarking centres has been hosted on BIS website. Under a similar scheme of Hallmarking of Silver, 405 licences have been granted since its launch in October 2005.

Management Systems Certificate

BIS runs other important systems certification schemes under the Management Systems Certification. Under Quality Management System Certification Scheme (QMSCS), which was launched in September 1991, the total number of operative licences as on 31 Mar 2008 is 1161 which has grown from the figure of 916 in 2001-2002. BIS Quality Management System Certification has been accredited by Raad voor Accreditatie (RvA) Netherlands for 23 major economic activities.

Under Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point Certification (HACCP) Integrated Scheme, 64 certified companies are under operation as on 31 March 2008. Under the Environmental Management Systems Certification Scheme (EMSCS), the total number of operative licences as on 31 March 2008 is 131 which has grown from a figure of 61 in 2001-02. Under the Occupational Health & Safety Management System (OH & SMS) Certification Scheme which was launched in January 2003, the total number of operative licences as on 31 Mar 2008 is 35.

Among the new Schemes, BIS has launched public Service Delivery Management systems as per IS 15700-2005 “Quality Management Systems – Requirements for Service Quality by Public Service Organizations.” in order to ensure minimum standards of service delivery in all sectors pertaining to or influenced by the government.

Enforcement activity

With the growth and popularity of the BIS Certification Marks Scheme, there have been instances of misuse of BIS Standard Mark also. BIS, therefore, lays emphasis on enforcement activity to stop misuse of Standard mark, enforcement raids are carried out and prosecution cases filed in the court of law wherever legally tenable. To strengthen this activity, two outsourced agencies have been engaged for providing intelligence and assisting in carrying out raids against offending parties for an initial period of one year in selected locations. The number of search and seizures operations carried out in 2007-08 stand at 125. Indian Standards Institution (ISI) World Standards Day is celebrated the world over to raise awareness and focus on the need for global standardization and its role in meeting the needs of consumers, trade and industry. It is celebrated on October 14 every year to mark the foundation of the International Organization for Standardization, popularly known as the ISO.

It was on this day in 1946 that 25 countries met in London and decided to create an international organization with the objective of facilitating international coordination and unification of industrial standards. The ISO started functioning in 1947 with the Indian Standards Institution as one of the founder members. Over the years, the membership of ISO has gone up with

130 member countries representing developed and developing economies.

In the twilight years of the British rule in India, when the country was faced with the gigantic task of laying the industrial infrastructure, it was the institution of Engineers (India), which prepared the first draft of the constitution of an Institution which could take up the task of formulation of National Standards. This led to the Department of Industries and Supplies issuing a memorandum on September 3, 1946 formally announcing the setting up of an organisation called the Indian Standards Institution. It was on January 6, 1947 that the ISI came into being and in June 1947 Dr. Lal C.

Verman took over as its first Director. Symbolic of the role, the Indian Standards Institution (I.S.I.) was to play the first standard drawn was for the National Flag of India.

Considerable progress has since been made by the Indian Standards Institution with its multifarious activities like standards formulation, certification, testing of products international cooperation and standards promotion. However, a need was felt to provide recognition and status to the organisation to enable it to discharge its functions effectively. Thus the Government enacted the Bureau of Indian Standards Act, 1986 which led to the establishment of the Bureau of Indian Standards as a statutory body on April 1, 1987.

Standardization is intrinsic to life and we see its many manifestations in nature and life around us. Standardization encourages improvement in the quality of life and makes major contributions to safety, public health and environment protection.

Standardization is based on the experiences of daily life itself. They are results of a cooperative effort, and revised from time to time to keep in step with technological progress. They provide us with a criteria for judgement, a measurement of quality and a certain guarantee of compatibility and interchange ability.

In the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), similar to standards bodies the world over, standards are formulated through technical committees which have representatives from the manufacturers, technical experts and users. The standards are documents of consensus which are finalized after taking the views of all those who may have an interest in it.

BIS plays the key role of holding the secretariat for the Technical Committees and collating and analysing the data and other information which may be required for formulating the standards. BIS has formulated nearly

17,000 standards which may be categorized as basic standards, product specifications and methods of test and codes of practices.

ISI Standard Mark

With the objective of satisfying the consumer in terms of product quality, the BIS has undertaken various quality certification activities. The domestic consumer is familiar with the ISI mark on a product which is an assurance that the product conforms to the requirements as laid down in the specification. Conformity to the standard is ensured through regular surveillance of the manufacturing process, surprise inspections and testing of samples drawn from the factory as well as from the market. Fraudulent and unauthorized use of the ISI mark is a violation of the law punishable under the BIS Act.

Quality Management System

There is a world-wide movement for installing Quality Management Systems in accordance with the IS/ISO 9000 series. In India also this has become a prime requisite for manufacturers and service sector units which wish to make an impact in the domestic and global markets. The concept of Quality Management Systems aims at quality control mechanism at every stage of a manufacturing or a service system and not just the quality of the end product as is the case with product certification.

With the growing concern for environment-friendly industrial activity, the ISO 14,000 series of standards were developed. After adopting these standards as national standards the BIS has also launched the Environment Management System Certification under which units may demonstrate their compliance with the ISO 14000 standards. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) Certification which again has acquired international recognition for certifying the safety of food manufacturing process has also been undertaken by the BIS. The Bureau of Indian Standards has also formulated IS 15000 : 1998 which is equivalent to the internationally accepted Codex standards.

Product Testing

BIS has established a chain of laboratories at different centres in the country for testing the conformity of certified products and also samples offered by applicants for grant of ISI mark. It also offers specialized services of calibration of test equipment and instruments and procurement of standard reference materials. They also undertake research and development for evolving speedy and effective test methods.

As a founder member of International Organization for Standardization (ISO), BIS continues to actively participate in international standardization. As a member of the ISO Council it participates in its policy-making bodies like the Committee on Developing Country matters (DEVCO), Committee on Conformity Assessment (CASCO), Committee on Information (INFCO) and Committee on Consumer Policy (COPOLCO). Besides, it also holds secretarial responsibilities of various Technical Committees and Subcommittees and maintains participation status and observer status on most of the Technical Committees.

BIS is also actively involved in International Electrotechnical Commission

(IEC) and has participation status or observer on all the important Technical Committees.

During the question hour in one of the seminars on Infrastructure Development in Middle East in Abu Dhabi in April 2012, I asked, ”What methods were adopted to ensure implementation of codes of practice and if the testing laboratories are licensed, which is necessary for ensuring the safety of the structures?” The reply was that regular tests were being conducted; besides implementation of the proper design was ensured by timely inspection by the authorities. In addition the testing facilities are being centralized under one roof, for which a central laboratory has been proposed to be constructed. In fact I found that the construction of a ten story block in our neighbourhood in Abu Dhabi was stalled by the Municipal authorities due to use of lesser than design requirements.

J&K Govt. needs to consider establishment of fully equipped laboratories, with skilled technical personal and due registration by the Bureau of Indian Standards to ensure the safety of upcoming structures and also get a review prepared on the existing public structures to suggest safety measures if needed. Precautions to be taken against fire hazards of our heritage buildings can also form a subject. The recent burning of Dastgeer Sahib Shrine at Khanyar should sound a beguile of warning for the authorities and safety measures need to be taken without any further delay, for which too responsibility needs to be got fixed.

Sex and a Single Kashmiri

Interesting take on contemporary social mores of the society

Wait for Government Jobs Delaying Marriages

Kashmir Monitor

Srinagar : Saima is working in a private firm for the last seven years and earns Rs 4,500 a month. Saima's family has been looking for a match for the 38-year-old post graduate in social science for the last eight years with no success.

Every time a matchmaker finds a suitable boy, the proposal has not fructified for reasons ranging from she is from downtown Srinagar to working in a private company and demand of dowry.

“Recently I was rejected by a family as the boy was unhappy that my house has no lawn and no parking space. Similarly, one of the family rejected me as I was working in a private company. I have lost hope of getting married now,” dejected Saima said.

The story of Iqra (36) from uptown Srinagar is no different. Her family has hired the services of at least three matchmakers to find suitable a boy for her. “However, when a suitable boy is available, the prospective groom rejects as my daughter isn’t in a government job. Boys prefer to marry girls with government jobs,” says Iqra’s father.

“Marriage of my daughter is already delayed by many years. As she is highly educated, we are looking for a suitable match further adding to the delay,” he added.

These aren’t the isolated cases in insurgency-hit Kashmir. There are thousands of Saimas and Iqras in Kashmir and especially in Srinagar who are not getting suitable grooms and some have even crossed the marriageable age limit.

With society holding employment as the basic “pre-req¬uisite” for getting married, the drying up of government jobs -- biggest employer in Kashmir-- has rendered thousands of educated youth ineligible for marriage.

Jehangir Ahmad, a post-graduate, says that fear of unemployment isn’t allowing him to get married. “It creates a sense of insecurity and frustration among marria¬geable boys and girls leaving them with an uncertain future,” he said.

The desire to go in for higher education has added to the rise in average marrying age in Kashmir, as higher education follo¬wed by “proper” employment is a highly time-taking process in Kashmir.

According to unofficial estimates, there are thousands of boys and girls in Srinagar alone who have either crossed or are about to cross the marriageable age.

As unemployment is growing in Kashmir, most of the hapless souls are dependent on their parents and the very realisation of being a burden on their families is stopping them from marrying and taking additional responsibilities.

A recent survey conducted by Kashmir University’s Sociology Department reveals that dowry and rampant unemployment were the chief reasons for delayed marri¬ages.

The study “Emergence of late marriages in Kashmir” says that the average marrying age has increased from 24 to 32 years in boys and for females 21 to 28 years in the last two decades.

The other alarming aspect, the survey reveals, is the emergence of pre-marital sex in an otherwise conservative Kashmiri society. “There is an inverse relationship between late marriages and the practices of pre-marital and extra-marital relations among the youth.

Out of 1,500 respondents, more than 64 per cent revealed that late marriages caused and effected the pre-marital relations among the youngsters,” it reveals. Since sex is a biological need, the youth want to satisfy themselves through any means.

“At least 182 respondents said that sex control wasn’t possible as it was at its peak at an younger age. Another 219 respondents revealed that late marriages had led to extra-marital relationships, especially among the elder and married members of the society,” the study says.

Prof Bashir Ahmad Dabla, Head, Department of Sociology at Kashmir University, attributes poverty, unemployment, dowry, modern education and more than two decades of conflict as major reasons for late marriages in Kashmir with a nasty fallout on its socio-economic fabric.

The trend has devastating consequences like psychiatric problems, suicides, drug addiction, pre- and extra-marital affairs, sex scandals and a spurt in divorces, he said.

“The decrease in population at family level, mental depression, increase in

suicide rate, encouragement to immoral activities and pre-marital sex are some of the consequences of late marriages which we found during the survey,” the principal investigator of the empirical survey, Prof Dabla said.

He said the socio-economic and politico-educational developments in Kashmir had radical changing impact on the prac¬¬tices, rituals, values and norms of marriage especially related directly to late marriage.

“Also, political developments in the last 22 years of militancy had further impacted the traditional pattern of late marria¬ges,” Prof Dabla added. Asked whether the late marriage scenario was same in rural Kashmir, he says: “The situation is better in countryside compared to Srinagar and towns. Social fabric is still intact in rural areas due to which situation is comparatively better.”

Asima Hassan, a scholar at Kashmir University who has conducted a research on impact of conflict on youth, says the present trend is leading the society to a disaster.

“Demographic composition of the Valley is getting affected due to late

marriages. Sociologically, it affects the most active group in terms of roles, as they become less contributing.

The number of single men and women in Kashmir has gone up to 65 per cent. They comprise 45 per cent females and 20 per cent males,” she said.

Asima said the trend increased at an alarming pace during the last one and half decades. “We had not seen such a pheno¬menon 50 years back.

There were boys and girls of 20 years age getting married, but now, the age has increased from 20s to 30s in most of the marriages happening nowadays. Singlehood is one of the worst fallouts of the armed conflict in the Valley,” she added.

Though weddings had become a low-key affair post-1989 as gun battles and

frequent curfew restrictions didn’t allow the hosts to indulge in traditional extravagance, situation changed after early 2000 with the return of normalcy.

Weddings ceremonies have returned to their former lavishness which has brought on the self-imposed burden of spending beyond ones means.

Again, most of the hosts dish out ostentatious feasts whose sheer wastefulness makes them a sort of status symbol across the valley, especially in Srinagar.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Masters at Deception and Thievery

Yaseen addresses the troubling issue of power theft and finds that every one knows who the culprits are

(Dr. Yaseen Ahmad Shah, 52, was born in Sonrigund, near Avantipora, in the Pulwama district of Kashmir. He graduated from Government Boys College in Anantnag, and started his career as a college teacher at the Amar Singh College. He is presently the Principal of the Government Degree College for Boys in Anantnag, Kashmir. Dr. Shah writes under the pseudonym of Dr. Mian Mehboob)

Our Respectable Power Thieves

For quite some time now, the people of the state of Jammu and Kashmir have been debating and discussing the issue of power shortage, the modus operandi for having back our own power houses, and indeed the power theft (pilferage is not consciously used) at our own hands. Some jingoistic socio-moralists refuse to call the pilferage a theft as they believe that the electricity is our own possession. Some sporadic and occasional politicking on this crucial issue of electricity takes place and that is an expediency of democracy. We for example come across voices like - Mr. X sold our river- water rights and Mr. Y surrendered our power houses.

That apart, however, it is encouraging to find even the politicians in the opposition advising their voters and workers to judiciously use the electricity. Evidence for this is ‘The Hello MLA Program’ of the Radio Kashmir Srinagar and also the statements made by some opposition MLAs in various District Board meetings.

This is a positive stance and such a wise stand was also taken by our then opposition leaders at the time of launching of ‘The Jhelum Beautification Project’. The people in the opposition could have conveniently chosen to instigate the so called displaced souls who actually had encroached upon the banks of the river Jhelum. This should give us a hope that our politicians are maturing like their counterparts in the UP, where the plan of ‘Rs Twenty lakh Car Purchase by MLAs’ was rolled back by the Akhilesh government virtually on the advice of the opposition.

Coalition partners in unison have been projecting and pleading to the Centre for reassessing the advantages of the National Water Treaties to the state of J&K and grant the favour of transferring to the state the rights to use all the power houses constructed in the State on the financial support of the Central government. The civil society at large has been deliberating various options in this regard and one of them being to suggest to the state Govt. to issue an open appeal to the state subjects to contribute towards creating a fund and thus raise finances for reimbursing the Centre the money it invested on the construction of these power generating units. During a discussion on the issue of these finances I have pledged to make a modest donation of Rs. one lakh out of my GP Fund savings and the intend was respectfully tweeted to the incumbent CM.

Having started on this positive and somewhat rosy note one, however, is saddened to find the head of the present Govt. getting cornered on all sides as and when he chose to make a mention of the power theft /misuse at the hands of a common man and nongovernmental consumers. To corner the CM, rhetoric phrases like ‘inflicting a hurt on the national pride of a Kashmiri and casting a doubt on the collective integrity of this nation’ are generously utilized by the people rising above their respective politico- social affiliations. That, I believe amounts to being unfair to the young CM who ,it often seems is having some plan for making the state self reliant. On pure apolitical grounds the CM deserves to be encouraged for sticking to this stance and also to be reminded that his grandfather has had the guts of withdrawing the infamous ‘Food Subsidy’ that had turned out to be an object of humiliation and a white elephant for the economic interests of the State. This was done not withstanding a stiff but un- futuristic resistance of his political opponents.

To dismiss summarily the notion that we do not indulge in power theft is a falsehood that is fraught with the potent of risk to our economy and general moral and social psyche. Its economics is like a simple calculation of common arithmetic. We spend money for purchasing electricity and lose a major portion of this purchased commodity via pilferage at the hands of electricity thieves during the process of its distribution and sale. So I cannot afford to consume any space to over emphasise the fiscal aspect of the power theft and instead talk about other aspects. But, before that let us examine some instances of ‘power theft’.

The Power Development Department (PDD) authorities here had to notify the lists of people indulging in power theft (I am deliberately not using words like pilferage and hooking). These lists contained names of decisively honourable haves as well as have not’s. This needs to be clarified that our have not’s become reasonably good haves when it comes to paying their mobile phone and DTH bills and also that these have not’s could reasonably avoid the undue usage of electricity. Incidentally, I often notice a well to do retired Govt. servant on the electricity poll hooking dishonestly for a family comprising of himself, his officer son and his wife who, perhaps sadly, is the only unemployed family member. During a condolence assembly, a grief stricken son while narrating the final pre- death hours of her deceased mother (the death had been sudden although death has never cared to declare its arrival) spontaneously, in fact carelessly, revealed that the mother had minutes before her death advised him to put on the hook to enable her to prepare the evening meals. One of my aunts complained to a bijli-knowing guy that her meter was not cooperating in bijli- chouri although they had duly fixed the electricity theft with the bijli -waalas.

Another aunt turns unusually vocal to welcome the graft collecting Line man at the end of each month saying “step in sir, have some tea”. He facilitates an illegal power usage and she greases his palm. This utterance in an unusually louder voice is, perhaps, to condemn all the honest ones for not availing this available public service and thus getting entitled to a ruthless use of electricity and above all to keeping the electricity driven water motor running round the clock. This, I must admit, has caused an inconvenience as the water towards my house has refused to come in the absence of such a water sucking motor at my place. The aunt simply refuses to appreciate the logic of the honest people foolishly paying monthly electricity bills.

So, power theft is a reality although we could easily afford to either avoid it or appropriately pay for it. This, as I told, is dangerous for our psyche. What shall be a child in his formative years learning on seeing his elders creating and discussing excuses for their power theft and taking precautions to hide the act. This theft is generally programmed to clash with the timings of the magrib azaan and the dawn prayers. The children are also taught to be smart and contribute their bit of vigil in ensuring that the lawn-gates always remain bolted from the inside and always convince his friends in the neighbourhood that the cooking at home happens only on LPG heaters. What shall be the unfortunate state of mind of a person inside a prayer place standing beside or amongst the people whom he knows are established power thieves? Spiritual discomfort, I guess.

In Europe, the authorities, I have heard, do not need to delink the power supply to an area that is supposed to endure its share of load shedding. The people over there simply do not switch on their power run gadgets for that specific period and thus contribute in the nation building initiatives. We shall take some time to acquire that degree of emancipation. For the time being we stand condemned to have in place a watch and vigil mechanism to avert power theft at the hands of consumers. But unfortunately some people associated with this paid and hired service of power distribution are stabbing us in the back by facilitating the power theft and collecting money from the consumers and thus putting the government as well as the genuinely paying consumers to a lot of inconvenience and financial losses. Calculations are that if the money that is unduly going to the pockets of the Govt. appointed power guards had gone to the Govt. treasuries, the Govt. would have come to a position of providing power to its genuine power users at cheaper rates.

So the way out is not very difficult. Let the Government make the distributers of electricity at the highest as well as at the field level responsible for all the power thefts. Let big consumption- recording devices be installed at all the transformers of various localities and the concerned employees be wholly and solely made responsible for ensuring that collections commensurate to the consumption recorded against the concerned locality are accruing to the Govt. chest. The concerned employee shall automatically ensure that each domestic meter records even the fraction of the electricity units consumed by the individual domestic consumer.

Saleem Beg's New Baby

Saleem is the key figure and a catalyst in bringing the new Lal Ded Museum into existence 

(Mr. Mohammad Saleem Beg, 61, was born and raised in Srinagar. He was educated at the S.P. College and the Gandhi Memorial College, receiving his Bachelor's degree from the latter. He was awarded a EEC fellowship in 1998 which allowed him to attend study courses at Universities of Luven, Belgium, and Trinity College, Dublin. Mr. Beg entered the State government service in 1975 and retired in 2006 as the Director General of Tourism. In the 31 years of public service (which included two deputation assignments in New Delhi), Mr. Beg promoted local arts and crafts, and raised public awareness of Kashmir's rich heritage and architecture. He was a leading figure in getting Srinagar listed as one of the 100 most threatened heritage cities by the World Monument Fund in 2008. Mr. Beg has traveled extensively and has attended numerous conferences, including the 1997 UN Special Session on Environment in New York, and the 1997 Kyoto Convention on Climate Change in Japan. His articles and essays have been published in various publications. Since retirement, he has remained active as the Convener of the J&K Chapter of the Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage - INTACH.)

INTACH awards photographers
Rising Kashmir News

SrinagarIf you want to know about the heritage of Srinagar city as old as 18th century, just pay a visit to recently reconstructed Lal Ded Memorial Museum on the banks of river Jehlum at Habba Kadal and you will get to know the history.The display of paintings, photographs, historic maps, old wooden tools and machines like spinning wheel, Kashmir’s prized handicraft products like carpets, shawls, papier-mâché, copperware, and earthenware will take you to Kashmir’s rich art, craft, heritage and life of the people in old city.

Earliest Map of Kashmir by Germans

The reconstructed museum which describes history itself has a prized possession of the earliest map of the Kashmir written in German language. The map drawn in 1802 by Germans shows how much important Kashmir art, craft and heritage was. The map was used by the visitors to know about the land of Kashmir.

Map on wool

Another map was drawn by the great Mughals during 18th century. One of the maps embroidered on the fine wool cloth drawn in the 3rd quarter of the 19th century is a masterpiece of Kashmir art. Kashmiri artisans have intricately crafted the map of Srinagar City on cloth showing lakes, canals, bridges, gardens and places for which city is famous for.

Asia map showing Kashmir part of Mughal province Kabul
Another political and geographical map was drawn in 19th century which shows the territorial boundaries of Asia of 18th century when Kashmir was conquered by Mughals and was under the administrative rule of Kabul government in 1586 AD. During that period, Kashmir formed the part of Mughal province of Kabul that included territories from Kashmir to present day Afghanistan. One the maps also show the historic silk route.

The ground floor of the building also houses the photographs depicting culture, heritage and life of the old city.
The photograph of the old houses in the back drop of the Koh-e-Maran heritage fort in the city reveals how Srinagar is blessed with heritage which used to draw foreign tourists.
“Now city is turning into concrete structures. The heritage in old city is lost into these concrete structures. Preserving the Lal Ded Memorial School is a beginning which will help bring home locals the importance of our own heritage. We don’t have to preserve the old city heritage only for tourists but for locals also who need to know their culture,” said Convener Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage INTACH-JK Chapter Saleem Beigh while interacting with the tourism stake holders at the museum on Tuesday.
Besides holding an interactive session, INTACH organized an award ceremony to honor photographers who won prizes for their photographs which portray culture, heritage and life of the Srinagar city. Director Tourism Kashmir Talat Parveez was the chief guest who gave away the certificates to the photographers.
Later an interactive session with the hoteliers, tour operators was organized to sensitize them about the importance of the city’s rich heritage.

Traffic Management

Ashraf calls for added awareness regarding the road safety so that accidents can be avoided

(Mr. Mohammad Ashraf Fazili, 68, was born in Srinagar. He received his early schooling from the Government Middle School, Nowhatta, Srinagar, and from M.P. High School, Baghi Dilawar Khan in Srinagar. Mr. Fazili completed his F.Sc. from the Sri Pratap College in Srinagar, and received his Bachelor's degree in Civil Engineering from the Annamalai University with honours grade. He joined the J&K government service upon graduation and steadily rose up the ranks to the position of Chief Engineer at his retirement. He managed a number of important infrastructure projects during his government service, including the Model Town Chrar-i-Sharif, Lower Jhelum Hydro Electric Project, Solid Waste Disposal Scheme Srinagar City, Circular Road Project Srinagar City, etc. He has numerous publications to his credit, including Srinagar the Sun City, Our Ancestors and Saints of Kashmir, etc., which were presented in seminar and symposia. He writes for various journals and is presently working on the Jhelum Valley Civilization.)

Ensure Public Safety

This refers to the “The road to Life” by Dr. Manzoor Ahmad Yetoo (GK, August 7, 2012). The rise in road traffic in J&K State without compatible increase/improvement of road network has been one of the factors responsible for traffic accidents. When the space occupied by vehicles proportionate to available road surface area is not monitored, it results in frequent traffic congestion, causing heavy loss in terms of working hours of people besides wastage of POL. The other factor is the poor geometrics of our roads, which were mostly designed for animal driven carts from Maharaja’s time. The other important reasons are deficiencies in vehicular design, inept maintenance and usage, poor driving and unusual road user behavior, lack of education and enforcement of traffic rules. To add to this, it is the lack of will to comply with the basic tenets of traffic safety which is the main cause of road accidents.

Every hour 40 people under the age of 25 die in road accidents around the globe. According to the WHO, this is the second most important cause of death for 5 to 29 year olds. In India alone the death toll rose to 14 per hour in 2009 as compared to 13 the previous year. The total number of deaths every year due to road accidents has now passed 35,000 mark according to the latest report of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). While trucks and 2-wheelers were responsible for over 40 % of deaths, peak traffic during the afternoon and evening rush hours is the most dangerous time to be on the roads.

It is often said that accidents are caused; they just do not happen. If factors responsible are identified properly and appropriate remedial measures are taken on an inter-disciplinary basis, there is no reason why the number of accidents should not reduce. Apart from road and traffic factors, human factors are often responsible for accidents, which are caused by lack of judgment, sometimes by over confidence and sometimes by callousness, whether on the part of drivers or any other road user including the pedestrians.

Besides dire punishment to drivers for their negligence under Motor Vehicles Act, it is also necessary that the drivers are well trained in the art of driving and made conscious of their duties towards the other road users. There is a need to establish a model Motor-driving Teaching Institution especially for drivers of heavy vehicles. In UAE, I have found that the license is issued only after attending the driving institute and after passing the tedious test. Similarly the pedestrians ought to know the rules of the road. Besides, the parking rules are ignored by the road users, while in the former case, education and publicity could help to a great deal in educating public on how to cross the road, deterrent punishment should be imposed on those who violate parking rules for their selfish interests and cause reduction in the road space leading to a number of accidents. The authorities need to provide multi-storeyed parking lots in the congested parts of the city centre even if they need to acquire some space and dismantle some structures.

Accident prevention measures comprise of three E’s, viz. Engineering, Education and Enforcement. Accident statistics in India highlight the driver’s fault as the predominant cause and therefore enforcement and education are much more important than engineering. Better traffic engineering, improved traffic management operations, proper enforcement and intensive road user education programs can definitely bring down the number of accidents and provide safer roads for the community.

Strict enforcement of traffic laws keeps accidents under check even when the vehicles travel at a maximum speed of 120 kmph. We witness frequent fatal accidents on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway and other hilly roads. Inspection of vehicles before putting them on roads is a must, for which mechanical workshop facilities need to be provided at vital spots at the foot and also at the top of steep ghat sections, where especially the loaded vehicles can be inspected and only the certified ones can be allowed to enter the ghat sections. Self-discipline needs to be inculcated in all vehicle owners to get their vehicles periodically inspected and apply for registration or renewal of registration of only such vehicles that are certified to be road worthy by approved workshops.

Highway engineers need to provide a safe road system. The present road system is not fully geared to meet the demands of the modern heavy and fast moving traffic. The presence of a variety of slow and fast moving vehicles, overcrowding of arterial routes and thoroughfares, encroachments and ribbon development, poor lighting conditions and improper intersection designs create conditions for accidents. Therefore it is important to pin-point specific reasons for the cause of accident at a particular spot. Once the correct accident information is made available and properly analysed, it would be possible to find out the causes of accidents and undertake timely remedial measures.

Maintaining and developing the present road system to a high standard within the available funds is the responsibility of Highway Engineer. While for the new roads, it would be necessary to provide for inbuilt traffic safety at the design stage itself; for the existing roads, the solution will vary from situation to situation. There may be cases for improving geometric deficiencies or providing improved facilities like widening and constructing fly-overs. It should be ensured that measures, which can reduce the number of accidents to maximum extent at minimum cost, are given first priority. Every year funds can be got earmarked for the purpose out of plan or non-plan allocation from the authorities.

Traditional Fruits of Kashmir

Iqbal calls for vibrant traditional fruit culture

(Mr. Iqbal Ahmad, 51, was born in Parigam Chek, Kulgam. He is a graduate with Diploma in Numastics, Archaeology and Heritage. He is an archaeologist, writer, and a cultural historian. Mr. Iqbal Ahmad has published 12 reference books on Kashmir archaeology and heritage.)

Reviving the traditional fruit culture of Kashmir

Kashmir has rightly been described as" the land of fruits. Its land environment and climate has pro­vided greater facilities for horticulture in­dustry to grow more rapidly. Today we see in this valley scores of varieties of apple, pearl, Baggu Gosha, Walnut, several types of Cherry and other fruits which are grown and exported to other states.

The, apparently, growing fruit industry has changed the social and economic status of our rural Kashmir and helped its people in reshaping their economy, to some extent. However, in the race of cultivating commercialized fruits, the land has been losing several varieties of century’s old traditional fruits.

The fruit growers here have neglected their traditional fruit culture and are dealing with more commercial ones which yield them quick benefits but not without a huge price. Steps are needed to be taken to encourage culti­vation of traditional fruits of Kashmir side by side with the more commercialized ones.

It is better to promote the indigenous fruit culture of this land as the fruit Industry, nowadays, has been playing a vital role in developing the economy of the valley. The commercial fruits are fetching a good income for the Kashmiri farmers and the trend has changed the life standards of Kashmiri villages. At many places the local farmer has discontinued the tradition of rice cultivation and has grown orchards on their agricultural lands. The superior qualities and verities of apple and pear orchards are coming up on agricultural lands which have changed the life standard of an average farmer.

Thanks to the new horticulture researches which have paved a way for the Kashmiri farmers to produce better quality of commercial fruits.

Knowing all this, we should not neglect those traditional fruits which this land has been producing from ancient times. We should also provide due space to those traditional fruits and revive their cultivation on our vacant lands. Although these may have less production and demand, but they very well suit our environment.

As we all know that the cli­mate of Kashmir is such that it does not favor particular fruits which require warmer conditions to grow, we must understand that fruits which suit the environs here are to be grown in abundance.

To suit to its moderate climate and cold atmosphere the nature has be­stowed this land with a variety of fruit cultures. The fruit cultivations which this land has been facilitating included Dhachh (grapes) Gilas (cherry) Baadam (Almound) and Chounth (Apple). Therefore, by promoting their cultivation we can do well to our environment as well. Chira (apricot) and Bahu which were cultivated in the mountainous belts of the valley suited the conditions are therefore were grown in abundance in such areas.

Besides these traditional fruit, the land is capable of yielding good produce of walnut, apple and pear. Such fruits have been so favored that theyare pro­duced in dozens of varieties, the Delicious & Naakh varieties have also gained a wide market and are being exported heavily to the other Mandies of the country.

Among the ancient fruits of valley, Gilas is believed to have been brought to Kashmir from Turkistan. They would call it ‘Cerasus’ and it is said that locutus (110 BC to 57 BC). The Roman general of the Sulla and Governor of Roman Asia carried a variety of this fruit to Italy. Indo Greeks are suggested to have brought it to Kashmir. However, the present va­riety of this fruit is not so old and it is said to have been imported from Kabul during the Mughal period.

Another ancient fruit of this landis called Dachh (grapes). The fruit has been cultivated since early centuries of the Christen era, one of the motifs devised on the 2nd cen­tury tiles of valley is of branches of grapes which clearly suggest that the cultivation of the fruit has been in vogue in valley much dur­ing the period and the motif has been familiar among the artists of the day. These tiles which carried the motifs of this fruit is dated to 2nd century AD and discovered from the the budhist site of Dardkote Hutmur.

The Cherra & Baadam apricot and almonds are both categorized into the group of dry fruits which are grown here in a larger scale.

These fruit were also exported to other Asian and European Countries. Baadams are grown in considerable quantity while as Khobani is now grown in the parts of Ladakh. Baadam once became the identity of Kashmir and the motif has been very popular among maxi­mum designers and is displayed on a variety of Kashmir artifacts more specifically on Kashmir textile and metal Works.

The number of traditional fruits has gradually been decreasing. The land has already lost several olden almond and apricot orchards. Many places in Kashmir were named after such fruits like Dachigam, Dachinpur Baadam Bagh, Buadfimari, Baadam Put etc. Alas! It is now confined to names alone while the fruits have subsequently disappeared from such places.

Kashmiri cultivator has been following the modern trends and techniques in both agriculture and horticulture. He is preferring the varieties of commercial fruit's like Pears and Apples after discarding the indigenous types as these fruit have helped culti­vators to earn considerably well and attention has been divested on other commercialized varieties of such fruits.