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, September 21, 2012

Escape From Reality

Naveed introduces reader to the Kashmiri cyber world

(Mr. Naveed Qazi, 23, did his schooling from Burn Hall School and Tyndale Biscoe, and eventually graduated in Commerce from the University of Kashmir. Naveed is a blogger and activist from Kashmir, and head of intellectual activism group, Insights: Kashmir. His blogs have been published on local and international journals like Open Democracy UK, The Nation, Pakistan and Muslim Institute, London. Naveed lives in Srinagar, and writes on current affairs, politics and society.)

In Kashmir, Social Media Has Become an Escape Route

Social media has become a modern tool for dissenters. It is a medium of expression by netizens, aided by a technological revolution. Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Blogger, Tumblr are leading it from the front. We live in a world of technological gateways that have paved the way for cohesion of intellectuals online. Kashmir is not far behind.

Our vale also had its share of educating masses especially aiding civil discontent through an aware youth during crises. We do have intellectuals in our social circles who were upfront during the unrest that happened cyclically in the last so many years. We also have voices whose intellect is helping us to be vigilant regarding the current affairs of our society through retrospection of knowledge acquired globally.

When we speak of traditional grassroot activism, it has its foundations in academic theory that can be linked to modern social media activism today. One of the world’s leading social scientist, Noam Chomsky, in his revolutionary essay, ‘The Responsibility of Intellectuals’ writes that ‘intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of the government’, to ‘analyze action according to their causes’ and ‘motives’ and often ‘hidden intentions’. For propagation of rightful ideas, he even chooses ‘three types of intellectual traditions’, namely ‘area specialists’, ‘social theory’ with emphasis on the ‘theories of international system’, ‘social change’, ‘conflict resolutions’, and the ‘analysis of public policy’. These ideas were eventually implemented by Chomsky, as a reaction against the consequences of Vietnam war, dumped by mainstream press during those years. However, even today, these ideas have once more incarnated revolutions that happened in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen during the Arab Spring. These ideas mentioned by Chomsky can also serve as a pivotal constitution for anarchist voices in our vale, especially youth who want inspiring ideas of a liberated society. Kashmiri youth, therefore, should realize the positive aspects of online social media, in order to effectively participate in the management of public affairs, from the workplace, to commerce, to legal affairs, to media, to constructive activism in political and social circles. I always believed that Kashmiris should take advantage of this medium because it is a much faster way of informing people than street protests due to its global connectivity, having a scope for global audience as well as reverberating global standards.

As far as I remember, in my teens, I used to interact with a blog, essentially political, called ‘Kashmir Truth to be told’. It was like an online journal, which compiled blogs on current affairs in Kashmir and encouraged debate amongst a small community of bloggers. ‘Timez of Kashmir’ by Omar Bashir and ‘Bloodied Rivers of Kashmir’ by Muhammad Faysal were other blogs that I frequently used to visit and ponder. Some of the material that it carried was hardly published, or talked in the mainstream press. I even myself started blogging on issues that I felt were need of the hour for online dissemination of conflict resolutions and other important historical, social and economic facts. In fact, I always found satisfaction of encountering less biased information online, regarding our conflict than reading what was prevalent on the Indian media or some factions of the less liberal Kashmiri press. I even formed a conclusion that blogging was the most credible resistance against a biased press. Over the years, other forms of resistance gave birth in Kashmir. Several talented artists like rapper MC Kash got immense popularity in our local social media and even hit international headlines, due to the nature of his revolutionary rap songs, inspired by classical dissenting rappers.

When we speak of Facebook, it has been taken as an effective tool to pursue activism, due to the nature of its applications. It has groups, pages and personal profiles that can be easily used as a propagation medium for any form of social revolution online. Sharing press links, pictures and notes serve as a validation for online activism. Twitter, on the other hand, is a brief online feed which does the same. In fact, it’s a quicker mode of sharing knowledge with other online peers. The content of Kashmiri tweeters, dedicated to political activism, especially human rights watchers, make sure that each form of violence and injustice doesn’t go unreported. Many common Kashmiris have been doing this for years now and that too without any recognition. This speaks volumes about their dedication for the need of transforming our socio-political philosophies from a slumber of foreign chauvinism that has hijacked the interpretation of our history, nullified our deserving political institutions and intensified economic inequality.

Thomas Jefferson once wrote that governments should fear its people. If the government isn’t keeping the promises of people for which they voted them in power, then why is there a need for a democracy which loses all its ingredients once a civil unrest happens? In fact, for that reason, over the years, many modern Marxists and Left Libertarians are arguing to ascend social media as a tool to democratize every major ordinance, in every state parliament through online voting, that can result in effective realization of aspirations of the people. Same should be the case for Kashmiri intellectuals today. We have a political history that has consumed thousands of human lives. It has given birth to a state power that worships dictatorship in its pristine form, whenever in threat, thereby curbing all forms of dissent through calculated use of military and police power. In Kashmir, there even have been cases where governments are now trying to curb voices online through secured technology, as a form of protection to their existing power. Now, if people are not even allowed to discuss the injustice that is happening in their day to day life, that too online, then it is simply a direct attack to the tenets of human liberation and personal security. The people in power seriously need to rethink the immunity that they enjoy due to exercise of political authority. If voices and visions prove a threat to a government, then they must realize that they run a centre of power, and its irresponsible implementation can have detrimental effects on millions of lives. Kashmir is already going through that phase since decades. Therefore, only the talk of liberty can shun subjugation. States must realize it.

Examining Why So Many Amarnath Pilgrims Died

Yusuf provides his analysis of the situation. He is not a doctor, but knows mountains of Kashmir like his backhand

(Mr. Mohammad Yusuf, 58, was born in the Dalgate area of Srinagar. He attended Government Schools in Drugjan, Sonawar, and Batwara, all in Srinagar, and completed his college studies at the Sri Partap College, Srinagar. Following his graduation, he briefly attended the University of Kashmir, and in 1980, joined the Physical Education Department of the University of Kashmir. Mr. Yusuf taught aquatics and adventure sports (swimming, mountaineering, snow and water skiing, rafting, parasailing, skating, kayaking, canoeing, etc.) and has won many local sports trophies. He has led many exploration expeditions in Kashmir, and is the Treasurer of the Winter Sports Association of Jammu and Kashmir, General Secretary of J&K Aero Sports Association and the J&K Ski & Mountaineering Association, Secretary of Srinagar Winter Sports Association, and Vice President of the J&K Yoga Association. After retiring from the University staff, Mr. Yusuf became an adventure tourism consultant. He is presently the director of operations of the Adventure Call Tours and Travels.In his leisure time, Mr. Yusuf engages in social work, gardening and writing.)

Amarnath Yatra-2012 Why the Casualties Rose So High?

Why the number of pilgrim deaths was so high this has stirred a debate. The Committees, those were constituted to study the actual cause of deaths and to give report about this catastrophe, have unfortunately failed to reach to the depths. Surprisingly fifteen people who died at Ramban on National Highway in an accident have also been included in the Amarnath death toll. There are in fact several reasons as to why the number of deaths rose so high this time. Some of them are as under:

Acute Mountain Sickness (AMS):

The most important cause of death could be AMS (Acute Mountain Sickness), towards which no attention is being paid neither by the yatra medical staff nor by the agencies at the helm. The pilgrims too are equally responsible as they do not adhere to the instructions given to them by the SASB through different medium including their website. AMS, the most important factor for deaths, is neglected by the pilgrims. It is not practically possible to everyone to reach heights due to difficult conditions in the terrain like high altitude, lack of oxygen, exposure to cold, epidemic diseases and the personal health reasons. AMS could happen even from the 8000 feet to the people, who do not acclimatize themselves well before gaining height. It is not advisable for the yaties to gain quick height up to 14500 at Mahaguns in shortest possible time. It is against the basic rules of high altitude trekking. The fast ascents sometimes cause cerebral (brain) and pulmonary (lung) edema. The yatries must be insisted to spend sufficient time at low altitudes like Srinagar, Pahalgam or Sonamarg to acclimatize there. The yatries must not over exert during the first 48 hours of their arrival to the base camps. Besides tickets, the yatries must be issued a separate route chart on which the Govt. must record their arrivals at different halt stations and ensure that they have sufficient time at base camps for acclimatization. Under climbing rules, the altitude at which a yatri sleep on any night should not be at a place which is 300 mtrs or more than the altitude of the place at which he slept on the last night. The SASB advises the yatries to carry portable oxygen but to our surprise very few are seen carrying it. Dehydration is also common because while trekking in the high altitude one has to consume lots of liquids because they lose lot of water in the shape of sweet. In cold climatic condition the Hypothermia can also be detrimental.

Previously the Kashmiri pundits and Sadhus were going to the Cave in lesser number and undertook the pilgrimage in a very scientific way. The Sadhus coming from other parts of the country would arrive at Srinagar many days prior to the commencement of the yatra. The Chari Mubarak was later carried from Srinagar by these Sadhus and pilgrims in the form of a procession. The yatries walked all the way from Srinagar to Holy cave, thereby making short halts at different places on the way. They gained height slowly and it helped them get adapted to the varied heights in a systematic way. Since humans want to achieve everything in shortest possible time today and with that motive some are trying to reach the Cave in shortest possible time. Many pilgrims hailing from Indian plains reach Srinagar by air in the morning and same day they are carried to Chandanwari or Baltal in a car for onward trek to the cave. They don’t get sufficient time to acclimatize themselves either at Srinagar or at Sonamarg/Pahalgam. The pilgrims even sometime hide the AMS symptoms which later proves fatal for them. This is suicidal. No one should be held responsible for his or her death. The Govt. should stop pilgrims taking quick ascents to the Holy Cave. It must be mentioned that such causalities also occur at other pilgrimage centers like Mount Kailash, but no hue and cry is raised there by anyone.

Verification of Medical Certificates:

Unfortunately many yatries manage a fake medical certificate. The Govt. must conduct on spot medical examination of the pilgrims before they are permitted to move beyond base camps. The old age yatra is another factor. The people up to 70 years, only if healthy should be permitted. The sick and weak people should be disallowed. These measures may help to prevent the growing number of causalities among Amarnath pilgrims.

Increasing number of Yatries:

Secondly it was decided by the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board and the State Government that the inflow of yatries would not exceed 3000 per day but contrary to it the number of yatries sometime exceeded 25,000 a day. It is very difficult for the people coming from hot temperate zones to live under extremely cold climatic conditions with limited facilities. Cold climatic conditions sometime cause Hypothermia which could also prove detrimental to the yatries. The J&K Government had in fact made all necessary arrangements to cater the needs of declared number of pilgrims. The growing pollution in the region is also another important factor. More emphasis needs to be given on hygiene. The helicopter service should also be curtailed because it causes air pollution in the entire region. Only those doctors who are trained to mountain medicine and epidemics should be deployed there. They must be well acquainted with the altitude effects and must be able to treat AMS victims. It is suggested that besides medicos, the Government must involve the highly trained Mountain Guides who are well acquainted with mountain medicine.

Callous Society

Proof that Kashmiris (whether tweeting or not), by and large, are uncaring towards the unfortunate and the abandoned


Syed Imran Ali Hamdani (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: Unclaimed Baby. These two words have been the identity of this newborn girl as she cries in a cradle at Kashmir’s sole children hospital at Sonawar since the day she was abandoned there last week presumably soon after her birth.

Though medicos caring the baby have been frequently raising this issue on social networking sites like Facebook, practically till now, nobody has come forward on ground. Her cleft deformity, though something fully treatable, is believed to be the cause of her having been abandoned.

The hospital Medical Superintendent Dr Muneer Masoodi said despite repeated efforts nobody came forward to own the infant even as he termed the incident an “alarming situation of dying social and religious values.” “People of this Muslim dominated society are going away from Islam,” he added.

Those witness to bitter cries of the newborn are trying to attract concern through social networking media. Dr Muhammad Salim Khan who works at the hospital had this to post on the Facebook: “Callous Society: It has been 6 days now when a fervent appeal was made for helping her for adoption or personalized care. No one came forward except few media persons who highlighted the plight of the hapless 'orphaned' baby girl and one NGO.”

“How long shall we shun our responsibilities by expressing verbal concerns only? We have more than 5000 NGOs working here, but when it comes to act practically everybody washes hands off. Would she survive with such callous attitude of ours?” he asked.

Concern came but only in comments. Said Gem Khan: “Sir, every moment is a test in one's life from the Almighty Allah. So you need to be enough prudent in your every stride which is related to this beautiful girl child. Be magnanimous in showing your responsibility towards the child, surely Almighty Allah might have a good plan for her betterment and will soon knock your door to take the child back.”

Dr Khan wrote back: “It’s our collective conscience that is loathed by such insensitivity. Let’s hope she gets a warm caring lap soon.”

Tufail Baba another netizen opines that civil society has a role to play. “Why we are asking only for NGOS? Why cannot one of us take the lead. I think we are not worth to call our society an Islamic society and ourselves true Muslims. I pray to Allah to forgive me and all of us and make a suitable arrangement for the poor baby.”

Khalid Hussain a netizen remarked that: “We Kashmiris have this habit of blaming others every now and then. If no one comes forward we can think of other alternatives like donations. Kindly do a favor by opening an account in her name so that donations can be deposited. InshaAllah I will be the first to donate.”

However his suggestion has little takers. “The moment we ask for donations for the baby, scores of pseudo-NGOs will erupt for collecting donations for her name and will swindle and take away the booty for themselves. So no collections till she gets someone to own or adopt,” a medico attending her replied.

According to hospital authorities the baby was left by her parents in the hospital on the morning of September 15. About her facial deformity, the hospital medicos said: “The cleft palate and lip is a birth defect which is 100 percent treatable through plastic surgery and proper management during the treatment.”

A plastic surgeon said that such surgeries are done across the country including Jammu and Kashmir. “Some NGOs are also financing the cleft surgeries,” said a surgeon.

Children of Misfortune

Aliya addresses the growing societal concerns about girl orphans

30,000 Orphan Girls Await Marriage

Aliya Bashir (Kashmir Monitor)

Srinagar: In a startling revelation, at least 30,000 orphan girls of Kashmir, who are in mid-30, are not able to get married due to lack of money.

The development has set alarm bells ringing across Kashmir and once again put a question mark on the functioning of orphanages. A R Hanjura, Founder of Islamic Relief and Research Trust (IRRT), said that the Kashmir has 2, 14,000 orphans in which around 30,000 girls are waiting since long to get married but are not able to due to poverty.

“In the last ten years, we have been able to help only 4000-5000 girls to get married. We provided them with financial assistance of Rs 2000-2500 and distributed few marriage items in a bridal kit. But, that is not enough as there are a huge number of orphans who have reached the suitable age of marriages and are not even able to perform their marriages,” he said, adding that these orphan girls are not even able to perform their marriages in a simple way.

According to a report titled ‘Orphaned in Kashmir’ by Save the Children, the estimated population of orphans in Jammu and Kashmir is 2, 14,000 and 37 per cent of them were orphaned due to the armed conflict.

On the basis of total child population of the state in 2009, the estimated number of orphans stands at over two lakhs in which 55 per cent orphans across the state are between the age group of 7-18 years followed by around 38 per cent in the 15-18 years age group. The percentage of orphans below six years of age was found below seven percent.

There is a growing trend in Kashmir from past many years where people are spending in lakhs and crores when it comes to marriages as people are doing everything larger than life. The extravaganza in the festivity from buying expensive jeweller to designer outfits and spending in food to decorations and other rituals has made the whole affair of marriage quite un-affordable for the lower-income groups.

While highlighting the problems of orphan girls, Zahoor Ahmed Tak, Chairman Jammu and Kashmir Yateem Trust said that the situation has become disastrous for orphan girls as they are facing problems in getting employment, no suitable matches and tension-filled society who are not ready to marry orphan girls and give her a new life by expecting a reward from Allah. “There are no exact figures to suggest the accurate number of orphans who have reached the prime age of their marriages but as per the rough estimates we have more than 20, 000 orphan girls who are already in their mid-30’s but are yet to get married,” he said.

Tak further said that the over-age due to the delayed marriages is taking a heavy toll on the physical as well as mental health of girls which at the end results in adjustment problems. “The increasing social evils in marriage institutions demand for dowry, working girls and boys and increase in materialism are some of the major reasons which are pushing the orphan further to alienation. Everyone talks about the problems and different reasons but no one is bothered to help them on ground and accepting them is a far issue,” he added.

Dr. Arshid Hussain, a renowned psychiatrist said that the late marriages especially for orphan girls can have devastating effects on the psychological health that are already separated from the normal functioning of the society. “The negative effects of late marriage on orphans can range from depression to marital disharmony. Beyond a normal phase of marriage age, they might not be able to enjoy the benefits of marriage and there can be hormonal imbalance and procreation is a biggest issue which may get disturbed due to hormonal imbalance,” he said.

How Much Do Sweepers Earn? Prepare for the Jolt!

Believe it or not, a city sweeper in Kashmir earns a salary of Rs. 7,500 per month

SMC Spends More Than Rs 2 crore on Salary of Sweepers

Rising Kashmir News

Srinagar: Even if the sweepers in Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) have boycotted their work demanding the early release of their salaries, the Corporation is said to have engaged more than 2000 permanent and daily wage employees for whom more than Rs 2 crore is being spent as monthly salary. According to the information furnished by the SMC in response to an RTI query filed by an NGO, SRVES, corporation has 1360 permanent sweepers on rolls where as 1363 people have been engaged on temporary basis to keep the city clean. (KNS)

Dream Unrealized

Altaf sees hope only in inter-community dialogues, communal amity and respect for human rights

(Mr. Altaf Bashir, the author is studying International Relations (Peace and Conflict Studies) at the Islamic University of Science and Technology in Awantipora.)

Peaceful Kashmir!! It is fall and there is a slight cooling in the air, I have just joined the University in Kashmir for the study of Conflict and International Relations. As I take a full breath I am filled with this feeling of Joy and the thoughts begin dancing in my mind with this forward vision, of seeing myself beginning this new part of my journey and experiencing this new campus life. The university is situated at a serene nature spot surrounded by the majestic mountains’ I am quickly finding that it requires more energy to tread on slope just to reach the campus, as I pace myself it makes me feel as I am trekking, my lungs begin to struggle with a mild suffocation as my breathing becomes hard and my body begins to perspire.

As the beginning days unfold I realize that the teachers are good and that they extend their educating hours by sending us home with reading assignments each day. The goal is to prepare us, the class, to form a critical analysis on the topic of Conflict and International Relations.

One day in my class, I was asked, while in a group discussion, for my analysis and thoughts about the situation here in Kashmir. I then began to share my own thoughts and vision of our situation here in the valley. My thoughts first prompted me to address the apparent loss of faith in the extended facilitation of our community, This loss of faith has occurred over a period of time, with the huge demonstration of control and military presence along with the abrupt violence we have experienced.

Over the years everyone here has lost faith in what has occurred in Kashmir. As time progressed our youth had become the prisoners of their own time and being born and growing up in this control had taken its toll and only allowed them a painted image in their minds of freedom. These youth began to take up arms during 90s and in recent mass uprising youths resort to stone pelting and the undergoing of arms training in 90s across the border along with acts of intimidation against innocent citizens. After great loss and realizing the pros and cons of these misdemeanours, they have now completely shunned this path of violence that had led many youth and fellow friends and family to a result of death and devastation. They have begun to understand more fully the impact of such acts and have been progressive and are now choosing a more desired approach and honourable manner. They realized that that a positive result could only be achieved through peaceful means, that the exact thing that they were fighting against, they had embodied through retaliation of this violence. In absentia of peace or in a problematic situation little solution is possible, without these greater understandings.

The year 2010 had brought about a large scale disturbance throughout the Kashmir Valley. The perpetrators of the incriminating activities will never be forgiven. It is through perseverance and community support that we were able to endure these difficult times and with such great loss. The local business and shop owners struggled just to survive and the families that lost loved ones will never forget. Nobody yielded anything out of these events except death and destruction. Again the previous “Hartal Calls” led to a downfall of the economic status of many innocent and common people of Kashmir. The closing and days of curfew affected the whole community including the Colleges and Universities and therefore had an adverse impact on the students. The number of dropouts in various examinations remained highly elevated and the moral lowered tremendously.

The start of a new beginning starts with the first step in that direction, and the discarding of terrorism in Kashmir, the resuming of dialogues, the acceptance of a mutual brotherhood, co-existence ,communal amity, and by all means the observance of Human Rights!

The youth today are now indulging in academics, visiting coffee cafes, they sincerely want to believe in peace as they now have experienced devastation and the other side of the coin so to speak. The peaceful ways and means hopefully will only lead everyone in Kashmir to yield positive results. Situations and daily life have begun to change and the young college girls are now learning to drive a scooter or small vehicle so they are able now to take their mothers or younger sisters along with them as they take a cognitive step forward to make for a brighter future. Through taking these more bold steps forward they are gradually leaving their shyness behind and becoming more competent in today’s world. They only hope that in the near future they will see a more prosperous and peaceful Kashmir. InshaAllah

This year 2012 a huge rush of tourist populated our Kashmir indicating that normalcy has begun to return. These tourist and their families are enjoying visiting the tulip garden and adjacent Mughal gardens here in Kashmir as they also wanting to see and believe in a welcomed return to peace and prosperity. The most important factor which could lead Jammu & Kashmir towards prosperity is the peaceful and a very dignified positive approach. All the bilateral and outstanding issues could be settled with the help of a substantially constructive dialogue. So we all need to understand and realize that we cannot achieve any positive results through an application or element of violence.

As for my true vision of Kashmir people in general, I believe that they have little grievance, they are truly peace loving citizens right from the very beginning and not so conflicted by the political development. The older generation is concerned with life and family and prayer programs while the youth are interested in the future architecture of their careers, beginning a new family life of their own and a positive progress towards a future peace among all. The decisions we make today help to form the future and our tomorrow. I believe the government should be just, that the decisions that the people representing us the people of Kashmir, demonstrate and administer proper choices which are for the greatness of our people. That through their actions and choices they demonstrate some sound integrity and care for what they are representing and that through this process Kashmir again will become the heaven on earth.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Wasting Away

Imran looks at growing drug addition among Kashmiri youth

(Mr. Imran Majid, 22, was born in Bijbehara, Anantnag. He completed his schooling from the Public English Medium, Higher Secondary School, Bijbehara. Subsequently he joined the University of Kashmir, where he is studying for the Master's in Social Work (MSW) and is currently in the 4th semester. He has very little leisure time and in that time, he enjoys reading.)

Kashmir is Losing Productive Age Group to Drugs

With the rapid expansion of trade and commerce beyond national boundaries, the problem of drug addiction has become a global phenomenon. Though the drug abuse has been considered a social evil in Kashmir, it reached menacing dimensions in the nineties onwards of the previous century. Today almost a large part of population of all age groups in general and adolescent and youth in particular are drug abusers.

Be it a way to fight personal crisis, means to wipe the mental scars or just a sign of being cool, the youth in Kashmir have fallen into the net of drugs.

The expression “Drug addiction” defies any precise definition. It is a situation marked by irresistible intake of drug without paying attention to the negative and damaging consequences of such a compulsive indulgence. Traditionally opium and cannabis derivatives, LSD, Mandrax, cocaine, barbiturates etc. have been used by drug addicts. But recently the use of ‘synthetics’ that include stimulants like amphetamine and its derivatives, methcathinone, varnish, paint and glue as drugs for addiction has also increased. Not only this, the easy availability of prescription drugs across the counter in the market has worsened the problem. Present prevailing disturbed conditions in the valley have worsened the scenario besides phenomenal increase in other psychiatric disorders.

Reliable statistics on addiction are difficult to come by in Kashmir. According to a study conducted by the United Nations Drug Control Program in 2008, there are 60,000 substance abusers in the Valley. While Dr Mushtaq Margoob’s book, Menace of Drug Abuse in Kashmir, published in 2008, points out that the Valley have 2.11 lakh drug abusers. The difference in figures can be attributed either to the stigma around addiction or other factors, for instance addicts themselves tend to exaggerate, while their families try to downplay the problem. Any figure therefore should not be treated as absolutely conclusive but an approximation.

A significant recent shift in drug use patterns in India is the move from smoking to injecting drug use. Heroin, buprenorphine (tidigesic/tamgesic) and dextropropoxyphene (spasmo-proxyvan) are the most commonly injected drugs in India.

The problem has now reached the higher echelons of society, along with the lower strata, and includes children, and students in urban areas. Daily wage earners/laborers, rag pickers, truck drivers, medical workers and youths are all equally susceptible to the menace of addiction. They use cough syrup, alcohol, alprax and brown sugar and also take intra-venous injections of psychotropic drugs.

Currently, in Kashmir, 80 per cent drug-users comprise those who consume prescription medicines. Easy availability of pharmaceuticals across the counter has contributed to the enormity of the problem. Drugs containing opioids, such as Corex and Codeine are consumed by most addicts. Benzodiazepines like Diazepam, Alprazolam and cannabis derivatives like hashish, marijuana and alcohol are also responsible for the steady surge in addiction. For many school students including girls, items of common use like polish and glue double up as inhalants. The use of nicotine, Iodex, diluters, sleeping pills and inhalants like boot polish, fevicol and ink-removers has been observed in female addicts who might not have the means to obtain other not-so-easily available substances.

What is more alarming is the fact that the first time user belongs to the much younger age group. Steadily, Kashmir is losing the most productive age group to drugs, with manifold repercussions affecting society and economy. In July 2011, while addressing a gathering at a Town hall in Handwara, Justice Bashir Ahmed Kirmani claimed that Kashmir, particularly the capital city, has become a hub of social evils. He claimed that the capital city alone consumes 25,000 bottles of liquor every day.

Psychiatrists believe the reasons for drug abuse in Kashmir can’t be put in a straight jacket, they are various. They hold that the peer group pressure is the dominant factor contributing to the wide scale abuse of drugs in Kashmir. “Another main factor which can be held responsible for this abuse is the present technological world. You have internet, mobile phones, cable television and what not available to the children at home, schools and in the market. This has completely devastated the lives of our young population. These teenage boys and girls imitate what they see on the TV, internet etc. There is no parental control in our homes,” said a psychiatrist posted at Kashmir’s lone Psychiatric Hospital.

Besides, conflict in Kashmir has a major impact on the lives of the people. A vast majority of the drug abusers are an offshoot to the prevalent conflict. Though the conflict can’t be said to have a direct connection with drug abuse in all cases, indirectly it has a huge impact. Because once a traumatic event happens in a family, the other members of the family develop restlessness and other psychiatric disorders. This restlessness compels the people to resort to having drugs.

Thus to conclude, the present all pervasive plague of drug abuse calls for creating awareness among the masses particularly the youth. The menace has reached a point of no return with young students from the elite schools of the valley taking to drugs. Even there are reports about women taking to drugs. Experts say that the lack of parental control in the present societal setup has worsened the problem. So parental control is necessary. Besides, there should be awareness at schools also. This leads one to say people have to change. Coming to the legal framework in the State on the drug abuse, it is quite clear that the State lacks a comprehensive legislation on the abuse.

Recently the State Government repealed The Drug (Control) Ordinance, Samvat 2006 (Ordinance No. VI of 2006) which was the only comprehensive law till October 2011, however without any execution. The reason for the ineffectiveness of the Act was due to the non issuance of requisite notifications under the Act. The ordinance had been in place in the State since 1949 A.D. Not a single notification has been issued which resulted in the easy granting of bail and the discharge of the accused. Now there is a central legislation “The Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940” which deals with some of the aspects of the problem under question. But there is a very limited role of the Police which alone knows the expertise of investigation. It is suggested that the State should adopt the Central Drug Act of 1950 which has the requisite notifications issued under it. So there is no reason to wait and watch?

But it is a Typical Trait Among Narcissists

Ashraf says that no one has been fully able to understand the unpredictable behaviour of a Kashmiri. He truly is an “Enigma”!

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

The Enigmatic Kashmiri

There are many commentaries, theories and statements about the behaviour of a Kashmiri. A number of foreign authors have written in their books about the character of a Kashmiri. The most detailed description has been given by Sir Walter Lawrence in his well-known book, the “Valley of Kashmir”. Apart from bringing out the worst traits of a Kashmiri, he has also commented on some of his good qualities and the possibility of improving these. It would be very interesting to reproduce certain excerpts from the book about the character of a Kashmiri.

“The theory held by the Kashmiris themselves is that they were once an honourable, brave people, and that they were reduced to their present abject state by continued foreign oppression. But some who have made a special study of the Raja Tarangini inform me that, long before the days of foreign conquest and oppression, the Kashmiris were noted for their cunning and dishonesty. It is useless, therefore, to speculate on what the Kashmiris once were. But when one reflects on what they now are one cannot help the thought that many races, had they lived through generations of oppression, like the Kashmiris, might have been more cunning and more dishonest”.

“The Kashmiri is very loud and voluble. He is also very persistent. A Pandit, whose petition had been three times rejected, appeared a fourth time, and I told him that if he presented another petition I should have to report him to the local official. The next day the Pandit appeared with a paper in his hand; he was at once ordered to be removed, but explained that it was not a petition but a poem which he wished to present. The poem recited his grievances”. “In intellect the Kashmiris are perhaps the superior of the natives of India. They are very quick in argument, and they never abandon a case unless they are convinced that it is hopeless, and they always insist on knowing the grounds of a decision. The commonest Kashmiri can talk intelligently on most subjects, and they have a great aptitude for sarcasm. The valley is so small that news of the palace and its doings quickly spreads, and the administration and its officials are discussed in a very critical and often very shrewd manner. They believe that every man has his price, but are quick to recognize ability in their rulers”.

“The Kashmiri can turn his hand to anything. He is an excellent cultivator when he is working for himself. He is a good gardener, and has a considerable knowledge of horticulture. He can weave excellent woollen cloth, and can make first-rate baskets. He can build himself a house, can make his own sandals, and makes his own ropes. There is scarcely a thing which he cannot do, and as there are no middlemen like the Banyas of India, the Kashmiri is his own man of business. He understands profit and loss, and does not often make a bad bargain. He is, of course, like all orientals, conservative, and does not accept very readily crude suggestions regarding reforms in agriculture”. “In his home life the Kashmiri cultivator is at his best. He is kind to his wife and children, and one rarely hears of divorce scandals or immorality among the villagers. A woman who has behaved badly is a marked character in the country, and public opinion is always against her. The husband sometimes chastises his wife, and the men talk somewhat boast- fully of the necessity for maintaining discipline in their houses. But as a matter of fact the wife, both in Musalman and Hindu houses, is all- powerful, and I believe that, as a rule, the Kashmiri lives in awe of his consort. The Kashmiri wife is a real helpmate, and joint work and joint interests give rise to a camaraderie between man and wife which is very healthy”.

“In many respects the Kashmiri cultivator resembles the Irishman as described by Lever. He certainly possesses the quick wit which is so characteristic of the Irish, and has a deep-rooted objection to paying rent. There are many points of resemblance between Ireland and Kashmir. Both are small countries which have suffered or derived benefit from the rule and protection of more powerful nations, yet have never welcomed any change or improvement. Both Kashmiris and Irish love a joke, are fond of harmless deception, and are masters of good-humoured blarney. Both are kind to their children and the old folk. Both have the same disregard for the first principles of sanitation, though the interior of a Kashmiri hut is probably cleaner than that of a similar class of dwelling in Ireland. One day, while hearing petitions, I noticed an elderly Hindu villager standing on his head. He remained in that position for nearly half an hour before I asked him his business. He then explained that his affairs were in so confused a state that he did not know whether he was standing on his head or his heels”.

“The Kashmiris are fond of singing and of song-birds, and it is very pretty to hear them singing as they dibble in the young rice plants or break the clods with their wooden mallets. Some of the songs are full of poetical thought, and the airs are sweet and plaintive. They are fond of the beauties of nature, and the city people take their tea out to the almond gardens when they are in bloom, and sit rapt in delight for hours together. The almond gardens in the vicinity of Srinagar are most beautiful when they come into bloom in the early spring”.

“It is difficult to describe a people's character, but the account I have given of the Kashmiris is already too long, and there is no space for anecdotes which might perhaps give a better clue to character than general remarks. I would, however, add that the Kashmiris possess an individuality and national character which will cling to them wherever they go. I have seen men who have returned to Kashmir, whose ancestors left the country two or three generations ago. Their dress was changed and their manners had changed, yet they retained unmistakeable signs of a Kashmir origin, and their ways of thought and of speech showed their descent. The Kashmiris are fond of their own country, its food, its water, and its dress, and, though oppression has driven them out of the valley, many have come back and all are loath to leave. The Kashmiri proverb, ' Tsari chu kand thari peth karar,' which means that a bird is content when it is on its own branch, is often quoted by a Kashmiri when the advantages of service in the Panjab are pointed out to him”.

“Finally, though the character of Kashmiris leaves much to be desired, I think that it is to their credit that it is not worse, considering the few chances they have had for becoming truthful, manly, and self-respecting. A man who can be beaten and robbed by anyone with a vestige of authority soon ceases to respect himself and his fellow-men, and it is useless to look for the virtues of a free people among the Kashmiris, and unfair to twit them with the absence of such virtues. The Kashmiri is what his rulers have made him, but I believe and hope that two generations of a just and strong rule will transform him into a useful, intelligent, and fairly honest man”.

Why LAWDA is Failing

Majeed says that the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority (LAWDA) does not fully comprehend the challenge posed by poluttents in Kashmir's lakes

(Dr. Abdul Majeed Kak, 63, was born and in Nowhatta, Srinagar. He received his primary education from the Government Middle School in Nowhatta and his secondary school education from Bagi Dilawar Khan Higher Secondary School in Fateh Kadal. He completed his college education at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. In 1977 he was the first candidate from the University of Kashmir to be selected by the University Grants Commission (UGC) of the Government of India for a doctoral research scholarship at the university leading to a Ph.D. in Botany in 1980. He is currently the Research Coordinator in the Department of Botany at the Islamia College of Science and Commerce in Srinagar. Dr. Kak has over 35 years of teaching experience and research experience of over 25 years. He has received numerous research awards resulting in publication of 70 research papers and has authored two books on Botany. He is presently engaged in promoting and strengthening local and regional museums, a project supported by a grant from the Ministry of Culture, New Delhi.)

Azolla – A Nuisance, Needs Immediate Eradication

Azolla commonly known by various names such as Red Azolla, duckweed fern, fairy moss, and water fern with about six or seven species; some placing it in its own family Azollaceae others put it in a related family Salviniaceae. Azolla resembles duck weeds locally called Mangolae, but is differs from it in structure, size and in morphology. The plant that has infested our crystal clear waters is identified as Azolla filiculoids. Occurance of A. pinnata in our water bodies has already been refuted. Azolla species are difficult to identify because of the mess created by the systematists, in merging and separating them and creating sub species. This has led to many misidentifications, confusion and thus uncertainty over correct identification. Three species Azolla microphylla, A. mexicana,A. caroliniana are regarded as synonyms of A. cristata. Similarly. A. caroliniana and A. microphylla are synonyms of the previously described A. filiculoides. The taxonomy of the New World species of Azolla has been the subject of much debate and remains unsatisfactory. A. Filiculoids is mostly temperate or subtropical water fern compared to A cristata which is mostly tropical, less suitable for our temperate conditions. A. cristata is restricted in distribution compared to A. filiculoids which is cosmopolitan, easily infests new regions when carried by agents like water fowls and other migratory birds. The only ultramicroscopic difference between the two is that in A. filiculoids the hair like projection with the hooked tip (glochdia) arising from the mucilaginous extension (massulae) surrounding micro and megaspores and helping in buoyancy is up to 2 septa, while in A. cristata it is sometimes above two septa. It can be an ecological variation and is of less importance. Our main goal is the eradication or to keep this alien invasive under control so that it will not further add stress to our water bodies which are already debilitated.

Azolla, is an invasive alien noxious water weed that has recently invaded our water bodies with prolific growth and has formed thick deep green or red mats in every nook and corner of all valley lakes .This year it was also reported in Manasbal lake for the first time. Its early stages are green, but gradually turn red when continuously exposed to sunlight and reaches to maturation stage producing sporocarps.

Azolla though noxious and a health hazard is not harmful in many parts of the world but has been made beneficial to the aquatic environment in many ways. It was used as green fertilizer since times immemorial in Asia particularly in China from 540 AD (Chinese book of Agricultural techniques). Cynobacterium (Anbeana azollae) living as a symbiotic within thallus of Azolla helps to fix atmospheric nitrogen, converting it to ammonia and then nitrates, so it was used in paddy fields in European and African countries to increase rice yield. It is a beneficial biofertiliser and has many advantages over chemical nitrogenous fertilizers, being cheap, natural, safe and sustainable. Besides it also supplies additional nutrients to the crop and also improves soil structure. There is no run off to harm environment unlike chemical fertilizers. It is much helpful to remove nitrogenous compounds and being capable of absorbing heavy metals like lead and zinc from waste waters as well as from the environment. There are many other uses of Azolla such as it is the best livestock feed, supplement for cattle, chicken and ducks. When its thick layer covers the surface of water, it prevents mosquitoes to lay eggs and their larvae to breathe, hence also called mosquito fern. It is also considered as aesthetic plant and is cultivated in park pools because of its seasonal green or red colourations. It is also food source to various water fowls, insects, worms, snails and various crustaceans, besides providing them shelter. Thick mats of it also restrict exotic aquatic weeds to flourish. But why is it detrimental in the valley and has negative effects in our water bodies, multiple reasons are responsible for it.

1. It was reported for the first time in 2004 (Ref. GK, entitled “Dal – One more blow.” Oct.19th. Page 6th,) wherein LAWDA authorities at that time and scientific and monitoring wing was made aware about the impact and destruction of this alien invasive weeds on our water bodies in coming years if let it grow un noticed, since then no responsible officials of authority, nor any Government official has bothered to pay heed to our yelling and repeated suggestions for its eradication or to keep this noxious weed under control. Besides no practical steps were taken for the protection, conservation or restoration of our internationally reputed lakes, which are backbone to our state economy. Deaf ear was paid to the shouting of many respected citizens of state, national or international personalities who too have recorded their pain and agonies after seeing pathetic condition of these lakes. Every year money in truck loads is buried in some unknown corner of the Dal Lake. Practically no conservation or any improvement has taken place in our water bodies which are shrinking from all corners and rapidly from their centers as countless floating islands are arising by dumping thick layers of Azolla along with other weeds and lake a basin, first preparing vegetable gardens and then converting into residential places or for other business establishments fearlessly.

2. There is no check of effluents, garbage and solid wastes of more than forty thousand people living in the interior of Dal and Nageen lakes that is directly dumped in the lakes, besides sewage and discharge from the 700 house boats which has completely changed water chemistry for the past decade or two. This has resulted in addition of nutrients in the lake particularly essential nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus that has benefitted Azolla to bloom. This is the reason that it grew at such a fast speed doubling its biomass within 3-4 days and leading to eutrophication.

3. No scientific method was implemented or even tried for the past 8 years to check, control or to eradicate this noxious weed by Lake Authorities. They are mere spectators with their folded hands. The engineering wing is active in selecting and procuring the modern machines for de-weeding and apparent cleaning in a particular portion of the Dal Lake only leaving its Nigeen basin as such where lot of deterioration has already taken place. Many a times whenever we were on exploration in these water bodies it was noticed that the drivers are sleeping and the machines are stand still to save the fuel as much as possible.

4. Cash crop Nadur (lotus) is cultivated on war footing basis (being highly profitable) has further added misfortune and stress by hindering water movement. The water remains stagnant, or moves at snail’s pace paving ways for putrification and deterioration and leading to eutrophication and helping in the rapid growth of Azolla. These thick mats of Azolla further help in creating obstruction to all inlets and outlets of the lakes. Nobody takes a serious note of it.

5. Azolla in our water bodies is highly detrimental. Its thick covering causes deoxygenation that is fatal to the underwater organisms, like fish and other aquatic plants and animals. No light penetration means no photosynthesis, respiration leading to the ultimate death of many valuable, nutritional and medicinally important plants. Live example is what happened to 30,000 fish in Nageen Lake recently. Later death and decay of many other weeds causes foul smell and effects the whole population residing nearby.

Countless articles and lot many suggestions have been frequently written for the general awareness of the common man, politicians, bureaucrats and custodians of these lakes with this intension to make them well aware about the importance of our prestigious water bodies that are shrinking every second by the cruel hands of merciless influential people and politicians. Let us forget tourist industry and lake products for a while, on which millions of people earn their bread, we have to ponder for our sustenance and the sustenance of our posterity, for its water. Presently six water pumps are sucking the water from Dal Lake supplying it to the city and the adjacent area. It is evident that the time is approaching when this majestic lake will turn into housing estate.

A few of the suggestions that I want to convey to lake authorities and the concerned officials that must be necessarily taken are mentioned below. These are in addition to what has already been suggested in various local dallies.

This obnoxious weed can be controlled by mechanical means by putting barriers at various places, particularly near lake shores and inlets, so that it can be collected with the help of water and air currents and then removed either by machines, big meshes or flushed out by first raising water level of the lake. This technique although adapted by LWDA has not remained successful, because of lacking basic scientific knowledge; sporocarps along with spores after their formation immediately sink to the bottom, remain dormant then germinate after the resting period. Surface removal should be frequent, continuous, so that little chances are provided to the weed for the formation of spores. Removal should be extremely careful because the fragile plants break into various parts each segment regenerates into a new adult plant. Surface removal or flushing out just once or twice a year is not sufficient.

Azolla can be controlled by the application of some permissible chemicals effectively applied to control this weed. Chemical Asulam (as Asulox) is quick effective herbicide and Azolla is highly susceptible to it but this chemical is not permissible to be used in the potable waters. Diquat or Glyphosate when spread over the fronds of Azolla has proven effective, Diquat (as Reglon) burns Azolla and other weeds but does not kill it but glyphosate kills all weeds even other emergent macrophytes. This is possible only when the thick mats of Azolla are collected at various vulnerable points by providing barriers and these permissible chemicals spread repeatedly before the formation of sexual spores. It should be handled and monitored seriously by expert scientific hands till every spore that germinates and floats on the surface gets effectively eradicated.

Biological control is one of the cheapest and most effective method for eradication or controlling A. filiculoids. Tiny insect Stenopelmus rufinasus, called weevil is host specific. This has scientifically proved successful in S. Africa and N. America. It is an easy biological agent to control Azolla. It feeds, reproduces quickly and completes its life cycle on this weed, generation after generation. Once weevil is released on Azolla little or no maintenance is required. It is inexpensive and most environmental friendly. It can control Azolla throughout the season. This technique can be applied easily by only one operator.

Weevil is monophagous, that means it feeds, reproduces and completes its life cycle on a particular species, so when infested on Azolla en mass, weevils are highly devastating. They reproduce vigorously within a short period of time, and its population can reach up to several millions. All stages of its life, adult and larvae feed on Azolla voraciously. Only care is to be taken for weevil during winters, to protect the seeds for next generation. Why doesn’t LWDA or State government apply above methods in our precious water bodies instead spending such huge amount is a debatable question.

Playing by Different Rules - 2

Ajaz exposes the duplicity

(Mr. Ajaz ul Haque, 42, was born in Srinagar. He completed his school and college education in South Kashmir. He is presently on the faculty as Producer in the University of Kashmir Educational Multimedia Research Centre (EMRC), and a columnist for the Greater Kashmir. In leisure time he enjoys reading.)
VIP's First

What Taj Mohiuddin's guard did to a traffic policeman on duty is nothing new. This cop-beating-cop story is new only because of the sameness of the character. The theme is unchanged. Let all die but minister has to be the first to go. If he is late by a second, that will finish us as a people. So cling to walls, climb a lamppost on the road, lie flat, still yourself, arrest your beat, but ensure that he (along his cavalcade) doesn't waste a minute more. Don't forget he is on a life-saving mission as `important' as attending a marriage party. Since the victim of this terror turned out to be a cop himself, hence the news. We are familiar with this (what by any standards of languages can't be given a better name than) hooliganism.

Minister apart, an `ordinary VIP' (contradiction intentional) carrying the airs and graces of a so called Very Important Person literally kicks out all on the road to pierce his way through. These VIP drivers (their company adequately justifies the title) want to simply fly. The masters are happy in seeing their chauffeurs roar on the road to throw an impression around that the man they are carrying is no way unimportant. This attitude of our prominent people is becoming a new form of malignancy eating us physically and emotionally as well. One wonders as to why are these guardians and makers of the law in a hysterical haste. Why do they want to trample over human bodies to reach their destinations. A pleasure ride of a VIP is to be conducted as an emergency affair. Ambulances carrying patients are not that desperate to reach hospitals as is a VIP entourage to reach the spot. Higher the profile of a person, wilder the behaviour. A VIP car honking from behind and the cavalcade literally unleashing terror on the roadside reminds one of the Dogra rule. We hear it from our elders that how nightmarish would a Maharaja's leisurely walk prove for the people. As the king would stroll around the city, subjects had to scurry to save themselves so that they are spotted. Though the times have changed, but the mindset of our rulers stays the same.

t doesn't happen with politicians alone. It's true with all those who wield power. Bureaucrats, administrators, police high-ups and even academics are not free of this infirmity. This desire to be different always drives one crazy, no matter who you are. Suggesting measures to check the menace will be the most inconsequential we can do.

Weird Spending Habits of the J&K Government

Arjimand gets wiser as he digs deeper

(Mr. Arjimand Hussain Talib, 37, is from Srinagar and matriculated from Tyndale Biscoe Memorial School in 1991. He subsequently graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Engineering from Bangalore University. He is also an alumni of the International Academy for Leadership, Gummerbach, Germany. Arjimand writes regular weekly columns for the Greater Kashmir and The Kashmir Times since 2000 on diverse issues of political economy, development, environment and social change and has over 450 published articles to his credit. Arjimand is currently working as Project Manager for Action Aid International (India) in the Kashmir region and is a member of its International Emergencies and Conflict Team (IECT). His forthcoming books: " Kashmir: Towards a New Political Economy", and "Water: Spark for another Indo-Pak War?" are scheduled for release in 2008. Mr. Talib is presently a technical consultant in international development, covering Asia Pacific and Africa regions.)

Kashmir's Money Problem

Kashmir’s political economy case is paradoxical in many ways. Our state has now a proud distinction – we have the fastest growing tax revenues in India. In contrast, we still bank too much on government of India’s grants for our spending needs. Worse, we borrow far greater than what the state’s current repayment capacity is.
A close look at the state’s finances also highlights a rather weird pattern of our spending. The questions of curiosity that arise are this: why our spending continues to go mostly into areas that don’t look too promising for revenue generation? Can we balance populism with fiscal prudence? Can we transform our political economy to the one that will make our repayment capacity better?
Let us first take the growth in our own tax revenues, a story which is quite contrary to the perception that the people in J&K state don’t pay taxes well.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) state budget studies tell us that the state’s tax revenues were Rs 3,074 crore in 2009-10. From 2009-10 to 2010-11 the growth was about 13.3 per cent. And then came the big leap.
From Rs 3,483 crore in 2010-11, J&K’s taxes grew to Rs 4,791 crore in 2011-12; marking a growth of 37.5 per cent. During the same period our non-tax revenue grew by a staggering 69.3 per cent. This is the fastest growth in a state’s own taxes in the whole of India.
In contrast, the revenue receipts in 2011-12 were less than budgeted by Rs 1,188 crore, primarily because the central funding was less than budgeted by Rs 2,390 crore.
Despite that, our revenue surplus in 2011-12 was Rs 2,659 crore. It is expected to rise to Rs 4,958 crore in 2012-13. That is undoubtedly a big achievement for a state like ours, and, in theory, should help in making more capital expenditure by making more productive investments.
For general information, revenue account involves receipt and expenditure of tax revenues, non tax revenues and central grants; while capital account involves flow of loans from centre or other financial institutions.

While in 2010-11 about 14 per cent of our revenue came from our share in central taxes, we find that the state’s dependence on central grants is reducing. What is particularly notable is that while our total revenue composed of 65.6 per cent of central grants in 2010-11, they have reduced to 60 per cent in 2011-12. If our tax collection goes like this, which in all likelihood will, our dependence on central grants will reduce well below 60 per cent in the coming years. And that could mark a watershed in the history of the state’s political economy.
But what remains a cause for worry is our spending pattern.
While our estimated outlays for 2012-13 are up by 10.6 per cent from 2011-12, some of our key sectors – that could propel growth and help greater revenue generation - have reduced budgets now. And that is what brings our priorities into question.
In the estimated outlays for 2012-13, while agriculture and allied activities have witnessed an enhancement by 34.5 per cent, energy sector outlay has reduced by 8.2 per cent. Crucial sector of communication has seen a reduction by 33 per cent. Similarly, Science, Technology and Environment has seen a reduction of 16 per cent.
What also remains unclear is the quantum of administrative expenditure, including that incurred by the hospitality and protocol activities of the government. If they fall under the head of general services then a 10.6 per cent increase is in odd contrast to the critical sectors mentioned above. This partly explains why our debt situation remains worrisome.
From 2007-08 to 2010-11, our debt has grown by 40.3 per cent. The debt-GSDP ratio – one of the best indicators of economic health of states - was 60 per cent in 2009-10. Although it reduced marginally in 2010-11 to 54.8 per cent it has grown yet again.
It is important to note that although J&K technically falls in the category of a “special category state”, it is not comparable even with the worst performing non-special category state like West Bengal whose debt-GSDP ratio being 39.5 was in 2010-11.
Global financial crisis is very likely to get more serious with the inevitable default and exit of Greece and Spain from the Euro zone. A new price spike in food commodities due to decline in world food production is inevitable too. The uncertainties in the global petroleum supply lines will very probably raise inflation. All these issues do not augur well for India and J&K’s growth prospects and a revenue generation that will keep pace with the expenditure needs.
Now the question remains is this: is a shift from populism to fiscal prudence possible now?

Material Greed is destroying Our Fresh Water Lakes

Ashraf wonders how long before our ecology will be destroyed for good

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

Death Knell for the Water Bodies!

The most visible sign regarding the health of a water body is the status of the marine life in it. The water is the medium through which the marine life gets its oxygen to live. Without oxygen even the human beings cannot survive. One can live without food and water for some time but without oxygen giving air, one cannot survive even for a couple of minutes! Similarly, the marine life which extracts its oxygen from the water dies if the life sustaining oxygen level goes down in the water. Similar incidents have taken place in many water bodies abroad. Some years back fish had similarly died in Lake Geneva. The death had again been caused by oxygen depletion due to industrial and chemical waste going into the Lake. However, a global consortium of expert companies completely restored the Lake including the marine life in it.
The recent dying of the fish in Nageen Lake is alarming. Many theories have been advanced as the cause of this mass dying of fish. In fact, the concerned departments have been accusing each other of negligence. It would be useful to reproduce some extracts from Wikipedia about this phenomenon. The phenomenon is generally known as the “Fish kill”. “The term fish kill, known also as fish die-off and (in Britain) as fish mortality, is a localized die-off of fish populations which may also be associated with more generalized mortality of aquatic life….Fish kills are often the first visible signs of environmental stress and are usually investigated as a matter of urgency by environmental agencies to determine the cause of the kill. Many fish species have a relatively low tolerance of variations in environmental conditions and their death is often a potent indicator of problems in their environment that may be affecting other animals and plants and may have a direct impact on other uses of the water such as for drinking water production….. A reduction in dissolved oxygen may affect larger specimens more than smaller fish as these may be able to access oxygen richer water at the surface, at least for a short time……Fish kills may result from a variety of causes. Of known causes, fish kills are most frequently caused by pollution from agricultural runoff or bio toxins. Ecologicalhypoxia (oxygen depletion)is one of the most common natural causes of fish kills. The hypoxic event may be brought on by factors such as algae blooms, droughts, high temperature and thermal pollution. Fish kills may also occur due to the presence of disease, agricultural and sewagerunoff …”
Another important factor for oxygen depletion is the Algae Bloom. According to Wikipedia “An algae bloom is the appearance of a large amount of algae or scum floating on the surface of a body of water. Algae blooms are a natural occurrence in nutrient-rich lakes and rivers, though sometimes increased nutrient levels leading to algae blooms are due to fertilizer or animal waste runoff. A few species of algae produce toxins, but most fish kills due to algae bloom are a result of decreased oxygen levels. When the algae die, decomposition uses oxygen in the water that would be available to fish. A fish kill in a lake in Estonia in 2002 was attributed to a combination of algae bloom and high temperatures.When people manage algae blooms in fish ponds, it is recommended that treatments be staggered to avoid too much algae dying at once, which may result in a large drop in oxygen content”.
The case of our water bodies is starkly clear. These have been deliberately polluted by us on our own because of material greed. One recalls the childhood days of going in a Doonga from the River Jhelum to Dal and Nageen Lakes. The waters used to be crystal clear. The fish could be seen running round deep below through the transparent waters. One could also see the weeds flowing like tossed by air down belowthe surface. These were never above the water surface in the main open areas of the water bodies. Those days the population of the city was about two hundred thousand or so. Now it is more than a million and a half. The first thing we did was to choke the water bodies by filling up the channels like Nalla Mar. The moving water was able to take care of itself! Then all the sewage and filth of the areas from Dalgate to Rainawari was allowed to be dumped into the Lakes. Next came the house boats which were not allowed to be permanently moored inside the Lake during the Maharaja’s time. The entire wastage of the boats has been going untreated into the water bodies. The worst culprits are the dozens of hotels which have mushroomed all-round the Lake. Incidentally, in May this year about 500 fish died in the German Lake Eichbaum, a very popular spot for swimmers. Their deaths were attributed to swimmer’s urine. It was reported that too many swimmers urinating in the Lake during swimming increases the phosphate level in water causing the death of fish. Untreated sewage flowing into a water body is a major cause for oxygen depletion. Tourism claimed to be the back bone of Kashmir’s economy has been accelerating the death of these water bodies which were the main potential for attracting these people in the first instance! Added to this are the floating gardens and permanent islands inside the Lakes housing almost 50,000 people.
The Algae Bloom has been in our water bodies now for years. In fact we have had the red bloom as well as Azola spread in many parts. The weeds are now most of the time above the water level and the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority has a tough job in cutting these. As already mentioned indiscriminate cutting can also cause oxygen depletion. In earlier days they used to pull out the weeds from the roots. One had expected that the death of the fish would send alarm signals everywhere. However, unfortunately, this dangerous happening too seems to have been taken in normal tortoise pace by both our civil society and the present rulers. There are no two opinions that the oxygen depletion in a water body is the beginning of its end unless drastic and urgent measures are taken immediately. Unfortunately, having eaten the lotus roots from the same Lakes, we have been put to a deep slumber in all spheres of our day to day living, virtually in a sensory paralysis! Be it the menacing stray dogs, the dumps of garbage, and the fast deteriorating environment. Is somebody going to wake us up from our sensory paralysis or we will perish along with our land and its once beautiful environment? God alone knows!

Getting Real on Solving the Kashmir Dispute

Shujaat's commentary in the Rising Kashmir is followed by comments from the author

Pakistan’s reality check on Kashmir

Shujaat Bukhari

 “On the issue of Kashmir, we have to see if our efforts and our strategy in the past have produced desired results. Now the question is, the attitude and formulation we adopted over past 60 years, if we continue sticking to them, will they give us a resolution even after next 65 years? The answer to that is a resounding no. When I say we did not succeed, I mean to say both countries," Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar to DNA’s Iftikhar Gilani.

 A day before the foreign minister level talks between India and Pakistan, Hina Rabbani Khar made this significant statement about her country’s policy on resolving the Kashmir dispute. However, this was ignored by all the stakeholders as well as media in India, Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir. Hina’s statement takes Pakistan back to a nuanced approach adopted by former President Parvez Musharraf, though the current dispensation in Islamabad led by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) had apparently divorced the “changed track” set out by Musharraf by spelling out his much famed four point formula to resolve the vexed issue of Jammu and Kashmir. Not only did Hina hinted at this “changed mindset” in Islamabad, but the immediate former Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani also told NDTV’s Barkha Dutt that they were looking at Musharraf’s formula and had been working at “tightening the loop-holes in it”. One can say that Hina has emphatically made it clear that past 60 years had not yielded desired result for Pakistan as for as its Kashmir policy is concerned. In other words, Pakistan’s stated policy of sticking to United Nations resolutions and the demand for Right to Self Determination had not helped it to see Kashmir getting resolved. This “struggle” not only involved intense diplomatic efforts but also an active support to armed rebellion in Jammu and Kashmir and three full fledged and one low scale war with India. Killing of thousands of people coupled with thousands getting maimed, widowed and orphaned did not bring much change in the situation except that Kashmir was recognized internationally. Unprecedented abuse of human rights and disproportionate presence of armed forces in Kashmir made its people to suffer to the hilt. But with the September 11 attacks on United States of America and subsequent so called “war on terror”, Pakistan’s diplomacy received a hard beating, thus again pushing Kashmir issue to backburner. Its problems on home turf increased to an unimaginable level and the extremists took a heavy toll on Pakistan’s internal stability. This not only left Pakistan to fend within its own territory but also gave India an “opportunity” to use the US and its allies against Islamabad. This eased its situation on Kashmir front, which of late Delhi has been seeing as a “less troubled” area.

Hina’s statement cannot be seen only in the backdrop of above-mentioned facts. But it could be based on a reality check with which Pakistan’s establishment has been handling Kashmir for last few years. A slewed role for Pakistan’s powerful Army and ISI must have helped Islamabad’s political set up to think on more pragmatic lines. That is why Hina emphasizes that past 60 year’s formulations and adaptations had not yielded any result and in next 65 years such a strategy would not take both the countries to a logical goal. By all accounts it is a very positive development with which both countries need to move forward, though without compromising on the basis of the dispute. Hina’s statement, however, should not apply to Pakistan only but it throws up a lesson for New Delhi also to adopt a more pragmatic approach towards the resolution of Kashmir dispute. Its mishandling with the internal dimension of the problem has given severe jolt to any genuine process in the past 60 years and a level playing field for stakeholders inside Kashmir is must for linking it with the pragmatic part of external dimension.

Notwithstanding her assertion that Kashmir remains a core concern for Pakistan, Hina has clearly indicated that Pakistan needed to review its policy over Kashmir. However, she is cautious enough, keeping in view the opposition from hardliners—both in Pakistan and Kashmir. In the same interview to Iftikhar Gillani she maintained that it was time to find convergences without compromising on the centrality of the issue. "Let me first clarify, movements on other issues should not be misinterpreted, that we have compromised on the centrality of Kashmir issue. For us, the issue means rights of Kashmiri people and also to stop ammunition to hate mongers, who are out to destroy our relations," she said repeatedly referring to hate mongers on both sides, who according to her should not get ammunition in the shape of keeping the issue (of Kashmir) as burning port. “We need to disarm them from this ammunition”.

What is evident from the tone and tenor of Pakistan Foreign Minister is that Islamabad has hooked itself back to Musharraf’s four-point formula though not owning it publicly. The much talked about formula had been favoured at various levels not only in India and Pakistan but also in Kashmir where the Hurriyat Conference faction led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq had publicly endorsed it. The extremist line adopted by hardline leader Syed Ali Geelani was well understood at that time. But for any changed policy on Kashmir, Islamabad needs to take the hawks on board. Kashmiris were genuinely disappointed over “no mention” of Kashmir in the just concluded talks, but if this “silence” is for a broader solution then wait could be worthwhile.

In the past, however, Kashmir was discussed substantively in the bilateral dialogues and the Confidence Building Measures across the Line of Control where in sharp focus. After a major breakthrough in November 2003 with the ceasefire along LoC, a new chapter was opened in the relations between two countries with focused attention towards Kashmir. It was followed by the historic resumption of bus service between Srinagar and Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawlakot. The dialogue continued in February 2005 but was derailed with 2006 train bombings in Mumbai, which later came to know was the handiwork of home grown militants. Both countries were back on the table and the November 26 attack in Mumbai derailed everything. Its origin was traced to Pakistan. In all these cases whether the home grown terror in India or the terror linked to Pakistan, Kashmiris have been made to suffer.

Besides a mellowed approach on Kashmir from Pakistan, delinking the issue of terrorism from the ambit of composite dialogue has in a sense helped both countries to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. Both sides repeatedly maintained that they stick to their guns on Kashmir and terrorism but the movement forward on easing the visa regime and other cross border issues could be a well beginning for addressing all the issues at a larger well. In any case Khar’s statement should not be addressed in isolation but it needs to be looked at with a broader perspective in the backdrop of losses gains of past 60 years.

Political future of Kashmir has been fantasized

 Dr Vijay Sazawal

This is in response to the article, “Pakistan’s Reality Check on Kashmir” written by Shujaat Bhukhari in Rising Kashmir. I have read the article with great interest. As much as some Kashmiri commentators and columnists like to fantasize on the political future of Kashmir, the reality is that what will happen at the end, to a large extent, will depend on the deal that India and Pakistan will cook among themselves and get the major powers to endorse. Kashmiris can have a decisive role in the process, but that will not happen unless Kashmiris realize that such a role will only come out of a well thought out political strategy and not because these parties will come begging to Kashmiris to hear their wishes and grant them unconditionally.

Kashmiris have two choices – they can continue to ignore reality and aspire for impossible dreams (in my childhood we would call such wishful thinking as khayali pullao), or we can make the best out of a bad situation. The former approach is not only a favorite of the hard-core lobby personified by Syed Ali Geelani, but I would also lump the JKNC and the PDP with the same lobby, since fuzzy rhetoric apart none of those entities really want to see a change in the political status quo.

The Mirwaiz faction, on the other hand, knows the reality but this group does not command loyalty or passions to the same pitch that leaders of the status-quo lobby do. The media could show its smarts, but prefers the wishful thinking in so far as the solution to the Kashmir dispute is concerned. So Farooqs, Bhats and Lones do not know how to carry masses along. The net result is that the political status quo will continue.

In my commentary on “The American Policy and Kashmir Dispute,” published by this esteemed newspaper about 6 weeks back, I mentioned the prescription that some American policy makers have suggested. I strongly believe that if Kashmiris are proactive in demanding demarcation of the international boundary, many options for self-governance are possible on either side of the international border that will not be finalized without the assent of the major powers who do want to see Kashmiris treated with dignity and fairness. In return, the entire deal – from international border demarcation to quality of self-governance – forms a single package that will involve approval of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). I would like to propose that we move towards that goal now, rather than later, when India has a strong possibility to be a permanent member of the UNSC.

Such an approach will require courage on the part of Kashmiri politicians, and Kashmiri commentators and columnists have to get real to allow such a process to proceed. In my humble view, we can continue as usual or do something remarkable to bring peace and prosperity in the entire region.

J&K Government Caught in a Web of Lies Related to RTI

Fida reminds the J&K Government that people's right to know is paramount in a democratic society

(Mr. Fida Iqbal, 49, was born in Sopore. He attended the D.A.V. School in Nayadyaar, Rainawari, and the Government Higher Secondary School in Sopore. He obtained his Bachelor's degree in Agriculture/Floriculture and Landscaping from Chowdhry Chottu Ram College at Muzaffarabad Nagar in Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Iqbal works with the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department as a landscape architect. He enjoys kitchen gardening, reading writing, and is very a passionate and dedicated golf player.)

The Pitfalls of Democracy

In almost all parts of the subcontinent so far democracy is in evolutionary phase, particularly democracy in our state is relatively in its infancy. Gradual belittling of State Accountability Commission to the extent of its virtual extinction has exposed emerging democracy in Kashmir to vagaries of exploitation. 
Accordingly the recent curtailment in powers of the State Information Commission and veiled confrontation between Chief Information Commissioner and the government does not auger well for people’s rule (read Democracy), we made a choice in 1947 after long drawn struggle for empowerment.
During the last several years the whole country and consequently the Jammu and Kashmir as well experienced many radical changes by enacting several laws and acts to explore vistas of accountability.
Establishment of State Accountability Commission in 2002 and enacting Right to Information Act (RTI Act) in 2009 in line with central RTI Act 2005 opened an entirely new and vast chapter of transparency in otherwise much flawed democratic system in J&K. With the introduction of RTI Act and free flow of information, corruption, the monstrous face of our society felt tremors of extinction. The effective penetration of these two revolutionary laws made many crooks in the administration and their masters in political hierarchy to feel the heat of answerability. Common man’s access to every page and note of administrative records send shivers through the much stressed nerves of exploiters and bands of illegitimate beneficiaries. Thus, scheming plots to undermine these revolutionary steps got rolling in the corridors of corruption and castles of nepotism. A modus operandi was devised to influence the pioneers of these laws with a logic that over-emancipation of people will encroach upon, ‘their own’ authority and future prospects of their success and superiority. These machinating motivations initially deflated authority of State Accountability Commission rendering it almost hollow. For last several years this institution of accountability is either headless or lacks quorum. After the untimely death of its first chairman Justice (Retired) R.P.Sethi the commission remained headless for years. After much reluctance and long drawn skewed selection procedure the commission was reactivated, but with revised and curtailed authorization to try the graft cases of public functionaries only (by enacting, Act. No.II of 2011).
Interestingly the recent stand of the government about powers of suo motto actions by the commission under regulation-9 being in conflict with the provisions of the Act and casting doubts about the status of the commission while invoking provisions under section-24 of the SAC Act clearly relate a different story about the intentions of the administration vis-à-vis unrestricted anti corruption powers of SAC. The fate of the State Vigilance Commission after its constitution in 2011 is an open story of indifference towards accountability.
In continuation to its hide and seek policy and the influence of unscrupulous elements government used its overriding powers to curtail the powers of the Information Commission with a plea that the present rules are not in compliance with the RTI Act 2009 and central Act of 2005 and were necessitated to be changed to remove certain anomalies. And thus on August 30, 2012 axe fell on RTI Act by notifying new RTI Rules through SRO 279 to replace RTI Rules of 2010 wherein the RTI Act has been curtailed to the extent of ‘information for the sake of information’ without any punitive provisions in case of any noncompliance by the information providing agency. With such sweeping changes in the Act the commission has been left more or less toothless. No doubt government in its capacity has absolute and overriding powers to change or cancel any of its earlier rules, Acts or laws, but before making any such sweeping changes with wider implication on the health of democracy and the interests of the common man government should take every stakeholder on board. In genuine democracy every step towards empowerment has to be made with honesty, sincerity and desirable levels of foresightedness. An iota of doubt or hypocrisy will ruin the whole process of equality as envisaged by our forefathers. People’s right to know about system and leaders of their government is paramount and any overt or covert move to scuttle this right will always prove counterproductive and will spoil the spirit of democracy.