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.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Suffering Women

Two reports on gender inequalities in Kashmir from two women writers, followed by disturbing statistics about rape crimes committed by local Kashmiris

(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 28, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.)

Amid Slogans of Female Empowerment, Kashmiri Women Suffer Silently

Srinagar: Notwithstanding the fact that women have borne the brunt of violence during the last two decades here, various studies have shown that uncaring authorities and societal norms have multiplied their woes, sometimes forcing them to commit suicide.

Renowned sociologist, Dr. Bashir Ahmed Dabla estimates that in the last more than two decades of conflict, 20,000 persons have committed suicide. “My surveys have shown that number of women committing suicide is more than men. Throughout the world, suicide rates are higher among men and more intense in urban areas, but in the Valley the reverse is true”, he said.

“In the years of turmoil, Kashmiri women have suffered worst. They were dishonored – raped or molested - and in many cases, suffered at the hands of society too”, he said. In many instances, police simply refused to entertain women’s complaints and register their cases.

Minister for Social Welfare, Sakina Itoo agrees that majority of cases of domestic violence; particularly in far-flung areas go unnoticed owing to the negligence of police in registering them. “Hundreds of women have come to me and informed that police refuses to register complaints of domestic violence they are subjected to,” confesses Itoo, adding that the available statistics also provides evidence of the discrimination faced by women in J&K. “If the available data is taken as a pointer, it goes without saying that women have suffered worst during past two decades,” Itoo told ‘Kashmir Images’.

Women constitute more than 60 percent of the patients visiting Kashmir's lone mental health hospital in Srinagar for treatment, with most of them suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorders (PTSD). Dr. Mushtaq Margoob, noted psychiatrist, believes hundreds of women do not turn up for medical help because of illiteracy and social taboos attached to the mental health hospitals. “They continue to suffer silently,” he told ‘Kashmir Images’.

“Social prejudices reinforce domestic violence against women. They are treated as their spouses' property; husbands assume that this subordinate role gives them right to abuse their wives in order to keep them in their place. Against this background is the tradition of dowry, an expectation of gifts and cash from the bride's family,” says Margoob.

“Women's physical and mental health is often permanently damaged or impaired and in some cases violence can have fatal consequences as in the case of dowry deaths,” adds the psychiatrist. Leading social activist and lawyer, Abdul Rashid Hanjoora says, “They (women) are often caught in a vicious circle of economic dependence, fear for their children's lives as well as their own, ignorance about their rights, lack of confidence in themselves and social pressures.” “These factors effectively force women to a life of recurrent mistreatment from which they often do not have the means to escape. The sanctity of privacy within the family also makes authorities reluctant to intervene, which often leads women to deny they are being abused”, Hanjoora adds.

“Each year a minimum of 100 cases of domestic violence are received by us while the majority of cases go unreported due to social stigma attached to it. Even the cases that are reported do not give complete picture of the crime scenario wherein women are the victims”, he said. “We need to ponder as to how this form of degradation of women can be stopped. It needs support from all quarters - be it government, NGOs or women themselves”, believes Hanjoora.

Kashmiri Society Desensitized Towards Crime!

Sana Altaf (Rising Kashmir)

Srinagar: How serious is our society towards curbing crime against women can be gauged from the fact that not more than 15 people turned up to protest against the acid attack incident that took place in Srinagar few days back.

The protest, organized by the Human Rights Law Network at Press Colony here on Thursday didn’t saw the response as was conceptualized. The protest was held to demand justice for the acid attack victim and bring social awareness about the rising crime against women.

Though hundreds of netizens showed willingness to join the protest on social networking site Facebook, except for few girls and men, none was seen participating in the protest. “It is very unfortunate that people who promised to attend the protest on Facebook didn’t turn up,” said advocate Syed Junaid Sadaat from Human Rights Law Network (HRLN). However he was quick to add that since Kashmir is a conflict zone, many things stop people from joining protests. Sadaat said female folk should have come forward as the issue concerns them.

“I request every woman to come forward and stand for justice.” Khair-un- Nisa, a social worker associated with HRLN said participation of lesser number of people in the protest depicts insensitivity of the society towards women issues. “We cannot blame men for not participating when women don’t turn up. People here are cold towards grave violation of human rights,” Nisa said. HRLW had created a page by the name of “Acid Attack” on Facebook.

Over 600 invitations were sent to people from different sections of society. “Hundreds had confirmed that they will join us in protest but it was really sad to see the response,” Nisa said. When 28-year-old woman was attacked with acid by stalker, condemnations poured from social workers, separatists and mainstream political parties. The issue was debated on social networking sites .However when it came to come to streets to protest, no one came forward, he said.

A 15-year-old boy Azhar who was part of the protest said incidents like acid attack and rape must end in Kashmir. “I am here to stand for the rights of women. We want men and women treated equally,” said Azhar, adding though he had invited his friends to the protest, no one turned up.

Kalida, a school teacher said crime against women is a social issue and people particularly youth have to curb it. She regretted the feeble response of people in the protest. Tanveer, from Muslim Khawateen Marqaz said the acid attack incident is an example of ethical breakdown of our society. “We need to revive our social system. There have been incidents of rape in Kunanposhpora, Shopian and Sopore. We have to raise our voice,” she said adding justice should be granted in time to the acid attack victim.

2,360 Rape Cases Pending Trial in Various Courts

Srinagar: In Jammu and Kashmir, 2,360 rape cases are pending trial in various courts. The number of such cases is highest in Baramulla district, where 416 cases are pending before the courts.

To deal with a huge backlog of rape cases, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has written to the state government for creation of eight new courts of the rank of District and Sessions Judge as fast-track courts in eight districts, where the pendency of rape cases is high.

“In Jammu and Kashmir, 2,360 rape cases are pending trial before courts in many districts,” a senior high court official said.

He said the highest number of rape cases was pending before the courts in Baramulla district.

Baramulla is followed by Kulgam district, where 250 rape cases are pending in the courts.

In Anantnag district in south Kashmir, 247 rape cases are before the courts.

In Kupwara district in north Kashmir, 196 rape cases are pending trial.

Pulwama district has 162 such cases.

In Srinagar, the number of pending rape cases is 157.

In Jammu province, Jammu district tops the list, where 147 rape cases are pending trial before the courts.

Rajouri district has 121 rape cases which are pending trial. “These eight districts have the highest number of rape cases pending before the courts.

In other districts, the number of such cases is low,” the official said. Asked what measures were being taken to deal with the pendency and expeditious trail of rape cases in the state, the Registrar General of the high court Suresh Kumar Sharma said the court had taken up the matter with the state government.

“The J-K High Court has sought the creation of eight courts of the rank of District and Sessions Judge as fast-track courts in the districts where there is a huge pendency of rape cases. The matter for creation of these courts has been taken up with the state government,” the Registrar General said. Since it would take time for new fast-track courts to be “actually” created, Sharma said it was resolved to earmark five existing courts as fast track to exclusively try rape cases to provide succour to the victims. (Tribune News Service)

Tibet in Srinagar

Monisa highlights a silent minority

(Ms. Monisa Qadri was born and raised in Srinagar. She has been a Mallinson Girl and studied bio-chemistry at the Women's College, Srinagar. She has studied mass communications and journalism from Kashmir University, and worked for a few years in the Corporate Communications and Public Relations Department of the J&K Bank. She is now a member of the faculty at the Islamic University of Science and Technology (IUST) in Awantipora, teaching journalism and mass communication. She writes as a freelancer.)

Tibetans of Kashmir

Tibetan Colony of Kashmir is still an enigma for most of the Kashmiris. Many people do not know much about them. After converting to Islam, these people migrated to Kashmir from Tibet around 1960, and are since then called as ‘Tibetans’. They settled in Srinagar city in the areas of Hawal, Eid-Gah and Gulshan Mohalla of Makhdoom Sahab, the place now known as the ‘Tibetan Colony’.

Some 120 families are believed to have migrated from Tibet, and at present there are about 270 families settled in these three localities, which make up a population of about a thousand people. Abdul Majeed Dar (55) has faint memories of migration but his elders have told him much about it. He says, “We first settled in Numaishi (Exhibition Grounds) when we came here and then we were shifted to Eidgah and other areas, where a colony was built for us.”

Like majority of Kashmiri at that time, their financial condition was not good and so they had to struggle hard for their living. “We even sold off jewellery and other valuable things. When the civil Secretariat was being constructed, we laboured for it,” he adds.

With typical Mongoloid features, these people have still held onto their culture. Their food comprises of famous Momo, Thukpa, Chowmein and their women wear ‘Shhuba’-a gown and they speak mostly in their mother tongue Tibetan. They relish these symbols of their identity. Every household has varied items of Tibetan origin like utensils, fabrics, carpets or wool.

Tauseef Ahmad Shahkuli, a 24 year old self-employed boy, and his sister-in-law happily showcase these and other things like Ginseng Tea, painkillers and so on. While holding out a bottle of Vapourub, he says, “This is the original product” and as naming a popular Indian brand he adds, “that is simply a copy that is why we use Tibetan items.” When asked about how these things are procured, it was said that they are mostly bought from Tibet, when somebody travels to and fro and also from Tibetan markets of Jammu, Ladakh or Delhi. Strangely, there is no such market in the Valley and that is why Asma, who got married last year, had to get her Shhuba and Paandaeyy (apron) stitched from Delhi as there is no such tailor here. These are a must for every bride.

Almost every house has typical aluminium cookware ‘Moattu’ with two parts, meant specifically for preparing Momos in steam. Big, small and in every size as the need be. Majority of these people are associated with the business of embroidery, hosiery or tourism. Tauseef himself is associated with tourism and has two cabs, while his family runs an embroidery business.

His shop, which is located near his home, displays variety of Tila (Traditional embroidery in Silver and Golden thread) designs done mostly on Pherans (Kashmiri Gown worn during winters). Amidst sounds of sewing machines, he talks about his business and while talking about their speciality, he says, “We don’t do the handwork, as we use machines and that is why Kashmiris refer to this kind of work as ‘Boata Tila.’ There is a good market for this work also as it is reasonable.” Shahkulis’ different ventures provide employment to around 25 people.

Generally, these people are hardworking and honest, which has earned them good reputation among other communities. While entering into the Eidgah Colony, we saw an octogenarian woman busy with knitting and she was there even after we were coming back. ‘Maulaa’ or Granny as she was called by everyone in the colony, seemed little bothered about this unfamiliar face as she went on converting yarn into a sweater along with two other women Zulaikha and Haseena in their forties.

She has been good at almost everything as Tauseef said that she is the Momo specialist and has fed people for decades in her little Momo restaurant. Maulaa, whose real name is Zeenat has been a witness to the migration and she was in the prime of her youth then as she says, “I was 28 then as I came here with my family and that was a difficult time for all of us.” Zulaikha says that due to the communist control on Tibet, it was deemed fit by their elders to return to Kashmir so that they could practice their religion freely. “My grandfather, Habibullah was arrested along with his friends who were religious heads of Muslims there and he died in prison some 15-20 years after we came here. And we too had to experience lot of issues when we came to Kashmir; language was one of the biggest problems,” she explains. By this time, three more people are already there –Ishrat Ganai (23), Wajida (6) and Ghulam Rasool (52). After listening to the point regarding language incompatibility, she quietly whispers about Maulaa’s awkward moment saying, “She would ask for Mohabbat (Love) if she wanted a Mombati (Candle).”

On a serious note, Ghulam Rasool mentions that they were asked by the Indian Government to go to any other place in India, but since they were originally from Kashmir, they chose to come to Kashmir. “It was also because of our religion that we felt we should come here,” he adds. But, there have been so many things that bother this community which includes denial of state subject, little opportunities for higher education besides no access to government jobs here. The latter two are a result of the state subject issue.

State subject is not given to these people, even though they have all the other documents like Electoral Identity card, ration card etc. Article 370 is the reason behind this, but they are basically of Kashmiri origin and their forefathers had migrated to Tibet, the proof of which being why they re-migrated to Kashmir in 1960, in which the Indian government was instrumental. Abida Parveen, a final year student is unsure about her future. “I don’t know how I will be able to get admission for my Post Graduation for the want of a state subject.”

This is the tale of almost every graduate or higher secondary pass-out, who needs to produce state subject at the time of admission, and true with regards to those yearning for a government job as there also the requirement is the same. Seema Qazi, who teaches in the Tibetan Public School, is a graduate and she did not study further because of this and now also she is not looking for any other job.

But, those who are fortunate enough to travel to different cities of India like Delhi, do not face such a problem and every Tibetan colony member who has gone for further studies has studied outside. Dr. Qazi, a young university assistant professor, has studied in New Delhi. He has been studying in a university there from his undergraduate days but not everyone in their community is able to do so.

Poor literacy rate is another major problem. Lack of opportunities in both higher education and employment discourages many, while few seem to be disinterested altogether due to a mixed bag of reasons. For Ishrat, former was the reason for not pursuing studies after completing her 12th, while she says that some of her cousins were never interested in studies and wanted to engage themselves in business ventures.

Nevertheless, there is a great bonding between them and certain Kashmiris who think positively about them. Abdul Rasheed, a local businessman working with some members of the Tibetan community including Tauseef and Majeed, says, “I have been trading with them and they are my very good friends and honestly it is good to deal with them. However, due to generic problems like counterfeiting that exist in Kashmir, at times our business suffers.” Tibetan Kashmiris too feel that they have never felt any social discrimination as Abida points, “There are inter-community marriages as well and we live in a great harmony with everyone.” 

(The article is part of Indo Global Social Service Society’s (IGSSS) Media Fellowship Programme under Youth Action for Peace Project. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily reflect views of Indo Global Social Service Society)

Magician Wizardry or Election Puffery?

Junaid sees a deja vu in Chief Minister's new claims

(Mr. Junaid Azim Mattu, 26, was born in Srinagar. He partly completed his schooling at the Burn Hall School, Srinagar, and partly at the Bishop Cotton School, Shimla. He attended college in America and graduated with a degree in Business and Finance from the Eli Broad School of Business at Michigan State University. He is a consulting financial analyst and telecom-IT entrepreneur based in Srinagar. A seeded national varsity debater throughout his school and college career (his grandfather - Khwaja Ghulam Ahmed Ashai - was one of the founding fathers of the Muslim/National Conference), Mr. Mattu also played under-19 cricket at national level for J&K. He is a founder of the World Kashmiri Students Association (WKSA), a global youth association for Kashmiris based in Srinagar, Kashmir, working on social, economic and political issues through constructive and informed activism. WKSA, as of today has 1,700+ registered members in Kashmir. He is also a nominated alumnus of the Global Young Leaders Conference. He is also the Srinagar District President of J&K Peoples’ Conference, led by Mr. Sajad Lone. In his leisure time, Junaid likes to engage in reading, gardening, watching movies and listening to music.)

80,000 More Government Jobs. HOW?

The salary and wage bill for the J&K Government is around 16,000 crores. The State’s total revenue is around 6,500 crores. So what our State has to pay in salaries, wages and pensions to its employees is 246% of what it earns in taxes and other forms of revenue. Our Revenue Expenditure rose by a whopping 27% in 2012, while there was a marginal increase in Revenue Collection. J&K with about a 5% fiscal deficit has the third highest fiscal deficit in India, after Manipur (8.24%) and Pondicherry (7%). In terms of the amount of fiscal deficit, J&K’s fiscal deficit is incomparable and staggering. However, with around 8 Billion USD grants from the Center, the fiscal deficit isn’t a relevant reflection. Out of 28 Indian States, J&K’s Economy is ranked 8th from the bottom, followed by Goa, Tripura, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and Sikkim. The Economic Survey of India Report (2011-2012) shows an increase of Rs 2,548 crore in our fiscal deficit from a back-breaking Rs 28,724 crore in 2009-10 to Rs 31,272 crore during 2010-11. Twenty-percent of J&K’s population lives below the poverty line – which means that every fifth individual of this State lives below the BPL. Around 26% of our Rural Population and around 8% of our Urban Population falls below the poverty line – which in itself is an unrealistic measure of economic welfare to start with.

We have quite frequently heard the ridiculous, ironic declarations of “Zero Deficit Budgets”. For a State that pays 16,000 crores in salaries to its employees and has a total revenue of around 6,500 crores – a “Zero Deficit” Budget is a crafty accounting trick – nothing more. And successive governments have resorted to this accounting trick without any inhibition. The overdraft available to the J&K Government from the Jammu & Kashmir Bank was increased from the limit of Rs. 2,965 crores to a limit of Rs. 4812 crores in 2010-2011 – all of which was fortunately discharged ending a monstrous financial liability for the State Government that had become a hallmark of its operations and “zero-deficit” budget trickery. The overdraft in 2010-2011 was liquidated by a collective Open Market Borrowing of around Rs. 1,300 crores. Unsurprisingly, this Market Borrowing of Rs. 1,300 crores isn’t considered by the State Government in estimating its total fiscal deficit. J&K is buried under debt. Our State Government functions on grants by the Center. The State has witnessed an economically paralyzing political turmoil, agreed. However, successive State Governments are almost criminally guilty of poor economic planning and lack of a political will to steer J&K out of debt, dependence and destitution. Two liabilities for our State are gruesome, and for both – we have our traditional mainstream parties and their leaders to blame – including the present dispensation. One – the money we have to pay to purchase power from the national grid. Two – the staggering salary, wage and pension bill that we have. Both operating expenditures, collectively, leave little hope for the State to develop. Almost all of our own revenue and what we get as grants from Delhi is spend on operating expenditure, leaving little money for the desperately needed Capital Expenditures in the State – better roads, hospitals, schools, bridges, flyovers, universities and hydro-electric power projects. We are engulfed in a never-ending vicious circle of paying our bills by borrowing and begging money. But, will Delhi keep financing our operating and revenue expenditures limitlessly? Apparently and understandably – No! And this is not a presumption. The Central Government has on various occasions expressed serious displeasure at the State’s financial situation and its failure to control its rising revenue expenditures.

And NOW, lo and behold – our Chief Minister wants to add 80,000 more government employees to the list of the State’s vagaries. 80,000 additional government jobs could translate into an addition of around Rs. 2,500 to 4,000 crores to our revenue expenditure – which could potentially double our fiscal deficit. So, the question is pertinent – how does our Chief Minister plan on paying for 80,000 new government jobs? The CM cannot ask the tax-payers to bear the cost of this lunacy and here is why – the State Government in ads responding to the employees strike has stated that any increase in the State’s Salary Bill would result in an increased tax-burden on the State’s tax-payers. So, is it OK to put a burden on them NOW, now that elections are around the corner? The other option would be to ask the Center to bear the brunt of an additional 2,500 to 4,000 crores annually – and that too isn’t going to happen if one goes by the fact that even doles and grants don’t come from a bottomless coffer.

So – if the CM isn’t repeating the “Meter Nahi Heater” sloganeering of 2008 (which most probably is the case – in which case there is little to be worried for) – he needs to answer – where will the money to meet this additional, recurring liability come from? More taxes, more open-market borrowing or more grants from Delhi?

Forest Area Without Forest Policy Spells Disaster

Zeenat exposes how disappearing animal species in Kashmir is yet another victim of Government apathy

(Ms. Zeenat Zeeshan Fazil, 28, was born in Srinagar, Kashmir. She did her schooling from King George (Mumbai) and later Cambridge (New Delhi), and received her Masters degree in English Literature from the University of Kashmir in 2008. Presently, she is also pursuing her second Masters degree in Mass Communications through the Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). In 1998, she began her career as a freelance journalist with leading national newspapers and simultaneously joined ‘Fazil Kashmiri Publications’ as Editor and Publisher, and is also an editor of the ‘Focus’. Ms. Fazil has written a book on Mass Media and Linguistics (2006), and ‘Falcons of Paradise'(2009), a reference book contains 100 Eminent Personalities of J&K starting from 14th century till date. After working for ‘Daily Etaalat’- a Srinagar based Newspaper in 2007-2008; she joined ‘Daily Kashmir Images’ as a Senior Correspondent by the end of 2008. She is also currently associated with ‘Charkha’, a foundation that highlights the developmental concerns of marginalized section of Kashmiri society particularly in rural areas and to draw out perspectives on women through their writings. Ms. Fazil is also associated with ‘Interchurch Peace Council Netherlands’ which is intensely involved in several conflict areas such as in Kashmir. In 2009, she joined the South Asia Free Media Association (SAFMA). She has received numerous awards for her meritorious contribution in the field of literature. Her interests are reading, writing, poetry, music, travel,and gender related topics.)

Kashmir - a Classic Case of Forested Place Without Forest Policy!

Srinagar: Even as the incidence of human-wild animal conflicts is on the rise, population of wild animals in Kashmir Valley is on decline owing to extensive deforestation which is shrinking the natural habitat of these animals.

Kashmir which was once home to vast wildlife reserves including some rare species which existed only in the Valley has steadily lost this distinction over the years.

“Rare species like that of Marmot and Snow Leopard have been hunted down for its valuable skin and teeth and today they are on the verge of extinction. Similarly, famous ‘Kashmiri Otter’ is hardly now seen in the Valley,” says a Wildlife official who wished not to be named.

He said the hunting of rare species like that of Horned Sheep, Kashmiri Antelope, the Blue Sheep, Urian, Ibex and Snow Leopard has been in practice since 1947.

Some decades back most of these animals were killed for food needs but when it was realized how precious the animal furs and skins were in the international market, slaughter of these wild animals started with much ardour, he said adding that this has resulted Marmot, Snow Leopard, Flying Squirrel having reached on the verge of extinction.

Hangul or Kashmir Stag these days is spotted mostly in the northern regions of Kashmir Valley and as per the survey carried out jointly by the Department of Wildlife Protection, J&K, and the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI), its (Hangul’s) overall population is around 218. Some two decades back, 3000 Hangul were present in Dachigam National Park and its adjoining areas alone.

Other reasons responsible for declining population of wild animals include the encroachment of the forest land by the people and troops which has disturbed the natural habitat of these animals.

This is one of the main reasons for increasing incidence of human-wild animal confrontations, which have proved fatal to both, experts say. They say owing to human encroachments in their natural habitat, wild animals often descend to human habitations in search of food.

“Once food becomes unavailable to them in their natural surroundings, they start moving from one place to another for want of food. Sometimes they move to such areas that may not be protected and become prone to predators,” Wildlife officials say.

Kashmir's ecological balance has also been severely disturbed as a result of unabated environmental destruction for the past 40 years.

Permanent snow-cover on mountains has receded, snowfall and rainfall has significantly diminished and average temperatures have risen above normal.

The combined effect of deforestation and mismanagement of water resources has also resulted in soil erosion which is also responsible for frequent flash-floods, experts point out.

In order to prevent further damage to the wildlife, the authorities will have to protest the forests and environment in general. “Wild animals can be saved fro extinction only if their natural habitat is saved and restored.”

However, a general consensus among the wildlife and environmental experts here is that protection of forests is and has never been a priority for the state government.

“Buying tranquilizers and putting in place other measures to deal with increasing human-wild animal conflicts is just a momentary measure – it could never save wild animals nor prevent their deadly confrontations with human. State needs a comprehensive forest and environmental policy, and above all a massive political will to save whatever is left of our forests and wild animals living in them,” suggested another expert.

Despite repeated attempts, both Minister for Forest and Wildlife (J&K), Mian Altaf Ahmad, and Chief Wildlife Warden (J&K), A K Singh, didn’t respond to the calls made by this newspaper office.

Incompetence Unlimited

Fazili says the National Building Construction Company Limited (NBCCL) drainage project can prove disastrous for Old city

(Er. 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.) 

Disastrous Drainage Project for Srinagar

Srinagar: The government’s plan to save the twin capital cities of the state from sewerage disposal has forced experts to raise an alarm as they express apprehensions of mass destruction if the plan was put into effect.

Pertinently, the state government with the purpose of protecting capital cities from ‘sullied’ water approved a huge amount of rupees of 133 crore in the year 2007 for the mega project and handed over the work to National Building Construction Company Limited (NBCCL), however, experts believe that the project might prove detrimental for the historic old city as the city may become prone to frequent flooding.

Interestingly, the government has so far released near about ninety crores for (Greater Srinagar Sewerage Project) which has bewildered experts who believe that the executing agency (NBCCL) is ‘incompetent ’ in performing such tentative works.

“I can only say that if the government really pushes with this project there are possible chances of flooding the old city as the executing agency is unaware about the topographic conditions of the valley. The company has no advance technology to carry out the work on such a sensitive project,” Former Chief Engineer, R &B, Mohammad Ashraf Fazli told Kashmir Images.

He said that the spreading pipes had been done on precarious manner including laying of mud mats under the joints of pipes, maintaining the gradient at invert level with leveling instruments, refilling in layers with proper compaction, testing the cube strength of the laid concrete / steel according to BIS specifications.

“The government rather than handing over the project to NBCL should consider the Urban Environmental Engineering Department (UEED) or Drainage Circle Srinagar for the project as both the departments were well aware about the topography of the region,” Fazli cautioned.

“There are possible chances of ‘cataclysm’ as 3 -4 days continuous rainfall might drown the entire old city. Around 50 thousand house drains in Srinagar city are expected to connect with single drain and the base water will be collected by a 60 MLD Sewerage Treatment Plant installed at Noorbagh area on the city outskirts,” claimed Fazli.

President Contractors Coordination Committee (CCC) Farooq Ahmad Dar said that the NBCL has faced lot of problems in the implementation of the project of which the Soura link road is a glaring example. Dar said that if the project was not handled according to the topographic conditions an inch of difference might be disastrous for old city which will imprecisely floodit in no time.

However, official sources confirmed that 60 percent of work of 60MLD Sewerage Treatment Plant has been completed after the state government under Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JLNURM) scheme gave a green signal for the project in 2006.

Experts said that the effect of inappropriate planning would cover most of the city areas under its clutches including Nallahmar, Alamgari Bazaar, Lal Bazar, Soura and Gojwara.

Fall From Grace

Ill-planning vandalizes Srinagar’s globally famous heritage walkway

Rise and Fall of The Bund

Arif Shafi Wani (Greater Kashmir)

 Dotted with towering mighty Chinars and overlooking gushing river Jhelum, The Bund in the heart of Srinagar till a few decades ago was a favorite haunt of nature lovers and British. However, ill-planning and haphazard concrete constructions along the once famous walkway have vandalized this stretch.

Raised nearly a century ago primarily to protect Srinagar from flood waters of Jhelum, The Bund was developed during the Dogra regime as a nature trail cum walkway by British tourists and officers who used to stay mostly in houseboats anchored along the walkway.

With heavy inflow of British tourists, gradually handicraft, carpet, jewellery and fishing equipment shops came up along The Bund and it became a favorite shopping hub for British. The Emporium building along The Bund was originally British Residency in Srinagar. The Bund comprised of over two kilometer stretch from Amira Kadal bridge to Ram Munshi Bagh.

The stretch from The Bund to Shivpora was known as European Quarters as it used to bustle with British. The shops were constructed in colonial style and decorated with chiseled stones and wood carvings. All the shops had small sprawling lawns infront with neatly paneled wood fencing. Its remnants are still visible. Decorated with fragrant flowers, ornamental trees and clay tiles, the British were so mesmerized by The Bund’s beauty and solace that many of them selected a chunk of land along it as their last abode in shape of a graveyard at Sheikh Bagh.

“The Bund was mostly thronged by British officers posted in Pakistan before partition. Due to immense publicity by British, this place became famous world over and gradually emerged as most preferred shopping hub for foreigners,” recounted Muhammad Shafi Qureshi, an octogenarian owner of Munawar Shah and Sons—an exclusive shop of fishing equipment near The Bund.

“The British were so fascinated by The Bund that they used to clean garbage from it. Walking through The Bund was considered to be a privilege. It was a royal route. There was so much admiration for The Bund that locals used to wear new clothes before walking through it,” Qureshi said with animated eyes.

In his famous book, Valley of Kashmir, Sir Walter Lawrence settlement commissioner of Kashmir writes Srinagar suffered massive devastation due to flood in the 18th century. “In 1841, there was a serious flood which caused much damage to the life and property. Some marks shown to me suggest that the flood of 1841 rose some nine feet higher on the Dal lake than it rose in 1893. But thanks to the strong embankments around Dal, the flood level in 1893 never rose on the lane to the level of the flood on the Jhelum,” Lawrence writes while referring to The Bund.

However, noted historian Fida Hasnain said The Bund was fully developed by Maharaja Pratap Singh in early 1920s. “At that time, there was high concentration of British around The Bund. Even the Srinagar Club was located at the present site of General Post Office. The Club was thronged by British who visited Kashmir,” Prof Hasnain said.

The Bund was strictly restricted for walking. When Prof Ghulam Ali Wani, 85, of Jawahar Nagar locality as a youth traveled on his new cycle through the Bund in 1947 he attracted angry looks of British tourists. “I was abruptly stopped by some officers and fined Rs 15. I realized my mistake. Even Maharaja Hari Singh used to occasionally walk through The Bund,” Prof Wani said. Till 1990, The Bund was thronged by British and domestic tourists. “Our shop used to be thronged by British and other foreign tourists. Besides natural trail, The Bund offered them quality items at economical rates,” said Mushtaq Ahmad partner of Mahad Joo and Sons—one of the oldest handicraft shops on The Bund.

The stretch of river Jhelum along The Bund is believed to the first site of houseboats in Srinagar. “The Bund provided them easy access to the houseboats most of which were anchored on its banks. A British Colonel Bedool living in a houseboat near the Bund introduced water sports in the river. He used to organize water skating from The Bund and it attracted many foreigners,” said Chairman Houseboat Owners Association, Muhammad Azim Tuman.

“The British felt at home while walking through The Bund. Architecture of the buildings and landscape reminded them of their homeland. Till 1990, I organized many water sports activities for foreigners along The Bund,” said president of Travel Agents Association of Kashmir Rauf Tramboo. “Government should restore The Bund to its glory to boost tourism sector,” Rauf added.

Convener Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) Kashmir Chapter Muhammad Saleem Beg said The Bund was repository of colonial architecture. “There were many landmarks including The British Residency, Ahdoos Hotel, Lyods Bank, and many exquisite handcraft shops. The Bund has been listed as an urban site by INTACH,” Beg said. Beg said then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi who used to stay at state guest house was a regular visitor to The Bund in ‘70s. “It was a must visit place for dignitaries who used to visit Kashmir,” Beg said.

Fida Iqbal a noted architect of Kashmir says one of the most fascinating shopping zones of Srinagar, The Bund was shaped during Dogra period under the influence of British. “This charming mall served the dual purpose of a clean walkway in serene and cool ambiance along with a well stuffed shopping centre of selected Kashmiri handicrafts and other traditional material,” he says.

Few decades ago many monstrous ugly concrete structures came up along The Bund from Abiguzar to Abdullah Bridge breaking its colonial architecture pattern. With the onset of political unrest in Kashmir, The Bund became free for all. It was dug up to lay water pipes, macadamized extensively and motorized with all sorts of vehicles trampling its heritage character. Gradually, The Bund’s green slopes abutting Jhelum banks were dotted with illegal hutments.

In 2005, authorities launched demolition drive and cleaned up the encroachments. The slopes were turned into numerous parks laced with fountains regained some respectability.

But it became victim of ill-planning earlier this year when government started work on a Skewed Bridge from Rajbagh to The Bund side near the General Post Office. Notwithstanding massive outcry by concerned environmentalists, engineers and civil society groups, Government has expedited work on the controversial bridge which has marred beauty The Bund.

The Bund is presently littered with construction material. And ever-growing movement of excavators have disturbed its serene environs. “The Bund became victim of our materialistic urge to swallow every inch of land in this city of wealth, rich traditions, culture and heritage. Today’s Bund gives a different look, bruised and defaced place, victim of peoples' greed and official apathy,” says Fida Iqbal who has been vocal through his newspaper columns against vandalisation of The Bund. “Vast patches of green land between famous Lambert lane and Khidmat building got defaced with erection of huge multi-storied structures almost extending into the river Jhelum. The historic Khidmat building a marvelous piece of architecture covered with fragrant climbers of Honeysuckle and other ornamental climbers got replaced with ill planned horrible structures of cement concrete,” he said.

Iqbal said the planners did not end their “operation onslaught Bund’ here only. “Once well paved Bund with an atmosphere of fragrance and colour was macadamized. This act of defacement seems prelude to a probable converted operation of exploring The Bund for vehicular traffic,” he says. Ghulam Mohi-ud-Din who works at a photo shop along The Bund said the construction of concrete bridge has taken heavy toll on The Bund. “Vandalisation of The Bund has shocked many people including locals who used to walk and enjoy nature here,” he said.

Noted poet and chairman Valley Citizens Council Zarief Ahmad Zarief who had resented construction of a bridge near The Bund in ‘80s, termed the Skewed bridge as an eyesore on The Bund. Zarief said in ‘80s, the then government led by GM Shah has proposed to set up a colony for his ministers near the Institute of Hotel Management. Zarief said due to public outcry, the proposal was shelved and Raj Bagh and its adjoining areas were declared as green belt. “Few years later Dr Farooq Abdullah took over as CM and started construction of a bridge near The Bund. We fought against it tooth and nail. After spending nearly Rs 16 lakhs on construction of pillars, Government was forced to shelve the project,” Zarief said. “We as a collective society must join hands to save The Bund from further vandalisation. Our next generation should not curse us for failing to save this Heritage spot from becoming history,” Zarief added.

Gone to Dogs

A city with 92000 canines mocks at the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC)

Stray Dogs Rule the Roost in Srinagar

Srinagar: The dog population in winter capital has reached a stage where some quarters have urged the authorities to treat the menace as a law and order problem. According to rough estimates, there are around 92000 stray canines that have `terrorized' the local population. It is these stray canines that rule the roost in the city and its outskirts at night.

A PIL was moved in the J&K High Court on April 1, 2011 against the dog menace. The High Court on 28th April, 2011 directed the state government to provide funds for construction of dog ponds on the outskirts of Srinagar and directed the Municipal Authorities to complete the task within four weeks. The court also directed the authorities concerned to start sterilization programme in phased manner after the canines were shifted to these pond.

Though SMC started sterilization program in 2012 but constructing ponds for dogs is still a distant dream. People allege that the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) seems to have turned a blind eye towards the problem. A large number of people get bitten by these dogs on a regular basis. For children, it has become difficult to come out of their houses. According to doctors, treating the people who suffer injuries due to dog bites, say that on an average 300 people are attacked by dogs every month and so for dozens have lost their lives which include a good number of infants and school going children of age group between 6 to 12 years.

2012 saw some novel protests in Srinagar city against growing dog menace including the one wherein a sitting MLA brought a truck load of stray dogs and made an unsuccessful attempt to free the dogs inside civil secretariat, Srinagar.

Though the Municipal authorities claim of having brought the situation under control but the ground realities suggest that the threat from stray dogs is as severe as it was in May 2012 when the government first started sterilization of stray dogs. According to Commissioner SMC, Dr. Qasba, dog menace was really a big challenge and SMC has of course taken some measures to tackle this menace. Qasba says on one hand SMC has streamlined garbage dumping and has disciplined the garbage lifting system which was the major cause for growing of dog menace in Srinagar owing to the fact that stray dogs sustain on open garbage.

"We have placed order for 34 Hopper Vehicles and the vehicles are coming which would help in clearing the garbage as the vehicle is designed for carrying loose bulk matter efficiently" commissioner SMC said adding that it would help in completely cleaning the garbage collection spot on roadside automatically because garbage is automatically transferred into the carrying vehicle in traveling motion. He said apart from the sterilization program, the corporation was also working on improving sanitation and regular sweeping drives are organized.

"This will lead to the shortage of food for dogs and their population from residential areas will decrease," he said. Commissioner, however, remained confined to the garbage dumping and lifting issue when the actual problem of dog menace still persists and threat to the innocent lives has not evaded.

People from all walks of life have been protesting the issue since last two years but the government has failed in providing any solution to the problem. On the other hand some NGOs have also been resisting any government move aimed at eliminating stray dogs which has compounded the problem.

But the fact remains that despite intervention of the high court the government has failed in constructing dog ponds and the Municipal Corporation Srinagar as in the case of keeping the city clean has failed in tackling the issue of stray dogs thereby risking the life of the people especially the infants. On a single day in summer 2012 over 50 cases of dog bites were reported from around Kashmir Valley with more than half of these incidents taking place within the city.

However, Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), which announced a dog sterilization drive last year, seems to be helpless in dealing with the situation that has left the residents of the city in terror. People in the city have been demanding that the government should Sterilize and vaccinate these stray dogs to counter-check their increasing number and to prevent the spread of rabies,

Make Dog ponds and take those dogs away from the inhabited places, SMC should ensure Door to Door collection of food wastes instead of the road side bins, Rabies vaccine should be given to the victim of a dog bite in or near the area of the bite, Installation and Repair of street lights, so that people can walk safely on roads and can avoid walking on the sides where dogs are present. (Early Times Report)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Daughter's Requiem

Lubna pays a tribute to her beloved father on his first death anniversary. She is the only child of late Haji Hafiz-ullah Khan, who was a geologist and a prominent social activist

 (Dr. Lubna Khan, 39, was born in Srinagar. She did her junior schooling from Presentation Convent School, and completed her school education from the Higher Secondary School, Kothibagh, Srinagar, Dr. Khan received her medical degrees (M.B.B.S. and Post Graduate Diploma) from the Sher-i-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS). She is currently employed as a Medical Officer in the State health system. Dr. Khan is a dedicated social activist working on issues related to women, women empowerment, child health, mental health, and adolescent clinics. She organizes free medical camps and counselling in rural areas of Kashmir, and has started livelihood programs for rural women through revival of Kashmiri handicrafts. Dr. Lubna Khan also coordinates the valley chapter of the "Save the Girl Child" program.)


One year has passed… I will never forget the day.
As you took your final breathes… And looked into my eyes.
For as hard it was for me… It was hard for you to say goodbye.
My agony is that you left so soon...At this young age… the time was not for you.
The pain is the same like an open wound.
There are days I don’t utter a sound… Some days the pain is beyond control.
It makes me shiver, helpless & weak…I can’t stand this much longer any more.
I just sit down quietly & weep. Your grand children keep asking me where you have gone.
Missing loads of love you showered them all the time.
I have shut my private door… And let no one in.
Locking my self in a box with memories of just you & me.
You were the strongest man … that I ever knew.
You were like a rock ..bold, faithful & true.
Such a kind & loving father… who had a heart of gold.
Your humble nature makes me proud of you.
What worth has my life… Now I don’t have you.
I was your only born.. papa’s asset girl… Treated me till end like a new born child.
I took my own path… but was still your world.
To see me happy… was your ultimate goal.
I was not the best…but u know papa dearest.
You were always my ideal… want to follow your footsteps.
I always loved you my papa…my greatest star.
Now my pain is to worship you from afar.
I love u more now as I did back then…I just hope one day I will see you again.
I am so proud of you … Brave and Strong to the end.
You said you were never afraid of death...That u were prepare for it any time.
Now that you are there in the real world … Silently watching my every step.
Please keep a vigilant check on all my deeds…& guide me from there as you used to do.
To be a good human being & of help to the world.
I hope that you have found peace in heaven...& I hope I am strong enough to survive.

May Allaha grant you highest Place in Janat (Ameen)

Your only Daughter
Dr.Lubna Khan

Justice to Women

Whether it is rape or acid throwing, women in Kashmir, like their peers in the subcontinent face unparralel amount of violence that is mostly ignored by authorities. Two reports - Ajaz's commentary is followed by an editorial in Kashmir Images

(Mr. Ajaz ul Haque, 43, 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.)

Throwing Acid at Innocence

The recent acid throwing incident in the uptown area of Srinagar has shocked us all. Two men committed an act worse than murder in the broad day light. It is not for the first time that a girl has been attacked. It happened earlier too. But every new crime makes the older one appear paler. Why? Simply because those who do it get away with it. In the absence of any deterrence, only this can happen.

Whether to ban tuition centers for spreading nuisance and creating a fertile atmosphere for delinquents to go berserk is a different debate. Here a question even more painful strikes a civilian. State-backed law enforcing agencies take the harshest measures and punish stone-pelters. They make sure that no one even imagines picking up a stone for the fear of being slapped a punitive law against him. Young, old, male, female, hale, hearty or handicapped – none is spared. The example of Zahida, a handicapped girl from South Kashmir investigated for her alleged participation in stone throwing incident is a case in point. But not many punishments are in sight about those accused of using force beyond limits. If you are swift in punishing one set of ‘violators’, why slacken when the same (or even worse) happens on the other side. This selective application of law has done the damage. Well, the point of being lenient about law-enforcers has been taken up earlier too, but here the focus is on social crime. If political uprisings are met with force (how disproportionate, doesn't matter), why are social crimes not been dealt with an equal stridency.

What happened to those who crushed a young girl Romana some years ago? Simply by registering a case against acid throwers won't finish the story. The course of law in such cases is endless. When a crime is so obvious that no investigations add anything to it, what further do we need to bring guilty to justice. The magnitude of crime committed can't be equated with the mere arrest of perpetrators. Arrests are common, and arrests are normally followed by a release. We never mean that law must not be allowed to take its own course. But we do mean that the `course of law' must not impede the process of justice. If a Delhi girl is gang-raped and the rapists are not punished, that would be repeating the rape with the soul of that ill-fated girl. The same way if assaulters and acid throwers do not get punished the way they deserve, we will be repeatedly assaulting the innocence of a hapless female.

Act Tough

That crime against women is showing upward trend in the Kashmir Valley is shocking and shameful simultaneously. The survey by a government agency threw out data which by all means demands serious pondering by all the citizens of the Valley. As against 2011, the graph of the crime against women has increased by more than 30 percent. This revelation excluded the cases that were not reported or went unregistered. Legal experts are of the opinion that the present laws are not sufficient to handle the situation where the state finds itself in. day in and day out, there are reports of victimhood of women in our society which has to stop somewhere. To an ode, the men of that nation have no right to live whose women are not safe at their hands. The Delhi rape case has been extraordinary in that it was profusely publicized by media and the civil society for the first time in Delhi roused against this heinous crime in unison. The same needs to be done in the Valley as well. How long have the women to suffer for being weaker to men in a patriarchal society. Not only have the criminals, even those who are supposed to be the guardians of the chastity of the womenfolk not spared them from tarnishing.

The archaic laws have to be revamped in such a way so that there are no chances for anyone to escape the punishment who has committed any crime against women. There must be capital punishment for the culprit having committed a rape. Even for eve teasing, there has to be severe punishment so that women could heave a sigh of relief everywhere in the state. Government has given inkling that it will frame new legislations to curb the violence particularly sexual exploitation of the women. However, if one goes by the past experiences, not much is going to change on the ground. The responsibility has to be taken by the civil society and the parents so that a sense of respect for women is created in the minds of boys and men. When men could understand the importance of women’s safety and chastity, the crimes will start dwindling in number and frequency. Government on its part will have to give police free hand in dealing with the culprits. There has to a political consensus that no interference will be tolerated in legal matters. Once a person completely finds himself devoid of the power to go free after committing a crime, he will never dare to do it. And therein lies the success in crusade against the cruelty against women.  (Kashmir Images)

Kashmir Festival 2013 Planned in the USA

After a successful business trip to the U.S. in 2012, the Kashmir Chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII-K), plans another visit to the U.S. in 2013

JK Chapter of CII to Hold Kashmir Festival in America

Mukeet Akmali (Greater Kashmir)

Srinagar: The Confederation of Indian Industry (JK Chapter) will organize ‘Kashmir Festival’ in the United States of America to promote the rich cultural heritage and tourist destinations of Jammu and Kashmir. After their return from the business trip to the US, the young business delegates from Jammu and Kashmir here said that the visit was “fruitful” and “educative”.

Delegation leader, Waseem Trumboo who is chairman CII JK State Council said: “We will organize Kashmir Festival for a week in the USA to promote our state and create awareness about the rich cultural heritage, scenic locales and adventurous tourist destinations of the state.” He said it will help “us in to woo tourists to Kashmir and boost our hospitality sector.” The delegation also discussed sharing of cold storage technology. “It would be big plus point to our horticulture sector. We lack infrastructure like cold stores, etc here,” he said.

Notably, the delegation during their stay in the US visited popular ski destination of Aspen, Colorado where the group was welcomed by the local business associations and appreciated CII for bringing the first ever delegation from Jammu & Kashmir. According to the delegates they also discussed the possibility of setting “sister-city relationship between Aspen and Srinagar.” “The US skiers had all praise for quality of snow in Gulmarg and Srinagar,” they said.

“It was a great learning experience interacting with various chambers and business associations in USA. It was encouraging to see the people in the US showing interest in our culture and tourist destinations,” Asif Iqbal Burza, Chairman, CII Kashmir Zone, and Director Senator Inns PVT Ltd and Ahad Hotels and Resorts, said. Farooq Amin, Director Sales and Marketing Kanwal Foods and Spices Private Limited, who formed part of the delegation said that the visit was “fruitful” and “good learning experience”.

“We interacted with investors who showed their keenness to invest here. We also talked about joint ventures. The investor in USA also showed their keenness in investing in transport sector of the state,” Amin said. “We also had meeting with Farooq Kathwari- a renowned US-based Kashmiri businessman who showed his willingness to invest in the state,” he said.

Sheikh Imran, Director, Kashmir Sunsilk Industries Private Limited said it was really good to connect with the people in the US. “We had meeting with Exim Bank officials who assured us of providing facilities for raising loan from the bank. We had also interaction with people of Hollywood and Intel,” Imran said.

Suhail Manzoor Guna, Managing Director Saifco Hotel said: “We learned a lot from our visit and it was a great experience. It gives opportunity for local business to get the exposure and learn more about the trade and other aspects of business.”

Vivek Bhardwaj, who was managing the delegation, told Greater Kashmir over phone that the objective of delegation was to explore mutual trade opportunities for industry and showcase strength of Jammu and Kashmir. Bhardwaj said the key sectors identified for investment in J&K were hydroelectric power generation, infrastructure, tourism, food processing, IT/ ITES, Healthcare, Waste management and Water Treatment.

Domestic Tourists Make-up for Lost Time

The numbers make it clear - peace dividend is real if Kashmiris stop being abused by political operatives with single agenda to create mayhem and anarchy

13.50 Lakh Tourists Visited Kashmir in 2012: Parvez

Gulmarg: The Winter Sports kick-started formally at centre of Winter Games of India, the Gulmarg yesterday on Monday during the new year celebrations at the healkth resort. As many as 10 sports activities were held during the day.

Director Tourism Kashmir, Talat Parvez flagged off the sports activities---Sledge Race, Snow Cycling, Snow Marathon, Snow Rugby, Free Style Skiing and Zorbing demonstration. Notably, the most attractive event of the snow festival, Ice skating was held in the evening. As many as 30 students representing various districts of the Valley participated in it. This event was followed by Night Skiing and Cracker show late in the night. These events were witnessed by large number of local and non local tourists and various stakeholders camping in snow capped hill resort, braving chilly breeze of sub zero temperature of Challan Kalan (January) nights.

Speaking on the occasion, Parvez said that revival of tourism in the J&K has been expedited as the number of tourists visited Valley increased manifold. He said the number of tourists has gone to 13.50 lakh in the year 2012 while it was only 6 lakh in 1989.

He said various new games have been introduced in this years game plan, which include Marathon Race and Sledge Race to boost the tourism industry in the Valley. ?"We make efforts to involve more youth in different activists of tourism and winter games for which services of national and international repute coaches are being hired to make them professionally sound?, said Parvez. He added Gulmarg will get fully equipped Internet Centre which will cater the need of tourists besides media persons this year.

Parvez added that owing to the efforts put in place by the Government, tourists from United States and various European Countries are visiting here, following relaxation in the negative travel warnings to visit Kashmir. " Tourists from all over the world visit Kashmir, which is a good omen in boosting the tourist industry," Parvez added further.

Later, prizes were distributed among the best three position holders in each game by Parvez at a function organised late in the evening. A musical concert was also played by the renowned musicians of the Valley. Besdies, Inspector General of Police, Kashmir Range, S. M. Sahai and Chief Executive Officer, Gulmarg Development Authority were also present on the occasion.

Disappearing Heritage

Kashmiri woodwork, once a thriving industry, has seen its better days

Traditional art of Woodwork Loses its Sheen in Valley

Mukhtar Ahmed (Kashmir Images)

Srinagar: Once vogue in the valley, the art of woodworking has suffered on many fronts for the last more than two decades of turmoil here. The decreasing number of traditional carpenters and the lack of investment according to the experts are the two major reasons for the art to lose its ground in Kashmir.

If tapped to the full, the potential of woodworking in Kashmir according to the President of Federation Chambers of Industries in Kashmir (FCIK) Zahoor Ahmad Bhat is more than rupees 500 crores annually. “Less number of traditional carpenters and not-so-good infrastructure in woodworking created big hurdles in tapping its full potential in Kashmir. We see workers from outside the state forming a good chunk of labourers and carpenters now-a-days in Kashmir. Besides, the disturbed conditions for the last more than 20 years wreaked havoc on woodworking as proper investment could not be made into it,” Bhat told ‘Kashmir Images.’

Pooling in its efforts for revival of woodworking here, Bhat through his industrial association FCIK recently facilitated participation of some 30 woodworkers from across the Valley in International Woodworking Exhibition at New Delhi on December 31 2012. “Despite being a Hartal day in Kashmir on December 31 2012, the required number of woodworkers could not attend the exhibition. But, we are satisfied that many of these 30 people who participated have a bright every chance of making it to another exhibition to be held at Greater Noida from January 31 to February 03 2013,” informed Bhat.

The exhibition at Delhi, Bhat informed was conducted by the Bangalore based event management company---PDA Trade Share. The local woodworkers Bhat added were introduced to the India wood (Bangalore) and Delhi wood through a power point presentation about use of latest machinery on live demonstrations by experts from different word working companies across the world. Seeing a lot of potential for the traditional carpenters ahead, Bhat says latest technology should be introduced and young carpenters should be educated about its use at the different Industrial Training Institutes across the Valley. “We have to done away with the use of conventional technology. There are hundreds of hotels to be renovated in Kashmir in the coming years. The state government should provide training to the local carpenters so that we don’t have to rely too much upon the carpenters from outside the state for building state-of-the-art infrastructure here,” asserted Zahoor.

Other office bearers at FCIK waxed eloquence on the participation of Kashmiri wood workers in the exhibition. “Held for the first time outside the Valley, the exhibition has opened windows for opportunities for Kashmiri woodworkers. Besides, it has enabled the local unit holders to directly trade with the international firms who will later buy their products on order basis,” a FCIK member said.

He further said that being used to the conventional technology, the wood workers, particularly, the carpenters have remained elusive to the benefits of latest machinery so far. But, he added that after the participation of the local wood workers at New Delhi and the likely participation of many of them at another International Exhibition at Greater Noida, things will change for good for them.

No Electricity in the House? It is J&K Government's Fault

A combination of government laxity/misgovernance, coupled with corruption, are main causes for blackouts in homes

JK Losing Hundreds of Crores for Non-Installation of Capacitors

Bashir Assad (Early Times)

Srinagar: Notwithstanding the fact that Technical and Commercial losses in power supply have reached up to 74% in Jammu and Kashmir, the Government has miserably failed to install capacitors at Grid and Receiving stations resulting in a loss of hundreds of crores on one hand and spending an equal amount in purchase of energy produced by Reactive Power Generation methodology from power trading companies.

In what can be termed as sheer negligence on part of the Government, the Jammu and Kashmir State is, according to estimates, losing Rs 62 crores annually due to non-installation of capacitors at grid and receiving stations despite the fact that AT&C losses in the State have gone up to 74% which is highest in the country. What is even more shocking is the fact that the J&K Power Development Department has been receiving funds for installation of capacitors since 2008 but not even a single capacitor has been installed till date which could have reduced the losses considerably on one hand and on the other hand could have reproduced energy worth Rs 62 crores annually from the consumed power.

The accumulated losses over a period of time run in hundreds of crores that could very well have been saved had the PDD installed required capacitors costing around Rs 50 crores as one-time cost. It is ironical to note that the department could not spare this meager amount from whopping power reform grants besides 1100 APDRP scheme in the past. And at the same time the negligence and insensitivity of the department which is directly under the control of Chief Minister Omar Abdullah can be gauged from the fact that it is importing Reactive Power produced from the capacitors from outside and the bill for the month of December, 2012 on account of reactive power is at Rs 1.39 crores.

Though Northern Regional Power Committee( NRPC) and State Electricity Regulatory Commission (SERC) since long had been asking the PDD to install the capacitors for the twin purposes of producing reactive energy and minimizing the power losses, however, the department has shown no interest in it despite the fact that NRPC has been funding the PDD since 2008 for installation of capacitors. The SERC directed the Distribution Utility to prepare a roadmap to achieve 100% metering and installation of capacitors at all levels but all in vain because the Government could neither achieve the target of 100% metering nor it could install capacitors at the recommended levels.

Documents available with Early Times suggest that first installment of Rs. 22 Crores was sanctioned by NRPC in April 2008 vide its letter No. NREB/SE (c)/REACT/06 /2277 dated 10.04.2008 from Reactive pool account of NR to J&K for installation of capacitors. However, PDD has, for unknown reasons, shelved the project till date.

"Since the State of Jammu and Kashmir is subjected to low voltage networks, the need for installation of capacitors at grid and receiving station levels becomes all the more necessary to be operated in order to maintain voltages during peak and contingency conditions," Shakeel Qalander, a noted businessman and economic expert told Early Times.

Pertinently almost all industrial units in the State consuming above 100 KVs of power have installed their own capacitors in their factories that not only save their plant and machinery from damages but also save the State Government from burden of more than Rs 100 crores a year on additional reactive power consumption." However, neither the State nor Central Government departments have installed such capacitors while consuming huge power at their establishments.

The biggest defaulters in this regard are the departments of Irrigation and Public Health Engineering. It is an open secret now that PDD has so far installed capacitors only to the extent of 400 MVAR (mega volt ampere reactive) against required 1400 MVAR resulting in loss of over Rs 60 crores to the State exchequer every year. The accumulated losses over a period of time run in hundreds of crores that could very well have been saved had the PDD installed required capacitors costing around Rs 50 crores as one-time cost. It is ironical to note that the department could not spare this meagre amount from whopping power reform grants of 3900 crores besides 1100 APDRP scheme in the past.

However, no PDD official was available for comments, Power Development Commissioner, Manzur Salru did not attend the phone despite repeated calls while as Chief Engineer Power (purchases) VK Khajuria was attending a meeting.

Room for Improvement

Srinagar is among the dirtiest cities among the world - rivalling those in sub-sahara region of Africa - because of its incapability to handle municipal waste. Here is an idea

Managing Garbage

Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) can learn from Hyderabad Municipality model of waste management. According to SMC, the city generates 504 Metric Tonnes (MTs) of solid waste on average every day with hotels, hospitals and households being the primary sources. The waste collection in the summer capital has increased from 200 to 400 MTs in last two months alone. The figures reflect burgeoning amount of waste and the concomitant challenge of keeping the summer capital clean.

The city’s poor sanitation has already earned it the dubious distinction of being the fourth dirtiest city in India in a survey by Urban Development Ministry. Streets littered with garbage are a common sight in the city. In the absence of modern means of waste disposal and management, the amount of waste has been growing by the day. Many people attribute the increased population of stray dogs to the unattended garbage lying on streets. Complying with the court orders for segregation of solid waste, the SMC has begun installing about 1000 separate litter bins (500 green litter bins for biodegradable and 500 blue bins for non-biodegradable waste) on main roads and at busy public places in the city. Automated machines and trucks have also been purchased for transportation of the waste. Segregation of waste can make the process of waste management easier. Trucks and five compactors will also help in facilitating waste management. However, mere procurement of bins and vehicles won’t ensure a clean city.

Perhaps, Srinagar can learn from experiences of Hyderabad. Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) was awarded the “Best City” for 2009-10 for its efforts to improve Solid Waste Management under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. The Hyderabad Corporation’s integrated waste management model includes transportation of waste to transfer stations, development of new stations, operation and maintenance, transportation to designated disposal facilities, development of four integrated waste management facilities and reclamation and re-use of existing sites.

At the primary level, GHMC has introduced the twin-bin waste collection system in 45 colonies on a trial basis. A ragpicker collects wastes from 200-250 houses at the rate of Rs 20-30 per month per household. The ragpicker then segregates the waste, keeps recyclables aside and deposits the remains in the large waste bin. This collected waste is then brought to the transfer station. GHMC has seven transfer stations from where the waste is transported in big 25 tonne-capacity vehicles (mostly open truck) for further processing. At present, the transportation and waste disposal are outsourced to Ramky Enviro. For effective waste management, the waste has to be collected, transported and handled properly at the open points where people tend to throw garbage. Srinagar city has suffered from lack of civic sense as much as it has been a victim of government indifference and shortsightedness.

For a clean city, the contribution of people is vital. It’s futile to expect results without people’s active support. Here also SMC can learn from GHMC, which conducts resident welfare association meetings regularly and give them training. The model colony members are invited to share their experiences with others. It is a good way of encouraging people’s participation. (Rising Kashmir)

Paying a Heavy Price

Kashmiris are paying a high price for ecological destruction, while bureacracy created to protect environment has its focus elsewhere

Largest Fresh Water Lake Shrinking

Iftikhar Ashraf/ Shafat Farooq (Kashmir Monitor)

Bandipora: Wullar Lake also known as Asia’s largest fresh water lake is craving for attention as the illegal encroachments galore on the banks of the lake these days with the officials turning deaf ears to the repeated warnings of the experts. Unabated encroachment is going on right under the nose of Wullar Mansbal Development Authority (WMDA) and the state forest department in Bandipora district.

Locals said both the departments which are at the helm and have the powers to dismantle the illegal constructions are passing on the buck to each other due to which during the past year hundreds of houses have been constructed on the peripheries of the lake. “Forest dept and WMDA are caught at loggerheads over the constructions and the conservational of the lake. With both of them claiming of not having the mandate to take action against the encroachers,” locals said.

Locals said the banks of Wullar Lake from Watlab, Sopore, Garoora- Sadorkoot, Dachina and numerous blocks of Hajin sumbal Bandipora are presenting the deplorable condition of the lake and at places the lake has been filled with mud to be used for agricultural purposes, while at other places willow trees have been planted and houses are being constructed.

“Government of J&K had engaged renowned international agency named Wetland International to chalk out the strategy for the conservation of the Wullar Lake. The Wetland International- South Asia submitted its final report to the government of J&K in June 2007. The agency in its report had advised the state government to relocate the people living on the banks of the lake,” sources said adding “The relocation of the people from the banks can be a big achievement in conserving the lake but the officials of both the departments are not taking any action against the violators,” sources said.

They said the report had recommended the establishment of Wullar Development Authority but even after almost six years the government is yet to establish it.

The report had also asked for the relocation of the bank dwellers so that further deterioration of the lake can be stopped and its restoration speeded up. But on contrary the construction of new houses along the banks is going on unabated which raises serious questions regarding the functioning of the WMDA and the forest department. “Just below the Wullar Vantage Park at Garoora constructions of new houses is going on with full speed and there seems to be no one to stop these constructions,” one of the locals Abdul Raheem said.

The state government earlier this year had said that Rs 120 crore have been sanctioned by the Central government under the 13th Finance Commission for the conservation of the water body in Bandipora district and a Wullar Lake Development Authority will be constituted for taking comprehensive measures for its preservation.

When contacted, Chief Executive Officer, Wullar-Mansbal Development Authority Nazir Ahmed said, “As far as conservation and action against encroachments are concerned it comes under the domain of forest department, our role has been reduced to just develop tourist infrastructure like parks and huts,” Nazir said.

However, despite repeated attempts no official from the forest conversation department was available for the comments.