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.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Corruption Rules But There is Hope

When a young teacher like Shabir is concerned enough to use his voice for publicly denouncing bribery, one has to hope that some day a million Shabirs will arise with the same cry

(Mr. Shabir Ahmad Sheikh, 33, was born in Kulgam, Kashmir. He completed his schooling from Government Higher Secondary School, Kulgam, and received his Bachelor's degree from the Government Degree College in Anantnag, Kashmir. He is currently employed in the Government service as a teacher in Kulgam. In his leisure time Shabir enjoys reading, and writing poems, short stories, and topical commentaries that are published in local newspapers and magazines.)

Say ‘No’ to Bribe

Jammu and Kashmir State is facing several problems like unemployment, illiteracy and poverty. Among these problems, it is the bribery and corruption that is most grave. Bribery is an outrageous problem and should be treated as newsworthy to set the discourses.

Big scandals and scams of corruption often hit the headlines of media, but daily incidents of bribery in public services seem to be immune to public consternation. It has become an in-house business in department with the officials charging money from the citizens as if it is a legal fee – Rs 500 for state subject, Rs 200 for medical certificate, Rs 1000 for loan approval, Rs 3000 for driving license... so on and so forth. Greasing the palm of public servant has become an unwritten law, a convention in the state.

Not for conscience but to make it easy to speak, bribery enjoys several names such as chai, methai, party. After being served, there is that goodwill handshake that depicts the two – one who offers the bribe and the one who receives the bribe - have common understanding on how things work. A handful of people, who voice against it, end up in serious trouble. Bribery is so pervasive that the whole society takes the unacceptable as normal and finally, it makes common people get used to a certain lawless way of life.

Bribery does immeasurable loss to the national economy. The World Bank ranks bribery among the biggest hurdles to a country’s growth, reducing it by a margin of 0.5 to 10 percent in a year. The root cause of the problem is ineffective law enforcement. As a result, the bribe-taker feels no legal fear. Further, the absence of transparency in applying rules and regulations encourages a public servant to favour those willing to pay. Many people believe that curtains can be dropped if the public servants are not underpaid, overworked and if they are better monitored. Some argue that incentives be given. Bribery can be eliminated by the concerned and responsible actions of citizens only, by their steadfast attitude of saying ‘No’ no matter how they are harassed and instead expose those corrupt officials who demand or expect monetary gain.

In my opinion, the culture of bribery will eliminate when the government tackles it, in all its institutions with zero tolerance attitude. Further, we need to ensure full public awareness about bribery being an exploitative tool used to fleece public.

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