Thursday, May 30, 2013


The Kashmiri saying about a monkey being the head of a village of geese reflects the existence of an unnatural arrangement. A monkey is supposed to be an enemy of the geese and if we have an arrangement where it heads their village, then it must be totally in shambles. This is precisely what is happening in Kashmir. We quite often see some of our leaders professing to be the saviours of the people but in fact they have been taking them for a ride! The monkeys are lording over the gatherings of geese! The worst thing is that a number of the so called leaders after having initiated the troubles for the common people have now become their sympathisers. Here, another Kashmiri saying fits them well. “Yemi laimm tabar, sui chum prisaan khabar”, (the one who threw axe on me is now coming to ask my well-being)! Some of them not only act like the proverbial monkeys but also look like the same! The most irritating and annoying is their claim for bringing some relief in the form of so called confidence building measures to Kashmiris. Over last 65 years or so hundreds of thousands of people have sacrificed their lives for the cause of total emancipation of Kashmiris from centuries old bondage. Since 1947, they have been put under a double bondage due an accident of history resultant from the insincerity of these so called leaders. It is these sacrifices which have forced the two countries to give some relief at the ground level to the suffering people and not the so called efforts of these self-styled leaders. Most of the political or other congregations give the typical picture of monkeys and the geese! The interesting part is the rallies organised by these leaders in different parts of the valley. Superficially, they seem to gather large crowds which are invariably “arranged” crowds of their so called eager followers. However, there is always a disconnect between the people in the audience and the leaders on the pulpit. It is typically a monkey addressing a gathering of geese! There are always managers who gather the crowds. For rallies and public meetings in the city of Srinagar fleets of buses bring the crowds to Srinagar from different parts of the valley. They get a free ride, lunch and sometimes cash. The day of a rally in Srinagar is a traffic nightmare for the people. Even the ruling party follows the same procedure especially for Republic Day and Independence Day celebrations in the Srinagar stadium. During nineties when no one would venture towards the stadium, one could see fleets of buses bringing people from all over the valley to fill the stands in the stadium. In contrast, whenever any leader from the “Azadi” movement gives a call for march to somewhere popularly known as “Chalo”, people are imprisoned in their homes under undeclared curfew given the name of “restrictions”. One is not sure whether the common people, tired and exhausted by innumerable hartals (shutdowns) would really honour the calls for the “Chalo” (march). However, the authorities are so panicky and apprehensive that they never try to experiment and take the safe course of a total clampdown which sometimes extends to the whole valley. This is the best example of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression we have! The funniest sight is to see some of the ruling party leaders moving through lanes of the old city of Srinagar like a monkey leading a flock of geese. Same happens in rural areas. The public meetings of many mainstream leaders in rural areas give the typical impression of a monkey addressing a flock of geese. There is no ideological gelling between the speakers and the audience. It seems artificial and unnatural arrangement. The people gathered everywhere have no faith in the ideology of the leaders addressing them and are there only for some material considerations. They seem to have reconciled to the fact that total emancipation called “Azadi” may take a while to achieve and are as such concentrating on improving their day to day living. Unfortunately, even this has been put in doldrums by these leaders in spite of the tall promises given during last elections. Previously, they had been promising Bijli, Panni, and Saddak. They had left the solution of the basic political problem for future. After having failed to deliver on these promises of improving the living conditions, they are now trying to mislead the people again by raking up the basic political problem which in the first instance has been of their own creation! On the part of the people one is forced to say that they behave like domesticated geese. It would be really interesting if they would behave like the wild geese that may be able to chase away the monkeys lording over them. But unfortunately, people have been so materialised and their character so degraded and distorted that they behave worse than even the domesticated geese. The blind chase of materialistic benefits and loss of character has truly converted Kashmir into a village of geese lorded over by a monkey in the true meaning of the proverb, “Anzz Gamas Ponz Muqdam”!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Debate the future, not the past!

The recent statements of Abdul Ghafoor Noorani, the noted constitutional lawyer during the release of his latest book about the Kashmir dispute seem to have stirred a hornet’s nest here. In these columns it was mentioned that the events of 1947 were full of conspiracies, intrigues, and manipulations and had also players far from our borders. One cannot solve the present problems by re-writing the history as per our liking. History needs to be recapitulated only to the extent of learning from the past mistakes and not to rake up the roles of various players which are bound to cast shadow on the possible future resolutions. The number of writings about the happenings of 1947 can easily fill up a whole library. There were dozens of well-known as well as obscure characters who played their part not only in partitioning the sub-continent but in creating disputes still plaguing us. As Alistair Lamb has rightly put it, Kashmir is a disputed legacy of the partition for both the countries but at the same time it is a tragedy for its inhabitants. Following Noorani Sahab’s statement, a number of articles have appeared refuting his contention that Jinnah had been a stumbling block to plebiscite in Kashmir. According to him, if Jinnah had agreed to partition in three states of Hydrabad, Junagarh, and Kashmir, there would be no dispute and everything may have been honky dory! Well, the events of 1947 were not so simple. One need not recapitulate what has been written in dozens of books and what is available through some of the de-classified secret documents of those days. Mohammad Ali Jinnah was not the only player in the game. Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel, VPS Menon, Maharaja Hari Singh, Maharaja of Patiala, Meharchand Mahajan, Lady Mountbatten, Radcliffe, Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, Mirwaiz Yousaf Shah, GM Sadiq, Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, Liyaqat Ali Khan, General Akbar Khan, Sardar Ibrahim, and a large number of other personalities played their roles in the birth of the tragedy of Kashmir. Mahatma Gandhi too played a role because of his soft corner for Kashmir as he had seen here the only ray of light in the burning sub-continent. Apart from this George Marshal and Ernest Bevin also played their part. All of these people are now dead. The tragedy of Kashmir was compounded by three major wars of 1947, 1965, 1971 and the Kargil episode when the sub-continent came close to a nuclear flashpoint defused by the American intervention. The last 65 years have seen many upheavals in Kashmir in which hundreds of thousands of people have lost their lives. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced from their homes. Thousands have disappeared even without a trace. Human life and dignity have lost all meaning for the suffering Kashmiris. In fact, the obsession of the two neighbouring countries to possess the territory of so called “Paradise on Earth” has played havoc with the lives of the common people in the sub-continent due to diversion of precious resources to strengthening of the war machines. In spite of 65 years of so called freedom and independence, hundreds of millions of people in both the countries are without basic living facilities and are still living below the poverty line. Kashmir of 2013 is not the Kashmir of 1947. Much water has flown down the River Jhelum. If one has to think of a solution, it has to be based on the present ground situation. In 1947, Kashmiris were confused. They were aspiring for freedom but at the same time were feeling attracted to Pakistan. They were not very keen to join India. Now, most want to be totally independent. Pakistan has lost the charm for them. India has alienated them to the extreme. However, the situation is not similar in all the regions. Two and a half districts of Jammu and the Leh district of Ladakh (hoping the Chinese do not gobble them up!) may prefer merger with India. Kargil may like to join Baltistan. On the other side both Gilgit-Baltistan and the Pakistan Administered Kashmir may settle for more autonomy within Pakistan. That leaves the valley and its peripheral Kashmiri speaking areas. It could become a free zone both economically and politically. This could happen only if there is an all-round consensus and Kashmiri Pandits come back to complete the disturbed social and cultural milieu of the Kashmir of good old days. This may seem a utopian dream but it could be something to discuss and work on. In the alternative, all the units of the erstwhile state may decide to stay as an integrated unit with regional autonomy and completely free and easy access to both the neighbouring countries as well as to China and Central Asia. There are many possibilities but these can be debated only in a conducive atmosphere which needs to be created by all concerned. As a columnist friend recently observed, “Let History be History” and we should now start debating the future instead of getting emotionally stuck in the past!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gulmarg, the “hostage” meadow!

In a high profile Tourism meeting it was pointed out by many travel agents that they may have to stop taking their clients to the famous resort of Gulmarg due to extreme harassment faced there at the hands of unscrupulous elements. A nexus seems to have grown between various service providers enjoying political patronage to harass and then fleece innocent tourists. This is not the first instant of political interference in the streamlining of the tourism product. In these columns it has been repeatedly pointed out that the attitude and behaviour of some of the greedy locals may ultimately kill the goose laying golden eggs for them! In almost all tourist areas of the world there are problems faced by the tourists at the hands of some unscrupulous local players. This happens especially in areas which are too much frequented by the tourists. However, all these places not only have some mechanism to deal effectively with complaints but the law enforcers are readily and easily available to address their grievances. Here, the reverse happens. The law enforcers themselves patronise these unscrupulous people against a fixed weekly or monthly share from the booty! Apart from the hand glove attitude of the local enforcement personnel, there is also political patronage these people harassing the tourists. The number of these service providers as pony men, porters, guides, sledge bearers, and outfitters extends to thousands. It is reported that only 1700 pony men are registered with the local tourist office but the actual number present on any given day during the tourist is more than 5,000. It has been reported that the famous pony trails are the cleanest places and one enjoys walking on these. This is because of the fact that the ponies do not use these but instead are conducted on main roads and the green meadows which are littered with horse droppings. The harassment of the tourists starts right from the first stop of Tangmarg and carries on from here to Gulmarg and thence to the meadows of Kongdori, Khilanmarg and the Apharwat top. Allegedly, the outfitters in Tangmarg force the tourists to hire warm clothes, boots, jackets and so on stating that it is very cold up there and these things are a must. The drivers of tourist buses and taxis are alleged to be hand in glove with these outfitters as they deliberately halt their vehicles outside these establishments. It has also been alleged that the outfitters have been threatening these drivers that if they do not stop in front of their establishments, they will not be allowed operate safely in Gulmarg. The same threats follow regarding the uses of ponies, sledges and other facilities in Gulmarg and beyond. The reason for such a large influx of these service providers is the go ahead for fleecing the tourists they get from the local politicians. They represent the vote banks for local legislators who want to keep them happy at all costs regardless of the fate of tourists or the impact of such an unseemly behaviour on the overall image of Kashmir Tourism. Otherwise it is not difficult for the authorities to control the situation and protect the interests of tourists. The state has one of the most stringent laws known as the Registration of Tourist Trade Act 1978/82 to protect the interests of the tourists. Under this Act touting and pestering of tourists is a cognizable non-bailable offence. However, no law enforcing officer uses the Act to stop harassment to tourists. Tourism Officers stipulated as Prescribed Authorities under this Act have magisterial powers. Written complaint of a tourist even if he is not personally present is admissible as evidence for prosecution. The Prescribed Authority has also compounding powers. But the moot point is how effectively the law is enforced. Quite often political considerations come in the way of its enforcement. The Tourism Department has a senior police officer on deputation known as S.P. (Enforcement) who comes from the State Police. He has a company of Police under his control to carry out the enforcement of the J & K Tourist Trade Act. In earlier times very senior police officers have served in the department and very effectively enforced the Act. There is urgent need to strengthen the enforcement wing of the Tourism Department. At the present moment we have enough police force available to ensure enforcement of the Act in all tourist resorts and areas. It has also been observed that there is sometimes rivalry or conflict of interest between the district police and the tourist police. This requires to be sorted out and a directive issued from the top brass in the police department to all concerned for safeguarding the interests of the tourists who are invited here with great fanfare by the tourism department. A single unsatisfied tourist by word of mouth can totally negate the millions of rupees publicity and promotion undertaken by the tourism department for inviting tourists to visit Kashmir. If the golden goose of tourism is to survive and lay golden eggs for the local people, two things need to be done urgently. The Chief Minister needs to impress upon his colleagues as well as upon the opposite camp to keep tourism above politics. It should be treated purely as an economic activity and that too a clean and ethical activity. He should also direct his administration to ensure well-being and safe passage of tourists to all the places of interest as well as guarantee the services paid for by them. There should be no compromise on quality of services and the friendly welcoming treatment of these guests during their stay here. Secondly, the tourism players themselves have to create a code of conduct whereby people indulging in unethical practices must be ostracised by them regardless of any considerations, political or otherwise!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Re-writing History

To celebrate the silver jubilee of the valley’s leading English daily, the Greater Kashmir, a two volume book about Kashmir dispute written by the famous constitutional lawyer and political analyst Abdul Ghafoor Noorani was released. On the occasion the author spoke about the dispute in the historical context as well as its present dimensions and possibilities of its resolution. Noorani Sahab has been fearlessly writing about the sufferings of Kashmiris and bringing out the truth through his series of analytical articles. He is very well regarded by the intellectuals and the civil society in Kashmir for his bold and forthright comments about the oppression which the people have been going through in this tragic valley. During his speech he appeared to be putting major blame of the origin of suffering of Kashmiris on the refusal of Mohammad Ali Jinnah to accede to the offer of Lord Mountbatten for holding plebiscite in Hydrabad, Junagadh and Kashmir in November, 1947. He also mentioned that the Pakistani leadership of that time did not meet the emissaries from Kashmir. The circumstances of 1947 have been written and commented upon in umpteen works both by the authors from within the sub-continent as well as abroad. In fact, the declassification of some of the secret documents has completely changed the context of the real circumstances of the partition as well as the creation of Kashmir dispute. Rakesh Ankit after studying the de-classified documents wrote a detailed research paper on the subject, “The Cold War and its Impact on the Evolution of the Kashmir Crisis, 1947-48” which appeared in the Journal of the Oxford University History Society in 2009.According to him, “‘Power Politics’ made a large contribution to the evolution of the Kashmir crisis. While the dispute emerged for local, regional and religious reasons its evolution and eventual ‘internationalization’ bears the stamp of concerns which had nothing to do with the individuality of the crisis and the merits of the cases of the two protagonists. In other words, while the events in and around the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir from August 1947 to January 1949, a period which saw an entire range of conflict, from local skirmishes to full-fledged invasion to pitched defensive warfare, were manufactured by a set of circumstances, personalities and concerns, which were all essentially local or regional and sub-continental or religious in nature, once the crisis erupted it was manipulated by the British-led Western Block, as far as possible, in the pursuit of its own vital interests stretching from the Middle East to Central Asia to the Far East. These vital interests can be broadly categorised as defensive, strategic and geo-political (aimed at the former Communist USSR) and ideological or religious (aimed at the Islamic Middle East).” In fact, Rakesh has quoted extract from Bevin’s letter to Marshall which states, “Kashmir was on the Soviet frontier. Russia might well intervene as she had in Greece and China, playing on the tribes and on communal feeling. Whoever controlled the valley of Kashmir controlled the strategic and commercial communications between India, Pakistan and Central Asia.” The main western interest was the access to Central Asia and containment of the Communist Russia. In fact, it was decided in a meeting in Paris between Bevin and Marshall that the Anglo-American interests would be best served by keeping the Kashmir corridor passing through Gilgit with Pakistan as India could create problems. The ceasefire and the extent of areas under each country too were decided by the western powers as both the armies at that time were controlled by the British Officers. The details of the intrigues, conspiracies or even the actual happenings on the ground have been put down by many authors like Lord Birdwood, Dr. Josef Korbel, Alistair Lamb and recently by Christopher Snedden. In spite of these vast resources about the happenings of 1947, to simply put all the blame on Mohammad Ali Jinnah is not fair! Noorani Sahib while supporting the four-point formula of General Musharraf encompassing self-rule for Kashmir mentioned that the valley of Kashmir cannot be a sovereign state on its own and Kashmiris will not accept the partition of Kashmir. The present state of Jammu & Kashmir has been the creation of Dogra rulers who apart frombuying Kashmir valley from the British had annexed Ladakh to it. Kashmir had always existed as an independent sovereign state and its extent had mostly remained limited to the valley and its Kashmiri speaking periphery. Political viability of Kashmir as an independent statein the present circumstances involving its three giant neighbours with conflicting interests may be difficult but cannot be out rightly rejected. In fact, there have been many proposals in the past including some by the UN arbitrators for neutralizing the valley as an independent state. It may be mentioned that there are dozens of independent states as members of United Nations much smaller in size than Kashmir valley. No doubt Kashmiris have been suffering for a long time now and earnestly pray for an end to their problems. Their greatest misfortune is that they have got themselves entangled because of the insincerity of their leaders into an ideological conflict of which they are only the symptom and the disease is much deeper. Their suffering can only end when the mistrust between their two warring neighbours created by the partition of the sub-continent is fully and practically removed. We all need honestly to aim for that without putting blame on one or the other leader or circumstances now beyond our control. The solutions and formulas will themselves evolve once the trust comes back!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Sacrificial Lambs!

In the ancient past when the human race was still in dark ages, there used to be sacrificial killings of human beings to propitiate the Gods. There were also revenge killings of the prisoners taken in battles between two warring tribes. One would have thought that in the present so called civilised world there would not be such revenge killings. However, it appears that the modernisation and the progress of the human race have not been able to change the basic animal instinct in a man and he quite often indulges in such gross violations of the supposed civilised human behaviour. The two prisoners have clearly been used as sacrificial lambs by the extremist elements of the two countries. The most disturbing sidelight of these gruesome episodes has been the unbridled usage of these unfortunate happenings by the media to drum up the war hysteria. The media now does not stop at anything to generate frenzy even if it means abandoning the delicate process of reconciliation. One fails to understand why this frenzy stops only at Pakistan? The Chinese deep incursions violating Indian sovereignty make them eat a humble pie. The most humiliating has been the brazen Chinese attitude of first entering 19 kilometres deep into what is claimed to be the Indian territory and then ostensibly withdrawing on their own after some secret understanding involving some give away on the Indian part. The media too has eaten a humble pie on this episode. It is now fully established that the two unfortunate victims of the extremist wrath were the operatives of the intelligence agencies of the two countries. Both had been arrested after they had indulged in sabotage. While Sarabjit was arrested in Lahore after he had set off some explosives in Lahore and Faisalabad, Sannaullah had been arrested in Jammu after setting off a series of explosions. Sarabjit’s action had allegedly killed 14 bystanders and he had been convicted by the supreme court of Pakistan. Sarabjit was on the death row and Sannaullah had been serving twin life sentences and was also involved in a number of other cases. His actions too had killed a number of people. The use of spies for gathering intelligence has always been there since the earliest times. There is always tacit understanding between the intelligence agencies of rival countries about the use of spies. Quite often these people are exchanged clandestinely without any fanfare when caught in the act of spying. There is a tacit gentleman’s agreement even between these agencies in regard to their operatives. They say even rogues have a tacit understanding on certain issues! But not in the case of India and Pakistan. Sometimes these operatives have also been used to indulge in sabotage but that usually happens when the countries are at war with each other. Normally, the so called civilised countries do not undertake sabotage in peace time. India and Pakistan do not ever appear to be experiencing a peace time. They seem to be in a perpetual state of war with each other. Sometimes it is open war and at other times it is war by proxy. This unnatural state of continuous conflict has resulted from the extreme mistrust which these countries have right from their creation in 1947. The partition as well as the sowing of the seeds of mistrust was done by the departing British colonialist to allow them to keep their hands in the pie of the sub-continent. However, we, instead of reconciling the differences, have taken these to the extreme not only by indulging in three major wars but by a continuous proxy war. ISI sends operatives to India for sabotage and RAW sends similar people to other side. Interestingly, these operatives are paid heavily and are sometimes given reverse roles by respective intelligence agencies by increasing the size of payments. This state of psychological and the physical clandestine conflict have pushed these countries far back in regard to the well-being of the teeming millions. They are utilising their precious resources to upgrade and polish their war machines instead of caring for the basic needs of the common people. What is most disturbing is the infiltration and penetration of the intelligence and security agencies of the two sides by the extremist elements. The philosophies of Hindutva and Jihad are getting ingrained in the mind-set of the security apparatuses including internal and external intelligence agencies on both the sides. The so called political rulers seem to be totally powerless in front of these extremists embedded deeply in these security apparatuses who manipulate things as they like. The tit for tat revenge and other extremist activities will not end unless the basic mistrust is removed. Aman ki Aasha and other high profile cocktail circuits in five star hotels will not remove the hatred and the mistrust. The only way to remove it is to arrange the meeting of the grass roots level people on both the sides. The sub-continent’s Berlin Wall has to be breached. This cannot happen unless the extremist elements embedded in the security apparatuses on both sides are overruled by a strong and honest political leadership. Will we ever have an honest and strong political leadership in the sub-continent? It seems a tall order keeping in view the innumerable scams on this side and the mindless violence on the other side. Could the new generations in the two countries rise to the occasion to remove the mistrust and usher in a new dawn? It is something to hope for. Till that hopefully happens, we will continue to sacrifice people as the proverbial sacrificial lambs!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

De-politicize Tourism

After “Azadi”, the Tourism is the most talked about subject in J & K. A very misleading impression has been created that Tourism is the base of all economic activities in the state and especially in the valley of Kashmir. No doubt Tourism is a very important part of the economic activity but it is definitely not the base and the state has survived without this activity in the upheaval and turmoil of nineties when the activity had ground to a complete halt. At best at the moment it as an additional economic activity and gives seasonal employment to about 2% of the population. However, it must also be stated that this activity has the potential of becoming an important pillar of the economy if complete peace prevails in the state. Again there is the rider of sustainable tourism. The activity especially in the Kashmir valley is motivated by the most enchanting environment and a very salubrious climate. One has to balance the growth of Tourism to the carrying capacity of our environment otherwise there is the danger of the proverbial killing of the goose laying the golden eggs! Sometime back Arsalan Yousaf published an article on Tourism in a local newspaper giving facts and figures about its being an economic activity. According to him, “Tourism contributes only 7.93 % to the gross domestic product (GSDP) of Kashmir and provides livelihood to only about 2% of its population. In contrast, agriculture constitutes an important sector of Kashmir’s economy as around 70% of the population derives its income directly or indirectly from this sector. Agriculture also absorbs 49% of the total work force of the state with 42% as cultivators and 7% as agricultural labourers depending directly on agriculture for their livelihood”. According to him, Tourism being primarily a peace time activity, it is not prudent to base our economy on this sector alone especially being in a conflict zone. The experience of nineties should make us more cautious. In spite of all these observations, we could still continue to promote Tourism as a complimentary assistance to the economy till situation stabilizes. Unfortunately, instead of dealing with it as purely an economic activity like the export of fruit, carpets and other handicrafts, the Tourism has been politicised as a barometer of political normalcy both by the State and the Central Governments. No one claims Kashmir is normal when hundreds of crores worth fruit, carpets and other handicrafts are exported from Kashmir to different parts of the country and even abroad. However, as soon as tourists start arriving, every politician climbs a pulpit to claim that Kashmir is normal! Tourism continues to flourish in many conflict ridden areas like Israel and Palestine, or many spots in South East Asia because none of their politicians claim tourism to be the barometer of political normalcy. Apart from Tourism being used as a tool for propaganda by the politicians, they also interfere in its planned development and streamlining of various tourist friendly procedures. There are certain basic criteria for developing a potential area for Tourism. However, in Kashmir these criteria are totally bypassed and political considerations take the upper hand. Tourism is believed to be a magic wand which is expected to bring prosperity to any area it touches! More than 20 Tourism Development Authorities have been set up by spending hundreds of crores of rupees. These pristine areas have been saddled with Tourist Reception Centres, Tourist Bungalows, and huts. This money should have been instead used for improving basic infrastructure in the existing resorts and only a few select areas should have been taken up for future development. These authorities instead of being headed by tourism professionals and experts are under engineers and administrators. These days development of tourism all over the world is handled by experts in various fields and one has to go for sustainable tourism only to maintain a balance between environment and the influx of tourists. Here, these developments take place on the basis of a political constituency and vote bank politics. One would like to also emphasize here that the government should not get into the business of developing tourism commercially. This activity should be left totally and absolutely to private players and government should only be a facilitator and a regulator. In addition to political interference in developmental plans even streamlining tourism related activities goes into background because of undue meddling by politicians. A number of tourists not only go back unsatisfied but some get totally dis-satisfied and swear not to visit Kashmir again. The attitude of some players in the industry is totally unbecoming. In most of the resorts, the horsemen, the sledge bearers, the porters, and self-styled guides hold tourists as virtual hostages. They force them to use their facilities. Added to this is widespread cheating in shopping by hawkers. Some tourists have run away from resorts like Gulmarg because of the harassing attitude of these tourism players. It is not difficult to straighten these touts, and other nuisance creating persons. The state has one of the most stringent laws known as the Registration of Tourist Trade Act 1978/82 to protect the interests of the tourists. Under this Act touting and pestering of tourists is a cognizable non-bailable offence. However, no law enforcing officer uses the Act to assist the tourists. Tourism Officers stipulated as Prescribed Authorities under this Act have magisterial powers. Written complaint of a tourist even if he is not personally present is admissible as evidence for prosecution. The Prescribed Authority has also compounding powers. But the moot point is how effectively the law is enforced. Quite often political considerations come in the way of its enforcement. Last but not the least; the state is still without a well-defined specific “Tourism Policy” and a “Vision Document”. There is no long term perspective plan and everything is being taken up on ad hoc basis. If we are really and honestly sincere in developing tourism as a viable economic activity, we must de-politicize it and go ahead for its development in a professional manner. Otherwise it will simply continue to be used as a propaganda tool.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tilwein Wanas Maachgun

In Kashmiri Tilwein Wan is the cooking oil sellers shop. It is supposed to be dirty and oily all over. Anyone or anything going into the shop is definitely going to be soiled by the oily things spread all over the place. Maachgun is the equivalent of a honey comb, the nest built by bees with wax having many small chambers to store honey. The bees take the nectar from the flowers and then they come into the nest to produce and store honey. It is a very neat and clean operation. Honey comb is a very clean thing and if it is built in an oil sellers shop it is bound to get soiled and the honey too will be spoiled. In short, a honey comb in an oily shop is a disaster! Musharraf’s coming back and getting stuck in a web is just like the bees building a honey comb in an oil shop! Not only is he getting soiled but is in mortal danger because of the extremist threats. He had started his tenure as the self-imposed ruler of Pakistan in a very dramatic fashion in 1999. His plane was still circling in the sky in an attempt to land with barely 10 minutes of fuel left in the tanks when the civilian government was overthrown by his fellow generals. It was a blood less coup, one of the dozen Pakistan has seen in last sixty years since its creation in 1947. It is for the first time that a General who had led a coup is on trial. Somehow western style democracy does not gel with the people of that country. The main reason for that is the basic feudal structure of the society. It is the same land lords, Sardars, Waderas, and Chowdharys and their progeny who are in every sphere of life. They alone come up again and again. It is virtually a “Feudocracy”. In Pakistan, the cream of the society consisting of the progeny of feudal lords has always formed the core of the officer corps in their army. Inter-Services Intelligence is the crème de la crème of this officer corps which has given itself the “divine role” of defending the concept of Pakistan from behind the scenes. Nothing moves in any branch of the state without their consent and they oversee every development. They are the invisible defenders of Pakistan. Initially, Pervez Musharraf did not intend to take over the role of a ruler. He was rather forced by Nawaz Sharif to do so. However, once he was in the saddle, he felt destiny had chosen him to lead and defend Pakistan. He started as an “Officer and a Gentleman”. He had very high flown ideals and wanted to create an enlightened and progressive Islamic country. For him it was, “Pakistan First”. Even though some of his ideas seemed utopian, yet he was not divorced from the stark ground reality which had made Pakistan appear as the most dangerous place to live in. Musharraf on taking over coined a new phrase for modern Muslims. He called it “Enlightened Moderation”. It is a blend of Islam and western values. A liberal and progressive outlook on life which combines basic tenets of Islam with modernised western life style. He professed the new mantra of “Enlightened Moderation” in all the forums within the country as well as abroad. The clerics who were ruling the roost among the common masses in some of the volatile regions did not buy his new dispensation. Pakistan seems to have people of two extremes, either a minority of westernised intellectuals or fanatic religious zealots professing all out Jihad to reform the world! There is nothing in between. During his early years he was able to muster world support because of his unconditional fight against global terrorism manifested through 9/11 incident. He took the extremists head on to keep the west on his right side and in this process ruffled many feathers especially the originators of Taliban who lived in his own backyard. His enthusiasm to catch the bull of terrorism by the horns created a large constituency of his sworn enemies. Even though he came from the Special Services Group with a commando background yet he made the mistake of opening too many fronts at one and the same time. On the positive side, he did manage to pull Pakistan out of a debt trap and raised foreign exchange reserves from US $ 1.6 billion to US $ 16 billion. Economy had started looking up with massive foreign investments. Infrastructure in the form of roads, ports, dams and so on was getting developed on global standards. He gave absolute freedom to media which ultimately misused it to undermine not only him but the very existence of Pakistan itself. His negative side has been the common mistake committed by leaders in this part of the world of considering themselves to be indispensable and thinking to have been given a “divine role” for reforming their nations and countries. Unfortunately they do not know when to leave and get thrown out! His main blunder has been taking Judiciary head on. Probably he was ill advised about this step? The Judiciary did not remain fair and just. It got totally politicised and when it was heading towards ensuring his humiliation after getting duly elected, he struck with a well-planned and calculated move. He imposed virtual army rule but without the army being visible anywhere. However, he could not save himself and had to leave to save his skin. He undertook a world tour to explain his position. Somehow, he seems to have got the wrong information that he was very popular with the people which made him commit a virtual suicide. He took the extreme step of returning to the highly volatile Pakistan where a large number of people were gunning for him. His future is uncertain and it depends upon the new elected government. It is also generally felt that the army would not like its former chief being humiliated. But one is compelled to say that his return has been definitely like the Kashmiri saying of, “Tilwein Wanas Maachgun”!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The republic of scandals!

There is not a single day when one or the other scam or a scandal does not surface in different parts of India. The latest is the chit fund scandal in which members of the West Bengal ruling party are also alleged to be involved. The most talked about at present which has started shaking the present ruling set up is the Coalgate Scam. As regards the colossal defence scams, there is no end. Defence Ministry is probably the most scandalous Ministry. It involves people right from the top political leadership to the lowest ranking officer. The most talked about is the Bofors gun scam. It involves thousands of crores in pay offs to the political top and the concerned army officers. The Kargil coffin scandal. The submarine deal. The refurbished Mig engines. The Russian aircraft carrier. The VIP helicopter deal. There is no end. These are some of the recent scams. The scandals have been there for decades and in almost every state. The Communications Ministry is beset with the 2-G scam in which the Prime Minister is also alleged to be involved even though it may not be for his own person! Wikipedia has a list of scandals in India. The Wikipedia list gives year wise complete details of various scandals. It starts right from 1948 with the Jeep purchase scam. There is a list of what are called the named scandals which have surfaced from time to time. These include both the scandals at the centre and in different states. The Indian coal mining scam is worth $ 34 billion! The Karnataka Wakf Board Scam is worth $ 37 billion. The 2-G scam is worth $ 32 billion. The details and extent of these scams is mind boggling. There is probably no year since Independence when one or the other scam has not surfaced. The list is again supposed to be “incomplete”. The has a list of top ten scams of India. These include the Lalu Prasad’s Bihar fodder scam; L.K. Advani and Sharhad Yadav Hawala scam; the oil for food UN programme scam; the Ketan Mehta securities scam; Ramalinga Raju’s Satyam scam; Abdul Karim Telgi’s stamp paper scam; the Commonwealth Games scam; Bofors scandal involving Ottavio Quattrochi and Rajiv Gandhi and the A Raja’s 2-G scam. Tarun’s Collectivity blog gives the real size of these scams. According to him, the 2-G scam is worth 2 Trillion ( 2 Lac crores); Coal-gate scam is worth 11 Trillion ( 11 Lac crores) and the emerging Thorium scam is worth 48 Trillion ( 48 Lac crores). The estimated worth of only these three scams is 61 Trillion rupees. He says that in dollar terms it is equivalent to 1.1 trillion dollar (USD). That money according to Tarun should have been part of the national exchequer and should have gone into building of roads, healthcare, education and other utilities. India’s GDP is $ 1.8 Trillion and that means 60% of the GDP has gone into these scams! Tarun has analysed the scam money in reference to the possibilities of its utilization for various utilities and expenditures. It makes a very interesting read. • 32.7% population (about 500 million) live in abject poverty on less than 60 rupees a day. It is estimated that $ 195 billion would pay for all the hungry of the world. Just ten per cent of the scam money would pay for feeding of the world for ten years. • India spends 4.1 per cent of GDP on education. The scam money would pay for education for next 13 years. Every child under 15 could be given rupees 2 lac endowment for education. • Even with oil at $ 100 a barrel, we would be able to give free petrol in India to every one for next 10 years. • The money would pay for the income tax of every Indian for next 20 years. • Interestingly, Tarun gives a feeling of the size of the money by saying that if we give every Indian on the facebook a share of this money, each one would get rupees 11.5 lac rupees! One would like to give the final quotes of Tarun about the size of the scam money and what it could do. “The sheer size of these figures goes on and on. It begs the question – what is the true impact to us due to these scams, due to the revenue our exchequer would have had, which it has been denied? • Would our petrol prices have still risen? • Would we still have to pay such high income tax? • Would children die of starvation? • Would half of our country be on the streets? I think that this is yet another example of the cabal between the capitalist imperialists and the government, which is ostensibly supposed to protect its citizens from exploitation. Our politicians are bleeding the country dry while we watch reality TV and outrage about Apple vs Samsung, and gleefully celebrate kasab’s death. Those are just distractions, keeping us from focussing on real issues. We need to wake up”. It may be mentioned that apart from these scams, there is another bleed which is draining the life blood out of the Indian public. It is the so called national security and the defence set up. Again lacs of crores go into these systems which remain shrouded in secrecy. The absolute secrecy surrounding the deals connected with security result invariably in many scams which go unreported. The Indian public really needs to wake up to this corporate-government nexus and the so called threats to national security if real development and upliftment at the grass root level is to be achieved.