Thursday, December 26, 2013

Notify availability not curtailment!

Power supply is in such a mess that the Department needs to inform public about the availability schedule rather than the curtailment

In recent memory, the current year is witnessing the worst ever power scenario. One is not sure when the supply will come on and how long will it stay. Every day people are on streets in one or the other part of the valley. If anything is going to throw Omar Abdullah out of the political power, it will be the electric power. His government has miserably failed to provide power supply on a regular basis not even to the people who are paying for it in the metered areas. If there are people committing power theft even in these metered areas, it is the failure of his government to check it. No pilferage is possible without the connivance of the local authorities may be even at the level of a lineman. There is loud talk about power theft but apart from the staff, the politicians themselves intervene to save the culprits hauled up by the department. This is especially true in the downtown area where a minister shields power thieves as reported by the concerned engineers. In any case, it has been pointed out by many analysts that the valley people are paying more tariff than the people across Pirpanjal but still the sufferers are the valleyites! They have been left to fend for themselves while the rulers enjoy the luxuries of the “Durbar” in Jammu.
Among the colder countries Kashmir must be the most unfortunate one especially with the massive potential of hydro-electric power. In most of the colder countries especially in Europe winter is the time to put in one’s best efforts for work. The students also toil in winter and study in schools. There are no winter vacations. Everybody takes off in summer to enjoy. This is because they have enough electric power to undertake every activity. Homes are heated. Offices are heated. Schools are heated. Transport is heated. In our case, we are the most unfortunate to have abundant resources but not enough power. Winter is an ordeal here. A real punishment for the poor! Schools are closed. Most of the establishments lack heating facilities. On one hand we invite tourists from all over the world while on the other hand we are not able to provide them a warm place to stay. Sometimes they shiver and runaway.
Enough has been written about the causes of this debacle. We have ourselves been instrumental in allowing others to rob us of our precious resources. When our two neighbours divided our waters among themselves with international arbitration, they did not even bother to think about our future. They were solely concerned with their own future. Nor did the international agency give any thought about the local people living in the land whose waters they were dividing. The territory had been declared by no less an agency than the United Nations to be disputed. They should have kept a provision for the local people especially regarding power generation. Kashmiris have every right to approach the World Bank that brokered the deal to demand compensation for their loss. The treaty violates the fundamental rights of the Kashmiri people. The least one can ask is supplying of the power to the local people at the generation cost by the outside agencies generating it.
The worst ever power scenario is not limited only to lack of enough generation because of the dwindling of water in the rivers due to freezing and the absence of storage schemes. There are grave problems within the transmission and the distribution system. The entire set up needs an overhaul to bring down the transmission and distribution losses. Sometime back privatisation of distribution was mooted but the vote bank politics shelved the proposal. Revamping distribution and privatising it is a tall order in the present set up corrupt to the core! One solution to cut distribution losses and prevent theft could be replacing the archaic overhead system by using underground cabling. It may not be possible in older quarters of the city but all the new colonies and posh localities could go for it. That would prevent hooking! There could be many other solutions but who will bell the cat? The present rulers sold the “Dream” of “Bijli” during the last election but they took people from the light into darkness. What will they sell now? Even as manipulators of the votes they appear to be dumb. Instead of spending thousands of crores on unproductive recreational items like Golf Courses and Cable Cars, they could have easily spent a few hundred crores to buy more power from the northern grid and given people some light during the last winter of their tenure as a parting gift. On the contrary they are taking revenge in advance apprehending their exit!
The darkness of winters seems destined to stay on in Kashmir till the power generation copes up with the demand, which may not happen at least in our lifetime and till the “Durbar” keeps on moving to Jammu for winter comforts. In the meantime, it may be more sensible for the power department, based on their resources to notify people the hours of availability of power so that they plan their activities accordingly. On an average there is 8 to 10 hours curtailment every day in metered as well as unmetered areas. However, the curtailment schedule, to which the department never sticks, annoys people more in view of dozens of unscheduled interruptions disrupting life in every possible way!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Shylocks of Kashmir

Some Kashmiri leaders as well as people act like Shylock in the famous Shakespearean play, the “Merchant of Venice”

Omar Abdullah recently called Syed Ali Geelani a “Dream Merchant” selling utopian dreams to the people of Kashmir. Selling dreams is no crime. People have been doing this for ages. He probably forgot that his predecessors as well as he himself too have been selling dreams but have been behaving like Shylock, the Jew in the play, the “Merchant of Venice”, with the same people. For these unrealisable dreams they have not only been demanding Shylock’s pound of flesh but have been practically taking it generation after generation. Well, Kashmiris had been dreaming of freedom and emancipation for centuries. They had been willing to follow anyone promising them to lead to that cherished goal. People suffering the worst kind of oppression for centuries are bound to catch at any straw which would save them from total annihilation. In spite of having faced repeated betrayals they still cherish a hope that someone may honestly lead them to the final goal. Their misfortune is that they have been getting not only the “Dream Merchants” but the cruel and merciless Shylocks of the “Merchant of Venice”. Sheikh Abdullah sold them the first dream in thirties. A “New Kashmir” where people would live with honour and dignity. Like Bassanio, the young Venetian, Kashmiris wanted to woo “Azadi” who for them was like the Bassanio’s beloved Portia. They had no means to get her and needed assistance and guidance. Like Antonio, the merchant of Venice who was a friend of Bassanio, the Lion of Kashmir offered his help and guidance. He approached Pandit Nehru who was like Shylock, the Jew, who was a Venetian money lender.  Sheikh Abdullah appeared sincere and did struggle hard to lead his people selflessly for some time. In fact, he faced incarceration because of this for a long time. But the Shylock cheated him. After having risen as a morning star on the horizon of Kashmir, he fell like a meteor!
In 1975, the Lion of Kashmir himself turned into a virtual Shylock and demanded his pound of flesh from Kashmiris for having woken them up from centuries of slumber regardless of the fact that he had led them into wilderness instead of their cherished goal of “Azadi”. He did take his pound of flesh and the gullible people gave it to him in spite of his somersaults. They still could not believe that he would ultimately leave them in the lurch. His progeny extracted much more and stuck like the blood sucking leeches. The Lion did have a soft corner for his people and died a very sad man pinning for what he had done to his people. But his progeny have no such qualms. They would not mind sucking every drop of blood from the Kashmiris and would still not be contented. Their greed is insatiable.
The story is no different with other leaders claiming to represent and fight for Kashmiris whether on the so called mainstream side or the opposite stream side! Each one in his own way is trying to extract a pound of flesh from the poor gullible people. Sometimes one wonders whether the people following these Shylocks are really gullible or they too are cleverly trying to extract a pound of flesh for themselves from the so called leaders. Delhi is the cleverest of all. It always takes a pound of flesh from every Kashmiri leader it props up. It has been the practice right from the time of the signing of the instrument of accession when Maharaja was exiled after the deed was done. Among the Kashmiris the first to pay for his deed to Delhi was the Sheikh Abdullah himself dethroned in 1953. The other side too extracts its pound of flesh from the leaders it supports monetarily or otherwise. They support and prop up only those who further their narrative.
How long will the Kashmiris have to endure the “Dream Merchants” and the Shylocks of the “Merchant of Venice”? Incidentally, Kashmir is popularly known as the Venice of the East and as such having Shylocks here is no big surprise! In the Shakespearean play the case about the pound of flesh demanded by Shylock was neutralised by Portia herself appearing in disguise as a lawyer in the court of the Duke of Venice. She asked Shylock to take the pound of flesh without spilling a single drop of blood and by taking exactly a pound no less no more! Shylock had no alternative but to drop his demand for a pound of flesh which he had set in the contract while lending the money. Will some Portia please come forward to rescue Kashmiris and free them from the Shylocks contract of a pound of flesh which in their case is the so called instrument of accession, the authenticity of which is even questioned by some people?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Progress or Sickness?

Material advancement turns into a sickness if there is no accompanying moral and spiritual progress

Indian space vehicle is supposed to have left the Earth’s gravitational field and is advancing towards Mars. A big leap in the technological advancement made possible by the efforts of the Indian scientists. There are no two opinions that India has progressed materially a lot since independence. In terms of modern technology it can compete even with some of the developed countries. The Indian economy has grown substantially since the liberalisation of nineties. The country is no longer the land of monkeys and snake charmers, the typical image the westerners had in their minds about this ancient land till recently. In spite of all the progress, it is yet to become a welfare state as almost 350 million people still live below what is called the “poverty line”! This is mainly due to an uncontrolled population. India adds an Australia to its population every year. However, there is now a flourishing middle class equivalent to the population of USA. Wealth wise, India may be among the wealthiest countries notwithstanding the fact that the entire wealth may be concentrated within the limited upper class. Arundhiti Roy has given it the name of an “upper caste Hindu corporate republic”!
Apart from the huge population and concentration of wealth in the upper class, the worst enemy preventing ushering in of a welfare state have been the scams. These scams entered the country right from its independence in 1947 starting with what is known as the “Jeep Scam”, involving purchase of jeeps for the army. Since that time there has been no end to these scams. According to a survey, out of $1.60 trillion, the total GDP, the scam money amounts to $ 1.1 trillion which is about 60%. These scams involve not only the capitalists and the upper class but the entire spectrum of the society with the political leaders holding the top position. The number of these scams has gone up at very rapid rate after the economic liberalisation of nineties. With the opening of the economy to foreign companies, the scams came as an additional baggage. Corruption seeped into every part of the society. Bribery and corruption have ceased to prick anyone’s conscience. It is taken in routine as part of the system. Not only did this menace seep into the blood stream of the people but infiltrated some of the institutions of which the country was proud.
Material progress given the name of development brought in the material corruption right from the top to the bottom. Money became the new god for everyone. It was immaterial how one acquired it. The worst thing to happen has been the material corruption bringing in the moral corruption. It is not progress but in reality sickness! The moral and spiritual sickness. Ancient India was famed for sages and spiritual beings. The Himalaya was known as the “Abode of Gods”! People may have been poor in modern terms but they were content and peaceful and had strong faith. Not now. The society has become morally sick. Rapes are becoming a daily affair. Not all get reported. Even incest has been reported in many cases. A morally sick man has been fathering children from his own daughter! The spiritual persons like Aasa Ram have turned into sex starved predators. One wonders if it is the same land which gave birth to Buddha and Gurudev, “Where the mind is free and the head is held high….!” These days one has to keep the head bowed with shame.
There is no doubt that the tainted money coming out freely from the so called modern progress is responsible for this sickness especially because of the majority of political leaders who instead of leading people to truth and honesty, thrive on this ill-gotten wealth and get caught in one or the other scam every second day. A columnist friend other day remarked that apart from the ill-gotten wealth, one of the major contributory factors for this moral sickness among the youth in general has been the “Bollywood”. The “Masala” movies are the real culprits. The violence, the explicit dancing, and the hero-villain action get copied by the youth. Sanjay Dutt, Aamir Khan, Shahrukh Khan and others have become the idols instead of Gandhi and Tagore. Dirty movies are freely available. There is no bar on the adult content. It is very ironic that one sees lot of pinning about this moral and spiritual sickness but no productive work. Instead of sending space vehicles to Mars, one needs to first cleanse up the society of this fast growing material and moral sickness. The broom waving Aam Admi Party which has swept Delhi shows that the people are fed up with this corruption and moral sickness and want to clean up the whole system. Will there be another Tagore to inspire and another Gandhi to lead such a movement? Will the deeply entrenched vested interests allow such a thing to happen? That is a million dollar question which only time will answer!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Kashmir’s Curse, the “Missing Accountability”!

Most of the ills can be traced to lack of accountability in every sphere of activity in the Kashmir society

The “Truth” has already been banished from Kashmir a long time ago. Next to the whirlpool of falsehood caused by the exiled “Truth”, the other worst aspect of society in all spheres of activity is the lack of “Accountability”. No one is accountable to no one! Each for himself. A virtual free for all. Let us begin with the most nagging problem at present, the electric power. Why are we in a total mess? Simply because there has been no accountability of either the rulers who mortgaged our resources nor of the engineers who not only helped them but also share the blame for the present mess. Right from the day India and Pakistan distributed our resources without even caring a hoot for our needs through the Indus Waters Treaty not a single so called ruler of ours challenged them in real terms. Except for some hollow rhetoric no one has taken any practical steps to mitigate Kashmir’s loss. The engineers too have been sailing along with the corrupt rulers. Had we honest and genuine leaders they would have started an agitation demanding both India and Pakistan to compensate us in the field of power.
Let us turn to our day to day living. The worst mess is in the regulation of traffic. Zero accountability not only to the personnel of the traffic police from the constable to the top but a free for all for everyone on the road. The most annoying are the mini-bus drivers who stop anywhere in the road to pick up or drop passengers. They don’t care as they are paying regular hafta to traffic police which goes from the beat constable to the top. Next come the auto drivers running from left to right all over the place. Most of the drivers whether driving the private cars, motor bikes, mini-buses, buses, trucks or any moveable thing on the road have no idea of the traffic rules. Overtaking, use of side indicators, stopping on traffic lights, slow and fast lanes are Greek to most of the drivers. The worst violators of the rules are the drivers carrying so called VIPs and their escorts. They don’t bother at all and often jump the traffic signals. Ironically, an ambulance carrying a patient gets stuck in traffic while a so called VIP gets smooth passage! Now consider the use of foot paths. Most of these are either taken over by the vendors or occupied by shopkeepers displaying their wares outside their shops.
The healthcare is an apology. The most touted about super-speciality institute has turned into a general hospital. The out-patient department of the institute is like a fish market where people jostle each other to get to doctors for treatment. There is only one maternity and one paediatric hospital in the entire valley having a population of over 7 million. The district and sub-district hospitals are shunned by specialists and consultants as these are not teaching hospitals. In the private sector there is a mushroom growth of so called hospitals. None of these can be called a hospital as these are not equipped with full-fledged life-saving and resuscitation facilities. They have often to refer their cases to government hospital or the institute. These so called hospitals have only scanty resident consultant staff and have to depend on part-time consultants from the government hospitals or from outside the state. Kashmir must be the only place in the world where private consultants have a two to three month wait! Here, people have to wait for surgeries for months to get their turn. A person with multiple problems may have to be referred to three different places for treatment!
In education sector, the worst is supposed to be the BOPEE scandal. Who knows, this may be only the tip of the iceberg? There is a mushroom growth of private schools under all sorts of Christian names. It is very ironic to see all these schools with Christian names coming up in a Muslim majority area. May be a sign of “Kashmiriyat”? While we have all these institutions churning out thousands of boys and girls adding to already severe problem of educated unemployed, no concerted effort is being made to impart vocational training on a large scale with placement avenues. The only avenue for an educated Kashmiri youth is government job even at the lowest level regardless of his qualification. He considers it some sort of social security in the prevalent uncertain atmosphere. On the other hand we have almost a million outsiders working on various vocational and manual jobs. Kashmiris have altogether given up manual labour thanks to progress and modernisation.
The story is same in all other sectors, be it the violations of master plan and building bye laws; the disposal of sewerage and drainage by hotels; conversion of agricultural land for construction of shops and buildings and the destruction of environment by polluting water bodies and the merciless cutting of forests by timber smugglers in connivance with authorities supposed to protect these. No accountability. The courts sometimes pull up the executive but the thoroughly corrupt administration presided over by the corrupt rulers find ways to even to evade these legal directions. One sometimes feels that this total lack of accountability is a divine curse on Kashmir. Only a Noah’s flood may cleanse it!