Tuesday, October 21, 2014

“Paradise” Lost!

Paradise Lost!
Wikipedia gives an interesting and detailed account of the famous epic poem written by John Milton. Milton is stated to have written the epic poem about the fall of man. God after placing Adam and Eve in Paradise had forbidden them from eating the fruit of the apple tree. The temptation by the fallen angel Satan to Adam and Eve to taste the forbidden fruit, which they did, resulted in their expulsion for committing this sin. Before expulsion when they approached God for grace, the angel Michael made Adam see in a vision everything that would happen till the “Great Flood”! Milton’s purpose in writing the poem as stated in the book has been to “justify the ways of God to men”.

One is reminded about the poem after seeing the massive devastation by the century’s worst flood in Jammu and Kashmir. Incidentally, the state has been promoted as the Paradise on Earth.

Many Kashmiris believe that these floods have been a divine retribution for the sins committed by the people. God is angry with Kashmiris and they have seen just a glimpse of His wrath. It is true that over last few decades people have become very materialistic and greedy.

Finer qualities of life like honesty, integrity, truth and morality have been totally relegated to the background. The word accountability has been wiped out from the dictionary of Kashmiris. There is absolute free for all. Take any aspect of society and social life. People, especially the nouveau riche, have virtually gone over the fence. Breaking of any law relating to every aspect of life is not frowned upon at all.

In fact, it is a normal routine to flout all laws whether relating to environment, traffic or building malls, houses, hotels and so on. Speaking a blatant lie gives no compunction! It is a replica of George Orwell’s 1984! The real truth neither comes out nor is believed even if it comes out. It is usually drowned in a stream of propaganda disseminated by one and all. Especially, the propaganda indulged in by the governments on both sides of the artificial divide must be making Dr. Goebbels turn in his grave.

Some people attribute this material and moral corruption to the streams full of money flowing into Kashmir from the two neighbouring countries. One is the “Mainstream” of money from this side which has become very murky over the years and the other is the blood in the jugular vein which has darkened and thickened with the passage of time.

Incidentally, the recent flood has rendered Kashmir’s elite and the capitalist class homeless. The flood has wreaked havoc in the poshest colonies of Srinagar. It is difficult to move through these areas because of garbage strewn everywhere giving an obnoxious stench. Srinagar Municipality workers have been working round the clock and moving tons of garbage consisting of the spoiled precious belongings of the elite with their dozers and trucks. Every day one sees newer heaps of these belongings destroyed by the murky waters of the flood lying on the roads. A large number of poor people have been seen picking up some useful items from the heaps of garbage!

There is a story circulating in the downtown area of Srinagar that the areas under seven police stations which had been most of the time kept under curfew by the authorities have more or less escaped the major destruction. On the other hand the civil lines area which has seen the least turmoil and curfew has been turned upside down!

Coming down from the spiritual to the temporal level, it is a stark reality that we Kashmiris have ourselves wreaked havoc with our environment because of our unsatiated material greed. God had given us this most beautiful land with one of the best natural environments in the world. Unfortunately for us, we did not cherish and respect this wonderful gift and left no stone unturned to destroy and disfigure it in every possible way.

Dal Lake, the heart of Srinagar was squeezed and polluted from all sides. 50,000 people are living inside the Lake in permanent brick houses on artificially created islands. The Lake has been reduced to one third of its original size. Same has been the fate of the second largest sweet water lake of Asia, the Wullar Lake which incidentally has been a flood basin of Jhelum.

The River Jhelum itself has been turned into a shallow gutter! Jhelum or Vitasta or Vyeth has the same importance and significance for Kashmir as the River Don has for Russia. Jhelum has been quietly flowing for centuries but once in a while it has exhibited its anger when fiddled with. We have weakened its embankments by constructing hotels, guest houses, hospitals and even mosques at many places.

The same has been the fate of the flood spill -over channel constructed to save the city from inundation. All the wetlands and the major portions of the flood basin of Jhelum have been converted into built up colonies. There has been no dredging of the river or the flood channel for decades. The most criminal has been wanton destruction of forests resulting in massive soil erosion. All these years timber smugglers in connivance with authorities have been indiscriminately felling young trees. The famous green gold has been massacred and in many places the forests look like freshly harvested wheat fields!

Material greed compounded with total and absolute unaccountability has wrought havoc to the environment. These stark realities make one think that the flood has truly been a retribution for our wanton and senseless actions.

Like John Milton one feels like justifying the ways of God to men! There is a saying making the rounds that it has been only a warning and if we do not mend our ways, worse would follow and then Paradise may be permanently lost!

Sunday, October 19, 2014


There appears to be some extreme urgency on the part of certain quarters within Jammu and Kashmir and in Delhi to somehow hold the assembly elections at the earliest as the present state Assembly completes it tenure in December. These sections are either unaware of the real ground situation or have some other aim of capitalising on the present discomfiture of the people.

Kashmir has just gone through the most devastating floods in more than a century. The top most priority is to give succour to the traumatised people rather than force them virtually at the point of gun to partake in elections which anyway remain a controversial issue in the state. Apart from a couple of times, t most of the elections are alleged by some to be sham elections. Generally the 1977 election held under Janata rule is supposed to have been fair and widely participated. No doubt elections are an integral part of a democratic set up and give an opportunity to the people to choose their representatives to govern them yet these need a conducive atmosphere to be free and fair.

Thousands of people comprising the social and intellectual elite of Srinagar who had been living in the posh colonies are out of their traditional homes living with relatives or in rented houses. Thousands upon thousands of poor people are virtually living on the roadside in tents and are scared about the bone chilling winter on its way. They have to be properly housed to face the rigours of the popularly known chillai kalaan, the dreaded period of freeze during December-January in Kashmir’s winter. Agriculture and horticulture has taken a direct hit and the loss is in thousands of crores. Trade and commerce has virtually ceased and only a semblance of it has been revived so far by the efforts of the local people. Tourism has gone for a six as the “Paradise on Earth” has been lost! The Government is busy in shuffling and reshuffling bureaucracy and police. Other day the State’s Finance Minister had to hurriedly leave a meeting being held with the Minister in Prime Minister’s Office due to the angry outburst of the local people present there against him. Some of the district officers are reported to have been manhandled by the people in their offices for tardy relief and rehabilitation measures!

Incidentally, the State Chief Minister has been forcefully pleading for the postponement of the elections. However, his reasons are totally different. He is sure of the stark reality that this flood is going to prove a nemesis not only for him but the party he represents and they are bound to lose on every count. The incompetence and criminal negligence during his tenure had already wiped out his party during the parliamentary elections when even his father lost the prestigious constituency of Srinagar. The “Flood” has swept away whatever good he may have done earlier. He himself admitted on TV that his government had disappeared with the flood! There are already allegations that there is bungling in relief distribution. Every day local newspapers report flood relief being distributed among non-flood affected people. Schools are being opened even without providing safe alternative accommodation. Such activities are being indulged in to show that the state government is capable of restoring normalcy. Healthcare, with most of the hospitals declared unsafe or not being fully functional, is virtually in shambles. Everyone should thank his stars that the flood came just before the approaching winter as otherwise a number of epidemics would have broken out by now!

The top most priority at the moment is to take out people from the shock and trauma of the disaster they have just faced. They not only need physical rehabilitation but psychological reassurance both for their future safety and their means of livelihood. This can be done by initiating a massive programme of restoration and rehabilitation through dedicated, honest and dynamic machinery headed by an upright person. Delhi is capable of initiating such a step but unfortunately, it has always dithered in the past whenever such an opportunity had risen. This dithering has been the main cause of prolonging the alienation of the people. The unusually lukewarm attitude of the Central Government including the hesitation in declaring Kashmir flood as a national calamity has already started creating doubts in the minds of the people whether Delhi is sincere about helping them in this hour of need?

Thus, the urgent need is to go in for massive restoration and rehabilitation programme with national and international assistance through dedicated and honest people rather than put the entire administrative machinery into election mode thereby leaving them in the lurch in view of the fast approaching winter.

The elections could be held during June next year after regaining the lost “Paradise”. At the present moment it will be a foolhardy exercise.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Kashmir: The Pretence of “Normalcy”!

The most repeated statement these days from the State Government is about the fast returning “Normalcy” to the flood devastated Kashmir and especially Srinagar. One of the barometers of the “Normalcy” is the forced opening of Schools. According to Government itself thousands of Schools have been damaged by the unprecedented floods. Even some of the poshest schools in Srinagar were under water for days on end. A local daily correspondent has done an investigative report which states that the flood hit schools are a time bomb of infections. According to him not only are the school buildings structurally unsafe but pose a serious risk to the health of the school children who are vulnerable to deadly infections, which can target even lungs and brain. However, the state authorities are forcing these schools to open to pretend return of “Normalcy”! The politicians who had been washed away with the floods have started slowly re-appearing through photo-statements in local dailies claiming restoration of various civic services.
“Normalcy” is the most battered word in Kashmir. However, in the past its restoration has been exclusively used in regard to political turmoil and violence. Now it has been applied to the natural calamity. How can one call people who have faced the worst trauma in their lives caused by the most devastating flood in last 121 years be normal so soon? They are all dazed and still under a shock moving like zombies. Some of the villages have been washed away even without a trace. In the capital city of Srinagar, some of the poshest colonies like Raj Bagh and Jawahar Nagar look like some war torn localities. Dozens of collapsed houses on different roads appear to have been bombarded and appear like scenes from a war movie! There is strong stench of muck and filth all round. No doubt Srinagar Municipality has been working round the clock with newest machines and dozers yet the extent of devastation is so much that it will take months to really clean up all the areas and restore these to somewhat normal conditions.
Some of the healthcare facilities such as the main state hospitals, private hospitals and clinics which had faced the brunt of the floods have yet to resume their usual working. Even the diagnostic facilities in different parts of the city have yet to resume normal working. In most of the main shopping areas very few shops are open. Most of the shopkeepers are still cleaning their shops and stores and throwing away the goods spoiled by the flood waters which remained in these areas for about 20 days or so due to absence of sufficient dewatering facilities. The number of vehicles which had been affected by the floods runs into thousands. Most of the workshops are overflowing with these damaged vehicles. Some people have even sent their vehicles in trucks to Jammu and other places for repairs.
Apart from the tardy pace of restoration, there have been allegations of relief being distributed among people who did not face the floods. Even some people have been accused of politicising the relief distribution. One would not be surprised if our politicians and some corrupt bureaucrats make hay while the sun of flood relief shines! It would have been better if instead of channelling the relief through the state government or some non-governmental organisations it was distributed directly among the sufferers by the agencies sending it. The worst part is the tardy progress on the provision of dependable shelters capable of withstanding the fast approaching winter for the displaced persons. They would need insulated warm shelters to face the freezing winters during which even the day temperatures fall below zero. One fails to understand why is the central government dithering in taking charge of the restoration and rehabilitation on an accelerated pace through some of the international agencies readily offering generous aid and expertise? Common people are getting the impression that some of the elements in the central government are drawing sadistic pleasure from the discomfiture of suffering Kashmiris. Instead of lessening the alienation, this dithering is going to increase it and may result in an upheaval sometime in the future.
In the present circumstances, the forthcoming assembly elections appear not only to be an exercise in futility but these could seriously jeopardise the restoration and rehabilitation process. The most immediate need is to bring some semblance of normalcy to the devastatingly disturbed life of the people than to provide means to the corrupt and greedy politicians to come back and suck whatever blood has been left in the veins of the presently suffering common people! Kashmiris are a resilient people and have faced numerous calamities and external as well as internal oppression in the past. They have survived and will survive and rise again. However, the present process of restoration and rehabilitation to bring in real “Normalcy” can only succeed if the present lot of corrupt politicians posing as pretenders of “Normalcy” is sent packing. Kashmir at present needs a single line administration with the clear goal of restoration and rehabilitation without any political interference if the “Normalcy” has to be real and not pretence!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The “Banana” Chief Minister!

After the recent floods devastated Srinagar, Omar Abdullah was shown on TV throwing “Bananas” to the marooned people from the state helicopter. One was reminded about the “Rise of the Planet of Apes”. He should thank God that the people did not pull down his chopper like in the movie! This “Banana” episode reminded one about the “Banana Republics” of South America. According to Wikipedia, “Banana republic is a political science term for a politically unstable country, whose economy is largely dependent on exporting a limited-resource product, e.g. bananas. It typically has stratified social classes, including a large, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy of business, political, and military elites. This politico-economic oligarchy controls the primary-sector productions to exploit the country's economy”. The exploitation, corruption and nepotism associated with Kashmir is the same as in those republics. Kashmir has virtually been turned into a “Banana Republic” by the last scion of the Abdullah dynasty! This was evident during the most destructive flood in its recent history. In fact, the entire political elite from 1947 onwards has been responsible for turning Kashmir into a virtual “Banana Republic” with the lead role being played by the Abdullah dynasty. The dynasty had to meet its nemesis but unfortunately for Kashmiris, it took along entire Kashmir! Probably because most of us had for materialistic worldly reasons stood with it rather than stood against it!
The flood was in fact Nature’s backlash as it had been plundered mercilessly for last few decades. The Jhelum burst its banks in vicious ferocity drowning Srinagar’s elite, for a change, in its muddy and murky waters. The posh localities of Shivpora, Indra Nagar, Sonawar, Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Gogji Bagh and Wazir Bagh were all under 10 to 20 feet of water. It was probably for the first time that the upper classes had faced such a disaster. Most of the down town area had mercifully been spared. The encroachers in Dal Lake too were submerged. In fact, Dal and Nageen Lake had become a large water body of the earlier times. It too was a revenge of the ravaged Dal Lake! The destruction and damage in south Kashmir too has been colossal. Some villages have been completely washed away. It is supposed to have been the most destructive flood after the one in 1893. As reported the disaster had been predicted by some local engineers in a report submitted to the “Banana” government in 2010. However, the report got drowned in bureaucratic and political wrangling between the state and the centre. In fact, the government had ignored the warning about possible flash floods given by the Met Office.
The coming of the flood and the handling of the situation during and after it are typical of the South American “Banana Republics”! The entire political set up and their administrative machinery disappeared like the dictators in these countries who run away with their material possessions and lackeys. It is the brave new generation of Kashmiris and the Army which rescued people. In fact, some of the Army rescuers complained that there was no one from the local administration to guide them unlike Uttrakhand where they had been on earlier rescue missions. There was mess up in dewatering pumps. Most of the posh localities remained water logged for more than 20 days after the receding of flood waters. Even now some of these areas are still water logged! People on their own breached some embankments of the main river and the flood spill-over channel to drain out water unmindful of the future consequences. The role of the government and its paralytic administration deserves not only its immediate removal but prosecution for criminal negligence!
What is most surprising is the dithering on the part of the central government. By all accounts it has been a national calamity. The most bandied about “Crown of India” had been devastated but the reaction and response from those climbing every pulpit to proclaim it as an integral part was nothing but lukewarm. There could not have been a better opportunity to bridge the gap of alienation than this tragedy. One fails to understand why, on the contrary, the Government of India should refuse permission to foreign agencies especially those connected with healthcare, cleaning, rehabilitation and relief from coming to Kashmir. In fact, they should have been themselves asking for expert international aid to deal with the situation. During the destructive earthquake of 2005, the Pakistan Administered Kashmir received unlimited foreign aid especially in the field of healthcare like prefabricated hospitals and shelters. It did not change the basic political situation of the area. If the Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been true to his word of winning the hearts and minds of the people, he would have been here with his all American and other international corporate friends to give succour to the devastated and suffering people of Kashmir! He can still do it by sending the local politicians on a long leave of a year or two and bringing in an upright and dynamic person with some capable advisors to run the administration with the involvement of national and international assistance. Will he do it? That is the million dollar question!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

News about our safety

Dear Friends,
I have got internet connectivity after 20 days or so. Many relatives and friends were worried about our safety. We were marooned in Jawahar Nagar in our house for four days when the water level was about 18 feet or so. We were rescued by Army Engineers. We are safe with some relatives in Hyder Pora. It has been the most traumatic experience. Will give my own impressions after sometime. Thanks to all my friends who repeatedly and frantically called to know our safety.