Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Breaching Sub-Continents Berlin Wall!

(The opening of Kartarpur Corridor practically signifies a breach in the artificial security barriers created by the two countries to keep their people apart)
Image result for berlin wall                  Image result for loc fence

An interesting short entry in Wikipedia about the corridor sums up the motive behind the project. “The Kartarpur Corridor is a proposed border corridor between India and Pakistan, connecting the Sikh shrines of Dera Baba Nanak Sahib (located in Punjab, India) and Gurdwara Darbar Sahib Kartarpur (in Punjab, Pakistan). The proposed corridor is intended to allow religious devotees from India to visit the Gurdwara in Kartarpur, 4.7 kilometres (2.9 miles) from the Pakistan-India border. The Pakistan foreign office spokesperson Muhammad Faisal said the corridor will be finalized before the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev in November 2019. The Prime Minister of IndiaNarendra Modi, compared the decision to go ahead with the corridor by the two countries to the fall of the Berlin Wall, saying that the project may help in easing tensions between the two countries”.
Recently a ground breaking ceremony for the corridor was held in which Pakistani Prime Minister and the Chief of the Pak Army participated. Echoing Prime Minister Modi’s comments Imran Khan said that mistakes have been made from both sides in the past. Presently, according to him, on the Pakistan side everyone, the political parties, all institutions, including the Army; in fact everyone is on a single page, the friendship with India! He said that the Pakistanis want to move forward. According to him there is only one issue between these two countries and that is Kashmir! “It needs leadership with a will on two sides to solve it. It is not difficult to solve the problem. I am interested in improving relations because of one important reality and that is the poverty of our people on both sides. If we want to remove poverty, we have to open borders for free movement and trade. We have to live like good neighbours. When Germany and France after having fought so many wars, killing millions of people can now live together, why can’t India and Pakistan do so”! There cannot be a more positive offer than this to initiate a dialogue for peace.
Unfortunately, the response from the Indian side especially from the government circles has been totally negative. While some people including the foreign minister said that reconciliation can only take place after the other side stops aiding terrorists, others referred to the Corridor as a step in creating Khalistan. The proposal had been mooted right in 1947 when the Sikh holy place got included in Pakistan. As Navjot Singh Sidhu remarked the people of Punjab had been waiting for 70 years to visit this holy place. Incidentally, it is again the religious basis which has opened up the border. Normally, it should have been opening for people on two sides to meet each other irrespective of religion.
Because of reference to Berlin Wall it may be interesting to recollect the story of that episode in Europe. The relevant portion from the History website says, “On August 13, 1961, the Communist government of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, or East Germany) began to build a barbed wire and concrete “Antifascistischer Schutzwall,” or “antifascist bulwark,” between East and West Berlin. The official purpose of this Berlin Wall was to keep Western “fascists” from entering East Germany and undermining the socialist state, but it primarily served the objective of stemming mass defections from East to West. The Berlin Wall stood until November 9, 1989, when the head of the East German Communist Party announced that citizens of the GDR could cross the border whenever they pleased. That night, ecstatic crowds swarmed the wall. Some crossed freely into West Berlin, while others brought hammers and picks and began to chip away at the wall itself. To this day, the Berlin Wall remains one of the most powerful and enduring symbols of the Cold War”. When the wall ultimately came down on November 9, 1989, more than 2 million people from East Berlin visited West Berlin that weekend to participate in a celebration that was, one journalist called it, “the greatest street party in the history of the world.” People used hammers and picks to knock away chunks of the wall–they became known as “mauerspechte,” or “wall woodpeckers”—while cranes and bulldozers pulled down section after section. Soon the wall was gone and Berlin was united for the first time since 1945. “Only today,” one Berliner spray-painted on a piece of the wall, “is the war really over.”
Ultimately, it was the fall of the Berlin Wall which resulted in the unification of Europe as the European Union. Now there are no borders. Common currency and trade. It looks like one big country! Well, same could be true of the sub-continent. While talking of walls, the worst ones are in J & K known as the Line of Control. We have electrified fences, with mines, booby traps and now even sensors and lasers. It is impossible to breach these fences which are more formidable than even the erstwhile Berlin Wall!
The worst sufferers are people living on two sides in Karnah, Tanghdar, Gurez, and even relations separated in what used to be erstwhile Baltistan, Kargil and Skardu. In fact, the people of Baltistan do not get any visas to visit each other. They go for Umra or Hajj to meet each other. Incidentally, some politicians have demanded a corridor to Sharada Peeth. This place used to have the highest centre of learning in the entire Indian sub-continent in ancient times. It used to be a very important place of learning for Hindus as well as Buddhists. It is 150 kilometres from Muzaffarabad, situated on Neelam River. At present there are ruins of a temple and some other ancient buildings. It would be worthwhile if the place is revived as a centre of learning as gesture of goodwill to the memory of Ancient Kashmir which according to Kalhana was famous for learning throughout the world!
While appreciating this first act of goodwill between the people on two sides of the border, it may be mentioned that the Berlin Wall was not removed by the governments on two sides but the people themselves stormed it and virtually demolished it brick by brick. Similarly, if the sub-continent has to get rid of the artificially created walls of hatred, the people have to storm this en masse from both sides! The politicians especially the ruling ones will never allow this to happen as they are the beneficiaries of conflict! Bonhomie between the people of the two countries will make them lose their jobs! However, it is bound to happen sooner than later!

Monday, December 3, 2018

Fragile Power System

(Apart from various perennial problems relating to demand and supply, the very system of transmitting and supplying power is extremely fragile)

Image result for jumbled power lines                             Image result for collapsed power tower
The recent power break down in the valley reportedly resulting from the collapse of a high voltage transmission tower caused by a foot or so of unusually heavy and untimely snowfall resulted in a power outage throughout the valley. For almost 24 hours the entire valley was without power totally plunged into darkness. Power was restored in the city within two days, however some areas especially in the South Kashmir remained without power for many days as the damage to the lines by fallen trees was extensive. People had been worrying about the unusually long periods of curtailment due to shortage of about 600 Megawatts during the present winter. However, they had a taste of the outage much before the start of the real winter.
The power problem in Kashmir has almost been accompanying the basic political problem! Before the advent of every winter people have to gear up for dark nights and cold days. In earlier times people were used to lanterns and candles for the lighting in the night and Kangri and Bukhari for the warmth. Then we ushered in the modernization. The electric light was a miracle and the heaters both for warmth and water were great conveniences. Unfortunately, the supply of power could not keep pace with the modernization of our living. Additionally we did not want to pay for the energy! Yes, it would have been much cheaper had our resources not been robbed by outsiders, of course, with the consent of our so called leaders. The generation cost of hydroelectric power would have been so cheap that no one would mind paying for it. Well, the story of the power mess is a long and tragic one and there does not appear a final solution in the near future. We will have to live with the shortage for a long time to come.
The most important problem right now is the extremely fragile transmission and distribution system. The power is transmitted from the northern grid to Kashmir through high voltage transmission lines mounted on steel towers. These lines have to cross high mountain passes which get lot of snow in winter. In addition, in a number of places the mountain itself is loose rock and scree which is very unstable. Fortunately, most of the towers constructed with strong bases have held so far. There have been some mishaps off and on when a tower collapsed in heavy snow. However, the restoration has always been very quick. The recently completed transmission line along the Mughal Road supposed to transmit 1000 Megawatts of power too would be vulnerable. Repairing these towers in winter in extreme cold and heavy snow is not an easy job. Once the engineers were air lifted by helicopters to repair a damaged transmission tower. Well, we have to live with off and on problems with the transmission unless these could be replaced by high power transmission cables in vulnerable areas. There must be some latest technology to overcome such difficulties. One needs to explore these possibilities in colder areas like Russia, Sweden etc. After getting the power one needs a system to distribute it for which grid stations are required. Hopefully, by the end of the year we will have good capacity to receive and distribute the power in spite of bureaucratic hassles which delayed these projects.
Finally, we come to the actual distribution of power to the consumers in the city, towns and villages. This must be the most archaic system in the world especially in the down town area of Srinagar. The lines including some high tensions ones pass near trees or sometimes on trees itself. They have to do branch cutting and then line patrolling after each snowfall or even after a thunderstorm! Each electrical pole has a mesh of wires going to individual houses. Only the concerned lineman knows which wires go to which house! However, we are not the unique people to have this mess in distribution at the consumer level. Many other places have a worst mess! Well, there is a joke about it. Some years back a team of top engineers from a communist country visited Kashmir to advise about some projects on Sindh River. They were taken on a city tour. At the end of the tour they asked the accompanying Chief Engineer as to how many people get electrocuted daily in Srinagar. When informed “none”, they said they have started believing in God! That was an old joke but these days many linemen do get electrocuted while working on these lines. They lack proper equipment and clothing. Reportedly there was a central scheme to have underground distribution in some newer localities in the civil lines area. However, for some reasons known to the authorities, the new distribution system was again over ground through high voltage lines with individual transformers for two to three houses. This has made electrical wire congestion in every locality with high poles and a series of transformers.
In brief, the Power problem is multi-faceted and getting more severe with each passing year. In fact, it may be easier to solve Kashmir’s basic political problem than the perennial power problem! It is really a tragedy that a place having one of the highest potentials of power generation suffers from a power famine and moreover, even the distribution of whatever power we are able to get is in a mess! There is urgent need to honestly address this problem in a comprehensive way with even foreign expertise and collaboration so that at least people are able to pass the winters in a more comfortable and cheerful way. However, the million dollar question is who will do it?

A “Limited” War!

(The way the situation is developing some strategists feel that there may be a “Limited” War between the two neighbours before the 2019 General Election!)
Image result for indo pak war

Dr.Nishank Motwani, a Visiting Fellow at the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy, the Australian National University, and Consulting Researcher for Armed Conflict at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), wrote an article, “Be Prepared for an India-Pakistan Limited War” which appeared in the Diplomat on October 5. According to Dr. Motwani, there seem to be some shifts in strategic thinking regarding the use of nuclear weapons thereby affording an opportunity for a small conventional war. A short, sharp and a limited conflict. Recently, General Bipin Rawat had stated that Indian would not be restrained by Pakistan’s first use of nuclear weapons. In return the Pakistani spokesman had invited India to test its resolve! Earlier India had been formulating a strategy of Cold Start which involved short and sharp thrusts by armoured units. However, India has been held back by the declaration of General Khalid Kidwai of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division which is supposed to have short range Tactical Nuclear Weapons. These can be used to neutralise any short and quick armoured thrust.
Dr.Motwani after interviewing various people connected with defence and security on both the sides and strategists from abroad draws the implication that there is possibility of a limited conventional war between the two antagonists without crossing the nuclear threshold. According to him this prospect may seem attractive and workable for its advocates in Delhi. The surgical strikes are part of this strategy. Such a strategy may deter Pakistan from conducting proxy wars through terrorists as they would have to pay a price which they are avoiding at present due to threat of a possible nuclear escalation. The ideal location for such short and quick strikes is Kashmir across the mountains. The ideal months would be January and February when most of the passes get closed due to heavy snowfall. Normally, a conflict across the line of control does not escalate easily unless there are drastic incursions disturbing the entire status quo.
It has been generally observed that both the countries resort to external diversion when they face internal problems. For this side any clash is redeeming of the Hindutva pledge of one India, the real Hindu Rashtra. For the other side it is total Jehad! In such a clash, the people on two sides get emotionally charged regardless of the consequences. All internal problems get totally side-lined. It is a different matter that after a ceasefire which earlier resulted after the two sides exhausted their ammunition and now it can be due to external intervention to avoid a nuclear holocaust, the two countries will economically slip more than a decade or so. The populations below poverty line will considerably increase and both the countries will get heavy external debts.
Presently, there is a forthcoming event in India which can get a boost for the ruling side by a short war. That is the general election in May, 2019. The emotions generated by a short and sharp war with Pakistan will dramatically improve the prospects of the ruling party. It will act like opium and the emotionally highly charged people will forget all the bad consequences. Interestingly, many astrologers in India have been predicting the possibility of Indo-Pak war in the near future. These predictions have been there right from 2015. However, no one can be sure whether the effects of a future conflict between these nuclear armed countries would remain confined to the sub-continent. Some scientists have predicted that a nuclear exchange in the sub-continent will affect the entire world.
 “If India and Pakistan fought a war detonating 100 nuclear warheads (around half of their combined arsenal), each equivalent to a 15-kiloton Hiroshima bomb, more than 21 million people will be directly killed, about half the world’s protective ozone layer would be destroyed, and a “nuclear winter” would cripple the monsoons and agriculture worldwide”. The warmongers in the studios including some retired generals need to be shown the Hollywood movie “The Day After” to fully gauge the effects of a nuclear war if it breaks out now in the sub-continent. Unfortunately, if one follows the confrontation track with some “surgical” or “non-surgical” strikes, there is every possibility of quick escalation which can end in a nuclear clash! There is nothing like a short and quick conventional war. There have never been any limits to a conflict if it really breaks out!
Unfortunately, the brunt of the ideological conflict between the two neighbouring countries is being faced by the Kashmiris for no fault of theirs. They are being used as guinea pigs by both the sides. Kashmir is losing another generation with dozens of youth being mercilessly butchered every day. It is the right time now to end all talk of “Surgical” and “Non-Surgical” strikes; bring down the “War Hysteria” and save Kashmir by giving relief to Kashmiris by restoring their fundamental human rights. The only choice is to hold an unconditional dialogue among all stakeholders to sort out the basic political problem once and for all. The alternative is a mass suicide!

The Shrinking Political Space!

(For last few years the political space in Kashmir has been gradually made to shrink and now even the so called “mainstream” is being squeezed out!)
Recently Omar Abdullah in an interview said that the political space for main stream parties has shrunk in Kashmir. One could ask him whether there ever was real political space in Kashmir any time right from 1947. It had been totally squeezed out when his grandfather signed on the dotted line by endorsing Maharaja’s accession to the Indian Union! He tried his utmost through the worst totalitarian means to suppress any opposition to his stand, the irony of which ultimately landed him in prison in August, 1953. Kashmiris had been looking forward to their emancipation after centuries of slavery under the external masters. In fact, the colossal leader had led a movement against the Maharaja asking him to quit Kashmir. However, he then became an administrator under the same autocratic ruler. In order to squeeze the political thought of total freedom out of the local population he adopted the worst totalitarian measures. That was the beginning of the shrinking of the political space. His subordinate paid him in the same coin.
After this episode, the only political space allowed was the pro-India space which was given the name of the so called “Mainstream”! The centuries of slavery under external masters had given Kashmiris the special “Character” of “if you cannot beat them, join them”, an instinctive trait for the survival. A foreign author has truly observed that a foreigner can never know what is in the heart of a Kashmiri. According to him, “a kind word and a joke will get the best out of a Kashmiri”! Interestingly, when Bulganin on a visit to Kashmir asked Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad the then Prime Minister as to how many people were with him, he replied forty lakhs. On being asked as to how many were with Sheikh Abdullah, he said forty lakhs. When asked what the population of Kashmir was, without any hesitation he replied, forty lakhs! Well, that had been the trend all through because of refusal of the authorities to allow any other political space than the so called “mainstream”.
However, slowly the older generation gave way to the newer generations who refused to go by this formula of forty lakhs being with every leader or with every political thought. The newer generations wanted total emancipation which they first tried to get through the democratic process in 1987. On being denied this democratic luxury, the youth picked up the gun in 1990. They were fully supported from across the border who in fact tried their best to totally hijack the indigenous uprising and they did succeed in that. However, this side crushed the uprising with a brutal hand. Again the “mainstream” was introduced to create some space in a totally alien atmosphere. It did carry on for some time but being totally handicapped in trying to start a dialogue with the alienated youth, there were again uprisings even though non-violent in 2008 and 2010. These were again crushed savagely killing over a 100 youth and wounding thousands. Moreover, the youth born and brought up during the turmoil of the nineties refused to budge or get cowed down. They were all taken to be suspect and were harassed beyond endurance. The result was the 2016 upheaval, the Burhan Tsunami, which is now spread all over and continuing in spite of heavy and brutal measures. The political space of any dialogue has been totally ruled out. The unending hunting of youth and butchering them non-stop is not going to end the restlessness. In fact, Kashmir is slowly turning into a colony being held purely by military force!  
The worst part for India is the so called “mainstreamers” too getting isolated. They cannot even summon courage to face the people and are for the first time boycotting polls at the ground level like the civic bodies and the panchayat elections. They cannot even visit their constituencies. People are not at all ready to listen to them. This is the result of the policy of refusal to entertain any political view point except the mantra of the integral part and total integration or rather assimilation of Kashmiris into Hindutva India or the proposed Hindu Rashtra at all costs. So, for Omar Abdullah complaining of shrinking space, the chickens have come home to roost!
It may be hypothetical now but if Kashmir had been left as an autonomous region as envisaged in the Maharaja’s Accession supported by the then most popular leader, it would surely have become something like another Bhutan! It would ironically be the other side which would have been in turmoil! The time is running out. It is difficult to judge whether any offer of an unconditional dialogue with all the stake holders will be practically possible on the ground because of the total alienation especially of the youth who now comprise the bulk of the population. The only alternative is to end the brutal repression and restore the political space for all the viewpoints including those advocating total freedom and independence. Mere expression of opposite view points does not change physical status of a place. Rather it provides opportunity for all to debate every view point which can lead to ultimate solution and peace!

The Winter Tourism

(Kashmir has the highest potential for the development of Winter Tourism if proper facilities are provided. We could easily have half a dozen ski-resorts!)
Image result for heliskiing himalayan
 In mid-eighties, one had the opportunity of flying in a helicopter with a European ski expert over the snow areas of entire Kashmir valley. He had remarked that Kashmir has unlimited “White Gold”. The oil reserves of the Arabs are termed as “Black Gold”. Similarly, the huge easily accessible skiable snow areas of Kashmir can be termed as the “White Gold”. We have the possibility to set up over a dozen world class ski resorts in our mountain areas. The terrain, snow conditions, and the climate are ideal and in some respects better than the Alps. Gulmarg is probably the nearest resort of its type and size to a jet airport which is now an International Airport in every respect except for the missing international flights. No other resort in this part of the world is so easily accessible to the International tourist traffic.
Even in the last century Gulmarg was considered by the British an important ski resort this side of Suez. In fact, the Ski Club of India was established by Major Metcarp and Major Headow, two British Army Officers, in 1927 at Gulmarg. Mr.B.N.Pestonji was its first Secretary. Skiing had been introduced as a sport in Gulmarg area almost at the same time as it had started in Alps. Those days all ski competitions were held at Khilanmarg and the pony track was kept open throughout the winter. There were two major events, the Christmas and Easter Competitions. The famous British Sports Equipment Firm, the “Lilywhites” had introduced some trophies for various ski competitions. In fact one of the ski slopes above Khilanmarg is still called the “Lilywhite Slope”. The attendance in the open competition held at Christmas in 1938 was over 500. Gulmarg had two 100 room hotels and hundreds of chalets. There was a Cinema and a Golf Club House with two eighteen hole courses. One could get everything aristocratic and fashionable in the “Bazaar” of Gulmarg directly imported from all parts of Europe. Families of some of the British Army Officers would come to Gulmarg simply to buy these goodies. Marion Doughty in her travelogue, “Afoot through Kashmir Valley” makes a special mention of the “Gulmarg Tea Dance” and the preparations she had to undergo at the British Residency in Srinagar for participating in the event. Gulmarg was discovered by Yusuf Shah Chak, the last Kashmiri ruler who used to camp here for days with his poetess Queen Habba Khatoon.
Europe has millions of skiers who are now looking for newer and less crowded places with equal facilities. In the recent years we have had regular Australian groups as it is summer in Australia when we have winter here. Also sizeable numbers of Russians have been coming to Gulmarg. Recently, the Chinese Ski Association had approached for training their teams in Gulmarg. Kashmir could be the ultimate winter destination for them if the potential is intelligently exploited. To tap this potential the first essential is international accessibility to this area. That can be achieved only after Srinagar’s so called international airport gets international air connectivity enabling direct international flights to touch down here. In the alternative, like Goa it could get charter flights from a number of potential markets including Malaysia.  At the moment it may seem a utopian dream but in the long run it may be one of the most important economic activities.
Interestingly, the Adventure Tourism of which the Winter Tourism like Alpine Skiing, Cross Country Skiing, and Ski Mountaineering are part has maximum potential in Kashmir. In fact, it is the unique type of Tourism suitable for present times. Most of the adventure activities are outside the populated areas. The state should have been encouraging this type of tourism which in overall context is high end tourism especially when it is organised in group form. In mid-nineties skiing at Gulmarg and Heli-Skiing in Sonamarg area continued without any problems. In fact, Gulmarg is presently underutilised when one considers the potential of winter tourism. It has become a resort to see snow, have a gondola ride or so. The real adventure tourism involving various winter sports such as international level ski competitions, training of various ski teams and general skiing for pleasure seeking people has not grown much. The gondola which was installed to give access to skiers to higher slopes has remained an attraction for a joy ride for thousands of day tourists. The ski slopes which are some of the best in the world have not been got homologated by the International Ski Federation which is a must for holding international events. Apart from various ski events, Gulmarg can easily hold the fastest kilometre race like the French. There is an urgent need for reviewing not only winter sports in Gulmarg but the entire field of adventure tourism. Let us hope someone gets serious and the potential of all adventure tourism including the winter tourism in Gulmarg gets fully revived!

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Flood Prevention Not Preparedness!

(Instead of wasting time in mock drills to test the flood preparedness, the government should get down earnestly to implement urgent measures for flood prevention)
Image result for dredging

Recently there was a high level meeting to discuss the flood preparedness and it was decided that mock drills would be conducted to test the flood preparedness. In fact a tented colony to house the displaced persons was also set up! It is a pity that all of us have learnt no lessons from the disastrous flood of the century. The latest example of neglecting nature especially during the present period of a global climate change is the Kerala flood. They faced a disastrous situation even worse than Kashmir. There were hundreds of casualties and large scale destruction of property. They will take a long time to become normal again. Fortunately, in case of Kashmir, the nature was rather lenient. In fact, for last few years it has been giving us enough time to set our act straight by taking preventive measures. However, both the government and the people seem to be totally unmindful!
The last government wasted four precious years! The most important aspect was increasing the carrying capacity of the River and the flood spill over channel. Nothing substantial was done. In fact, a Kolkatta based firm which had been allotted the contract for the job during the Governor’s rule has been discontinued due to very slow progress and break down of machinery. A government of India panel in the wake of 2014 floods had thoroughly investigated the causes of the disastrous flood. They had pointed out the decrease in the carrying capacity of the River and its flood spill over channel over last few decades because of the absence of any dredging being carried out there. From 1986 till very recently no dredging was carried out in the outflow channel resulting into the drastic reduction in its carrying capacity from 17000 cusec to 3531 cusec. Similarly, no effective steps were taken to increase the flow velocity in the 96 kilometre Sangam-Wular mild slope stretch of river Jhelum. Last year the Chief Engineer Irrigation and Flood Control publicly admitted that nothing substantial had been done regarding dredging of the River and the Flood Channel.
Recently the newly appointed Secretary Irrigation and Flood Control gave a detailed interview to a reporter of the newspaper. Incidentally, he was the Deputy Commissioner of Srinagar during the century’s disastrous flood. As such he knows that prevention would be better than the cure! He admitted that the dredging had not been completed and would take some more time. According to him departmental dredgers are being used for the purpose. Apart from various environmental causes, the two main factors resulting in flooding and inundation of vast areas are the decreased capacity of the River and the Flood Channel and the weakness of the embankments. He confirmed that both these aspects are being given priority. The embankments have been surveyed to ascertain the weak points. A large number of encroachments on the River and Flood Channel banks have been removed. The Secretary invited advice from experts in the field. Hopefully, it should be coming. However, it would have been better if an open discussion on the subject was held where various experts and others could give their opinion.
Kashmir has always been prone to floods. In fact, most of the migrations from Kashmir in earlier times have taken place after the famines which used to result from disastrous floods. The story of King Avanti Varman’s illustrious minister Hakeem Soya is quite well known as it was taught in Schools through Kashmir’s History Books which seem to have disappeared now. He did secure the valley from the disastrous floods and improved irrigation throughout the valley. 
Recently there has been lot of reporting about declaring Srinagar a “Smart City”. There is no point in declaring Srinagar as a “Smart City” or improving its roads by flyovers and so on. The first thing is to secure it against the disastrous floods which may be visiting us off and on. There cannot be more pathetic and tragic fact than a couple of day’s rain being unwelcome in Kashmir which has always survived on rain! The rain used to be considered as a blessing but now it is a nightmare! There is no time left to apportion blame but the most immediate need is to undertake the urgent measures to secure the “City of the Sun” from floods. Not a difficult or impossible task. Only requirement is to get the job done honestly. It is a known fact that all engineering works are money minting proposals! For a change both the authorities and the people need to be honest and sincere. The task requires sincerity both from the government and the people. The lead has to be given by the popular leaders and prominent citizens supported by the government. Leaving the job totally to the government is virtually making preparations for the next disaster!
During the interview, the reporter praised the role of the new Secretary Flood in Tourism as its Secretary and Director General which he had dramatically uplifted in spite of the worst conditions. He hoped that similar dynamism and action would be shown by him in mitigating the impending threats of disastrous floods in future! Let us hope and pray that he does so and succeeds to earn the name of a modern “Hakeem Soya”!

Himalayas and the Climate Change

(The Himalayas play an important role in shaping the climate of the sub-continent and the recent erratic weather is the direct result of the “desecration” of the Himalayas!)
Himalayas and the Climate Change

The Educational Multimedia Research Centre of the University of Kashmir recently organized a film festival in collaboration with CMS Vatavaran, the International Forum on Environment and Wild Life. As part of the program a panel discussion titled, “The Impact of Himalaya on the Climatic Conditions of India”, was held. The focus of the panelists was the disastrous flood of September, 2014 which is considered to be a direct result of the ongoing climate change. No doubt the global phenomenon of undue warming and climate change contributed to the generation of the massive flood yet many panelists felt that the flood had resulted by the deliberate damage caused to the environment by the local people themselves. People due to material greed have squeezed the space of the River by stealing its flood basin and making numerous encroachments on its banks. Unless drastic measures are taken to restore the space for the extra waters during heavy rains, we may continuously face such floods in future also.
While being on the subject of Himalayas and the climate change it would be useful to recapitulate the role of the mountain chain in shaping not only the weather of the sub-continent but the life in general. One can get a detailed write up on the subject through Google, some parts of which are reproduced.
“Himalaya in Sanskrit means the “Abode of the snow”. The Himalayan Mountain Range forms the northern border of the Indian sub-continent. “The Himalayan mountain range and Tibetan plateau have formed as a result of the collision between the Indian Plate and Eurasian Plate which began 50 million years ago and continues today. 225 million years ago (Ma) India was a large island situated off the Australian coast and separated from Asia by the Tethys Ocean”. The Himalaya has 3 important ranges- Himadri, Himachal and Siwalik, about 2400 km in length & width of 240-320 km. The greater Himalayas or Himadri or northern ranges, average 6000m in height. Mount Everest 8848 m, the highest mountain in the world is in Himalaya.
No other mountain range anywhere in world has affected the life of people and shaped the destiny of a nation as the Himalayas have in respect of India. Himalayas block the summer monsoon winds and cause precipitation in vast parts of India which support agriculture in plains of Ganges and Indus. The height of the Himalayan Mountains concentrates most of the monsoonal rainfall on the Indian Subcontinent. This same mountain range blocks cold winds from Siberia from penetrating the region. This is why most of India has a warm, tropical climate with high precipitation. The Himalayas also prevent the cold Siberian air masses from entering into India. Had there been no Himalayas, the whole of northern India would have been a cold desert.
Almost all the great rivers of India have their sources in the Himalayan ranges. Abundant rainfall and vast snow-fields as well as large glaciers are the feeding grounds of the mighty rivers of India. Snow melt in summer provides water to these rivers even during dry season and these are perennial rivers. The Himalayan Rivers, along with hundreds of their tributaries, form the very basis of life in the whole of north India. The Himalayan region offers several sites which can be used for producing hydroelectricity. There are natural waterfalls at certain places while dams can be constructed across rivers at some other places. The vast power potential of the Himalayan Rivers still awaits proper exploitation and utilisation.
In addition, the Himalayas have abundance of the forest wealth, agricultural possibilities, extensive Tourism potential, unlimited and unexploited mineral wealth and finally scores of pilgrim sites. Most importantly, these act as a Defence Barrier for the entire sub-continent. Unfortunately, in spite of the most important role these play in the life of the sub-continent, we have tried our best to desecrate these in every possible way! The deforestation caused by uncontrolled cutting of the trees. The pollution of the rivers by garbage left by the “pilgrims”, over-exploitation of land by grazing and agriculture and so many other activities are damaging the Himalayas extensively. If we have to adjust to the global climate change, we have to take care to save the Himalayas. These alone could help us to cope up with some of the disastrous effects seen in recent times. The Chinese Philosopher Confucius once said, “The wise men find pleasure in water, the virtuous in mountains”! Unfortunately, the saying does not seem to hold good now!

Kashmir, the “Final” solution!

(Reportedly, Prime Minister Modi is going to announce the “Final” solution of the Kashmir problem before 2019 elections!)

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Recently there was a news report that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to announce the “Final” solution of the Kashmir problem very soon. In fact, the Eurasian Times on September 12 carried an item titled, “PM Modi will divide Kashmir in three parts before 2019 elections”. The writer poses a question, “Is Delhi planning to divide Jammu and Kashmir into three parts i.e. Hindu Majority Jammu, Buddhist and Shia Muslim dominated Ladakh and Sunni Muslim dominated Kashmir Valley? As per reports in a local Jammu and Kashmir daily, Indian PM is keen to change the political map of J&K before Indian elections of 2019”.
“Quoting the sources, the Jammu based paper reported that the PM Modi wants to resolve the Kashmir issue during his first-term itself. “It is possible that the PM may himself in a month or so declare division of Kashmir into three parts,” it said. According to PMO officials, Delhi was working out a plan that would lead to the trifurcation of the J&K state. “If all goes well, the Kashmir map would be changed and Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh would be created as the union territories,” they said.
The report claimed that the ‘division’ of the J&K territory would lead to the ‘resolution’ of many obstacles. “BJP knows that it cannot form a government in Jammu and Kashmir on its own and that it has to depend either on the National Conference or the People’s Democratic Party if it wants to come in power. Under such a situation of joint power-sharing with NC or PDP, Delhi cannot abrogate Article 370 of the constitution. An Indian official at the PM Office claimed that the Modi government would divide the J&K state before the general elections of 2019”.
The word “Final Solution” gives one creeps because of an ominous ring  which reminds one about the “Final Solution of the Jewish Problem”, mentioned by Adolf Hitler in his autobiography, Mein Kampf. That final solution which he had designed resulted in the death of six million Jews and created the most notorious concentration camp of Auschwitz! Probably, some of the fanatic followers of Hindutva may be thinking on those lines in regard to Kashmir. Kashmiris to be reduced to a minority in Kashmir! However, the division of the state will not result in that. It will on the contrary create a unit of Kashmiris only with hundred percent Muslim population. Jammu will lose its importance as it is known only because of its association with Kashmir. Jammu as Jammu on its known is not so much known not only abroad but even in India itself. Ladakh does have an independent recognition as the “Little Tibet”. Incidentally, a famous statesman from Jammu, Balraj Puri died with his dream of Regional Autonomy. He did have a viable preposition but no body listened to him. Giving three regions internal autonomy within the overall State of J & K should not have been a problem. It would fulfil the regional aspirations without changing the overall character of the state.
The division of the State into three union territories would change its status in relation to the UN Resolutions passed regarding the final disposal of the erstwhile State of J & K. The case is still on the agenda of the UN Security Council and the UN observers continue to be stationed here. Unilateral division of the State without asking the people their choice violates the UN Mandate. It should normally invite immediate UN intervention. In fact, on the other side, the people living in the former Northern Areas now known as Gilgit-Baltistan had been clamouring for a long time to be declared the fifth province of Pakistan. The same could not be done by the Government of Pakistan because of the UN resolutions on the subject. Reportedly, the feeling there was that such an act would weaken Pakistan’s case. Accordingly, Pakistani’s gave them some sort of autonomy on the pattern of the Ladakh’s Hill Development Councils.
The recent contradictory declarations regarding holding of Indo-Pak foreign ministers meeting in New York and then its abrupt cancellation by India does not augur well. Additionally, the two Army Chiefs have issued somewhat belligerent statements. That straightaway forestalls any “Final Solution” as has reportedly been envisaged by the Prime Minister. That solution, if attempted, may be the spark not only to light a fuse of an unmanageable Indo-Pak conflict but may be the beginning of disintegration of the whole sub-continent.