Thursday, June 28, 2018

Corruption in blood stream!

(The Kashmir Society has become so corrupt that one feels the corruption has gone into the blood stream of the people!)
Image result for corruption

There was a time when word “corruption” would give a scary feeling. In fact, calling somebody corrupt was probably the worst abuse. Not now! It has become a word of daily usage to which all of us seem to have become insensitive. Corruption has spread like cancer in the entire society. No part of our daily life is free of this most terrible malaise. People are feeling suffocated and helpless before this scourge which has eaten into the vitals of our society. Some years back, Kashmir had been rated by Transparency International as the second most corrupt state in India. Corruption is not confined to material areas only but has affected both the political values and the overall morality of the society. We are faced with material, moral and political corruption. In reality, the corruption has virtually gone into our blood stream!
Why has Kashmir become such a corrupt place? There is one main factor and that is the readiness of Kashmiris to compromise. Once a person strays from the truth and is prepared to say that 2 and 2 make 5, corruption starts. The origin of this compromise goes back centuries in our history. However, it has seen real culmination in last half century or so. It has been often observed by a number of historians that the timidity and deceitfulness of a Kashmiri is due to his unending suppression by outsiders. He has never had a chance to grow in a totally free and healthy atmosphere. It is natural for a human being to develop an instinct of survival when he is faced with the forces bent upon annihilating him. For survival a person goes to any extent. For him morality, truthfulness, honesty, self-respect, and dignity lose all meaning. He has somehow to survive against all odds. Sir Walter Lawrence in “Valley of Kashmir” also talks about this misfortune of Kashmiris. According to him Kashmiris are not as bad as are portrayed by outsiders. The main cause for their pitiable situation is the centuries of slavery. A couple of generations living in a free atmosphere under an honest, just and a strong rule will bring the best out of a Kashmiri. But they never got that chance and the slavery has continued in one or the other form. Compromise has become part of our daily life. This has been taught to us by our leaders.
If one studies the history of Kashmir’s Movement for emancipation which started in 1931, a stark fact that emerges is the compromise by the so called leaders at every step! The leaders at that time had started the movement for total emancipation. It was to restore the independence and sovereignty which Kashmiris had lost four centuries back. Primarily movement was started by Muslims but subsequently it encompassed the entire population regardless of religion.   The move had apparently been good as it had given a truly nationalist colour to Kashmir’s Freedom Movement. In 1946, a movement was started against the autocratic ruler asking him to quit Kashmir. However, in 1947 that movement was abandoned and the ruler’s accession to India was publicly endorsed. People had blind faith in the sincerity of the leader and followed him in spite of his political somersaults. Had he been truly nationalist and taken the third option of independence right from the start, the things would have been different. He did realise his mistake after sometime but then it was too late. People would have forgiven him but his own lieutenant stabbed him in the back. He opened the flood gates to corruption. A systematic campaign for character assassination was unleashed on Kashmiris. Money and muscle power were freely used to buy temporary loyalty of the masses. Spiritual and intellectual pursuits were replaced by material gains. Betrayal was rewarded and loyalty to principles was punished. Orwellian new speak was introduced and truth was banished. People were “disciplined” through the newly constituted “Peace Brigade”. It was Goebbels in action. A masterly use of carrot and stick! That in fact, has been the real beginning of corruption in Kashmir. Corruption was so much ingrained into the psyche of Kashmir that it was taken to be a normal way of life. Since that time, the slide into corruption has been fully accelerated.
There does not appear any chance of coming out of the pit! Repeated declarations, slogans, and promises by top politicians to remove the scourge of corruption sound hollow in the face of actual ground situation. Right from the traffic constable on the road side up to the top political bosses, the whole system is steeped in corruption. Bribes are not only gladly taken but also given without any hesitation or remorse. It has become a well-established routine for getting anything done in every government establishment or organisation. In some departments, the corruption has been institutionalised and it is taken to be part of the normal procedure. No one feels anything bad about it. Rather it is taken to be rightful cut of all concerned. The typical example is of engineering departments. The percentage cut from each contract right from the level of a junior engineer to chief engineer is fixed. There is no dispute about it. Paying of huge bribes through intermediaries for posting, transfer, and appointments at the administrative level as well as the ministerial level has been thoroughly debated but no cure found!
 Apart from material corruption, there is exponentially growing moral corruption involving all sections of the society. Every second day one witnesses skeletons falling out of the moral cupboard. The second rank in corruption given to the state by the transparency international must be now higher than even the first rank? Can this corruption which has eaten into the vitals of Kashmir society be ever eradicated? The blood will have to be drained out and purified by a dialysis machine. Even then it can only be prevented from recurring if the top is clean. Honesty like water flows from top downwards. Unless we have the top honest and clean and that too with a political will, nothing will succeed. An honest top rung will not tolerate a corrupt bottom. In the present context an uncompromising, honest, and upright leader with courage of conviction and a political will to stand by the truth is the only solution to end the vicious circle of corruption. To refuse compromise involves sacrifice and suffering. Is anyone prepared for that? This is precisely what Kashmir has been waiting for. Will we ever get such a leader? God alone knows! Till the time that happens, the corruption is not going to go away. It will rather go on multiplying and eating into the vitals of our society.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

The Climate Change

(Extraordinarily hot weather in Kashmir is part of the Global Climate change due to which many parts of the world have been experiencing freak weather)
Kashmir has been experiencing very hot weather in the month of June. According to MET sources sometimes the temperature has been more than 8 degrees above normal for the same period in previous years! In contrast to hot days, the mornings are comparatively cooler for this time of the year. Something like a desert climate! This unusual climate has been creating problems all over the world. However, it has not happened just at once but has been happening gradually over the years and we are noticing it only now because of the various cumulative effects which are peaking during the present time. The experts have been warning about the climate change for a long time but the people have not been heeding their forecasts about various damaging effects which our planet is gradually suffering. In Kashmir, the effects of the climate change have been studied in detail by the department of Earth Sciences in the University of Kashmir which is headed by a well-known scientist Shakil Romshoo. A study of nine bench mark glaciers conducted by the department reveals that between 1980 and 2013, these glaciers have shrunk by 17%. The total glaciated area has been reduced from 29.01square kilometers to 23.81 kilometers. There has been corresponding reduction in the discharge of the rivers dependent on these glaciers. Another worry has been the shifting of the peak rainfall season from summer to spring which could have adverse effect on the agriculture due to water shortage in the required season!
One does not have to be an expert to notice the climate change. During mid-forties one remembers the amount of snowfall which the valley used to have. Sometimes the snow would fall so fast and heavy that people had to come out of their houses from the windows of the first floor! Many times the snow would fall so thick and fast that it looked like night during the middle of the day. Often the migratory birds flying around would get blinded and fall in peoples’ lawns! Those days there used to be thatched roofs or roofs of clay over wooden planks and everyone was out after every snowfall to clear snow from the rooftops. But now we hardly have few inches of snow in the city during winter.
The global climate change is the hottest topic all over the world these days. The arctic ice is melting fast and the sea level is gradually rising. Some predict a rise of 100 feet in the sea level! The experts have given alarming forecasts about the drastic effects of this climate change. With the rise in sea level many countries surrounded by sea may completely disappear. Even many coastal areas may go under water. Melting of glaciers will cause water shortages in many parts of the world. If one goes by the geological history, the warming of our planet may be followed by another ice-age! Unfortunately, this is not a natural process but a calamity brought upon mankind by mankind itself. The greatest culprit is supposed to be the emissions of harmful gases from motor vehicles, power plants and so on. There are many alternatives being tried to lessen emissions. These include automobiles working on electric power and so on. Apart from this is the depletion of the green cover. This is very true of our own state especially the valley. We have indiscriminately destroyed our forest cover which used to act as a filter for these emissions. The timber smugglers in connivance with the authorities have denuded mountains throughout the state. Another destructive factor has been the deliberate destruction of our water bodies by greedy people. We have virtually eaten away our lovely water bodies including the world famous Dal Lake which is in the last throes of death! In fact, the disastrous flood of 2014 too has been the result of this climate change brought upon us by our own greed.
Our worst tragedy is that neither the government nor the people in general seem to be either aware or even concerned about this catastrophe slowly happening. Both the governments as well as the people in general need to be woken up from the deep slumber. In fact, the state has a full-fledged organization called the Department of Ecology, Environment and Remote Sensing whose task is to take measures and set up projects to protect state’s environment. The effects of climate change and remedial measures to mitigate these effects should be their primary responsibility. According to their website, they have already completed 56 projects and have16 on-going projects regarding ecology and environment. However, what is most urgent is peoples’ participation in protecting the environment so that the effects of climate change are minimized. The ideal thing would be for all the leaders of all hues and shades to impress on the people to take care of environment and ecology. Even all the religious leaders can be motivated to take up this task. However, the million dollar question is will they do so? Well, on that rests the fate of our future generations!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Vanishing Water Bodies!

The Vanishing Water Bodies!
(We have literally eaten away most of our water bodies after first polluting these beyond redemption)
As the legend describes it, Kashmir Valley was a huge lake.  Kalhana, the author of the earliest recoded history of Kashmir, Rajtarangni, states that the valley of Kashmir was a huge lake called Satisar. The Lake was drained through the Varmul gorge by Kashyap Reshi after killing the demon Jalodbhava guarding the outlet. The draining of the Lake reclaimed the present valley of Kashmir. The geological findings especially the presence of Karewas (geological formations of sedimentary clay) throughout the valley confirm this mythological belief. For thousands of years Kashmiris had the privilege of having the last remnants of Satisar as Wular, Manasbal, Dal, and Nageen. These water bodies were our living heritage from the times immemorial. In fact, as per the findings at Burzhom and many other similar places, the human civilisation in Kashmir started on the banks of these water bodies right from the Neolithic age.
For centuries these water bodies survived and were the pride of Kashmir. Till the middle of the last century that is during the reign of the erstwhile Maharaja Hari Singh, most of the Lakes including the smaller water bodies and even the canals of Srinagar survived and continued to exist. However, with the freedom of the sub-continent and ushering in of the popular peoples’ governments, these water bodies started slowly shrinking and even disappearing. During the autocratic rule people respected the law and there was no escape for violators in any field. Even most of our lush green forests also continued their existence during Maharaja’s reign.
Kashmir’s misfortune started after 1953 when the popular leader was removed and general policy of compromise in every sphere of life was liberally introduced. Still people violated the law hesitatingly and there was some accountability. However, after the death of the popular leader and installation of puppets one after the other, there was free for all in every sphere of life. This was the result of uncertainty which has been prevailing since. Because of the political uncertainty the accountability in every sphere of life has virtually vanished. The Wullar Lake has been encroached through growth of willow trees all around and the clear water body has been converted into farming land. According to some experts it is now an apology of the once second largest sweet water lake of Asia.
It is just in last 3 to 4 decades that we, the present inhabitants of the so called “Paradise on Earth”, have (due to our insatiable material greed) brought these to total ruination. Three fourths of blame for ruining these water bodies can be squarely placed on the local people. This is especially true of the Dal Lake. It is immaterial as to who has done how much damage, whether these are house boat owners, hoteliers, vegetable growers, residents inside or on the banks of the lake. Damage beyond redemption has not only been done but is continuing on a daily basis.
As regards the role of the people entrusted with the restoration of the Lake, there can be no better judgement than that given by the former Chief Minister Azad who publicly admitted that the Lake has become a “Money Minting Machine” for the politicians! He said so in spite of the fact that the political set up he was blaming was headed by him. The most unfortunate part of the tragedy is that the government had woken up towards the necessity of restoring and conserving the Lake in mid-seventies itself. The best ever report for the restoration and conservation of Dal Lake was prepared in 1977 by a team of New Zealand consultants (Enex Consortium). The consultants had made some very practical recommendations for initiating measures to arrest the further deterioration in the condition of the Lake as also to restore it to its previous glory. These measures would have stopped accumulation of nutrients in the lake and over a period of time this would result in a net loss of nutrients that would in turn curb weed growth and thus improve the water quality. The Enex report provided cost estimates and based on analysis deemed the proposed improvements economically feasible. In fact, at that time the Overseas Development Agency of U.K. and the World Bank had offered to fund the restoration of the Lake through some international agency.
Unfortunately, no practical steps were taken to implement the plan. On the contrary, the bureaucrats as usual dithered by discussing endlessly the project report in committee after committee and the politicians in the meantime made hay while the sun was shining on the waters of the Dal Lake! At last the government constituted a toothless non-statutory authority LAWDA, the Lakes and Waterways Development Authority which proved to be an epitome of corruption. It is just like any other government department mostly headed by bureaucrats having absolutely no expertise in environment protection or conservation of water bodies. LAWDA has been moving like a tortoise but not like the tortoise of our school day story of “Slow and Steady Wins the Race”. It is a tortoise which is slow but not steady. In last 30 years or so, the Lake instead of getting restored has gone from bad to worse. If one puts three fourths of blame on the local people, one forth has to be shared by the Government of India also. Even the Comptroller and Auditor General of India in their report have raised objections about the pumping of funds by the Central Government into the Lake Authority without any accountability. The condition to which the Lake had deteriorated could not be reversed by cosmetic slow treatment. It needed accelerated intensive time bound treatment to arrest its deterioration and reverse the same.
It may be mentioned that sometime back the Lake Geneva, much bigger than Dal, had suffered worse pollution when even the fish had died. However, with the help of some international resourceful expert agencies they were able to completely redeem it. Why can’t we do the same with the Dal Lake? It may be our last chance and whomsoever takes the initiative will have his name carved in golden letters in the history of Kashmir. There is no time left and we have to wake up from the deep slumber. All the leaders of all hues and colours must come forward and motivate people for restoring and conserving the water bodies. If we fail now, then it is better for us to formally prepare for performing the last rites of the Dal Lake and other water bodies!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Ceasefire in “Ramadan”!

(Linking cessation of military operations against militants with the holy month of Ramadan amounts to communalizing the move which should normally have no connection with religion)
Image result for ramadan ceasefire in kashmir

The Central Government recently announced the cessation of cordon and search operations by the Army during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan to give peace a chance. The announcement was made on the request of the State Chief Minister who had asked for a “Ramadan Ceasefire”! Linking the ceasefire with the Muslim Fasting month of Ramadan gives it a communal colour. Does it mean that all operations are directed against the Muslims of Kashmir? Or is the fight between the Hindu Army and Kashmiri Muslims? Secondly, the word ceasefire normally applies to two fighting armies. It seems odd to declare a ceasefire between the third largest Army in the world fighting just a couple of hundred militants! In fact, it is the State Government which has called it the “Ramadan Ceasefire”. The announcement from the centre as given in Times of India says.Centre directs forces to halt security operations in J&K during Ramzan”. The cessation of violence from both the sides should have nothing to do with the religion. Kashmir is not basically a religious issue but a political problem pertaining to the final disposal of the erstwhile State of Jammu & Kashmir lingering from the partition days. It is unfortunate that after the installation of a Hindutva Government in Delhi, the problem has been communalised with ulterior motives. Ceasefire should be treated as ceasefire regardless of the month or timing when it is declared. It is an end to all types of violence which normally should be followed by talks and dialogue with all stakeholders for ultimate settlement of the basic political problem which continues to stay on the agenda of the international organisations including the United Nations, Security Council.
The Kashmir’s Political struggle is not a fight between Muslims and Non-Muslims. It is, in fact, a struggle for basic Political rights for all Kashmiris irrespective of religion. Kashmiris have been struggling for the basic right of self-determination. Unfortunately, the struggle has been deliberately communalised by Kashmir’s two neighbours for their own motives. It is neither a Jehad nor a Dharam Yudh! The most urgent need is for all to realise the existence of this basic Political issue and strive for its peaceful resolution. The need of the hour is to declare total cessation of all violent activities from all sides without any specific time limit. This will create a peaceful atmosphere for an all-inclusive dialogue between all the stakeholders within Kashmir and within the sub-continent to resolve the problem.
Recently, even the top Army Generals from the two sides are asking for a peaceful dialogue. They seem to have realised the futility of violence in settling political disputes. They also must know that in the present context no conflict can remain localised or conventional. Once war hysteria starts, it has no end and could spiral into a nuclear conflagration destroying not only the entire sub-continent but the entire South Asia with some after effects going all over the globe. The Generals have given their opinion about the basic political problem, being fully aware of the ground situation. It is now the turn of the Politicians on two sides to come forward and start talking at the earliest. Unfortunately, politicians on both the sides have been using Kashmiris as guinea pigs to test their political ideology. The recent book written by the Spymasters of the two countries jointly has made many revelations about Kashmiris being used for various purposes by the two sides. Additionally, Kashmir has been a very easy whip to raise emotions at the time of elections. It is time, everyone realises the futility of using the dispute to further their individual interests. This has harmed both the countries immensely. Let us hope they realise it soon and save us from an Armageddon!

The land-locked Kashmir!

(Kashmir has been described as a land-locked country but with the advent of civil aviation it became quite accessible. However, some parts still continue to be remote especially in winter!)
The land-locked Kashmir!

Historically, Kashmir has always been known as a land-locked country in the high Himalayan Mountains. In the earliest Chinese records Kashmir is described as,a country enveloped on all sides like a precious jewel by the snowy mountains, with a valley in the south which leads up to it and serves as a gate of the Kingdom”. Famous Chinese traveller, Hiuen Tsang describes Kashmir which he calls Kia-shi-mi-lo as a country surrounded on all sides by very high mountains which have very narrow and contracted passes for entry. According to him these natural bulwarks have protected the country from its neighbours who have never succeeded in subduing it. The Greek chronicles also mention Kashmir as Kaspeira, a country surrounded by high mountains whose inhabitants are great foot-walkers! In fact, this isolation of Kashmir in the high mountains allowed it to remain unmolested for a long time. In ancient Kashmir there used to be an official called the “Dawara Pati”, the guardian of the passes whose job was to keep an eye on all passes which were guarded by garrisons of soldiers.
The conquest of Kashmir by Mughals, even though through treachery, ended Kashmir’s isolation. However, even with the passing of the country from Mughals to Afghans, to Sikhs and finally to Dogras, the physical isolation continued. The only access was through the Jhelum Valley road along the River Jhelum. After, the events of 1947, even though Kashmir got disconnected from its Central Asian neighbours in the North, yet access became easier towards South. Finally, with the advent of civil aviation, Kashmir is no longer a land locked and isolated “country”! The valley of Kashmir has become a global tourist destination and millions of tourists have been coming here from all over the globe.
Unfortunately, in spite of year round global access to the Kashmir valley, there are still some parts which remind one of the ancient land-locked Kashmir. These places get totally land-locked in winter, in some cases almost for six months or so. These include Gurez and Tilel Valleys; Karnah; Wadwan Valley of Kishtwar. The other areas in the State which remain land-locked in winter are Ladakh where totally land-locked is the remote valley of Zanskar. In this modern age it is unthinkable of people getting totally isolated for months on end. They have no access either by road or by air. The people in these areas face not only a physical trauma but also a psychological one. Unfortunately, most of the rulers in recent times have totally neglected this aspect of winter inaccessibility of these remote areas.
After a wait of decades, the government has finally started work on the Zoji La tunnel to ensure year round access to Ladakh by road. This is a welcome step and one hopes the work would be completed on a fast track. It would have been ideal if notice of inaccessibility of other areas had also been taken. The long term accessibility of these areas would also require construction of tunnels below the passes which get closed in winter due to heavy snowfall. These include the Sadhna Pass, the Razdani Pass, the Simthan Pass, the Margan Pass and so on. These passes would need much shorter tunnels which may be cheaper and easier to construct. Let us hope the government keeps the requirements of these people living in remote areas in view and formulates a plan to make these accessible in winter also.
Pending construction of tunnels, the government could explore connecting these remote areas by short haul turbo-prop aircraft. These aircraft do not need long and concrete runways and can land on small strips and in some cases even in plain fields. Air Asia and the Indigo Airlines do have these small turbo-prop aircraft and are operating services to some areas. The government needs to explore the possibility of inviting these airlines to survey the areas and start such short haul air services. Even these services could be subsidised to allow reasonable pricing of these flights. At the moment, some of these areas in the state are serviced by MI-17 helicopters of IAF for which the government makes payments to the Ministry of Defence. Similar, treatment needs to be given to the Zanskar area also which too remains totally cut off during winter. Here again sometime IAF courier services are operated. The worst part is the assistance to sick people during winter. Sometimes the concerned Deputy Commissioners do requisition helicopters from the Air Force. However, providing of a regular short haul air service can ameliorate the suffering of these people till these are made accessible on a round the year basis.