This Blog provides an insight on the Kashmir-issue, India and Pakistan. The articles on this Blog can be best described as thought-provoking. The articles thrive to trigger debate about the miseries enslaved Kashmiris are facing and discuss also possible solutions to this long standing conflict. It also aims to convince readers why Independent Kashmir is the best solution for all parties involved.

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jkdlp

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Exploitation in the name of fundamental problems: how long?

After its formation the new government announced it would pull people out problems and change the basic structure of state administration. Governments in the past also made tall promised of providing water, electric power, good roads and good education. They did not fulfill the promises. Still our womenfolk carry pitchers of clean water on their head over a distance of two or three kilometers because clean drinking water is not available to them at hand. During the regime of Omar Abdullah, Zero Bridge of Srinagar could not be repaired. It remains in that state. We are not aware what the priorities of the new government are. However, we would like to enlist main problems so that authorities know what the people think.

State Employees:

Average ratio of employees in any Indian State is 450/600//800 per lakh of population. In J&K the ratio is 3500 per one lakh. These functionaries and pensioners are always to be see bringing out protest rallies on roads and parks for non payment of salaries, pension, dearness allowances and other perks. Looking at their performance, we find them usually short of performing their duty. They are not punctual either for beginning of their day in the office or leaving the office. Discipline of being punctual has to be enforced and the delivery in office needs to be monitored at every stage.

Education:

People avoid sending their wards to government schools. Either there is no building or there are dilapidated structures that are perennial threat to the safety of life of the children. In some schools students outnumber the ratio of teachers and in other teachers outnumber the ratio of students. I know of a school in the city which has one principal and one teacher. They bring in the children of labourers working outside the school so that they are not displaced. I know of schools where there are only 16 students but 22 teachers. At the same time I know of schools with 100 students on roll but only 4 staff members. In Samba a government school with 200 students has been provided with two teachers.  Isn’t this a ploy to keep the children of the state illiterate? This is the reason that private schools are mushrooming everywhere. They are fleecing the people through fees, bus fares and other clandestine means. There is no deterrence. If our children grow in these circumstances what will be the impact on our future generations. The government should constitute a commission to propose reformation in our educational system along modern lines. The history of the State should be included in the school curriculum. We have a solution for this problem. Wards of ministers, bureaucrats and administrative officers should be admitted only in government schools. This will force people to improve the system in government schools. These higher status people will also understand to what depths our school education has sunk. How shameful that in violation of the instructions of the government, private schools charged fees from students for the months of September and October when floods raged at full fury in the city.

Medical treatment:

Hospitals are no less than epidemic spreading places.  Four hundred infants perished in G.B. Panth Children Hospital during the regime of Omar Abdullah. Leave aside the question of tendering of resignation by the Health Minister or Director of Health of Medical Superintendent, not even the ward boy of the hospital was charged with the responsibility of this big tragedy? It stinks even today after the floods of September last. Three or more kids occupy one bed. But this story is true of SMHS, SKIMS, Bone and Joint hospital, Jammu hospitals and district level hospitals. There is every possibility that a visitor will catch one or the other illness while going through the wards.

J&K needs 300 medicines of various varieties. But actually over 3000 medicines of different varieties are imported in to the State for marketing. It is reported that 70 per cent of these imported medicines are spurious. The number of people afflicted with cancer, diabetes and other serious diseases is increasing in our state. The toilet is the source of most of the diseases with which patients are afflicted in our hospitals. Doctors prescribe tests from private laboratories. They get their commission. They prefer private practice to attending their duty in the hospitals. I have noticed government functionaries including doctors playing golf during working hours.  Who will set right this sordid system?

Connectivity:

Billions of rupees are drawn from state treasuries in the name of building roads and road repairs and embezzled. I asked a contractor why these roads get washed away by a single rain.? He was frank enough and said first cut in the funds is 15 per cent in the office of the Minister concerned, and then 30 per cent goes to the engineers and concerned functionaries and for submission of bills and getting these  passed. If an engineer is not satisfied with the gratis, he files adverse report and funds are withheld. In this way before stones are laid for road construction, 50 per cent of the allocation is already exhausted. The contractor is left with hardly 10 to 20 per cent. Actually only 35 to 50 per cent of the allocated sum is utilized for the construction of a road or a building. This forces the contractor to lay just one inch macadam on the soil instead of the stones. This is the reason why all the roads from Lakhanpur to Ladakh are broken and damaged. Another reason for early damage of these roads is that while constructing the roads dewatering system is ignored. Just have a look at Boulevard and Foreshore Roads. Even a tiny drizzle creates pools of water making it difficult to walk on the road. Is the current ruling circle prepared to solve this disturbing problem of the people? No road in any locality, colony, town or village including national highway in the state is worth the name.

Drainage system:

Huge sums were poured in by World Bank and Asian Bank in the State for modernizing drainage system in the towns, villages and cities of the State. Drainage system in the city and in the towns of the valley all is utterly broken and non functional. Why is it so? We are told that drainage improvement contracts were given to small and private contractors who are generally relatives and kith of the bureaucrats and ministers. In the name of improving draining, the city of Srinagar was destroyed and constructions were razed to ground. People have grabbed lands along the passage of water bodies and concerned government officers have not taken any step for its vacation since they are corrupt. The drudging system of river, nullahs and streams remains suspended in the state since many years. River bed is filled with silt and that caused overflow and inundation of the city.  The surface of flood channel is visible from Rajbagh to Narbal just because much silting has piled up in its bed.

Government should immediately vacate illegal encroachments on the banks of these nullahs and channels. Flood channels are dried to the extent that boys play cricket in it. Seminaries have been built on these dry channels. If drudging is not done then more structures will come up in due course of time.

Drudging system:

The state is crisscrossed by a network of waterways, channels and nullahs. These need permanent treatment.  A Directorate of Drudging has to be incepted to ensure regular annual drudging of these water bodies and to stop encroachment. Most modern drudging machinery has to be procured by the government to make the Drudging Directorate functional.

Wular and Dal Lakes:

Fifty years ago, the area of Dal Lake was twenty-seven square miles. Seventy years ago Wular was 211 square miles. Today Dal has shrunk to ten square miles and the Wular to eighty square miles only. We have stolen the intake capacity of flood water in both lakes. Ours is the only community that is determined to finish our water resources and also pollute them. We are told that even spitting in water is prohibited by our religion. But look at our selfishness and imprudence that Dal Lake has become the toilet of at least thirty-five thousand human beings. Condition of Wular and other lakes and rivulets is nothing different. Lake Anchar suffers the same fate and people are grabbing their share of it besides the SKIMS. Almost all water bodies between Srinagar and Narbal have been filled with earth and made fit for raising structures. Thousands of migratory birds that usually would migrate from Siberia and other parts of Russia to these lakes have stopped coming here. We massively defy the law of the nature. Sparrows, bulbul and other birds that were to be found in great numbers are now scarcely seen.

Forests:

At many places in Kashmir land has begun to slip causing damage to life and property. It is because of felling down the trees in large numbers as it makes the soil loose. Illegal felling of trees in the State will not be stopped unless the functionaries of forest department perform their duty honestly and sincerely. People complain about a nexus between the Forest officials and timber smugglers. Cutting forest trees is carried on a massive scale. Selfish and heartless people injected 200 years old trees in Pahalgam and Tangmarg with poison and the trees dried up and thus space was made for the expansion of the premises of private hotels at these places. This could be done only when concerned hoteliers had the support and backing of the government officials.

A ten-year ban on felling forest trees of all kinds needs to be imposed. That will have good impact on environment and climatic conditions. Dwellers around Dal should be removed and rehabilitated elsewhere and the lake should be cleaned. Houseboats should be removed to the banks of the river for availability of drainage and then drudging should commence of the Dal. Plantation made on small islands in the Dal should be removed. Drudging in Wular should also take place. Embankments have to be reinforced. Illegal constructions have to be removed from Anchar and Khushal SAR in Ali Kadal. Land mafia has grabbed land in Khushal SAR and it has to be vacated.

Municipality and Development Authority:

Municipal Corporations of Srinagar and Jammu are overcrowded and overworked. Their decentralization is urgently needed. Each Corporation should be sub-divided into at least half a dozen of sub-corporations/municipal committees so that there is concrete delivery. Contractors can be engaged by the municipal authorities to collect garbage and litter from homes for final disposal. Charges for collection will depend on the area covered. It could be anything from one hundred to five hundred rupees per month per family. With the money thus saved, vehicle for disposal of garbage can be purchased for faster collection and disposal. Safai karamcharis have to be provided outfit and hand gloves according to the climatic conditions. In villages trenches have to be dug where the villagers can deposit the litter, which will be disposed off later on. They will not throw dirt in water bodies.

Disaster Management:

Disaster Management machinery should be activated. It has to be equipped with necessary paraphernalia. In recent Floods, water logging in Rajbagh area could not be done for twenty-seven days. Encroachment on footpaths and streets has to be vacated. Specific spots can be reserved for street vendors to sell their stuff. Vendors should be given two days in a week to sell their commodities. This is to avoid traffic jams.

Transport and traffic:

There is loud noise about change. No change can take unless entire transport and traffic system is changed. Passenger vehicles cause much inconvenience to the commuters. Why are such buses allowed to ply in which there is no comfortable arrangement of seats? Usually buses ply without breaks, license and indicators. Teen agers drive buses and they have no driving licenses. Buses are over-crowded and sometimes young boys and kids are made to sit on the top. These buses usually belong to the kith of ministers and VIP who manage permits for them. In all big cities buses and other transport vehicles are subject to annual checks to see that all parts function normally. We have 30 or even 40 year old buses and vehicles plying on the road and as these belong to the kith of the influential politicians and bureaucrats, nobody wants to apply the rules to them. There are hardly any bus stops in the city. Buses stop to pick up or drop passengers wherever they like. It creates traffic snarls. If there is a bus stop, it is made shabby and offensive to the public because of dirt and its untidiness.

Traffic police when on duty appear helpless. They are not provided shelter against rain and sunshine. “On asking some of them why they are notorious for their corruption, they say that superiors force them to fill their pockets”

Durbar move:

It is a strange phenomenon. Before the Durbar moves to Jammu the winter capital, the city of Jammu is give grand face lift. After the office move, Srinagar city becomes almost a forlorn city and except for police, no functionary is to be seen here. It gives a deserted look. The story is repeated with offices moving back to Srinagar.

J&K Bank:

It was almost an orphan organization in its early days. People of the State enriched it and now it has branches all over the country and abroad. It is among premier banks. Traders, businessmen, government employees and ordinary people of the state helped it become a premier bank. But the irony is that it gives loans to the people of the state against mortgaging of their properties. People taking housing and other loans have to pay interest at the rate of 14-15 per cent while businessmen outside the state are charged as low as 9/10 per cent interest. How come that J&K Bank is frugal to outsiders but oppressive to locals? King Fisher and IRE Agro of Calcutta, both from outside the state, got a loan to the tune of more than seven billion rupees. Leave the interest aside, even the principal amount has not been paid back.  If this huge amount was invested in the State it would have provided employment to thousands of unemployed youth. Reports are that illegal and back door recruitment is made in the bank and the seniors are under political influence.

Timber:

A bag of cement is sold for 360 rupees, but a bag of cement brought from Pakistan is sold in Amritsar at rupees 257. Unscrupulous people have driven mileage from the recent floods. They have grabbed more land and raised their house to three and four storey, whereas it was only one storey before the flood. Wherefrom did this wealth come? Forests are looted and timber is smuggled clandestinely. There are timber mafias working in many parts of the state and how can they conduct illicit business unless they are hand in glove with the functionaries of forest department.

Bribery:

Bribery and corruption are rampant in all departments. Now it is an open secret and nobody has any qualms of conscience in giving and taking bribes. The Vigilance organization has failed to book corrupt functionaries and prosecute them in a court of law.  

Drug trafficking and narcotics peddling:

Drug addiction is spreading among our youth alarmingly. The menace has spoilt so many good and reputed families. There is a big drug mafia at work with links outside the state. Police and Vigilance have failed to control drug proliferation. Reports are that they are accomplices in this clandestine business and make good money out of it. Sometimes reports come in the press that the police have made a haul of big drug consignments and arrested people in this connection. But what punishment was given to them is not known to anybody. College and university going students are becoming the victims of drug addiction. Civil society and the vigilance must cooperate and develop an effective mechanism to eradicate this menace.

Land grabbing:

Land grabbing has been going on in the state on a big scale. Thousands of kanals of state and forest land has been grabbed. Land mafias have become so strong that their dismantling has become rather difficult. There is no doubt that revenue functionaries and police have become accomplices in this clandestine business and state land worth billions of rupees has been grabbed and illegally occupied.  Ordinary people yearn for just three or four marlas of land to have shelter over their heads. On the other hand land grabbers are not satisfied even after illegally grabbing hundreds of kanals. This broad day loot of government property has to be stopped. Culprits have to be identified ant prosecuted. All illegal occupations have to be vacated.  We know many political party activists are accomplices in land grabbing and have become owners of huge landed properties. The former MLA from Sonawar constituency   declared NC worker, head of Ichber NC encroached land as nursery and managed to obtain 28 lakh rupees from MLA fund to raise the fencing wall for this illegally occupied land.

Awqaf:

This instituted also has been subjected to loot and rapine. Nepotism and favouritism are rampant and only close relatives are employed. The Awqaf has a large staff much larger than its needs because this institute has enormous money. Loans are given to well to do persons who are generally close relatives of the men at the helm of affairs. The loan is given under the head of “qarza hasna” or soft loan which may or may not be repaid. Normally such loans should be advanced to destitute, orphans and widows who have no source of income. It is misuse of authority and funds. This has to be stopped in any way. It is desirable that inquiry should be conducted on mismanagement of funds in Awqaf.

Custodian property:

There is huge custodian property in the State. It is in the shape of residential houses, shops, lands, and other establishments. By and large, people with political clout are the beneficiaries of these properties. They have almost grabbed the residential houses and shops and pay only nominal rent. This is a huge loss to the State Exchequer. Custodian property is subjected to general loot.

Sports:                                                                                                                                                                   
Former Chief Minister Dr. Farooq Abdullah was the Chairman of J&K Cricket Board. A number of scandals were reported during his chairmanship. But since he happened to be the Chief Minister, all scandals were hushed up and Cases were closed. No inquiry was held in any of these scandals. Leave aside the towns of the State, even in the capital cities of Srinagar and Jammu there is no medium size stadium where sports loving youth would come to try their talent. Royal Golf Club has become exclusive property of bureaucrats and VIPs who are not at all prepared to allow a commoner admission to the club. It is for the elite only. We don’t have play grounds and other sports facilities to which the youth are attracted everywhere. Young boys have no play ground and they play in streets. When there is no outlet for the energy in our youth, they will naturally take to stone pelting, violence, and other unwanted activities.

There are endless problems. If we are to record these in detail it would make volumes. There is no fun in crying for change. The taste of pudding is in eating. Action on the ground is needed and mere slogan mongering is not going to solve our problems. Time and tide wait for no one. Youth should not be driven to wall. Accountability is the key to the health of society. A government that shuns accountability has something to hide from the people. But the stage of hiding is gone because people are inquisitive and they know what is what.

I would like to make an appeal to the Governor, the Chief Minister and to the public conscience that serious thought be given to the deteriorating standards of governance in the State. People in Srinagar are living under the threat of another devastating flood. Is it not a matter of great priority to harness the flood waters by adopting all preventive measures? We are not talking of political issues; we are talking of good governance. That cannot be compromised. With the state of affairs described above how can we expect that our tourist industry will flourish or our horticulture industry will become the mainstay of State’s economy? Most of the departments need overhauling. Their functionaries need to be infused with a sense of duty and nationalism. They have to work above party considerations, above considerations of cast, creed and colour and only in the interests of the people of the State.

This article of Chairman JKDLP, Hashim Qureshi was published in various newspapers