Read Jammu and Kashmir, one of the most exciting datelines in India, through editorial positions of the state’s leading newspapers
Strengthen Anti Corruption Bureau
The Daily Excelsior, Jammu | Editors Kamal Rohmetra, Neeraj Rohmetra
“What is in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet…” the famous words of Shakespeare would metaphorically be spoken in respect of the State Vigilance Organisation as “What is in a changed name? That which we called State Vigilance Organisation, by any other name would look the same”. This is not, however, a satire in the ordinary literary sense but a serious critique on the way Anti Corruption Bureau has been treated by the state administration as perhaps just by changing the nomenclature from State Vigilance Organization (SVO) to Anti Corruption Bureau (ACB), it was thought that the most complicated and deep rooted malaise of corruption in almost all spheres of our system in the state could be fought out and curbed. No, it is not like that as these cosmetic measures prove mere otiose in the strict sense of serious administrative mechanism. Post rechristening exercise, as to how the highest anti- corruption body in Jammu and Kashmir state could be strengthened, no serious thought appears to have been given towards this basic issue.
How could any organisation worth the name, function in the absence of a reasonable strength of man power , not to speak of providing additional hands to impart more lethality and sharpness to its teeth to effectively take on the monster of corruption? Unless the staff selected for this prestigious organisation is adequate, of impeccable integrity and honesty, dedicated , well trained and made performance oriented and at the same time, given additional incentives by way of certain special allowances, a body like Anti Corruption Bureau would not show enviable results. There was a proposal to grant Special Investigation Allowance to the officials of this organization on the pattern of Central Investigating Agencies but that is under the thick layers of dust in the office of the General Administration Department for quite some time .
A good start was made, again by the Governor by paying heed to the problem of corruption and how with the existing infrastructure it could be contained. Accordingly, in October last year State Administrative Council approved setting up of Anti Corruption Bureau and the requisite relevant Acts of 2006 and of 2011 were amended to formally establish Anti Corruption Bureau in the State. A slew of measures were announced including setting up of six new Police Stations under the ACB unlike the SVO which had only two, one each at Srinagar and Jammu. Similarly, instructions were passed for sufficient man power to man not only the six new police stations but existing two stations also. But as on date, say after three months, nothing of the sort has been done which leaves little doubt about the new organisation too meeting the same fate as that of the State Vigilance Organization. But can we afford that?
It is a poor reflection on the working of the General Administration Department that the ACB is working with just one third of the sanctioned man power while work load has increased since corruption and corruption related cases, complaints etc are showing the usual surge due to the menace being deep rooted in the state and if really the State Government is serious about fighting this grave problem, then it must make the organisation fully strong and its personnel must be duly taken care of, encouraged, not subjected to succumb to political pressures and last but not the least, no leniency shown to corrupt officials and those who were under the radar of the Organization. Let this organization not only function autonomously and professionally well, but appear and act as a deterrent to corrupt officials.
Of Public Transport
Greater Kashmir, Srinagar/Jammu | Editor, Fayaz Ahmed Kalloo
Srinagar city must be one of the poorest in terms of its public transport. If anyone wants to experiment it, he only needs to look for a vehicle towards evening. On all the routes, within the city or from Srinagar centre to other districts, the services available are pathetic. The case is particularly dismal when it comes to the public transport services within the city. It is less in volume, low grade in quality, and very erratic in its operations. One of the reasons why we have so much of private cars, and two wheelers pouring in and out of the city centre is precisely this. Within a range of just 5 kilometres, even less, it takes hours at times. You have to wait for the vehicle to come, then if there is any space in it for you, you are lucky. And if you get in, then don’t be impatient. It takes an age to cover a kilo-meter. In such a scenario government, and the administration should have prepared a long term comprehensive plan to address the problem. The news report that Tata Motors will be supplying some electric buses to SRTC is good. One, in any case we require more buses, and if it’s electricity driven, it serves another purpose; reduce the levels of pollution. But the question that waits answer is that what is government doing to address the Srinagar city’s problem on the count of public transport. People are facing tough times in this regard. We have old vehicles plying on our roads. They are damaging to the health of individuals who board, and also pollute air. If both the problems have to be solved together, and should be, the concerned officials must devise a comprehensive and long term plan. It will need them to look into the number of buses that are required on different routes, the quality of the vehicles, and also a well laid out plan for timings of these buses. In addition to this, assign stops and ensure that it is only there that the buses stop. Unless all the dimensions of this problem are taken into account, these smaller things won’t help.
Swine flu and prevention
Rising Kashmir, Srinagar | Editor, Hafiz Ayaz Ghani
In December last year and after a flip-flop attitude exhibited by health authorities in the state on the break out of swine flu, did the authorities divulge information on the deadly disease. On November 19, 2017 the number of people who died due to swine flu was seven. Reportedly, the hospital authorities while battling the disease and its outbreak were berated for the alleged hush up. As soon as the information about deaths caused by swine flu reached the public, there was a far more important concern to be addressed – whether authorities should sound the alarm or not. By downplaying the deaths and epidemic risk, the health authorities did save the region (Kashmir) from unnecessary panic or public hysteria. Nevertheless, on ethical grounds the debate is relevant even today when seven people have died this season (October till date). Last year then director SKIMS G Ahangar assured that doctors and other staff were immunized and given PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) masks as a precautionary measure. The arrangements available in hospitals to treat the deadly disease would call for a different debate, but the issue remains whether hushed-up response will help in controlling the disease. By now it is established that swine flu cases increase during winter months and that the deadly H1N1 virus finds it suitable to propagate in these months. Swine flu has kept health authorities in India on toes as death toll has shown little respite in the last many years. It has become a major challenge in health sector to control its spread as since the outbreak in 2009 it has claimed thousands of lives. Despite the advancement in the field of medicine many aspects of this disease continue to be mystery. State health authorities claim that there is medicine available at hospitals to treat the deadly disease. There are in fact different arrangements available in the state hospitals, but is the state prepared to deal with any future epidemic in this regard. Health authorities must divulge all information about the disease and patients here. Preventive methods need to be publicized so that people can also take precautionary steps on their part. If there are false reports or misinformation regarding the disease and its spread, the same must also be conveyed to the people. Last year, the general perception for which authorities were directly responsible was that a layer of secrecy was maintained on this important health concern in the state. It will be in the fitness of things if health officials keep the people updated about swine flu infections.
Noxious and Evil
Kashmir Reader, Srinagar | Editor, Haji Hayat Mohammad Bhatt
The ‘Global Report on Trafficking in Persons 2018’ from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) drawing on information from 142 countries, examining trafficking trends and patterns has reported that human trafficking is taking on “horrific dimensions”, with sexual exploitation of victims the main driver. Children now account for 30 per cent of those being trafficked, and far more girls are detected than boys, the report has added. This is as noxious and evil as can be. In a world which claims to have become modern and defined by refined sensibilities and sensitivities, the evil of human trafficking is a blot on it. But, having said this, as with all things good and bad, it is to the causes and not mere symptoms that attention must be directed to. The question then is: what accounts for and explains human trafficking, in general, and the noxious trend of the same, with respect to children? The answers are multifarious but the major one(s) can be isolated to poverty and desperation thereof, especially in the developing or poor country context. Generally speaking, few people are evil or bad inherently; it is context that makes them so( in general terms, to repeat). In this sense, poverty , not only in the nature of a scourge but also an atrocity, determines, at times, the moral compass of people and then desperation makes some take recourse to insalubrious actions and deeds. ( At times, the problem assumes horrible forms and some people go to the extent of using their children, to either survive or , sometimes, quite opportunistically, for economic gain. Poverty and the attendant desperation is exploited by unscrupulous elements, who have no qualms in making some desperate people to take recourse to the unthinkable. This, to a large extent, explains , the causal factors of human trafficking. But there is more. If there would have been no demand, then there would have been no supply or, put another way, supply would have naturally dried up. So, there is a problem on the demand side too. Admittedly, these are reductive explanations of the causes but, given that these form the major thrust , their significance cannot be over states. Against this backdrop, can anything be done to prevent human trafficking, especially of children? Yes, to a large extent, is the answer. One major prong of the solution would be to enact poverty reduction measures, in poor and developing world contexts in a manner that economic growth benefits all sections and segments of society. This, however, does not undercut other measures like vigilant about the scourge and employing coercive measures and strict measures against those who prey on the misery of the vulnerable.
‘Insaniyat’ template wasted!
Kashmir Images, Srinagar | Editor, Bashir Manzar
It has become a sort of cliché to hear India saying that it could do business with Pakistan only after it stops supporting separatism in Kashmir. Harping on this line for years, today this has become the major pretext for India to shy away from any meaningful engagement with Pakistan. Like India, Pakistan establishment, irrespective of who is in the ruling chair, has certain compulsions which it cannot easily do away with. Kashmir has been there as a “core issue” which has plagued not only its relationship with India but has, in so many ways, dominated the country’s foreign and defence policies as well. So expecting it to call it a day with Kashmir is outright unrealistic. It is not going to happen, certainly not when its relationship with India is still to graduate to a level where it could be expected to barter away Kashmir for some other larger benefit. In fact no one can say it for sure that Pakistan will rethink its Kashmir policy for any larger economic or other stakes. So the political realism demands that India will have to engage with Pakistan as it is without actually waiting for it to be and behave in a manner of India’s choosing and liking.
Pakistan too, like India, has to take care of so many things domestically — and Kashmir certainly has a big influence on the country’s domestic politics. Now take for instance take the BJP-led government of Narendra Modi in India. Can it deal with Pakistan vis-à-vis Kashmir without taking into consideration its own domestic pressures and constraints? So fact of the matter is – no doubt what Delhi says, it will have to talk with Pakistan on Kashmir as also on other issues without putting any sort of pre-conditions for the same. This is how the states do business – as equals, wherein both parties have a sense of achievement and neither thinks of the other as a hegemon using coercion of any sort to thrust a bargain of its choice down other’s throats.
The biggest problem with the politics in India is that various national political outfits often confuse their party’s political interests with the interests of the country. What may be politically convenient for the BJP or Congress at any given point in time may not necessarily be in the interest of India, and vice versa. The biggest fallout of this kind of selfish and partisan politicking is that the country’s policies lack a continuum effect. They get changed each time there is change of guard in the country as well as any major or minor change in various political permutations and combinations in ruling dispensations, or in each individual ministry.
Kashmir has for long suffered because of this shortcoming. Even today, the current impasse here is direct fallout of the Central government being too engrossed with its own domestic politics – like the forthcoming general elections — and hence unsure about its strategy of dealing with Pakistan. On one plane it claims, and rightly so, that it cannot change its neighbours and as such there is no substitute to talking with Pakistan, but on the other plane it keeps on searching for excuses to shy away from talks. In such a situation those expecting any big initiative on Kashmir coming from the BJP government at the Centre are certainly living in a fool’s paradise. By inference, it must also be noted that those political outfits, including BJP, which are trying to woo people towards them by talking tough on Pakistan, are actually indulging in brazen deceit. BJP-led government at the Centre is in no position to think or talk big on Kashmir, leave aside it doing anything worthwhile on this front, primarily because it has during past four-and-half years of its rule made a big departure from a template its own patriarch Atal Bihari Vajpayee had set during his tenure as the Prime Minister. And this is really unfortunate because Modi government could have easily picked up threads from where Vajpayee had left them – talking Kashmir within the ambit of ‘Insaniyat’.