The politics, society and security in Jammu and Kashmir is complex and unpredictable. TheDispatch helps you track the day through the minds of the Editors. Here is a selection of editorials from some top news newspapers published out of Srinagar and Jammu.
Greater Kashmir, Srinagar
Arrest the trend now
A few years ago, a survey conducted by an NGO found over 3 lakh under-14 children working in Jammu and Kashmir. Nearly 34 per cent of them had received schooling only up to the fifth grade, and 66 per cent up to the eighth grade. According to the survey, 9.2 per cent of this vast workforce of tender hands was between 5 to 10 years old, while 90 per cent fell in the age group of 11 to 14. Further, 80 per cent of it came from families with 6 to 10 members and 15 percent from those with 11 to 15 members. In 61 per cent of the cases, parents of these child labourers were found illiterate. Despite a law against this heartless practice, and enforcement agencies to check it, child labour is an affliction Jammu and Kashmir suffers without many pangs of conscience, particularly among its civil society. The state Labour Department’s figures for the past six years make for grim reading about the government’s inability and unwillingness to root this evil out, and address its causes. During this period more than 12000 cases were brought to the notice of the concerned department but only 75 were taken up for prosecution. Experts attribute poor enforcement to lack of coordination among the government departments concerned, which allows offenders to escape punishment. Even law-makers have been found to employ children in their homes as domestic helpers. Child labour is prohibited in the state under the Child Labour Prohibition and Regulation Act which prescribes a jail term of up to two years and a maximum fine of Rs 20,000 for anyone found employing children below the age of fourteen. The problem, however, cannot be addressed by law alone. Even the law enforcing agencies cannot fight it out on their own. The society has to wake up and fight it out unitedly. By encouraging or promoting child labour in one form or the other, the society is denying these children their childhood. The number of children being abused in the name of employment is too big to be ignored. The government must take appropriate measures to arrest the trend now.
Daily Excelsior, Jammu
Awantipora soil cutting risks
Wanton destruction of environment becomes more telling when the environment is gifted with bounteous nature like trees, grazing grounds, pastures, foothills and water bodies. This is almost a common feature of rural Kashmir. Unfortunately with some selfish and anaesthetic people there is not only the lack of appreciation of nature, there is also the dearth of understanding the disaster than can be spelled for the local population if the balancing elements are disturbed. This is precisely what has been happening in and around Awantipora in Pulwama district not really far away from the capital city of Srinagar. The place name of Awantipora is very familiar with the people of Kashmir and the visitors to Kashmir for the magnificent ruins of an ancient temple in Awantipora that still speaks the story of its glory and grandeur at some point of time in the history of Kashmir. The building of the temple of which only the ruins are now extent was ordered by Awantivarman the ancient ruler of Kashmir.
The environmental disaster to which we are alluding is about unbridled and callous earth cutting on uplands in and around Awantipora that has rendered survival in more than a dozen villages in the locality vulnerable to landslides and flash floods. The villages of Praia, Puchal, Lajoora, Malangpora, and Sonrigund are more vulnerable to the disastrous effect of wanton earth cutting because the negative impact of earth cutting will first be felt in these villages when the season of heavy rains sets in and flash floods or mudslides become imminent. There is already an instance of a woman getting buried under mudslide in Malangpora last year. The frequency with which Earth Mowers and tippers move up and down the site of earth cutting and the manner this mad rush for earth has taken the land mafia in its grip shows that that a nexus of sorts has come about to be formed among several agencies -+like the revenue department, the police and the environmental department etc. There is the J&K Land Revenue Act and under Section 133-A of this Act, excavation of soil is banned for personal gain. How come that cutting of earth as is done mercilessly in this area of Pulwama is ceaselessly carried out without objection from any Government agency? In particular, the onus comes foremost to the doorsteps of the District administration and the Revenue department in particular. The question is that if district authorities are that serious and certain why then earth cutting in the above mentioned villages is going on still. It is contradiction in terms. The fact is that a nexus is at work and the nexus has managed to win the good offices of some powerful and influential sources. Our interviews with some of the local persons have revealed the plight of the people in the locality in terms of health hazard arising out of large scale earth cutting which goes on round the clock. It has resulted in huge layers of dust arising out of earth cutting that has polluted the air and people are forced to inhale the dusty air and fall ill.
In final analysis we feel that the primary agency that should address to this problem is the district administration. It is regrettable that the complaints lodged by the people with the authorities in the past have fallen on flat ears. We fail to understand the logic of the Government to decline to listen to the complaints of the people with the result of forcing them to go on strikes and protests and then come out with a solution which is that of acceptance of all demands of the people. Will the Government come out of this habit and react to the plea of the people without waste of time and without allowing the media to build a mountain of a mole.