Thursday, July 13, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Jammu & Kashmir: what next?

IN the context of your editorial of June 28 (“Kashmir: what next”?), the passage of the autonomy resolution by the Kashmir Assembly has evidently led to great embarrassment for the Centre. In fact, Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah should have tried to evolve a consensus between the state’s three regions — Kashmir, Jammu and Ladakh — on the subject before pushing the ball into the Centre's court. This could have been better achieved if the state government were to start responding to the long-standing demand for an internal devolution of powers to the regions. Many in Ladakh and Jammu are apprehensive that the entire exercise is actually geared towards seeking greater powers for the ruling elite in Srinagar at the expense of other two regions.

Jammu and Ladakh account for more than half of the state's population, constitute nearly 90 per cent of Kashmir's land area and contribute 95 per cent to the state exchequer. Moreover, the internally displaced Kashmiri Hindus and other religious and ethnic minorities like Shias, Gujjars, Sikhs and Christians are extremely angry with the Centre. The government would do well to learn from the past and recognise that J&K is a multi-religious, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural state. And that the National Conference is not the sole factor in the state’s current political situation.


Basically, the Kashmir scenario calls for an open-minded and flexible debate. It is only through an informed and sensitive debate which takes into account the aspirations and grievances of all sections of the state that public opinion on an autonomy package can be evolved.

If we are looking for solutions of peace and normalcy, a roundtable conference should be organised to ascertain the views of all the regional formations, including the Hurriyat Conference, the National Conference, the Ladakh Budhist Association, the Dogra Sadar Sabha, the Jammu Joint Students Federation and the Gujjar United Front. The deliberations of the conference should be held in the presence of the media which often takes Kashmir to mean the whole of the state.

Any attempt on the part of the Centre to bypass Jammu and Ladakh and the religious/ethnic minorities, and start a dialogue with the National Conference alone is bound to provoke serious political explosions, not alone in Jammu and Ladakh but in the valley too. This will destabilise the Farooq Abdullah's government even more than the bomb explosions have done.


Strategy for survival

This refers to Mr Harihar Swarup’s “Playing upon emotions of people” (July 5). Despite his skill in double-talk and the art of deception, Dr Farooq Abdullah’s call for autonomy is exposed as a political strategy of opportunism to bargain for his political survival in the face of growing Hurriyat influence and elections next year. Even his sharp and shrewd oratory may fail to extract for him concessions from the Centre to cover up his dismal performance during the past four years.

He must remember that the question of autonomy is not a political deal to be settled with one particular leader or party in the state. It must have the endorsement of all segments of the population and all regions. The interests of the Ladakh and Jammu regions are as significant as those of Kashmir.

Above all, the greater autonomy programme may fail in its objective if the sub-regional apprehensions and aspirations are overruled and if the common people are deprived of their political and other rights. Instead of coming in confrontation with the Union Government, he would do well to explore the strategies and measures to counter militancy and restore peace and normalcy in the state. He should work for a balanced socio-economic development of the state.


Health: slogans not enough

“Health for all by this date”. Slogans such as this one sound good. But when will we actually move towards achieving such high placed goals? The so-called City Beautiful is replete with vendors who sell at regular points cut fruits, an acknowledged health hazard. This is so despite the local print media’s repeated exposures of such illegal and unhygienic activities.

The recent notices by the Municipal Corporation to the local nursing home/clinics about the disposal of their clinical waste again seems to be a ritualistic drama that would end without any result. For, it resulted only in the reported requests by the owners of these medical shops to the local hospitals to allow them to use hospital incinerators.

And the disease-spreading clinical waste that is being dumped for the past many years along with the everyday garbage will continue polluting the city’s environment and that in return will provide more clientele to these medico shops.

Stricter and regular checks on these fast mushrooming medical shops with immediate and stringent action, is the only way out to mend the things.

And whosoever are at the helm of affairs to check such a nuisance that spreads disease in the air must not think that the harmful germs which these health shops spread in the local air, would never inflict them and their children! For the germs of disease, thankfully enough, don’t recognise VIPs and their wards.


Garbage removal

This refers to the news item in Chandigarh Tribune dated June 28 that in spite of repeated appeals HUDA did not come into action for the removal of garbage in Sector 4. Ultimately, the Residents Welfare Association hired a machine and did the job.

In this connection, it is stated that at present HUDA has no time for such small jobs. HUDA is too busy in removing encroachments. This job has been given top priority. The file relating to encroachment dances on the tables of HUDA officers.

What is encroachment, by the way? A vacant piece of government land occupied illegally either by poor migrants or local people. Since migrants have no place to live, it becomes possible for them to raise a hut (jhuggi) at a vacant piece of land belonging to the government. Gradually this comes into existence as a colony dedicated to some prominent personality. The residents of the colony request politicians for help during elections.

Another reason for encroachment is growing unemployment and the fast multiplying number of the poor. The government must consider both problems seriously.



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