Children’s Day
Just another day of struggle for many
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 14
Even as children across the country celebrated Children’s Day today, it was like any other day for a large number of children here who are engaged in menial jobs to earn a living.

For instance, seven-year-old Dheeraj picks up rags from garbage dumps in the city so as to help his family get two square meals a day.

Wearing torn clothes and having big dreams in his eyes, Dheeraj says he wants to go to school and play with his friends. “I pick up rags from the adjoining areas of Bohri everyday and after the entire day’s labour I earn Rs 10 to Rs 20,” he rues. Pyare Lal (12), another ragpicker in the Indra Chowk area, says, “I and my younger brother Chuni Lal (10) are into this job for the past two years. I wake up at 6 in the morning and start collecting discarded plastic products”.

Pyare’s father Sham Sundar says though he would like his children to study, his ailment has forced him to engage both of them in ragpicking. “I know the job is hazardous, but we have no option,” he adds.

Neeraj (10), who polishes shoes at the local bus stand, says, “I don’t know what Children’s Day is. Like other children of my age, I too want to play and have fun, but I neither have time nor any friend”.

Similarly, Nishu (14), who works at an automobile workshop, says, “I wash two-wheelers here, but I am not paid any wages. I only get meals and to and fro bus fair by the owner of the workshop”.

The callous attitude of the authorities in curbing child labour can be witnessed in Rehari where children are engaged in menial jobs in several automobile workshops right in front of the labour commissioner’s office.



60-year wait for a new dawn
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 14
Leaving huge property when he migrated from occupied Kashmir (PoK) to Jammu during the dark days of Partition,octogenarian Ram Lal had not imagined that his journey into the long dark tunnel would not end for many years to come.

Distraught with the treatment meted out by the government, Ram Lal rues that while he eked out his living with a teaching job, his children failed to make it big in the absence of any opportunity for them in higher education and jobs.“The government neither raised proper schools for the education of our children nor facilitated any reservation in professional courses for them. Now, one of my sons has become a driver while the other works at an iron workshop”, he added.

Seeking a comprehensive rehabilitation plan, Jagtar Singh, another PoK refugee, said the government had extended a financial aid of a meagre Rs 500 per family when they first arrived in the state. He said though the government later allotted him a a few kanals of agricultural land, but it wasn’t mutated in his name.“The same is the case with our house.The land on which it has been raised hasn’t been allotted to us,” he rued.

Visibly upset with the powers that be, he charged that there were many cases in which the land allotted to PoK refugees was found to be in someone else’s possession and let aside earning a livelihood from it they ended up losing money fighting legal battles to get it.

Similarly,Vimla Devi barely manages to feed her family of four after taking care of the medical needs of her husband who has a heart ailment.“ I have been stitching clothes for the past many years. Now, my eyesight has also become weak and I can’t work beyond a certain point,” she averred.

“With no facilities for education and no employment avenues, our younger generation has gone astray.Either they are forced to take up menial jobs or they get addicted to drugs”, said Ramesh Sharma, another resident of Bhour Camp which houses PoK refugees.

Disillusioned with the prevailing set-up, the refugees have also decided to field their own candidates in the state assembly elections this time. Rajiv Chunni, chairman of SOS International, a PoK refugees’ outfit, said they had been ditched by almost all parties in the state in the past.“Now, we cannot trust anybody and it is time to show them our strength”, he added. He said they had been demanding refugee status from the government since long, but to no avail. “Even more than 60 years after Partition, we continue to lead a life of displaced people and are denied the benefits of refugee status.The government, which is going gaga over the opening of the cross-LoC trade, should also take note of our plight”, he said.



Polls: PR agencies do brisk business
Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 14
With the state bracing for the first phase of the assembly elections on November 17 and canvassing gaining momentum, public relations (PR) agencies are doing a brisk business as different parties are hiring their services.

"Various local and national political parties have hired PR agencies for campaign and most of these are from Delhi and other states as in J&K, we don't have such an organised sector,”said a senior executive of an agency.

A senior leader of a national party said: “In the contemporary times, it is how you market yourself and the PR agencies are well trained to showcase this.So, our party decided to hire an agency to help us in the campaign”.

However, many parties feel the use of such agencies could prove counter-productive. The patron of National Conference Farooq Abdullah was also in favour of hiring the services of a PR agency for a high-tech campaign, but the idea was turned down by his son and party president Omar Abdullah. However, many parties have engaged their services.

A representative of a Delhi-based agency said: "PR companies are now routinely being hired by political parties, including the Congress and the BJP. We offer an array of services ranging from media interactions, organising press conferences, meetings with prominent persons of the area, electronic presentations and providing professional advice to candidates on how to conduct themselves.”



Farmers dump agriculture for better living
Ravi Krishnan Khajuria
Tribune News Service

Jammu, November 14
With the government’s laid-back attitude towards the farming community and agriculture no more considered a lucrative profession, farmers in the region have started shifting to other trades for earning a better living.

Vast chunks of agricultural land in the RS Pura, Bishnah, Arnia, Suchetgarh, Samba, Kathua and Kanachak areas have been converted into either concrete jungle or barren land, thanks to the unplanned construction and setting up of brick-kilns, which go on unabated.

Farmers now feel more comfortable in raising banquet halls, brick-kilns, shopping complexes, automobile showrooms and petrol pumps from where they get better returns for the rest of their lives.

A farmer in Bishnah tehsil, Surinder Sharma, says in Bishnah itself several farmers have shifted to other professions. Some of them have sold their lands to influential builders, who have constructed commercial complexes, he says, adding that some farmers in RS Pura managed finances and made one-time investment raising modern banquet halls, brick-kilns and showrooms from where they are earning good money without any hassles.

Ramesh, another farmer from the Kanachak area, claims that in the past few years several brick-kilns have come up on agricultural land. Not only these kilns cause environmental degradation but also they have a direct impact on the agricultural yield, he says, adding that it appears that nobody is realising its impact in the long run.

Echoing similar views, Purshottam, a farmer from the RS Pura belt, which is famous for quality basmati rice, says the younger generation sees farming as a difficult task and wants to shift to other trades which can fetch good returns without any hard work. In some areas, multi-storeyed malls have come up on such lands and if things go on like this, then one can anticipate a grim picture in the years to come, he adds.

An official of the agriculture department also admits that if the government fails to take immediate steps, then the malady would definitely assume alarming proportions.

Farmers have to be taken into confidence and the government must compensate them adequately at the time of loss of their crops due to natural calamities, he says, adding that they should also be provided minimum the support price for certain crops.

He says, “No doubt the prices of land have shot up considerably in the past 10 years in Jammu, but agricultural land must be protected from this concrete invasion.Else, the gap between yield and demand would continue to increase and it would be too late for us to act then”.



A victim of official apathy
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

JAMMU, November 14
The only state-run Government College for Engineering and Technology (GCET), Jammu, is a victim of official neglect and apathy. Neither has the college qualified faculty nor does it have the required technological support for practical purposes.

The GCET that was established in 1994 at the old campus of Jammu University was supposed to be developed as one of the premier colleges of engineering in the country, but ironically, the scenario is dismal even after 14 years.

Reliable sources said work on setting up a campus on modern lines started in 1998, but till date the new one at Chak Bhallwal had not become fully functional."Only three departments are working in the new campus while the rest of the departments and even the administrative block of the college is operating from the old campus resulting in administrative problems," they said.

They confided that since the inception of the college, an officiating principal had been running its affairs.Maintaining that the principal, actually an assistant professor with an experience of 10 years was looking after official work on an ad hoc basis, students rued that most of the teachers were not well qualified as per the norms as most of them were simply B.Tech.

They further said the library had irrelevant books generally whose content did not match the syllabus, which was hampering their studies. They said the infrastructure at the new campus, including the hostel that was inaugurated by former chief minister Ghulam Nabi Azad last year, was unused while the distance of 20 km between the old and the new campus also added to their sufferings in the wake of dismal transport facilities. "Since a majority of the students are outsiders, they have to shell out a hefty amount every month for rental accommodation and food expenses in the absence of a hostel," they lamented.

"Since there is no laboratory in the new campus, the students of all three blocks viz., computer, electronic and civil engineering have to go to the old campus, which again proves hectic and is a time- consuming exercise.Even the computer engineering department is without the internet facility for teachers and students.Nor any other department has any computer networking or any heavy machinery for performing practicals," they said.

However, teachers have their own set of grievances. They said they were not being entitled to paid study leave for doing M. Tech, which was against the norms formulated at the time of inception of the college.

When contacted, secretary, higher education, K.M Wani said:" The campus would be shifted to Chak Bhalwal in the near future and students would be allotted hostels only after that."Over the question of faculty, he said he would look into the matter if any thing was going against the prescribed norms besides taking cognizance of other things.



Revival of night marriages
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Rajouri, November 14
Nearly two decades after night marriages were replaced by those solemnised during day due to militancy, the tradition is witnessing a revival in the border districts of Rajouri and Poonch.

Thanks to the prevailing peace in the area, a majority of the weddings in the two districts now take place at night.

"Due to militancy and security concerns, marriages used to take place during day and used to be low- key. But with peace returning to our areas, not only are the night marriages seeing a revival but also people are making it a point to make them a life-time experience. The bursting of crackers, beating of drums, and people dancing to the tunes of traditional folk songs which was not common in our districts during militancy are now part and parcel of the wedding celebrations”, says Ajaz Ahmed Dar, a resident of Rajouri town, who recently attended the marriage of his friend, Anmol Gupta.

In fact, till a year ago, marriages in the town were a low-key affair with little or no celebrations.

Another resident, Radhish Sharma, who frequently attends marriages in Rajouri and Poonch says "peace has ensured that the culture of night marriages (which were replaced by day marriages after the beginning of insurgency in the state) is revived.

Says a senior police officer in Rajouri district: “ The improved security scenario has instilled confidence among the people which has led to the revival of night marriages”.



Jnanpith awardee has lively approach to work
Ehsan Fazili
Tribune News Service

Srinagar, November 14
Having been conferred with the Jnanpith Award for Kashmiri language and literature by the Prime Minister in New Delhi last week, Prof Rehman Rahi tirelessly continues to work on different aspects of poetry and criticism.

Though feeling handicapped due to the lack of sufficient knowledge of Sanskrit and Arabic, Rahi, at the age of 83, has a lively approach towards work.

He has got four publications based on poems and criticism to his credit.One of these has been published by the department of Kashmiri at University of Kashmir, Srinagar. He got India’s highest literary award, the Jnanpith Award, in 2007 for the year 2004 and thus became the first Kashmiri writer to be given the same.

Presently, Rehman is working on two projects, including religious poetry and Sanskrit criticism and aesthetics in Kashmir, which he believes will be significant in the development of Kashmiri language and literature over the centuries.

It was an honour for Kashmiri language and literature that had been recognised at the national level, he opined while talking to The Tribune at his Vecharnag residence on the outskirts of Srinagar.

He has been a recipient of several state and national awards not only for Kashmiri but also for the Urdu language and literature.“It is a recognition of the work done by me in the Indian literature at the national level”, he said.The Kashmiri language is among 17 major languages of the country as enshrined in the Constitution of India.

Since the Kashmiri language and literature had not been nourished practically, it would help other institutions to divert their attention towards the language, opined Rahi.

Rahi was born on March 6, 1925 and is a popular Kashmiri poet, translator and critic. He was awarded the Kendriya Sahitya Akademi Award in 1961 for his poetry collection, “Nawroz-i-Saba”, and the Padma Shri in 2000.

He began his career as a government clerk and was associated with the Progressive Writers' Association, of which he became the general secretary. He was later a sub-editor in the Urdu daily Khidmat. He did MA in Persian (1952) and in English (1962) from Jammu and Kashmir University.Rahi’s published works include around 12 books, most of them being a collection of poems, criticism and translation works.



Parallel transport service

While state road transport buses are in bad shape, private transporters are illegally plying buses between various cities in Punjab and Jammu. Most of these vehicles are without valid documents. The state transport department seems lax when it comes to initiating action against the violators, probably because of the political patronage the latter enjoy. What corroborates their illegal functioning is the fact that these buses neither start nor end their journey from the main bus stands. The authorities must wake up to this illegal practice and act against the violators.

R.K. Bhat, Jammu

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