Misleading electorate no more easy for parties!
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Ramgarh Sector (Indo-Pak Border), December 26
Gone are the days when mere promises by the political parties could mislead the electorate. Voters these days are aware and conscious, irrespective of the area they reside in.

Villages in the Ramgarh Sector falling under the Vijaypur Assembly segment of Samba district is a shining example of the fact. The Tribune interacted with farmers of this border belt on the polling day on December 24 and discovered that the villagers were well-informed not only about the state elections but also about the issues of the recently held Rajasthan and New Delhi polls.

Darshan Singh, a farmer from Ramgarh village, said, "We will vote for former MLA who carried out various development works in the village. The voters of Delhi have shown us the way by choosing development over other issues”. He opined that the political parties these days are more interested in blowing their own trumpet rather than taking note of the ground realities and addressing the common man's woes.

Janak Singh, another farmer from Dugh Balmera village, said, “Though no political party cares for the people today, we have come to vote as we know each vote counts. Look at what happened in Rajasthan. The state Congress chief, C.P. Joshi, lost the elections by a single vote”. Despite being illiterate or less educated the farmers are not only aware of the government schemes but also talk about its impact on the people. “The UPA government waived off Rs 70,000 crore worth of debt of farmers, but today when we approach the banks they say it is meant only for defaulters. In our state, there are only two per cent defaulters, so what benefit does it bring to us?" asks Janak while adding that the government could have utilised such a whopping amount in some other way for the benefit of the farmers.

Bhikham Singh, who owns three acres of land, said, “All political parties make promises only to forget them after the elections. The successive governments have been talking about "har haath ko kaam, har khet ko paani" (work for every hand, water for every field), but there has been no change in our plight in the past 60 years." He rued that while agriculture is no more economically viable, the government has also enhanced the eligibility to 10 + 2 passouts for jobs in the Army and police force. "See the irony of our country. A person doesn't need to be even literate to become an MLA or an MP, but he must be 10+2 pass to get recruited in the lowest ranks in the Army or police,” he quipped.



Ration meant for BPL families sold in open market
Dinesh Manhotra
Tribune News Service

Kishtwar, December 26
Recovery of huge quantity of ration meant for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families once again negates the tall claims of the authorities to streamline the functioning of the Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) department.

A shopkeeper, Manzoor Ahmed, has been arrested by the police for selling ration, meant for CAPD outlets, in open market. The officer concerned of the CAPD department is still at large.

In this mountainous district, non-availability of ration in the CAPD outlets is one of the major problems being confronted by the common masses. Even during the election campaign it had emerged as a big political issue. As political parties had made non-availability of ration an issue, the authorities, during the days of election campaign, ensured that the ration would be available at all outlets. However, after completion of the polling, ration has once again disappeared from the outlets for the reasons best known to the authorities.

Recently, a deputation of the Kishtwar had sounded the officer concerned about ongoing bungling in the supply of the ration in the district. They had informed that inhabitants of the district had been facing hardship due to non-availability of rice and sugar in the government-run outlets.

It is alleged that ration meant for the CAPD outlets is usually sold in the open market. As most of the areas of the district are inaccessible, neither there is transparency nor any accountability in the entire supply system.

Besides, grains and other items meant for supplying mid-day meal were also recovered from some shopkeepers who were selling these items in open market.

Recently, the Kishtwar police had busted a gang of selling ration meant for mid-day meal scheme in open market. The police in the case arrested two government teachers and one shopkeeper.

Chatroo, Wardwan, Marwah and Dechhan are the areas from where ration is usually smuggled to sell it in open market.



Here, a class VI student can’t write her name in English
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Qasba (Poonch), December 26
The state government may be spending huge money to provide “education to all” even in the remote areas, however, at Government Middle School, Qasba, a VIth standard student cannot write her own name in English.

Shahzada Kousar, studying in class VI of the school, who is the daughter of Muhammad Sharief, a farmer, doesn’t know how to write her own name in English. She, unlike other children studying in the same class in private schools in the urban areas, even cannot recollect the table of three.

“I am a poor farmer. With great hardship, I managed to send my daughter to school, but she doesn’t even know how to write her own name. It is shocking and shameful for my family”, Muhammad Sharief rues. “I don’t think that my daughter is to blame for this. There are just three teachers available in the school and they cannot pay much attention to all students (about 300)”. He further added that even as the school was already understaffed, one of the teachers was hardly seen in the school.

A girl studying in class VII of the school told The Tribune that since the school didn’t have the required number of teachers, most of the students were poor in studies. “Since there is a less number of teachers, we don’t get to learn much in the school. We are even facing the problem of inadequate facilities which has affected our studies,” the student said. “My father even thought of changing my school and admitting me in Islamabad or Bandi Chechian, but these places are far off. So, he decided against it. I hope the government will think over appointing more teachers and provide more facilities in our school so that we don’t suffer”.

One of the teachers in the school admitted that the school was running short of staff and had fewer number of teachers. “Normally, a middle school should have seven teachers, including the principal, but in our school there are just three teachers. Since the number of students is approximately 300, it is quite difficult for us to give proper attention to all students”, the teacher told The Tribune on terms of anonymity. “One of the female teachers posted here doesn’t come to the school”.

Chief education officer (CEO), Poonch, Paramjit Singh, told The Tribune that the school might be short of staff and he would look into the matter and solve it at the earliest.

As regards the reports of a teacher hardly seen at the school, the CEO said she had already been served a show cause notice.



Mumbai Heat
New Year celebrations to be a low-key affair
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 26
The Mumbai terror attack has poignantly evoked “nationalist sentiment” as the people here observed Christmas by paying tributes to the departed souls. Besides this, the city residents have decided to keep December 31 a low-key affair as a mark of solidarity with Mumbai.

David Massi, a resident of Gujjar Nagar said, “We still feel grieved over the recent violence against Christians in Orissa and horrific Mumbai incident. Both incidents are vivid in our psyche.”

“How can we think of festivities and celebrations when there is dance of death and destruction every where,” he asked and added, “We stand united with entire nation in this hour of crisis.”

Notably, all premier hotels and clubs, including Hotel Asia, Hari Niwas, KC Residency, Grand Rivera, Hotel Ashoka, Jammu Club and Press Club of Jammu, decided not to observe festivities on the eve of Christmas and New Year.

“We express profound solidarity with hotel staff and innocent people killed at the Taj, Trident and CST,” said an official of a premier hotel of the city adding, “This year we have decided not to celebrate both occasions. This is our way of paying tributes to them.”

Susheel Gupta, a researcher of History at Jammu University, said, “Unlike previous year, hostel inmates at the campus have decided not to celebrate Christmas and New Year in the backdrop of the Mumbai terror attack.”

“Leaders like Raj Thackeray may be hell bent upon dividing the country, but we as a nation are one and will remain one. After the Mumbai attack people have given a befitting reply to all divisive forces within and outside the country,” he added.

“This year there won’t be any pomp and show on the twin occasions. The entire nation is mourning the loss of life in the Mumbai incident and we share the national tragedy,” said a member of executive body of Press Club of Jammu.

K Peter, a small-time businessman, who had come to St Marry Church in Gandhi Nagar on Wednesday evening, said, “This year we did not indulge in any gala celebrations. My family lit candles and prayed for world peace.”

“We hope New Year starts on a positive note, free of communal violence or dastardly acts of terrorism,” the family wished.



Ban on SMS
Greeting cards back in vogue
Rajesh Bhat

Jammu, December 26
Thanks to the ban on SMS service, the craze of sending greetings through cards among the youth and the student community is back in the state.

Ever since the introduction of mobile phone and SMS facility a few years back, people had almost forgotten exchanging pleasantries through greeting cards. But this year, due to the enforcement of ban on SMS in the wake of Amarnath land row, gift and stationery shops have once again started prominently displaying varied types of greeting cards to help out those who want to convey wishes to their friends and relatives.

Although sending cards appears to be a costly affair as compared to SMS, enthusiastic teenagers and youth are left with no option but to go for high quality and elegant brands to please their near and dear ones this New Year.

“Earlier, I used to send greetings to all by just pressing the button of my mobile phone and that too cost only a few bucks. But this season, it is a bit taxing, both money and effort wise," says Rohan, a marketing executive.

Alok Gupta, who runs a gift shop at one of the city's busiest market near Women's College Parade here, says he is aware of the budgetary problems being faced by the people in the absence of SMS facility. "But people are left with no choice but to purchase greeting cards to be part of the celebrations," he says.

According to him, during the past few years, there were few takers for festival cards and the process of purchasing them had turned “obsolete”. "But this year, a large number of people thronged my shop even on Diwali and Christmas," says Alok.

Bunty, who runs a gift shop at Power House Janipur, says this year he also sold hundreds of stickers and sketch pens in addition to greeting cards. "Even on Christmas I exhausted the cards and stickers which I had dumped last year when people preferred SMS to sending greetings through cards," says Bunty.

Sandeep, a collegiate, says this week he purchased Christmas and New Year cards worth Rs 1,500 and even took the extra burden of posting them. “All this could have been earlier done just for few rupees," says Sandeep, while admitting that it ultimately tells upon the budget of our parents.

Sandeep's friends, however, believe that one has to bear all this in order to "maintain contacts". "Further, festivals like Christmas come once a year and parents should cooperate," say Vishal and Maajid.

With the poll process already over and Amarnath land row no longer an issue, teenagers wish that the authorities concerned lift the ban on SMS before the Valentine's Day.



Communication in Kashmiri language
A tough task for displaced children
Our Correspondent

Jammu, December 26
Even as Gyan Peeth Award to noted writer and critic Prof Rehman Rahi for the promotion of Kashmiri language might have elated some sections of the literary circles in Kashmir, a majority of the displaced children from Kashmir valley are unable to communicate in their mother tongue.

It is not that they do not love or show interest towards the language of their ancestors, but the biggest handicap for them over the years has been that they are living and working in a condition where Kashmiri is neither spoken nor understood.

Further, the ability to speak Kashmiri does not give them any kind of advantage in the job market or in their everyday discourse and interactions in the host environment.

While the state government has already been made aware about the impact of the socio-economic conditions of the Kashmiri Pandits living in exile, no steps have been taken so far to stop the erosion of their language and other components linked to their otherwise rich culture.

The J&K Centre for Minority Studies, based on a detailed survey, had past year submitted a report to the state government for taking immediate measures to protect and safeguard the cultural identity of the migrants. The report, submitted through the retired senior bureaucrat ML Kaul, it appears, is still gathering dust, as no steps have so far been taken even to go through the 365-page voluminous report, based on the facts and figures.

It was mentioned in the report that the displaced children, both from the camps and non-camp localities, mainly use Hindi or Dogri languages as a means of communication and not Kashmiri at all. For 92 per cent of the children, Hindi was the first choice, while as for 62 per cent, interestingly, Dogri was the second choice for communication outside their homes.

According to AK Chetan, an educationist, most of the migrant children were not conversant with the Persian-Arabic script, known as “Nastaliq”, which is unfortunately treated as the only “official and recognised” script and not “Devnagri” in which Kashmiri can equally be written. “There was nothing wrong if Devnagri could also have been included as an alternative script to the advantage of the displaced children,” opines Chetan.

To add to the agony of the displaced children, in Jammu schools, where they get education, Kashmiri is neither spoken nor taught at all.

“The displaced children have also been facing with the conflicting situations as the older members of the family were trying to impose strict measures to reinforce speaking Kashmiri at home in order to strengthen their cultural values,” opines Chetan. This very fact has also been mentioned in the report submitted to the government.

It, however, points out that the preservation of Kashmiri language is comparatively strong in some families living in the migrant camps as compared to the non-camp localities. “But it is difficult to state, how long these families will succeed to retain speaking Kashmiri language at home,” says the report.



Terror knows no religion, says Sidhu
Takes on Cong for ‘neglecting’ Jammu
Tejinder Singh Sodhi
Tribune News Service

BJP leader Navjot Singh Sidhu

Jammu, December 26
Cricketer-turned-politician and BJP MP Navjot Singh Sidhu has said that no community in the country should be linked with terrorism and that terrorism is a menace that should be strongly dealt with a united face.

In an exclusive interview with The Tribune, Sidhu, who was in the city to campaign for the BJP, said people who were relating particular religion with terrorism were actually harming the national interest, creating the feeling of alienation in a section of society.

On tackling terror, he said, "Better prevent and prepare than repent and repair. In America, not a single bullet has been fired post 9/11 but here due to the lack of political will and vested interests of the Congress leadership, our country has become a sitting duck”. “We need to shun vote bank politics else it would ruin the country”.

Sidhu said Jammu region was “always neglected” as the Congress leadership and the successive state governments were busy “pampering” the Kashmir region.

“The Wazir Commission recommended three districts for Jammu and one for Kashmir, but the previous Congress-PDP government gave four districts each to Kashmir and Jammu to appease secessionists in Kashmir,” he charged.

Sidhu said, “The people of Jammu are being treated as second class citizens in every sphere. While they contribute 80 per cent towards the state's electricity revenue they have to face 80 per cent more power cuts then Kashmir”.

He said the people of Jammu are also discriminated on the job front. "The maximum number of jobs is given to the Kashmiri people and people in Jammu are neglected”.

Terming the decision of the state government to levy value added tax from CSD canteens as “anti-national”, he said, “While the maximum number of armed forces is deployed in the state to guard the integrity of the country, the previous Congress-led government charged 12 per cent VAT from them”.

Adding, he said, “What can be more disturbing that the state government that takes tax from the items being offered at Amarnath and Vaishno Devi shrines has extended the facility of tax-free trade to traders from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK)”.

When asked as to how he balances his life as a commentator, a politician and a television personality, he said, “Life is a tight rope and humour is the best medicine”.



Digging work creates trouble

The ongoing digging work in narrow lanes and bylanes of the residential areas for laying underground cable or pipeline by some government agency has created a lot of trouble for city residents. Firstly, the agency has dug up almost half of the width of the narrow inner roads and have occupied another one-fourth of the area for dumping the dug up soil, leaving hardly any space for even two-wheelers to pass. Secondly, the authorities have gone ahead with simultaneous digging of various roads, making it difficult for commuters to find a way to come out once they get stuck in the area where the work is on. Since the traffic scene in the city is already chaotic, the authorities should take note of the residents’ woes and plan their work in such a way that not much hurdles are created for the commuters. The authorities should also ensure the timely completion of such works, besides putiing proper signboards alerting commuters travelling at night about the ongoing work to avoid any mishap.

Ritika Sharma, Jammu

Readers are invited to write to us. Send your mail, in not more than 200 words, at jk@tribunemail.com or write in at: Letters, J&K Plus, The Tribune, Sector 29, Chandigarh-160030.





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