Kashmiri students feel the heat
Afsana Rashid

Srinagar, January 13
Youth in Kashmir is apprehensive about employment opportunities as global meltdown has shown its effects on various spheres of life.

These views were expressed by youth who took part during a programme, “Sitaroon Sey Aagey - Youth and Challenges 2009” telecast by DD Kashmir.

Sharing their views, students drawn from different educational institutions of the valley said the threat of job cuts and dwindling employment opportunities were likely to give sleepless nights to many.

"Due to reduced employment avenues in ailing industrial and underdeveloped private sector in the valley, thousands of Kashmiri youth went outside in the search of jobs and most of them succeeded in getting a job. However, due to global meltdown these people like others are losing jobs," said a management student from the University of Kashmir.

He said the threat of job cuts had dampened the hopes of the youth in finding a respectable job and most of them had shelved their plans of moving outside the state.

The participants cited the lack of awareness and myopic counselling in educational institutions as one of the major reasons of decimal representation of Kashmiris in combined services like the KAS and IAS.

A participant from Baramulla expressed his concern that senior bureaucrats from Kashmir never came forward to motivate the youth to take up career in the civil services.

Some of the participants while expressing concern over demand made by government employees to enhance retirement age from 58 years to 60 years said that if the demand was fulfilled it would further add to the woes of the unemployed youth.



Political heirs show their mettle
Perneet Singh
Tribune News Service

Omar Abdullah
Omar Abdullah
Mehbooba Mufti
Mehbooba Mufti

Jammu, January 13
The recently concluded state Assembly elections witnessed a number of political heirs emerging victorious and making it to the strife-torn state’s Legislative Assembly.

Leading the list is 38-year-old Chief Minister Omar Abdullah. The scion of the Kashmir's “first family”, the Abdullahs, Omar is the youngest and the third from his family to head the state after his grandfather Sheikh Abdullah and father Farooq Abdullah. Omar exhibited great maturity in leading the National Conference (NC) after it tasted defeat at the hustings in the 2002 Assembly elections.

His spellbinding speech during the UPA government's trust vote in Parliament in July last year won him many admirers. The junior Abdullah has emerged from the shadows of his illustrious grandfather and father in a short span of a decade in politics. His ascent to the state's top post has rekindled hopes of a better tomorrow in lakhs of hearts.

Another key political heir is PDP supremo Mehbooba Mufti who has made it to the Assembly for the third time in a row. Under her leadership, the PDP has emerged as a force to reckon with in the Kashmir valley. The PDP not only finished neck and neck with the National Conference in the valley during these elections but also opened its account in the Jammu region with two seats.

Interestingly, Omar and Mehbooba will have the company of their fathers in the Assembly, as Farooq Abdullah and Mufti Mohammad Sayeed have also won the elections.

Among the other political heirs are NC's young turks - Kishtwar MLA Sajjad Kitchloo and Noorabad MLA Sakina Itoo. While Sajjad is son of former minister Bashir Ahmed Kitchloo, Sakina is daughter of former Speaker Wali Mohammad Itoo.

Similarly, Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma, who won the elections from Akhnoor Assembly seat, is brother of sitting Congress MP Madan Lal Sharma. Congress MLA from the Gool Arnas Assembly segment Aijaz Ahmed Khan is son of veteran Gujjar leader Haji Bulan Khan.

Batmaloo MLA Irfan Shah, who defeated former Finance Minister and senior PDP leader Tariq Hamid Karra, is son of four-time MLA and former NC minister Gulam Mohiudeen Shah.

Forest Minister Main Altaf, who emerged victorious from the Kagan Assembly seat, is son of six-time MLA Main Bashir.

PDP MLA from the Chadoora Assembly seat Javed Mustafa Mir is son of slain minister Gulam Mustafa Mir. Another PDP MLA, Zulfikar Ali, who won the Darhal Assembly seat, is son of five-time MLA Mohmmad Hussain. Similarly, Devsar MLA Sartaj Madani is brother-in-law of former CM and PDP patron Mufti Mohammad Sayeed. 



Govt fails to provide facilities at Noori Chamb
Shariq Majeed
Tribune News Service

Poonch, January 13
Tourists continue to throng Noori Chamb here, which is famous for its scenic beauty and waterfall. Despite this, the state government has failed to develop this place, which lacks even basic facilities.

Noori Chamb, lying along the Mughal road in Surankote tehsil of this border district, is named after Mughal queen Noor Jahan. The fall of the stream gives rise to dense clouds of water vapours, which engulfs the area and spreads all over.

Emperor Jahangir was so much fascinated by this fall that he named it after the name of his beloved queen Noor Jahan. The Mughal queen used to stay here to relax while on way to Kashmir.

This place is a huge hit as a picnic spot among the local picnickers and tourists from outside the state. Visitors here say the government has not done anything to provide basic tourism infrastructure at the place. "Though the place is one of the most beautiful tourist spots I have ever seen, there is no accommodation facility for tourists and not even a cafeteria," said Payal Gupta, a student, who had come here for picnic with her friends for the first time.

“The government should develop the area so that the lack of facilities do not act as a deterrent for the tourists start with, it should construct tourist huts, toilets and a cafeteria, besides the area around the waterfall should be beautified”. Says Niharika Gill, a sixth standard student, "This place is beautiful, especially the waterfall. I will tell my friends about this place. I reckon every tourist coming to the state must see the beauty of nature here”.

“However, going by the lack of facilities here, it doesn't seem the government is interested in developing this place. They should wake up from slumber and establish tourism infrastructure here," she adds.

A senior officer in the district administration said they were first developing religious places. "We are developing religious places like Sain Mirian Shrine, Nangali Sahib Gurdwara, Amarnath Shrine in the first stage. In the second stage, we will develop places like Noori Chamb," he added.



Selfless Social Service
Dera Nangali Sahib shows the way
Tejinder Singh Sodhi
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 13
The Dera Nangali Sahib of Poonch has set an example in selfless social service in the state.

Established in the early eighteenth century in the frontier district of Poonch, the dera has contributed a lot to the socio and economic uplift of the underprivileged.

According to historical records, Baba Feru Singh after being blessed by Guru Gobind Singh, was sent on a mission to preach Sikhism in the region where he preached Sikhism and so did his successors.

In 1960, the then incumbent of the dera, mahant Bachitter Singh, established a “technical ashram” where he started providing technical education to orphans and underprivileged children, besides providing them free accommodation and meals.

Fortyeight years have passed since its establishment and the dera (Digiana, Jammu) has trained more than 20,000 children and is continuously doing the selfless service.

“Guru Gobind Singh had sent Baba Feru Singh to embark on a mission to preach Sikhism in the north. In 1804, Baba Mela Singh established Dera Nangali Sahib in Poonch and in 1960, my predecessor mahant Bachitter Singh established a technical ashram,” mahant Manjeet Singh, the incumbent of the dera, told The Tribune.

The ashram, besides providing mainstream education to the children, provides them the religious knowledge so that they could start earning their livelihood after they leave the ashram.

Many children after leaving the ashram have attained a big name in the community as they have emerged as top “raagis” and preachers in the community.

“We provide basic education to poor and underprivileged children who come here and preach them about Sikhism, besides training them on ‘shabad kirtan’. We feel happy when we find many of our children emerging as top ‘raagis’. They have brought glory to the ashram not only in India but also abroad,” said Manjeet.

Adding, he said, “Not only the children from Sikh families but also from various other religions come here. Children from various religious backgrounds live happily and are treated equally here.”

Besides looking about orphans, the dera runs various colleges where poor and underprivileged children are provided with quality education. The Sikh students seeking admission to various professional courses in the dera-run colleges have to strictly follow the rules and regulations of their religion.

Besides contributing to the socio and economic uplift of the state, the dera has done a lot for the community. Ever since the incumbent of the dera took charge in 1991, more than 1 lakh people have been baptised by the dera.

“Every month we conduct an Amrit Sanchar camp and more than 300 persons partake amrit it,” he added.



Nari Niketan, Bal Ashram inmates face difficulties
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

RS Pura, January 13
Inmates of the government-run Nari Niketan and Bal Ashram here, especially the adult orphan girls, have been precariously exposed to hostile environment.

Both welfare houses have been operating from the same premises. There are around 40 inmates each in the Nari Niketan and the Bal Ashram-cum-juvenile home, which houses neglected sections of society, including impoverished widows, destitutes, divorced women, besides orphans, illegal/unwanted and unclaimed children.

Ironically, there are very little security arrangements. While the front gate is broken, the superintendent reportedly stays at his residence, leaving the inmates at the mercy of God.

When this correspondent visited the premises, there was not any superintendent or security personnel to ask for the purpose of visit. A recent case of administrative negligence gives an insight into the functioning of the institutions and puts a question mark on their administration.

As per reports, Promila, an inmate, abandoned her house around three months ago for unknown reasons. She was picked up by the police under suspicious circumstances and shifted to the women’s cell on the Canal Road. After verifying the facts, the police handed her over to the Red Cross Society and she spent some days at Neha Ghar - a welfare home run by the society.

The society again sent her back to the Nari Niketan on January 9.

“Adolescent or young girls are at much higher risk,” said a social activist of the area, pleading anonymity. “They need tender parenting but have been left to their cruel fate,” he said.

“If there is no one to set them right, then their small mistakes can turn into blunders,” he said, adding that the government must ensure that such institutes work as “protective institutes”.

The inmates rued that there were no provisions for medical aid in the premises, which, as per the inmates, could be risky during night. They further alleged lack of several other basic facilities.

RK Jairath, secretary, social welfare, declined to comment on the issue.



‘Kashmiri Pandits losing their mother tongue’
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, January 13
Writer of a great repute and dubbed as “encyclopedia” on Kashmiri culture and poetry by many, octogenarian Arjun Dev Majboor has stressed on urgent measures to promote Kashmiri language among the Kashmiri Pandits, who have grown up in exile after their parents were displaced.

The veteran Kashmiri writer said, "Detached from their roots, the Kashmiri Pandits are fast losing their mother tongue, a trend which needs to be reversed”. He opined that if Hindi was made the script of Kashmiri Language, the Kashmiri Pandits could save their mother tongue because Urdu, which was the original script of Kashmiri language, was not taught in schools and colleges outside Kashmir.

Commenting about the impact of migration on the culture of Kashmiri Pandits, he said the community had been celebrating all their festivals, which were a part of Kashmiri culture, but the language, which was an important ingredient of the culture, had suffered a great loss.

Defining all prominent places of Kashmir as part of their cultural heritage, he said many such places had been under illegal occupation for the past 20 years and their restoration was important for the preservation of Kashmiri culture.

However, he said during the past 20 years Jammu had emerged as a hub of cultural activities and a lot of work had been published on cultural ethos of the people of the state.

He said the culture was connected with the places of one's birth. "Kashmiri Pandits are rootless at the moment and as such it is importance to lay stress on the preservation of their culture”.

Commenting on PM's package about return and rehabilitation of Kashmiri Pandits, Majboor said the community was grappling with diseases like diabetes, BP, heart problems etc. main reason being that the community was at loss to know the reasons behind their migration from their homes. He said, "Unless and until the reasons that led to their exodus are not unearthed, any package regarding their return cannot prove lasting."

He stressed that the government should provide employment package to the unemployed youth and at the same time appoint a proper authority to investigate the reasons for exodus of Kashmiri Pandits so that the problem was addressed in right perspective.

Majboor's contribution to Kashmiri literature and poetry is acknowledged by people all over the country. His many books like “Waves”, “Padi Samyaik”, “Teol”, “Tahqiq” etc. have received accolades from the readers.



Human-animal conflict: Rising incidents 
raise concern
Afsana Rashid

Arjun Dev MajboorSrinagar, January 13
Over the years considerable increase in the incidents of wild animals straying into human habitations has been reported in the Kashmir valley, often leading to casualties to humans and such animals.

"Encroachments in the forest areas result in human-animal conflict. Once humans intrude wild habitations, pressure builds around the homes of animals. Ultimately, they are left with no option, but to enter our territory, particularly the closest habitations,” says environmentalist Gurcharan Singh.

Human-animal conflict is emerging as a major concern, particularly because of increasing war for space and food between them. Officials have already voiced their concern over the increasing incidents of human-animal conflict.

"Humans encroach upon wild animal shelters, destroy and interfere with their habitats. This disturbs their food chain and it is their natural behavior that they come out of their region and attack people,” he says.

"It is a critical balance which has to be maintained between humans and animals," says the environmentalist, suggesting effective and protective area network, sanctuaries and national parks to save the animals.

Syed Mushtaq Ahmad Parsa, an official of the directorate of wildlife, said, “Basically people who live in jungle or on its fringes are most vulnerable”.

Quoting an example, he said area on the Uri road (towards Sheeri) was forest zone and the area adjacent to the forest was highly vulnerable to wild animals. "Since locals have to work in fields, they come across these animals, who get disturbed and attack them”.

Referring to black bear attacks, Parsa said maize and walnut was mostly cultivated in these areas, but later people switched over to various varieties of fruits, especially apples.

"Black bear has obsession for fruits and they come down," he said. He cited change in the land use pattern as one of the reasons for the problem.

"Earlier locals cultivated fruit for self-consumption only and minor damage by black bear was not taken seriously. Now the slightest loss in cultivation of cash crops (apple and cherry) irritates them and they retaliate, which results in human-animal conflict," Parsa said. He added that wild animals did not attack, unless disturbed.

"Basically, people have encroached upon the forestland. Human beings are not black bears' prey. They only enjoy fruits. However, injuries inflicted by black bears are dangerous," Parsa said.

Quoting examples, he said a black bear after crossing the Jehlum in Khawaja Bagh-Baramulla did not attack children who were playing on the road. Similarly, he said, a leopard was found with dogs for three days in Mawar-Handwara without attacking them.



Dry vegetable packets’ sale on rise in Jammu
Rajesh Bhat

Jammu, January 13
Despite the availability of the green, leafy and fresh vegetables in abundance round the year, the packets of dry vegetables are sold like hot cakes in Jammu markets these days.

Even away from the valley, Kashmiris have not abandoned their taste for dry vegetables, which they have been consuming every winter since ages.

And this year being no exception, Subhan Dar has again come all way from Pattan Kashmir to sell dry vegetables among Kashmiri Pandits and Darbar Move employees putting up in various private housing colonies and government residential quarters here.

Subhan is not in fact the only vegetable grower who brings dried tomatoes, turnips, brinjals and gourd from his native village to sell them in Jammu markets. Scores of such growers visit the winter capital to sell the packets of dry vegetables to the retailers in Kashmiri populated areas like Talab Tillo, Sarwal, Bantalab, Bohri, Janipur and Panjtirthi.

Subhan says it is a hard to grow, slice and then dry the vegetables during August to October every year. “Vegetables like brinjals and tomatoes are delicately cut and put into open sun. They are later packed and then sold both in Kashmir and Jammu markets,” says Subhan. He sells a packet of 100 grams for Rs 10, claiming that his dry vegetables taste better.

Roshan Lal, a migrant putting up near Purkhoo camp here, says even his relatives putting up in technology-advanced cities like Bangalore and Hyderabad consume the dry vegetables from Kashmir with an element of pride and nostalgia.

Asha Rani, a housewife, says the cooking of dry vegetables is an art itself. “What is important is the real combination of the dry vegetables, nowadays called the synergy of foods,” she says.

Echoing similar views, Tariq Ahmad, a Darbar Move employee putting up at Poonch House here, says he cooks together dry tomatoes and dry fish, called “Hoggard” in Kashmiri. “The combination gives an excellent mouth-watering taste,” claims Tariq.

While the consumption of the dry vegetables has been a craze among Kashmiris, the doctors don’t, however, recommend their frequent use.

“Such a stuff could be a health hazard since dry vegetables are prone to degeneration and can act as a breeding-ground for germs,” says Dr Vinod Raina. “The green vegetables on the other hand are fresh and all-time best for the consumption,” prescribes Raina.



Omar joins office on positive note

Chief Minister Omar Abdullah has begun his new innings in politics on a positive note. By making surprise visits to Lal Ded Hospital in Srinagar and SMGS Hospital in Jammu, the young CM has sent a clear message that he means business. Also his views on problems facing the state are a refreshing change from the cliché statements of the old politicians. He is very clear about the ills afflicting the strife-torn state and their remedies. For instance, he has talked about addressing the issue of unemployment by putting in place infrastructure for skill development among the state’s youth, which no politician has talked about earlier. Whenever it comes to employment, a politician usually talks about providing quota to different sections, irrespective of the fact whether the government has jobs to provide. However, Omar knows what is the root cause of unemployment and seems determined to address it.

Rohit Kumar, Jammu





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