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THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
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Kashmir unrest
Women suffer the most

Jammu, December 28
The continuous turmoil in the Kashmir Valley has started affecting the family life of most women. As men are not being able to earn their livelihood amidst repeated bandh calls, strikes and violent protests, there are reports that scores of women have sought help from the State Women Commission complaining harassment at the hands of in-laws over financial matters.

Regional bias
NC, Cong leaders on the defensive
Jammu, December 28
Even as Kashmir centric regional parties have flayed the BJP for demanding the abrogation of Article 370, their leadership in Jammu has become defensive to counter the allegations of discrimination. Top BJP leaders during their conclave in Jammu effectively took up the issue of discrimination with Jammu and Ladakh regions and cornered the ruling parties for ignoring these two regions.

Netaji’s statue faces neglect
Jammu, December 28
The statue of Subhash Chandra Bose at Maheshpura chowk, near Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), here, is in bad shape due to poor upkeep.




EARLIER EDITIONS

Headless SIC ‘burden’ on exchequer
December 25, 2010
Winged visitors struggle as Valley wetlands freeze
December 22, 2010
Fewer flights, high fares ground Leh
December 18, 2010
Standing tall against injustice
December 15, 2010
Poor infrastructure hits tourism in Jammu region
December 11, 2010
GMCH emergency block raises stink
December 8, 2010
Advisory boards ‘packed with favourites’
December 4, 2010
Tourism projects for Jammu only on paper
November 27, 2010
Protests hit economy more than militancy
November 24, 2010
Damaged road makes life difficult for villagers
November 20, 2010

The Year That Was
Projects galore but execution a concern
Jammu, December 28
Aiming to develop and enhance the beauty of the City of Temples, the state government announced and even initiated various projects during the year.

PEAK HOUR RUSH: Commuters have to face hardships due to long traffic jams in Jammu.
PEAK HOUR RUSH: Commuters have to face hardships due to long traffic jams in Jammu. Tribune photo: Anand Sharma

Freeing Kashmir of ‘charas’ menace a challenge
Srinagar, December 28
The tranquility of Kashmir has been broken more than a few times in the past few months, but it seems that the only problem to be sorted is not one that is most apparent. A major chunk of land in the Pulwama, Shopian, Quazigund, Tral and Pahalgam areas of South Kashmir, which is used for both agriculture and horticulture, is under the cultivation of narcotic crops.

2010: A mixed bag for art and culture
Jammu, December 28
The year, 2010, remained marked with bloodshed, violent protests and strikes in Jammu and Kashmir. However, such events failed to leave their mark on the cultural canvas of the state. Nevertheless, as they say the masterpieces of art are always produced in the conflict, during such trying times, artists never lost hope and continued voicing their concerns through the subtle medium of art.

Despite freezing temperature, a shirtless beggar seeks alms from commuters on a busy road in Srinagar.
Despite freezing temperature, a shirtless beggar seeks alms from commuters on a busy road in Srinagar. Photo: Amin War

jammu diary
BJP faux pas
In connection with the “Ekta Sankalap Rally”, which was held on December 24, the BJP had flooded city of temples with posters and banners to welcome the visiting dignitaries. Banners carrying pictures of all senior party leaders were installed at various places in the city. Among these banners, one billboard carrying picture of late Dr Shyama Parshad Mukherjee was also installed on the ever-busy Tawi bridge. Below the billboard, the party had welcomed Dr Mukherjee to the city without caring that the leader had passed away long time ago.



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Kashmir unrest
Women suffer the most
Ashutosh Sharma
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 28
The continuous turmoil in the Kashmir Valley has started affecting the family life of most women. As men are not being able to earn their livelihood amidst repeated bandh calls, strikes and violent protests, there are reports that scores of women have sought help from the State Women Commission complaining harassment at the hands of in-laws over financial matters.

It is evident from the number of complaints registered with the commission recently. The commission, according to official sources, has received more than 180 complaints during the past one month alone.

However, the sources revealed that the number would surely have been double or probably even more as the commission’s office was not regularly opened in the summer capital of the state due to the ongoing upheaval for the past six months.

There are a record number of cases in which in-laws had been forcing their daughter-in-laws to do some job to suffice the family income. Similarly, women also complained of being harassed for dowry by their husbands.

“As the employment, apart from the government sector, is under fire, those especially self-employed or engaged in private sector have been under economic strain,” said an official of the commission, adding that, “In the complaints, women have alleged that their husbands or in-laws have been pressurising them to seek money from their maternal families”.

“The commission is receiving at least five to six complaints on a daily basis. Men have been rendered jobless and penniless by the vicious circle of protests and strikes. The situation has started directly victimising women,” the official maintained, adding that the commission’s recommendations were not binding on anyone. There are about 1,300 cases pertaining to abuse of women rights in total pending with the commission.

“Generally in such cases, the commission’s role is that of arbitrator and conciliator. We have been going through the cases and have found that there is a common reason behind them,” she said.

“The commission has now come up with an entrepreneurship development programme under which such women would be helped to tide over the crisis,” she added.

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Regional bias
NC, Cong leaders on the defensive
Dinesh Manhotra
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 28
Even as Kashmir centric regional parties have flayed the BJP for demanding the abrogation of Article 370, their leadership in Jammu has become defensive to counter the allegations of discrimination. Top BJP leaders during their conclave in Jammu effectively took up the issue of discrimination with Jammu and Ladakh regions and cornered the ruling parties for ignoring these two regions.

Jammu-based leaders of the Congress and the National Conference have started a counter campaign to assure the residents of this region that equal treatment would be given to all regions of the state.

Interestingly, the BJP leaders had used a report of the State Finance Commission in which two members belonging to Jammu and Ladakh have highlighted the discrimination. The speech of senior NC leader and Minister for Industries and Commerce Surjit Singh Slathia during public rallies in Vijaypur Assembly segment recently was a clear indication that the ruling coalition is finding it difficult to counter BJP’s allegations. Slathia stated that equitable development was government’s priority and the Omar-led regime was focused to do justice with every area of the state. He said that the government was aware of the problem being faced by the people living in the far-flung areas.

In order to improve the living standard of rural people, the Minister said the government had a specific agenda to provide equitable development in those areas with focus on building basic infrastructure. Referring to the unemployment problem, Slathia said it was a global phenomenon and to provide jobs to everyone was impossible for the government. He suggested the unemployed youth to avail the benefits under self-employment schemes where the government had introduced incentives in the form of subsidy, seed money, tax exemptions etc. The minister said the pace of development would be accelerated and all ongoing schemes would be completed within the stipulated time.

Jammu-based Congress leaders are also trying to assure the people that they would not allow any discrimination with Jammu. Since BJP’s rally, all Congress ministers have been visiting different areas of the Jammu region, assuring people that all regions should be treated equally. Interestingly, Congress leader and Health Minister Sham Lal Sharma had also admitted that Jammu and Ladakh regions were being discriminated by the government. Sharma too had quoted reports of the Finance Commission to substantiate his point.

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Netaji’s statue faces neglect
Archit Watts
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 28
The statue of Subhash Chandra Bose at Maheshpura chowk, near Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH), here, is in bad shape due to poor upkeep.

The statue of Subhash Chandra Bose at Maheshpura chowk in Jammu.
The statue of Subhash Chandra Bose at Maheshpura chowk in Jammu. Tribune photo: Anand Sharma

The freedom fighter’s statue is virtually crying for attention as a large number of tiles have come off from the structure. “The statues of our freedom fighters get attention only during the birth or death anniversary of these great souls otherwise no one is bothered about them,” says Raju Gupta, a shopkeeper at Maheshpura chowk.

He says all VVIPs, including senior ministers, visit the hospital, but no one has ever pointed out the deplorable condition of the statue.

Statues are meant to pay tributes to the martyrs who had laid down their lives to get the nation independence from the clutches of foreign rulers. but today they get attention only during political functions, says another shopkeeper.

The Jammu Freedom Fighters Association and other social organisations have expressed their dismay over the condition of this rotary where Netaji’s statue is installed.

Ravinder Singh, an activist of the Youth Movement for Peace and Development, has informed that they had approached the authorities to get the rotary repaired a number of times, but no action has been taken so far.

Ravinder adds the condition of other statues of martyrs installed in the city is also getting deteriorated due to official apathy.

Social organisations have warned the district administration to properly maintain the statue of their leader before his birthday, which falls on January 23, or face protest.

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The Year That Was
Projects galore but execution a concern
Sunaina Kaul
Tribune News Service

Jammu, December 28
Aiming to develop and enhance the beauty of the City of Temples, the state government announced and even initiated various projects during the year.

Some of the projects like the construction of an artificial lake at the Tawi, a double-lane bridge over the Tawi and the project of laying sewer pipes are under way.

However, how much time these projects will take to get completed is still a big question before the people as the work on these projects is moving at a snail’s pace.

Costing crores of rupees, these developmental projects are being executed through various agencies like the National Building Construction Corporation (NBCC) and the Economic Reconstruction Agency (ERA).

To give boost to tourism, the government has earmarked Rs 110 crore for the construction of an artificial lake at Niki Tawi, near the Belicharana area. The work is under progress.

According to official record, the lake to be created has an approximate length of 1450 m and width of 600m. It is expected that with the completion of this project, it will become a major tourist attraction.

With a view to minimising traffic chaos in the city, the project of constructing a double-lane bridge at a cost of Rs 150 crore over the Tawi at Belicharana is also under process. According to officials, the work is nearing completion.

This bridge will help reduce the distance from Canal Road to Bikram Chowk. These two areas records huge traffic jams on a regular basis.

No doubt that the bride will benefit those who commute through these areas regularly to reach their destinations.

In another initiative to reduce traffic congestion, the government has also decided to construct an overhead flyover from Bikram Chowk to Convent School. According to the officials, under the first phase, the construction agency has done soil testing and the flyover might take practical shape in the coming year.

Meanwhile, the ongoing work for the laying of sewer pipes is also in progress. However, the work is being carried out at a slow speed. The NBCC and ERA, both construction agencies, are executing the project. Both agencies have crossed their deadlines several times for the completion of the project. It was expected that the work might get completed before Darbar Move, but it did not.

The dug-up roads in various areas are still waiting for macadamisation. The general public is facing inconvenience because of dug-up roads in their respective areas. 

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Freeing Kashmir of ‘charas’ menace a challenge

Srinagar, December 28
The tranquility of Kashmir has been broken more than a few times in the past few months, but it seems that the only problem to be sorted is not one that is most apparent. A major chunk of land in the Pulwama, Shopian, Quazigund, Tral and Pahalgam areas of South Kashmir, which is used for both agriculture and horticulture, is under the cultivation of narcotic crops.

Poppy seeds or ‘charas’ or ‘fukki’ is a hardy crop and can be grown easily. It does not require much inputs and locals say one just needs to put seeds into the soil and go back home and forget about. It will grow automatically. What is more, it fetches good returns and finds lucrative markets not only locally, but also outside the state to major cities in the country.

The question is how does this happen under the nose of the government authorities? The cultivation of opium poppy crop and other kinds of psychotropic drugs is an offence under Section 18 of the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances (NDPS Act) of 1985 punishable up to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment and a fine up to Rs 1 lakh.

The sale and purchase of such drugs is also an offence as prescribed under Section 15 of the Act. This Act passed by the Central government would naturally need to be played out by different states according to need on the ground. In fact, Section 10 of the Act empowers state governments to permit and regulate possession and inter-state movement of opium, poppy straw and the manufacture of medicinal opium and the cultivation of cannabis.

In Kashmir, illegal cultivation and illegal trade both are flourishing and each feeding the other supported by the silent, unseen hands, obviously powerful ones. The situation clearly points to a nexus which not only overlooks the cultivation of these crops, but also facilitates their movement across and beyond the state borders.

Arjimand Hussain, project manager, Action Aid International, feels that economic returns from mustard seeds and other crops are low. To overcome this loss, farmers turn to a more lucrative crop. Opium, cannabis (charas) and such crops, which are cultivated illegally, serve as a good source of economy as the produce fetches good returns based on a thriving trade, needless to say illegal.

Narcotic plantation is also cultivated surreptitiously. Crops are cultivated in a rather tricky manner. Mustard and other food crops are cultivated along the periphery of the field which camouflages tiers after tiers of cannabis and other addictive crops planted in the centre.

In Kashmir, it is the state police, which is in charge of the administration of the NDPS Act, as also certain other agencies like the State Excise and Drugs Control Department.

Check posts are established on national highways which are routes for the movement of the drug. It is alleged that some officials from the Excise and Police Departments are in connivance with these traders allowing the easy passage of vehicles carting these substances on the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway.

Locals say, “Smugglers grease the palms of officials who then turn a blind eye to the smuggling of narcotic substances in fruit-laden trucks or other vehicles”.

Sources also say even though sometimes excise officials claim to have recovered a certain quantity of ‘charas’ or ‘fukki’, but this is a mere eyewash to cover up for major quantities that are in fact allowed to pass through. There is obviously money to be made in this trade, they say, which is why influential political and bureaucratic figures ensure that their favoured officials are posted at toll post.

There are some very practical, even logistical, difficulties in seizing of a particular cache of narcotic substance en route on the highways. Given the heavy movement of traffic, particularly trucks, at all times of day and night, unless backed by some fine intelligence, it becomes impossible to intercept the vehicle.

An official of the excise citing an example said: “After acting on a tip-off, we recently recovered nine boxes of ‘fukki’ that were concealed in a truck carrying 640 apple boxes meant to be transported outside the state. We began checking the truck at around 2 am, but finally succeeded in recovering the illegal substance around 7 pm”.

GA Peer, Commissioner, Excise, said: “Our job is only to collect toll tax for vehicles passing through the toll post”. He, however, added that they act based on a tip from their reliable sources on possible smuggling of the substances on a particular route and time.

Given the complex scenario and the years of a comfortable situation between the different players involved, what can be done to stop this heinous trade? Is vigilance to be stepped up at posts or even weaning away local farmers from its cultivation. Can traders at the local level be intercepted? Perhaps, a non-confrontational way which could actually prove effective would be to go back to the basics, explore and find why farmers are opting for this ‘dangerous’ cultivation and find solutions and let them become aware of the potential hazards and also potential alternatives to this crop.

With some efforts and imaginative techniques, the land used for growing narcotics can be used for plantation of diverse trees which would not only generate income for the growers, but also boost economy of the state.

The land used for 'charas' can yield aromatic crops, medicinal plants and for growing poplar trees, says the Charkha Development Communication Network. It can be used for flower plantation like lavender and bulgarian roses.

A move which would rid the farmlands of Kashmir from this menace and cut off the supplies that sets in motion a heinous route for narcotics would be welcome by all those who yearn for a pristine environment and life. — ANI

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2010: A mixed bag for art and culture
Ashutosh Sharma/TNS

Jammu, December 28
The year, 2010, remained marked with bloodshed, violent protests and strikes in Jammu and Kashmir. However, such events failed to leave their mark on the cultural canvas of the state. Nevertheless, as they say the masterpieces of art are always produced in the conflict, during such trying times, artists never lost hope and continued voicing their concerns through the subtle medium of art.

The performance of singing sensation of the city, Tanya Gupta at Asian Games, premiere of the first coloured film in Dogri, Padam Shree to distinguished Dogri poet and writer Jatinder Udhampuri, Sahitya Akademi honour to Dogri short story writer Manoj, registration of acclaimed sculptor Ravinder Jamwal in Limca Book of Records, success of young artistes Piyush and Sitendra Shanu in TV reality shows hogged the headlines.

During the cultural roundup of the year by the Tribune, distinguished and divergent cultural activists expressed their agonies and ecstasies of the year, besides fears and hopes about for the New Year.

“Only theatre represents the positive aspect of Jammu and Kashmir. With 16 new plays and 85 shows during 2010, Natrang emerged as one of the most leading theatre groups of the country,” said theatre personality Balwant Thakur, adding, "Natrang participated in two international and three national events during the year, including Commonwealth Games, ‘Horizen 2010’ organised by the ICCR, New Delhi, 17th National Theatre Festival, Jabalpur, and 7th National Theatre Festival, Amritsar, and Delhi Youth Festival-2010, New Delhi”.

“The year was turbulent in our state, I hope something positive will come out in the New Year,” he added.

Dogri writer and poet Mohan Singh says inception of the Dogra Sangeet Rattan Award was a groundbreaking initiative for the development of the language. “Schoolchildren no longer speak Dogri. Still, nearly 150 families participated in the event with their children. The award is an effort that will surely bring change”.

“The number of Dogri books produced every year has gone up,” he says, adding, “Our organisation has resolved to intensify the struggle for setting up a department of Dogri in all universities of the state next year”.

For noted Urdu poet, Dr Liaqat Jafri, the year was not very promising. “Jammu is an urban village. People who have settled here from peripheral areas are more concerned about other things than art and culture. Artists here do not get the kind of atmosphere they need to nurture their creative genius due to the social behaviour of the people”.

“Even in commercial cities like Mumbai, art and culture have been growing in sync with the city, but here the development is lopsided,” he opines, saying “In Jammu, there are not more than 50 people who appreciate cultural activities. One can easily identify them in almost every other function”.

On a personal note, however, Dr Jafri says the year was fulfilling. “Writers and poets of Jammu usually get opportunities as well as audience and readership outside the state. The year was similar to the previous years”.

Acclaimed painter Suman Gupta describes the year as “very fulfilling”. “The year kept me busy in national-level camps,” he says and points out, “There is a vacuum between society and artists. Though filmmakers, musicians, sculptors and other artists are doing a great job at individual level, the kind of support they expect from society and the government is missing”. “It becomes imperative for the artist community to have a place where they could sit together, interact and exchange new ideas for the growth of art. Such healthy trend is a requisite to check and weed out evil from society,” he adds, hoping that the next year brings such an opportunity.

“Every day, you see newspaper columns reporting protests, strikes and civil unrest. Who has the time and luxury to appreciate a piece of art in the state?” asks famous sculptor Ravinder Jamwal. “It’s distressing to note that a place like Kala Kendra has run into controversy. There is no place to go for budding artists”.

“The establishment must acknowledge the fact that the posterity of this country would remember us through the work of art that we will produce today,” he remarks. Noted Hindi writer and a displaced Kashmiri Pandit, Agni Shekhar says the year was quite depressing due to unchecked corruption and violence due to “passiveness of the government.” He says, “Honesty and dedication are at stake. Artists need to take risk to protect and promote truth in their work to bond with society”.

“The year ended with a season of scams at the national level. There is a crisis of faith in the social life of the country and the space for sensitivity is shrinking. Ironically, the intellectual class is silent due to which the year was non-happening for me,” he says, adding, “No substantial literary wrok from Hindi writers of the state or Kashmiri writers living in exile have come to the fore this year”.

Another noted Hindi writer of the state, Khema Kaul was regretful that summer in Kashmir was “painted in blood” by communalists. “Two of my short stories which I wrote this year depict global terrorism in Kashmir’s perspective,” she maintains, adding, “It is an achievement that people across the world have started recognising the term Islamic terrorism”.

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jammu diary
BJP faux pas

In connection with the “Ekta Sankalap Rally”, which was held on December 24, the BJP had flooded city of temples with posters and banners to welcome the visiting dignitaries. Banners carrying pictures of all senior party leaders were installed at various places in the city. Among these banners, one billboard carrying picture of late Dr Shyama Parshad Mukherjee was also installed on the ever-busy Tawi bridge. Below the billboard, the party had welcomed Dr Mukherjee to the city without caring that the leader had passed away long time ago. Party leaders during the rally had repeatedly mentioned the sacrifice of Dr Mukherjee who had launched an agitation for the integration of the state with the rest of the country while the local leadership seems ignorant of this fact and installed a billboard to welcome Dr Mukherjee.

Kangri arrives in Jammu

With the arrival of winter season, kangri (a heating pot) sellers from Kashmir have flocked the Jammu city. Kangri is traditionally associated with Kashmiris and is mainly made in the Valley.

Every year, kangri sellers come to Jammu during winter. These days, they can be spotted wandering in various localities, particularly in the colonies of displaced Kashmiri Pandits where they witness good sale.

Shabby look of rotaries

The city of temples, which is also known for its beautiful rotaries, is going to lose their beauty as the traffic police is erecting pillars for the installation of CCTV cameras there.

The pillars have already been installed (See photo) at major rotaries like Dogra Chowk, General Zorawar Singh Chowk etc, which are giving a shabby look. Nevertheless, the installation work of these pillars at other major rotaries is on.

(Contributed by Dinesh Manhotra, Sunaina Kaul and Archit Watts)

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