Don’t trigger a war : Voices from India and Pakistan
Villagers asked to evacuate are enraged at the media hype; their homes are almost empty and crop is being wasted
“Hun jang na lava deo!” (Now, don’t trigger a war!) – shouts an enraged villager, Kulwant Singh, at us. He is the caretaker of the local gurdwara of village Daoke on the India-Pakistan border.
We smile awkwardly; the villagers are visibly angry, especially the elderly. “Media nu TRP di payi rendi hai, aasan da koi nai sochda,” (media is concerned about TRPs, nobody thinks of us border villagers!) they say.
Some join the chorus as they see our cameras and notebooks. Villagers are keenly watching the high decibel rhetoric belted out by TV channels, where 80 per cent of news is on the India-Pakistan trajectory, in the heightened tension of the last two weeks.
Villagers in the border belt with Pakistan were ordered to evacuate after Indian armed forces carried out “surgical strikes” on September 29, in retaliation for the September 18 attack in Uri, Jammu & Kashmir, attributed to Pakistan’s terrorist network.
Daoke is situated bang on the border where the international boundary’s barbed wire fence is a mere crow’s flight away. So close to the border that one milkman Bitu’s mobile number shows the country code of +92 (Pakistan).
Even as hectic activity was noticed, as ripe paddy crop is being harvested speedily in villages, due to panic, their anger is not amiss.
Many villagers owning fields beyond the barbed wire fencing on the Indian side of the border are barred from tending to their fields by the Border Security Force. They rue the accrued losses and moan that their loans will remain unpaid, as no one can tend to their standing, ripened crops.
With many of the village’s women and children having left for safer places, much of the responsibility and burden of household chores, livestock and fields has fallen upon the frail shoulders of the elderly, while fields within the barbed area with newly ripened paddy are being managed by sons whose wives and children are staying with relatives in the cities.
Daoke’s Satwant Kaur cries: “In this old age, when I needed rest and comfort, I have been pushed to tend to cooking, cleaning and all house chores alone, as both my daughter-in-laws and their children were sent to their maternal homes. An old woman is expected to deal with everything!”
The reluctance of the villagers to evacuate has reasons. Whenever tensions build up between India and Pakistan, they fall in the first line of evacuation. At places, a mere road separates the defence drain and the fields of villages.
“Besides the cumbersome drill of packing and transporting belongings and requesting city counterparts to help, crops too suffer,” says one Gurmeet. The biggest reason, however, as Gurmeet puts it: “This time it is unlike earlier evacuations, which were serious. This one is merely precautionary and anticipatory.”
They are also loath to evacuate because they know they will get the whiff of any serious preparations for an attack through tip-offs from across the border, where they have contacts.
The contacts are through the ignominious drug trade. Villages Hawellian, Narli, Bharopal and Daoke are well known for their drug links. Incidentally, the controversial film Udta Punjab on the drug menace in Punjab, is peppered with mentions of these villages in conversations.
After evacuation orders by local deputy commissioners (DC), the villagers of Bharopal, similarly poised on the India-Pakistan border, are also restless. Many villagers owning fields beyond the barbed wire fencing on the Indian side of the border are barred from tending to their fields by the Border Security Force. They rue the accrued losses and moan that their loans will remain unpaid, as no one can tend to their standing, ripened crops. The
situation is alike in Kakkar, Rajatal, Neshta, Pandhori, Manj, Kawe, Bachiwind, and Ranian along the border, where very few have left homes.
Punjab’s chief minister Parkash Singh Badal had deputed DCs to supervise evacuation, on the possibility of retaliation by Pakistan, and declared: “These are precautionary steps to prevent civilian loss in case of any misadventure from across the border.”
Badal claimed to have released Rs 1 crore for each border district. When asked about the compensation, the villagers of Bharopal exclaimed: “Not a drop of compensation arrived on our doorstep!”
Amritsar’s DC said 15 camps and a score of buses were spared to ferry people. The villagers of Daoke are ignorant of any such travel arrangements.
Following recent incidents, 11 government school buildings were notified for residents of the border belt. Arrangement at Khasa school for about 500 people has no takers. In Chhabal village of Tarn Taran, about 30 rooms are in readiness to accommodate 250 people. Very few have arrived in relief camps falling in the adjoining district of Tarn Taran along the border.
They preferred to take refuge in gurdwaras nearby where food is assured via langars. All private and government educational institutions within 10km radius of the international border remain shut. Those living near the border have been asked to switch off lights at night.
Many of the villagers have witnessed three wars, including 1965, 1971, Kargil in 1999 and the army stand-off in the aftermath of the Parliament attack in 2001-02.
Jasbir Singh (82), a village elder of Bharopal, had even witnessed the Partition of 1947. Village Neshtha’s Balwant Singh articulates: “We will not move out till the time shots are fired, the artillery is moved in and the defence canal is filled with water. How much baggage can we take? Our livestock, grain and household items were looted when we left the last time following the Parliament attack.”
This journalist saw patrolling by horse-mounted Army personnel, besides police and armoured vehicles of the BSF in border villages. In the stand-off in 2001-02, when villages were evacuated, India and Pakistan’s soldiers stood eye-to-eye.
Fields along the barbed wire fencing and beyond were heavily mined and many casualties of defence personnel and villagers were reported due to accidents during movement of artillery, besides incidents of fire in mined fields.
BSF deputy commandant HS Sidhu confirms: “The evacuation exercise is a precautionary measure. BSF has enhanced vigil and augmented forces along the India-Pakistan border. Media hype and the acrimony between the two nations cannot be ignored.”
Other precautionary measures include sounding hospitals and keeping medicine supply in readiness. Unconfirmed reports are also trickling in of fortifying of ICP (integrated checkpost, Attari-Wagah) and cleaning of bunkers on the border.
Even as anxiety prevails in villages, India-Pakistan trade seemed untouched by any tension. Balwinder Singh, in-charge of the port at Attari-Wagah, revealed that as many as 190 trucks carrying cement, gypsum, rock salt, dry fruit and dry dates arrived from Pakistan and 55 trucks with tomatoes from Maharashtra, cotton and buffalo meat drove to Pakistan.
Passenger count on the international route seemed affected. Four times-weekly Punj-Aab Express, the Amritsar-Lahore bus, didn’t ply as no passenger was booked on it. Passenger flow via the bi-weekly Samjhauta Express train between the two countries remained at about 150 persons on both sides on Thursday. Besides this, only five passengers each crossed from either side via Sada-E-Sarhad Delhi-Lahore bus on Saturday.
FIRST PUBLISHED IN DAILYO
Indus Water Treaty
Is India warming for the “One Cut”
Pak President Gen Zia-Ul-Haq’s declaration ‘to bleed India through a thousand cuts’ was the guideline Pakistan diligently followed. India, as a nation recipient of maximum impact of terror from the neighbour, latest being the Uri Attack, seems planning to inflict ‘one cut’ via the Indus Water Treaty (IWT). The lower riparian state of Pakistan is solely dependent on one –Indus Water Basin, whose key player is India.
The ‘cut’ may not come as impatiently as public tempers following the Uri attack, but by systematic evolution of river projects over the years that India could formulate within the parameters and stipulations of the IWT.
There could soon be a beginning, as Dr Medha Bisht, of South Asian University, informed during her address at the International River Symposium by International Water Management Institute, (IWMI) in Delhi recently,-“As many as 20 mini dams are in the pipeline for river Chenab, one of the three western river waters vested with Pakistan under IWT.” There are also proposals for harnessing water through mini dams on Jhelum.
Taking serious note of the possibilities, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was briefed about IWT’s Indian centric options. Following it, it was declared that India will be dramatically reconfiguring the usage of its share of the waters.
An inter-ministerial expert group has already been put on the job to figure out India’s non-consumptive use, apart from plans to commission flood reservoirs, dams and exploit the entitled water share.
Economically and domestically Pakistan is widely dependent on the Indus basin. If indeed India could unilaterally scrap the treaty and divert the waters flow to Pakistan it would mean an immediate tactical retaliation. Alas, by doing so, India may only succeed in large submersion of its own lands.
As Amitabh Sinha in his write up in Indian Express aptly pointed out “Turning off Indus tap, easier said than done”
Indus Waters Treaty and beyond
After a decade of World Bank-brokered negotiations, six rivers of the Indus basin were notified as ‘eastern’ and ‘western’. Sutlej, Beas and Ravi as eastern; Jhelum, Chenab and Indus designated western. Under the IWT signed on 19th September, 1960 in Karachi with signatories- Indian PM Jawaharlal Nehru and Pak President Ayub Khan, the control of the eastern rivers were vested with India and three western ones with Pakistan. Despite Pakistan’s apprehensions, since ‘source rivers’ flowed through India, and the potential to create droughts and famines in Pakistan at times of war,both countries managed their shared river waters amicably, irrespective of wars and chilly relations, to be hailed as global model of water sharing and cooperation.
So much so, “Two anti-aircraft guns stationed and in readiness at all times, at Bhakra Dam, have never had a chance to boom against air-space violation in the restricted area during any of the wars”, articulated Tarlochan Singh Chief Engineer, Bhakra Dam, during a field trip to the high security dam organized by IWMI.
Under IWT India is entitled for non-consumptive right to use 20% of the waters of western rivers. Which spells out – domestic purposes, irrigation and hydropower production, as specified in the Treaty.
Merely by making optimum use of the stipulated usage of 20% under IWT of western rivers, India could utilize its non-consumptive option for domestic use, irrigation, hydro-electricity, that could cause a dent in quantity of water flow to the partner country. Presently India has merely utilized 3% or 4% of its sanctioned entitlement.
It is indeed a testament to India’s diplomatic patience that Pakistan’s repeated attempts to internationalize the IWT by taking the matter to the International Court of Arbitration, Hague; has been met with stoic resilience on the Indian side.
Jammu & Kashmir and IWT
The “generosity” of the Indus Waters Treaty has been a source of grievance for state of Jammu and Kashmir, a power-starved state. In 2003, late Mufti Mohammad Syeed had passed a resolution in the J&K Assembly seeking a review of the treaty, but the resolution fell through.
However, another resolution in late June this year, with PDP-BJP coalition in the saddle, is of significance. The state assembly united on revision of the IWT, citing that the source state has been treated shabbily as a non-entity in the Treaty whereas its water resources meant rich dividends to bolster its ailing economy. It has demanded compensation in lieu of usage of its waters. This makes Jammu & Kashmir stand strongly behind a proposal for a revisit of the IWT.
Pakistan is ill at ease with such a revisit, as it least expects 1960s generosity to continue, due to changed conditions and multiple reasons viz-a-viz climate change, ecological, geographical, economical and most of all political and diplomatic chill due to years of mistrust.
Prof Shakil A Romshoo HoD Earth Sciences, Kashmir University, contends – “Jammu &Kashmir is naturally endowed as water surplus state. Add to that, the state’s vision to encourage horticulture, weaning it from agriculture has paid huge dividends as the government sanctions 6% to7% higher support price. This, as horticulture is less water guzzling, than agricultural crops, has further made the state, water economical.” However, J&K’s demand for larger stake in share of power is considered a genuine demand.
India has yet to avail of its entitlement to build storage for up to 3.6 million acre feet on western rivers. India has built no storage facilities so far, apart from a small attempt in north Kashmir, the government has done precious little to store the permitted water under the treaty.
Out of the crop area of 13,43,477 acres that India is entitled to irrigate using water of western rivers, only 7,92,426 acres was being irrigated. Government needs to scale up the irrigation by another 5 lakh acres. At least 36 major tributaries flow into Jhelum River, which originates in south Kashmir.
India can up-the-ante, but cannot tame river courses at a press of a button or by turning off the tap. It has to systematically and thoughtfully traverse the course, keeping climate change and larger ecological parameters and perspectives in mind. In the long term India can utilize the allotted use under the Treaty itself, without causing itself any blemish of unilaterally abrogating the Treaty and simultaneously can inflict the ‘one cut’ for the recalcitrant neighbour.
Water, after all, is haughty mistress; it follows its own ways and whims
Loathe be one, who can rein its lithe flow!
A journalist based in Punjab, the author can be reached at email@example.com
FIRST PUBLISHED IN DAILY KASHMIR IMAGES ON 30TH SEPTEMBER 2016
The pain will be ours alone, Kashmir !
O the pretense of strength, of willpower, fervor, sacrifice
Peep in my empty womb
Am I hoping for sunshine?
Will rainbows hug me?
“Mama I have a head-ache, a tummy-ache, a tooth-ache, ear-ache!” Mama would pop a tablet, kiss me, say –“All will be well” while stroking my forehead. The fake-ache was for a pesky teacher, a test, punishment, home-work or just about anything to skip school.
Soon she’s busy in daily chores and peeps. “Are you better?” –“No!” I lie gleefully and let out a suitable groan, till well past school time. I lie in bed. TVs are nonexistent, radio is a spoiler, comics and novels are under censorship. To speak, to move out, even to look out the window, all my fundamental rights are curtailed. One little lie, and a vast abyss of nothingness- agony, insanity, unbearable.
Another time, an accident: Bystanders gather on the spot, exclaim their –‘Hawwws..! And Haiiis..!’ Call up my husband’s pager. At the doctor -“We’ll have to plaster the ankle, it’s a hairline fracture, but the wrist can be just bandaged,” I insert -“No, Doc plaster my wrist too!” –He winks at his assistant – “Two plasters!” I am excited–“Now, I really look like an accident victim!”
Relatives visit, inquire, listen to my story, and exclaim -“Oh how terrible!” I continue – How a woman trying to pick her child in the front seat drove right across and bolted my rickshaw- “I felt as if I was flying, and landed with a thud, you know!” And adding a little spice – “You know, I checked my neck, I also checked my diamond ring, only after checking, I, started howling loudly, Hee Hee!” “You are brave!” one says. I have turned my adversity into an opportunity, I pat myself. I glow in the make-belief glory of compliments. They write something cute on my plaster with pierced hearts, smilies and leave. Fourth day, there are no doorbells. I look at my plaster, read the messages all in a minute. Only one minute passes in my long road to recovery. My pains, my helplessness all get magnified in my solitude.
Another accident: I slip from the stairs; the shattered glass embeds in my hand and punctures a blood vessel. Blood spouts like a tap, running down the stairs.
Sitting on the stairs, my head swims due to blood loss, I calmly hold my bleeding hand and ask my house help,–“Go, get all the ice in the refrigerator and a towel!”
He stands staring. I urge –“Hurry, don’t look at me!”
Rushed to a hospital with blood all over, a nurse presses the bleeding punctured vessel, the bleeding stops as the glass shard blocks the blood flow. The cutting foreign body drives excruciating pain the whole night. Next day I am operated, but the wrongly pressed shard has cut my nerves too. The same evening driving a car managed with a plastered hand, I reach The Tribune office for work. I brush it aside as a cut, when colleagues inquire. I am able to function better without self-pity and borrowed strengths now. I work from that day onwards with one hand, my focus only on work and on recovery. It takes six months and physiotherapy to get the hand to function.
Another time, I am advised for urgent surgery. “Report back in a week and we shall operate!” the doctor says emotionlessly. “It can be delayed a little, plus we don’t have patient space” the doctor at Ganga Ram Hospital Delhi, adds.
I return to Amritsar that evening. In a week I arrange all my daily wear, toiletries, towels, others, keep a neat guest room downstairs to take me. I even place a walking stick.
My house help assists me for two days. Third day she’s in a hurry, fourth, she skips. By the fifth day I have learned to manage everything- the pain, the chores, indigenously working out solutions. People visit. My Mum admires-“You are brave”, I take it casually. Now, only focused on recovery. I am back in good health in no time.
These may be minor incidents but what stayed with me –“You have to bear your own pain, all alone!”
“O Mother, O Kashmir, my pain was just a scratch, yours- Mammoth!
Listen to my little prayers.
They shall come, pay sympathies, some justifying, some calling exalted divinity, some soothing, some listening, some talking memorials, some anger- revenge, some lullabys.
The broken promises, history, anger, restrictions, all, meaningless.
In the dark cold screaming silences- Mother, you’ll wonder –“Which piece of mother-land demands a price of your children.”
No fruit, sweet; no sound, soothing; no rainbows, – Only raw, clutching, solitary, tearing, pain.
The pain will always be our own. To Bear, All Alone!”
The writer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
FIRST PUBLISHED IN DAILY KASHMIR IMAGES ON AUGUST 10, 2016
Punjab’s Shame forgotten
In October 2012, when Rahul Gandhi, then Congress general secretary pointed out that 70% of Punjab’s Youth was into drugs, it was probably one of the few sane statements by the Congress-heir in-waiting that were insanely true. Akali-Dal and BJP tried a cover-up with a vicious Pappu campaign to shield the deadly dark secret of Punjab.
But like Ishq aur Musq chupai nahi chupte (Love and fragrance cannot be hidden), the ill kept secret that leaked in small doses earlier with regular hauls of drugs from Amritsar, Tarn Taran, Indo-Pak border, broke out in the open with – “Udtaa Punjab”- a cine portrayal of the real drug scene of the once robust state.
CBFC’s nonsensical objections besides reports of ruling combine of Akali-BJP trying to stall the release of the movie, turned around to give Udtaa its extra innings!
The political opportunity was grabbed by Amritsar’s MP and Congress head – Capt Amarinder Singh, who had given a sound beating at the hustings to Arun Jaitely (Union Finance Minister). Capt threatened to release uncut CDs of ‘Udtaa’ at Majitha in defiance of CBFC ruling on June 17th. The High Court of course made only a single cut and a few disclaimers to give a green signal to the movie, now embellished with extra hype.
But the fact that the CD were to be released at Majitha – a stronghold of Akali MLA Bikram Singh Majithia, brother of Akali MP Harsimrat Badal and brother in law of deputy CM Sukhbir Badal, an accused in the multi-crore Bhola Drug scam, was a huge pointer in the direction of the ruling party’s leaders alleged involvement in Punjab’s notorious drug trade.
Drugs became an integral part of the Punjab election scenario in late 80’s when Pakistan replaced guns and ammunition with Narco-terrorism post Punjab’s terrorism era. With the attraction of ‘minor-risk-for- big-money’ the political stalwarts of Punjab gave it their tacit support, turning drugs into big business. If the recent arrest of Ramzaan(32) a drug smuggler from Pakistan arrested from Sowana border outpost in Fazilka district on June 13, who confessed waging a ‘drug Jihad’ to ruin young generation of ‘Kafirs’ in border regions of India. Ramzaan is a prized catch as a first Pakistani drug-smuggler to be caught. How is it that BSF has never caught any smuggler before and only muffled them into silence with death?
Any Punjabi will tell you –“Drugs are freely distributed amongst electorate in every nook and corner of Punjab. The election commission having never taken the issue seriously, the trend is fast and furious”.
Hence watching ‘Udtaa Punjab’ felt like a no –holds barred peep, into the drug dens of Punjab that emerge from scene to scene and surprises no one in this stupor state. A timed release with forthcoming elections in Punjab is the film’s bane and benefit. Abhishek Chaubey’s Udtaa gained more curiosity by CBFC hyperbole and reports of film’s piracy than merely by its subject and story.
The movie served to wipe out the carefully crafted media-campaign by ruling combine on All FMs with ‘paid farmers’ of various villages swearing that there was no drug wave as is being made out by opposition parties. One advertisement went –“Our village has 1400 population and none, I swear, is into drugs, be cautious about rumor mongers!” in an old villager’s voice. Punjab is laughing at the advertisements making spoofs of the tailored propaganda that openly smacks of cover- up of Punjab’s lethal cocktails and killing ‘Chitta’ or drug powder. Kashmir too is falling to the taste of drugs percolating from Punjab and across the border into this enchantingly beautiful but vulnerable state with its share of deep troubles.
However with the wave of Terrorism lashing the world, the scourge of drugs is put on the back burner. The FM channels also have riveted to old advertisement lines. Someone told the ruling party –“ The issue of drugs is almost dead, so lets pull down the ad-campaign and latch on to the value status of developments in the state”.
It comes as no surprise that the role of Punjab Police in drug dealing is glaring from a sizable number of Police personnel under treatment for drugs in parts of Tarn Taran and Amritsar including their children in rehabilitation centers here .
The role of BSF is also not a clean slate for the massive quantity of drugs being seized on the border. “The amount of drug seizures shown on media are just half or less than the actual haul”, an officer once revealed jokingly. The movie too includes this episode.
Drugs became an integral part of the Punjab election scenario in late 80’s when Pakistan replaced guns and ammunition with Narco-terrorism post Punjab’s terrorism era. With the attraction of ‘minor-risk-for- big-money’ the political stalwarts of Punjab gave it their tacit support, turning drugs into big business. The recent arrest of Ramzaan(32) a drug smuggler from Pakistan arrested from Sowana border outpost in Fazilka district on June 13, is who confessed waging a ‘drug Jihad’ to ruin young generation of ‘Kafirs’ in border regions of India, clearly points a finger at Pakistan’s covert tactics. Ramzaan is a prized catch as a first Pakistani drug-smuggler to be caught. If it is true that Ramzaan is the first Pakistani smuggler to be caught alive, how is it that BSF has never nabbed any smuggler before despite huge drug hauls, and only muffled them into silence with death?
The matinee show of the film in Amritsar, saw colored characters follow in to the movie hall to watch Punjab’s shame. Along with many police personnel, one loudmouthed one in plainclothes was accompanied by a Police officer. A stout bicep-tricep supporting guy in black clothes with gel-standing hair had menacing tattoos hanging on his arms. Many boys in the audience were with a studded ear. Women were few and had to endure the hootings at the drop of cusswords that fell in a steady drizzle throughout the film. The movie hall was strategically surrounded by Punjab Police personnel, on the opening day.
If truth be told, then ‘Udtaa Punjab’ is a searing flash across Punjab’s blue-smoke horizon of snorts, dragon-trials, capsules and needles. Names of infamous areas along Punjab’s border of village Hawellian, Tarn Taran, Narli, Amritsar are actual hotbed smuggling dens that were skillfully woven in conversations laced with authentic countryside abuses.
The film starts with ‘triply’ on a jittery scooter coping with a ride into lush fields near the unfettered international border, a packet is skillfully flung across the barbed wire fencing by a Shot-Put thrower, his jacket emblazoned with word ‘Pakistan’. Perhaps that is the only hint on the rampant cross-border smuggling. Drug smuggling in border villages is a whole-hearted business that undauntedly runs through a cross country network including smuggling aboard the Samjhauta Express- peddled as ‘a train of emotions’ between India & Pakistan, PVC pipe conduits, lady couriers, messenger pigeons, kites and balloons with Urdu couplets and numbers, courier- buffaloes in swamp areas. Add to it, is the emerging dragon power of Gurudoms and quack racketeers in Punjab.
The film is just the tip of an iceberg with flagrantly flourishing drug mafia in Punjab’s hinterland, supported by local politicians in cahoots with the police. Udtaa’s story runs around operations of the drug cartel, a once bribe-happy-turned-good cop played by Daljit Dosanjh- a versatile actor excelling in slapstick comedy, aptly named ‘Sartaj Singh’ in the film, a name synonymous with benign music of singer Sartaj’s signature ‘Sai’ brand played at Amrit vela or pre-dawn, in Punjabi homes, more like a prayer. Dosanjh as Sartaj plays a corrupt police officer to the hilt till drugs lay their deadly eggs in his own home. Shahid Kapoor playing Tommy Singh the Rockstar singer, is named closely with a namesake popular Punjabi Rockstar who is known to have cut several albums on nasha (intoxicate).
The simple murmurings of Punjab’s stalwart poet Shiv Batalvi -‘Ikk Kudi si’ takes the cake for music, otherwise sounding banal and nonsensical, used for furthering the narration.
Using drugs as talent enhancers by singers is a tragic reality of Punjab. Drug mafias swoop on upcoming singers promising enhanced talents with stimulating drug cocktails simultaneously prompting them to sing popular songs on drugs, nasha, botal (alcohol) and power.
In the thick of drugs sits Kareena Kapoor Khan alias Preet Sahni, a rehab clinic doctor, pout-less and natural, accusing the officer in denial mode with the choicest expletives, to drill the reality of police’s underhand dealings in drug consignments that turnaround to snare and gulp their own homesteads.
Punjabis identify with the colorful language, people, lifestyle and profanities that are common, as the four main characters build up the story. Especially impressive is Aalia Bhatt with her class performance as hockey player turned Bihari migrant. She comes across realistically with her half nail henna smear, a ubiquitous nose-stud and freckled skin with her Bihari abuses. Aalia is fast emerging as one of the finest actress as well as a budding singer. It is seen that migrant laborers in Punjab are emerging as one of the fastest growing drug consumer with drugs like Phukki, Doda, Charas, Ganja growing freely in the countryside.
The narrative of the film felt a little ruffled at times but situations leap outs, run around and close clutches the throat in a gripping portal of Punjab’s robust Punjabis turning into shitpots!
Yesterday, an old woman working in a spinning in a factory in Shaheedaan area of Amritsar related about her 16- year son’s death in a drug overdose, completely tearless, in a monotone sounding more relieved than pained at the loss of her child.
Likewise, Maqboolpura of Amritsar is infamously referred to as the ‘locality of widows’ as most male members became sacrificial offerings to drugs. Once a robust industrial area Chehharta has been ruined with the ‘chitta’, some allege the local MLA‘s drug dealing behind the ruin. The same MLA was booed out from a gathering by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker of ‘Art of living’ for coming drunk on the stage, a few months back.
Harinder Brar, portrayed as a Politician in the film is thus believable. One who is equally at ease, being the largest drug cocktail manufacturer, as he is, with coining a slogan and stretching his vocals cords to a blast, denouncing drugs in public-appearances. That the film director catches the absolute rustic flavor of Punjab and realtime settings have painfully ruffled political feathers.
One character in the film calls the drug trade ‘the Green Revolution –Part II’ of Punjab, the following rough estimate shows the repulsive scenario as Crores go down the drain- “Average spending per day of a heroin user (Rs 1500) opium user (Rs 350) Pharma drugs (Rs 250) , majority of users are heroin addicts. Incidentally, 90% of users are literate while half of them are from rural areas mostly in the age group of 15 to 45 years”.
While Shekhar Gupta founder Editor, The Quint- online news magazine, lashes–“Pahlaj ji deserve the sack for gifting Udtaa Punjab undeserved fame. Compared to Haider, Madras Cafe, Wasseypur, this is clichéd & juvenile.”
I answer -“Agreed, Shekhar! Udtaa is an average cinematic excellence, but it is the reality that hits in its most naked and goriest forms!”
Pappu was right.
Writer can be emailed at –email@example.com
Central Government Schemes
‘Gulab Gang’ to change destinies !
‘Gulab Gang’ to change destinies !
New Delhi —Handing over my room key at the reception counter of Ashok Hotel, Delhi, I counted the backpacks lying next to the baggage of each woman at the check-out counter, help desk or the hotel’s impressive lobby. The Ashok is a historic hotel, the first-five star in Delhi built at an approximate cost of Rs.1.5 crore in the year 1955. The backpacks were all the same size, in two different colors, blue and red. Color didn’t matter, what mattered was that 250 women journalists were carrying with them a power-pack to change the destinies of millions of people in nook and corners of the country.
Women journalists had descended in the capital of India from 30 states/ UTs representing 120 media organizations, proficient in 11 languages for a historic moment – ‘First All India Women Journalists Workshop’ on a collaborative invite from Ministry of Women & Child Development(WCD) and Press Information Bureau (PIB). The central government embarked on this novel idea to tap the massive human resource of women journalists for their power and reach via their respective medias to plug loopholes found due to lack of information and proper implementation of schemes, alongside realtime sensitive monitoring.
Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, the minister for Women and Child Development (WCD), addressed women journalists as the Ministry’s ‘secret agents army’, the ‘Gulab Gang’, ‘agents of change’ and ‘information multipliers’ and rolled out various schemes, merely heard on radio or TV with less than satisfactory implementation in the crannies of the nation.
With recent instances and incidents, the interactive session took on a lively note and in return created a brigade of monitoring agents for various schemes that were otherwise being availed mostly in metro cities.
“What Ministry wants to focus is on bringing a paradigm shift from welfare schemes to disseminating rights of vital sections —education, health, employment opportunities, safety, protection from violence, trafficking,” Maneka, together with Nirmala Sitharaman, Minister of State for Commerce and Industry, told women journalists at Delhi’s Vigyan Bhavan. Fortunately, Jammu and Kashmir, with its own constitution , having adopted the central government schemes, too was a partner and a beneficiary.
Few in India may have any clue about placing a missing child’s report in the ‘Khoya Paya’ Scheme of the government at <khoyapaya.gov.in>where the website columns segregate as -‘My child is missing’ or ‘I have sighted a child’ and even ‘Search for a missing child’.
In the past two decades, Kashmir has reported a sizeable number of missing children, runaways, many in illegal detentions, many crossed over the LoC, and others just vanished.
I would hope the government could extend this facility for ‘missing persons’ too.
About 500 families of ‘missing persons’ including ‘Kashmir’s Half–Widows’ have failed to locate their missing husbands, dead or alive. In two districts of Bandipora and Baramulla in Kashmir more than 100 have gone missing. Alternately, families of missing have demanded DNA tests on unmarked graves to establish identities as a fair process of Justice. Cases of illegal detention too can be curtailed thus in the country as a whole, if the center takes the lead.
‘Beti Bachao Beti Padhao’ (BBBP)—
The center’s ‘BBBP’ scheme comes to the aid of unborn girl child, to eradicate the skewed gender ratio in favor of male child. “Jammu and Kashmir has one of the worst track records of female gender ratio. It could be, as they consider themselves in a war-zone and wouldn’t want girls to be taken hostages,” Maneka stated. However number of families of women having two or three children, were seen seeking ‘sterilization’ in a Kashmir government hospital. The reason was ‘fear that these women may be impregnated by militants or army personnel’. Both have a free run in Kashmir with militants running amok and army protected by AFSPA.
Government is already coming upon heavily against offenders of sex selective abortions under PCPNDT Act, 1994 regulating ultrasound scan centers and doctors, identifying gender critical regions and focusing on 100-districts with abysmal records, besides placing DMs to network with Ultrasound centers to monitor. “Interestingly the new lingo in such centers has become ‘ladoo’ for boy and ‘barfi’ for a girl”, Maneka said. From 1000:976 in 1961, the National gender ratio average has fallen to 1000:918 in 2011.
A new application hardwired into mobile phones to send alerts to 10 people around the affected area in distress situation for women on a press of a button. Digit’5’ and ‘9’ are being contemplated as SOS buttons.
The government has woken up to the fact that the power and talent of nearly half the population of the nation remains untapped and underutilized. Breaking shackles of slavery and becoming self-reliant is one of the biggest dreams of a woman. To market her products that she prepares in the home space like sehras or garlands, buttons, various masalas, warian (salty cookies), Papar (poppadums), chutneys, jams, baskets, sherbets and pickles, growing organic vegetables besides services like mehandi designing, fruit pickers, tiffin box services, flower bouquet, cake or candle business or as in Kashmir, dried vegetables like Tomatoes, Turnips, Brinjal, even fish, … could unfailingly reach people around or countrywide through a free service of E-Haat with complete marketing facilities as an e-commerce platform. “We are shortly going to connect with online business portals such as Amazon and Flipkart,” revealed Maneka.
One-stop centers -‘Sakhi’
To support women affected by any kind of violence through a range of services-police assistance, medical aid, legal, psycho-social counseling and a short stay shelter home — under one roof.
Anganwadis, fulfill nutrition, pre-school and other needs of children uptil 5-years of age, are aimed to fight malnutrition, lack of education. With total lack of monitoring the Anganwadi as providers have turned into corruption dens. However to garner results for its core activities and to stem corruption government has come up with an idea to make these Tech savvy with tablet recordings, finger print attendance and standardized nutritious food for children. “However CCTV were not cost effective for the huge number and widespread centers”, said Maneka, in answer to a query.
Sukanya Samridhi Yojana
Opening an account in any of the 28 banks or post offices for a girl child upto 10 years of age and maturity at 21 years of her age with a maximum deposit of Rs 1.5 lakh per year in a girl’s account would give benefit of interests rates of 9.2 % plus 100% tax exemption yearly as well as on the amount at maturity to parents. The money could be used for higher education or during the time of marriage.
Kashmir raised a query on Juvenile justice “In the Harwan Juvenile Home in Srinagar, a number of kids are kept without trials for months, why?” Maneka answered –“The children’s plight in Juvenile home, should be immediately brought to notice of Justice Madan B. Lokur, who would be shortly inspecting juvenile homes for justice trespassed.” Special provisions in law have been made in Juvenile Justice law to tackle child offenders committing heinous offences after the infamous Nirbhaya Case of Delhi gang rape in a moving bus.
Jan Dhaan Yojana
Open bank accounts with any bank with zero deposit; get life cover of Rs 30,000 and accidental cover of Rs one lakh besides debit card.
- Childline to help children in distress/ track/restore/rehabilitate missing children
- Posters in Rail bogies to report abandoned child or child in suspicious circumstances
- Railways alerted on 20 railway stations infamous for child trafficking including – Howrah, Delhi, Chennai, Kolkatta, Varanasi. Recently 56 missing children were recovered thus from Itarasi.
- 33% reservation of women in police – To make police services more gender sensitive.
- Adoption & fostering- Easy legal adoption. If you foster a child, government bears expenses.
- Rastriya Mahila Kosh grants loan at 6 % for women NGOs
- More ‘Balika Vadhus’ (child marriages) due to rampant eve teasing, stalking, harassment, molestation of adolescent girls.
- Government contemplating free bus passes for women over 60 years.
- Maternity leave for women in all work places for six and a half months.
- For ending discrimination against women during recruitment due to mandatory maternity leave ensured by government, it was suggested to give ‘paternity’ leave to the father, to bring both partners at par in the home and work space.
- Contemplating declaration of sex of unborn girl child to village would ensure safety and security of female fetuses.
- A 1000 bedded ‘Swadhar Greh’ at Vrindavan for abandoned widows. Puri and Varanasi recorded largest number in this inhuman practice of abandonment. Vegetable garden, cowshed, skill development centers would be included in it for making abandoned women self-sustaining.
- As many as 1363 missing children were found through Khoya Paya web portal and mobile app.
- Crèches in Haryana under Anganwadi programs were adjudged the best.
- Child rights email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- All deliveries mandatory in hospitals to keep track of childbirth and gender count.
- In collaboration with Facebook, Ministry of Women and Child Development is running a contest for the first time to select 100 women achievers
- Skewed sex ratios are leading to social upheavals including increasing crime against women, besides kidnapping and smuggling of ‘prospective wives’ from places like Uttrakhand for Haryana, Rajasthan grooms.
- Panipat in Haryana has lowest female sex ratio.
- Through public nominations and voting on Facebook, women improving their community and making an impact on people shall be felicitated by government.
- ‘Sabla scheme’ for providing life skills, supplementary nutrition and basic health check-up facilities for adolescent girls, aims at all round development of 11-18 year girls.
- Contemplating ‘Adopt a Home’ scheme by big companies under corporate social responsibility to avail tax benefits.
- National Children’s fund for Brilliant children in orphanages scoring above 70% marks to get scholarships till college
- Sweeping Adoption reforms to make the process easy, transparent and quick.
- Matrimonial websites regulated to thwart complaints of stalking and harassment of women registered on sites.
- Mandatory mention of widow’s name in death certificates.
- Jeevan Jyoti Bima (Insurance scheme – for (18 to 50 years) enrolled in this scheme a holder would pay Rs 330 as premium annually (about a rupee daily) would be covered for life insurance at Rs 2 lakhs.
- ‘Ujjwala Yojana’ scheme – For smoke free homes in rural India, to provide 5 crore LPG connections to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families in the next three years.
Author can be emailed at – email@example.com
Published in Rising Kashmir on June 27, 2016
Gulmarg- Land of Lord Ghorawalla !
“Helicopter service in Gulmarg; flying you on top of the world;
Places where we fly: Mont Apharwat, Frozen Lake, Sunshine, Tosa Maidan and Srinagar Airport.
Rs 7500/ per person.”
Much as I was elated by this small red billboard, I noticed on the way back from Gulmarg, Kashmir, owing to my senior citizen parents – not in the best of health, who could see some exotic places if they so desired, it got me thinking about the place Gulmarg –the famed ‘Meadow of flowers’.
Gulmarg waters do not speak. They take side lanes, quietly dolloping down from crevices and flow silently downstream, moistening lush undulating daisy slopes, embellished with hues and shades of wild swinging flowers in the softest breeze. Rolling hilltops are a fairyland where children would love to roll downhill and play antique games of L-O-N-D-O-N —London.
‘The meadow of flowers’ appears to open as a large cine screen after a Deodar tree-lined ribboned road enters a passage cut through the hills. I feel immersed into the spectacular beauty of the vista of Gulmarg, that appears like Switzerland, where no condescending boundary walls rupture the beatific scenery perched at an approximate altitude of 2650 m and located merely 56 km north of Srinagar- the Capital of Jammu& Kashmir, a simple 90 minute drive.
However, after a day and a night stay at Gulmarg, I realized that other than the exotic flowers, Gulmarg can boast of the best talkers and fighters in the region. They are the famous Ghorawallas or Horse owners of Gulmarg, whose fame spreads throughout the Kashmir valley.
The verdant greens, sugary air and exotic flowers of the valley have done little to sweeten their moods, disposure or decency. Hence like the naturally growing pitcher plant – or insectivorous plant on Gulmarg slopes and crevices, the famed Ghorawallas of Gulmarg have learnt to trap their prey by fear, falsehood or fallacy. While the pitcher plant may remain a silent spectator to its squirming prey, this variety is highly advanced. It is loudmouthed, threatening, ready to turn anything into a big street brawl, capable of mob terror, fleecing, uses Pakistan slogans to instill fear and even resorts to violence with ‘Kashmiri’ drivers from other regions besides tourists.
One wearing pheran or loose cloak, kohled eyed and henna reddened beard and hair, possessed a rare knack of odd combinations. Seeing the Poop litter in this scenic valley, I suggested poop bags could be used for Ghoras or horses like in European countries to keep the place clean. The smarting Ghorawalla took it as a jibe–“The dayyy Poop bags will arrive in Gulmarg, Kashmir will go to Pakistan!” he declared.
Interestingly, although Government claims a stronghold on the Gondola services of Gulmarg, the Ghorawallas have the real say on plying to the Gondola site. If access to gondola and everything in-between feels so cumbersome in Gulmarg where the lords and Masters are the Ghorawallas, a shake of the grey cells should be of priority to Helicopter Service in the region, for a hassle-free, better and more lucrative business turnover. Perhaps the Heli services which has found few takers till now, and Ghorawallas should sit in a bilateral meeting to chalk out the strategies for the smooth operation, with Ghorawalla as a shareholder of the profit.
After all, the Ghorawallas in Gulmarg have united and created a solid vote-bank of the sitting Member of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) and therefore are supposedly given a free rein to loot the tourists while whispers abound that the police and bureaucracy are told to lie low and quietly collect their ‘cuts’ for being cooperative in ‘smart’ deals.
If you wish to use the circumbulation road of this scenic window of flowers – “Either you hire a a horse or Ghora or pay for a Snow Vehicle PVC,” a Ghorawalla literally barks to incoming tourists. Interestingly, like local warlords many of these Ghorawallas own both these modes of transport.
Perchance if you were able to push in a currency note as a chai-paani into the rough hands of the loudest protesting Ghorawalla, as a clearance to use your own taxi for the roundabout road, he will give you a free show of his stained toothed smile, even pull out his gruff hand to shake yours most vigorously, salute you and will assure you, there would be no Ghorawalla to stop or hassle you. The next, you know, another Ghorawalla, a short distance ahead will stop your vehicle, put his hand out for a bakshish (bribe) and dial a number on his cellphone to tell the next Ghorawalla about the welcome and protocol to be meted to you for plying your own vehicle. By the end of the route you could be lighter by a few hundred currency notes, for having indulged and navigated in a drive around.
Tourists on a day tour, a one and a half hour drive from Srinagar, are in for the best theatrics. If they decide to hire none of the above transport modes, they will be made to feel like a celebrity as the Ghorawallas will stalk them throughout their trek. They’ll urge them for a free test ride on the horse and then hold out their hand for the price.
By chance if you do settle a deal for a horse, marking out the territory of the ride, another surprise awaits you. Ghorawalla will refuse pointblank that he was a party to this deal and may ask two to five times more. If you feel strongly up for justice, and are not ready to give up without a fight, you’ll witness the speed with which tens of other Ghorawallas surround you and curse your riches for holding back payment to a poor Ghorawalla! Until you decide to call curtains.
When I requested a security man to let me pass by the barricade by paying a fee of Rs 50, as was mentioned there, because my parents could neither climb a horse nor take the PVC or snow vehicle, the police personnel asked me to make a deal, a deal with a Ghorawalla! The Lord Ghorawalla stood with his foot on a rock and picked his tooth staring at me. If there is the slightest of feelings that flits past you, that there is any rule of law here, please feign a memory lapse. The best recourse would be to equip yourself to beg or cry or whimper. These emotional froths just might work.
Two barricades in the circular road cuts a road through the stunning valley. Only if you are on night stay showing your booking on the cellphone, would you be allowed to ply your vehicle or taxi in the area. But this too has a clause and your night booking is ‘not yet’ a lucky ticket!
“You are fortunate if you booked a stay inside the barricaded area, else all those booked in hotels or huts or guest houses outside the barricade are barred from passing and treated at par with other day tourists.”
Once a Ghorawallas told me to take the horse instead of the Gondola, up the hill on the Gondola Kangoori route as I had failed to purchase an online ticket. “It is a big blunder,” He shook his head and continued-“Why didn’t you buy ticket online and now Gondola ticket counter is closed for three days, until previous bookings are cleared”. He told me he could extricate few tickets in the black. He also suggested that going on his horse was the best adventure I could have, would cost less than Gondola and the views would be breathtaking by the royal horse ride. Adding,-“Many a times the Gondola develops faults mid-air, and was hardly safe.” I decided to check and found readily available Gondola tickets not only for Phase-I but also Phase –II for one fourth the price and an assurance that breakdowns are rarest of rare cases. Ghorawalla during our conversation had also explained that I might like to fill the tummy of his animal as a sadkaa or offering to the Divine, with an extra for horse-feed as his ‘poor’ horse did not relish mountain grass on this slope.
This takes me to the red billboard for Heli services –“Are the tourists visiting Gulmarg being freely allowed access to the Helicopter service or will they have to kowtow to the Lord Ghorawalla in the land of bloom showers?
For all you know, the Ghorawalla may just find another story using his trading skills, to strike a deal with a naive tourist claiming his horse has wings! “So you don’t really need a helicopter at that cost when it flits away so quickly, you miss all the beauty na, and the views are stunning from my flying horse!” he may add.
Author can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
FIRST PUBLISHED IN RISING KASHMIR