Srinagar, Oct 2: ‘So, you are into social work. But what do you do for a living?’ is the usual response Qurat-ul- AinMasoodi, a young social worker, elicits on introducing herself.
Yet, a very few people know the difference her non-governmental organisation, Aash, has made to several lives. And these days, Qurat-ul-Ain and her team is ready to organise a joint wedding for 45 destitute girls at Khansahib, Budgam, in central Kashmir.
Making the event, scheduled to take place on October 9-10, has taken them two months of untiring efforts, which includes the team making an ‘elementary marriage kit’ available to each bride-to-be.
The kit comprises a copy of the Holy Qur’an, dresses, footwear, gold earrings, and a sewing machine.
“It might be my passion to help people, but right now it is more of a responsibility. I am accountable to 90 families, and I want to ensure that this event becomes a memorable one for them,” Qurat-ul-Ain explains,
Visibly tired by the sleep deficit and longer working hours, she constantly makes calls to enquire meticulously about the marriage paraphernalia.
For Qurat-ul-Ain, life is a constant battle against institutions that ought to offer care and support to needy people.
A certain day, Qurat-ul-Ain explains, she was on a fieldtrip when two young girls desperate for help met with her.
Their families had been unable to get them married owing to financial constraints. The deplorable state of their families shocked her.
“When these two girls approached me, I was helpless, for I had no funds to offer assistance. However, I circulated their plea around and received a good response. Soon after, two more girls appealed for help, and so the number kept increasing from there,” explains Qurat-ul-Ain, who calls Mother Teresa her inspiration.
“Majority of these girls are orphans and have almost no means to get married. As the number grew, I decided to conduct a mass marriage instead of getting them married individually.”
The journey from the initial appeal to raising enough funds has been a bumpy ride; she faced one hurdle after another.
Only her belief in the “basic goodness of mankind”, and the strength of her principles steered her team away from giving up.
“People here are very sceptical about giving donations. They begin to smell rat in everything,” says the social worker.
“I won’t blame them as there are many fraudulent organizations who take undue advantage in the garb of charity. I had a really hard time convincing them for donate for the cause. It’s my inner strength that has helped me to fight back.”
Having “observed closely the hypocrisy of the society”, she laments the extravagance in weddings, and holds it directly responsible for the “growing number” of dowry deaths.
“This evil is increasing on account of the onslaught of consumerism and materialism. The only way to defeat it fully is that the girls must respect themselves as equal partners in building a society. They must insist upon equal rights, and boys must learn that asking for dowry is a heinous act, not something to be perpetuated,” says Qurat-ul-Ain.
She believes that in order to curb social evils, mass weddings are important.
“The present statistics suggest that around 30,000 unmarried girls including widows have crossed the age of marriage. Their prime reason of not getting married is because they don’t have the resources to bear the marriage expenses.”
The young social worker desires to organise more such weddings in future.
“You see, these mass marriages will itself lead to anti-dowry campaign. It’s a revolution, and revolutions happen gradually, not in one go.”
She is also planning to expand her work to other districts.
“For now, I have focused on just one district but we have plans of covering other districts as well. I want to make mass marriages a common phenomenon. Once that happens, the imbalance created by the social evils will get fixed on their own,” says Qurat-ul-Ain.
Sluggish tribal affairs dept left Rs 104 cr unspent
Srinagar, Jun 15: Expressing serious concern over under-utilization of funds allocated for upliftment of tribal population in the State, Advisor to the Governor, Khurshid Ahmed Ganai, Friday issued directions to the Tribal Affairs Department to accelerate spending under its different schemes of the State and Central Governments.
Flagging the issue of unspent balance of Rs 104 crore revalidated for the year 2019-20 under centrally-sponsored schemes as an area of grave concern, Ganai, who is Advisor in-charge Tribal Affairs, exhorted the Department to work in mission mode so that approved funding under Special Central Assistance (SCA) to TSS, Article 275(1) and pre and post-matric scholarship to ST students is expended in full.
“The Central Government has been extremely liberal in providing funds and we need to match that by improving our spending ability” he stated.
Describing the performance under State Capex Budget 2018-19 as equally unsatisfactory, the Advisor said he will closely monitor head-wise spending so that expenditure under proposed outlay of Rs 6.54 crore is booked in full.
The Advisor said the schemes envisaged for development of tribal population should show discernible change on ground so that they get access to key services like education, health, roads, jobs, agriculture and allied sectors.
The Advisor made these observations while reviewing the functioning of the Tribal Affairs Department. Secretary Tribal Affairs, Abdul Majeed Bhat, Director Tribal Affairs, Mr. Mushtaq Ahmad and other senior officers of the Department attended the meeting.
Urging for a big push to achieve earmarked targets under various schemes, the Advisor observed that enhanced spending in core sectors like education, health, dairying, sheep husbandry and animal husbandry, skill development and traditional sectors like agriculture and horticulture will provide a much needed level playing field to the tribal people and immensely benefit in scaling up their standard of living.
“Tribal population constitutes nearly 12 per cent of the total population in the State. The holistic development of the State would be difficult if the Tribal population continues to lag behind in key indicators.”
The works programme for the year 2019-20 under Capex Budget under Tribal Affairs Department envisages land acquisition and construction of hostels in Udhampur, Kathua and Kalakote, up-gradation of VTC at Kangan, development of Cluster Tribal Model Villages and Milk villages in the State.
On the issue of under-staffing in the newly-created Tribal Affairs Department, the Advisor directed Secretary Tribal Affairs to take up the matter with General Administration Department for filling up of all these posts in a time bound manner.
The Government has created 56 posts including those of District Tribal Welfare Officers in 6 districts with substantial Tribal population, Tribal Officers in 16 other districts and ministerial staff which shall go a long way in execution and monitoring of projects and schemes for upliftment of Tribal population in the State. However, many of these posts were still unfilled.
During the meeting, the Director briefed the Advisor about various components of the Centrally sponsored schemes. He informed the meeting about the progress achieved under SCA and Article 275(1) vi’s-a-vi’s development of cluster Tribal model villages, establishment of milk villages, Eklavya Model Residential Schools and construction of hostels.
The Advisor asked Director (TAD) to closely coordinate with the executing agencies for time-bound completion of ongoing projects. He also highlighted the need to liaise with the Deputy Commissioners for monitoring works programme and making soft interventions in the larger interest of the tribal communities.
Polling staff yet to receive addt’l salary
Srinagar, Jun 15: Eight months after Panchayat and Urban Local Bodies (ULB) elections, Jammu and Kashmir government is yet to fulfill its promise and release one month additional salary to the polling staff of Srinagar.
Last year in October, the state government had announced one-month additional salary to all the government employees deployed for the poll duties.
The sops were announced to counter the threats and instill confidence among the government employees who were to be deployed for the election duties.
Later in December 2018 the government issued a formal order stating that “drawing and disbursing officers shall draw one-month additional salary, wages, remuneration, as the case may be, in respect of the employees deployed for the conduct of Municipal and Panchayat elections in October –November 2018”.
Despite the clear-cut directions, the employees were not paid the additional salaries. Employees from Kashmir University, Education Department, Roads and Building Department, Srinagar Municipality and SKUAST were deployed for the poll duties.
Lashing out at the government, an official of the Kashmir University said they risked their lives for polls, but the authorities are yet to pay them their dues.
“We received the funds for the salaries just five days ago. We have initiated the process and the paperwork is going on. We are gathering information of all the employees who were deployed for the poll duties,” Muhammad Ayoub, Deputy District Election Officer, Srinagar, told The Kashmir Monitor.
Ayoub promised to release the salaries to the concerned departments in the next two days. “We are still carrying out the verification process. Once it is completed, the salaries will be transferred,” he added.
Pak wants talks on ‘equal terms’: Qureshi
Bishkek, Jun 15: Pakistan will hold talks with India on the “basis of equality” and in a “dignified manner”, and it is up to New Delhi whether to engage with Islamabad to resolve all outstanding issues, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said.
Qureshi, who was in Bishkek to attend the 19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation or SCO Summit, said this while confirming the exchange of pleasantries between Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in Bishkek on Friday on the sidelines of the multilateral meeting.
“Yes, the meeting did take place, there was a handshake and exchange of pleasantries,” Qureshi told Pakistan’s Geo News. He accused the Indian government of being in the “election mindset”.
“Pakistan has said what it had to,” Qureshi said.
“So India has to make this decision, we are neither in haste, nor troubled. When India prepares itself, it would find us prepared, but we will hold talks on the basis of equality, and in a dignified manner,” he said.
“Neither we need to run after anyone, nor we need to demonstrate stubbornness. Pakistan’s approach is very realistic and well thought-out,” Qureshi claimed.
He said India had to make a decision whether to hold bilateral talks with Pakistan to resolve all outstanding issues or not.
“India has not come out of its election mindset and the extreme position they had taken to influence their constituency and to keep their vote bank intact. It is still confined in that,” Mr Qureshi alleged.
The exchange of pleasantries between Imran Khan and Narendra Modi came over two weeks after Khan and Qureshi wrote separate letters to their Indian counterparts seeking to restart talks between the two nations.
However, India has reiterated that “talks and terror” cannot go together, and that Pakistan must take concrete and permanent action against militants and militant groups which carry our cross-border militancy against India.
India has not been engaging with Pakistan since an attack on the Air Force base at Pathankot in January of 2016 by a Pakistan-based militant group. Since then, India has maintained that “talks and terror cannot go together.”
At the SCO summit PM Modi has emphasised that creating trust and an environment free of violence and terrorism was essential for fostering peace and prosperity in the region.
Early this year, tensions flared up between India and Pakistan after a suicide bomber of Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed group killed more than 40 CRPF soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
The Indian Air Force or IAF later carried out a counter operation, claiming to hit the biggest JeM camp in Balakot, Pakistan on February 26.
China, Turkey, Malaysia keep Pak off FATF blacklist
London, Jun 15: Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, Saturday telephoned his Malaysia counterpart Dr Mahathir Mohamad to thank him for helping Pakistan to avoid being blacklisted by the worldwide Financial Action Task Force (FATF) against terrorism-linked money laundering.
Mahathir, who is on a three-day working visit to Britain, took the six-minute call at the Malaysian High Commission.
India had tabled a motion with the task force to blacklist Pakistan. However Pakistan obtained the necessary minimum of three votes of support – from China, Turkey and Malaysia – to stay off the blacklist.
Mahathir told Malaysian reporters that Pakistan had upped its war against money laundering.
“We decided based on the rule of law. Not due to animosity. We admit that money laundering is a major problem and it is happening because of the borderless world that allows free flow of capital,” he said
He said there was no point in blacklisting any particular nation. The free flow of capital had also affected countries, including Malaysia, where capitalists have invested huge amounts of money in the share markets pushing up share prices.
“At the end of the day they sell their shares for a profit and take back their capital and their earnings at the expense of the countries they invested in,” he said.
Mahathir also touched on the irony of trade wars, where the world, on one hand, promotes trade and at the other end imposes sanctions.
“In the end, many of the innocent nations like Malaysia are also affected. Hence, though we have no problem with Iran we cannot trade with the country because of the sanction. The trade war with China is also affecting us,” he said. (Agencies)
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