By Hirra Azmat
Srinagar, May 14: Often at office or home, a vision haunts Shakeel (name changed)—of his son roaming the streets barefoot, in rags.
“We have suffered immensely. Our tears will fill an ocean. We have spent umpteen nights mourning and wondering what went wrong,” Shakeel narrates, in a voice soaked in emotions, the daily ordeal he and his wife have been suffering after finding out their son’s addiction to drugs.
Umar (name changed), their eldest son, is a chronic cannabis and alcohol addict.
He smokes four cigarette and 12 cannabis packets a day, to go with the abuse of alcohol and medical opioids.
He is now undergoing treatment at the Drug de-Addiction Center, Police Control Room, at Batamaloo.
Umar meant the world to his father. However, after he took to drugs, the equation between them has changed altogether.
“Violent arguments, tears and several suicide attempts followed,” Umar told this reporter.
His mother has also developed severe depression.
“My home might appear a normal home from the outside, but its members die every day,” Shakeel says, choking up.
Getting his son admitted to the drug-deaddiction center was another challenge.
There was virtually no information on it, besides the stigma attached to it.
“A friend I confided in suggested the center at PCR. So far, I am satisfied with the treatment there,” he said.
Another harrowing tale comes from Sakeena (name changed), a helpless mother pacing frantically outside the room where her son is being counseled.
Wasim (name changed), in his early twenties, is addict to heroin.
“Last week, he woke up screaming and crying loudly. He kept pleading with me to save him,” she narrates in a hoarse whisper.
Three friends of Wasim addicted to heroin have all died painful deaths in recent times.
“He instantly felt that he was the last one left, and death will visit him soon,” she says, sighing.
This incident left the whole family traumatised.
Wasim’s younger brother has stopped going to school fearing the regular taunts and giggles of his classmates.
Sakeena develops high blood pressure frequently, and has been hospitalized a multiple times.
The two cases are just two from the surfeit of drug abuse that has gripped Kashmir. Data shows an 85% increase in the number of drug and substance abuse cases, from 410 in 2014 to 759 in 2016.
Combined cases of drug abuse and related psychological issues have gone up from more than 14,500 cases in 2014 to 33,222 in 2016, a staggering 130% increase in two years.
Experts point out that substance abuse can exert a huge pressure on the family members of an individual including parents, children, brothers, sisters, grandparents, or any family member who is part of their life.
Far too many of these people do not receive the help they need in order to overcome these problems in their daily lives and subsequently, their families suffer alongside of them.
Dr Muzzafar Khan, Consultant Psychologist at Help Foundation and Director of Police, Drug De-addiction Centre in Srinagar, said the addiction of one family member can become a reason for several mental illnesses within the household.
“Drug addiction can cause miscommunication and constant bickering within the family, thus raising the stress levels in the family members,” he said.
Expressing concern over the growing drug addiction among youth, Jammu and Kashmir Deputy Grand Mufti, Mufti Nasir ul Islam said that a lot of women were approaching the Shariah court to give divorce to their drug-addict husbands.
“Last year, we helped 160 women to give divorce to their husbands mostly for drug addiction. We helped them to give divorce when we realised they can’t continue their relationships,” Islam told The Kashmir Monitor.
Director General of Police, S P Vaid has termed drug addiction “a bigger challenge than militancy” in Jammu and Kashmir.
While Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has directed police officials to use the most draconian laws, including the Public Safety Act (PSA), against those involved in drugs’ smuggling or cultivation, which has become a regular concern in south Kashmir.
Narcotics Control Bureau of Union Ministry of Home Affairs’s annual report for 2016, has revealed that J&K is one among the top states in India where maximum drug illicit crops are cultivated.
J&K is also one among the six states along with West Bengal, Manipur, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, and Bihar where maximum poppy cultivation is being done, according to the report.
LS Polls 2019:Exit polls predict comfortable win for Modi-led NDA
New Delhi, May 19: Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s alliance government is likely to return to power after a mammoth general election that ended on Sunday, exit polls showed.
NDTV’s poll of polls said the NDA would get 302 seats, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) 127 seats and other parties (Others) 114 seats.
The Republic TV exit poll gave the NDA 305 seats, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) 124 and others 120. Times Now exit poll gave the BJP alliance 306 seats, the UPA 132 seats and Others 104.
News Nation gave the NDA between 282 to 290 seats, the UPA between 118 and 126 seats and Others 130 to 138 seats. Sudarshan News gave the NDA 313 seats, UPA 121 seats and Others 109+.
Analysts see the election as a referendum on Modi’s five-year rule. He has adopted a nationalist pitch in trying to win votes by projecting a tough stance against Pakistan, especially after a suicide bombing that killed more than 40 paramilitary soldiers in Pulwama in Jammu & Kashmir.
He has also spoken about a Rs 75,000-crore income support scheme for farmers, toilets built as part of the national cleanliness campaign Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan, rural electrification scheme Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and cooking gas scheme for the poor Ujjwala Yojana.
The Congress and other Opposition parties are challenging the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government over unemployment and farmers’ distress aggravated by low crop prices. Congress President Rahul Gandhi has also accused Modi of corruption in the purchase of Rafale fighter jets from France.
Voter turnout in the first six rounds was approximately 66 per cent, according to the Election Commission, compared with 66.40 per cent in the nine-phase Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
Voting has largely been peaceful but for sporadic violence in West Bengal, where the BJP is trying to wrest seats from Chief Minister Mamata Banarjee’s All India Trinamool Congress.
In a drastic and unprecedented action, the Election Commission curtailed campaigning by a day in West Bengal on Thursday, after days of clashes in the final stretch of the election.
Pre-election poll surveys by the media indicate that no party is likely to win anything close to a majority in the 543-seat Parliament. The BJP, which won a majority of 282 seats in 2014, may need some regional parties as allies to stay in power.
The BJP will need to do well in Uttar Pradesh, which has 80 Lok Sabha seats, the most in a state. The party had won 71 of them in 2014, but this time it has been challenged by a coalition between the Bahujan Samajwadi Party, the Samajwadi Party, and the Rashtriya Lok Dal.
The voting on Sunday covers 59 seats in eight states and Union Territories. It also includes Modi’s constituency of Varanasi, where he had won in 2014.
Votes cast in the seven phases of elections will be counted on May 23.
New dispensation in Delhi has to address Kashmir issue: Mirwaiz
Srinagar, May 19: Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq on Sunday said that Hurriyat leadership was ready to support talks between India and Pakistan provided India accepted Kashmir as a dispute.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the Hurriyat Conference here, he said, “We are not against either the people of India or development. If India and Pakistan initiate a dialogue, we are ready to support it, but India must first accept the basic reality that there can be no military solution to the Kashmir dispute”.
He said the Hurriyat Conference was against India’s policies which were presently being implemented in Kashmir.
“It is unfortunate that New Delhi has choked all means of peaceful protest in the Valley. Even pro-freedom leaders are not allowed to meet the people. How can ideas come up if all spaces are choked,” he asked.
Mirwaiz further said that former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had realised that the only possible solution to the Kashmir dispute could be found through a dialogue process.
He also demanded that the Indian government should withdraw the bans imposed on different organisations in Kashmir.
Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, termed the present prevailing situation in Kashmir as sensitive and painful stating that there is no letup in the policies of repression and intimidations as killings, harassment and CASOs continue unabated even in this holy month of Ramadhan.
He said there were apprehensions whether the authorities would allow the seminar as last year, the then government had barred it and caged entire Hurriyat leadership. Mirwaiz said that the repressive measures are being taken to suppress the genuine voices of people of Kashmir.
Mirwaiz said that he was feeling the pain whenever any youth is martyred in government forces action or in encounters stating that that it was beyond doubt that the gun-wielding local boys were the products of the ongoing oppression and they are getting consumed in the ongoing unresolved conflict. He said emotions and repressions is driving the educated youth of Kashmir towards armed means of resistance as every scope for raising voices peacefully stand chocked.
Touted as game-changer, ambitious e-governance SWAN project yet to take off even after 13 years
Srinagar, May 19: Thirteen years on, the ambitious State Wide Area Network (SWAN) project is yet to see the light of the day in Jammu and Kashmir.
The 2005 Government of India project was aimed to synchronize all official departments of a given state through a dedicated internet connection in a closed used group. Thirteen years after the approval, the project is yet to be completed.
The government has now appointed a four member committee to conduct a thorough probe into the irregularities and lack of progress in implementation of SWAN project. Headed by Principal Secretary Transport Department, the four member committee includes Principal Secretary Industries and Commerce Department, and Secretary Higher Education. The fact finding panel have been asked to submit the report by June 6.
Project Manager, Jammu and Kashmir e-Governance Agency, Irfan Ahmad and Public Information Officer, Imran-ul-Sofi pleaded ignorance about the status of the project. Instead of divulging details, both officers asked to contact Financial Commissioner, Information Technology, Suresh Kumar.
Kumar however could not be contacted for the comments. Additional Secretary Information Technology Vaibhav Kohli passed the buck to project managers. “You ask project managers about the same,” he said.
Jammu and Kashmir e-Governance Agency (JaKeGA) functions under the Information Technology. As per the details available on its website, the SWAN project is a major core infrastructure project under National e-Governance Plan (NeGP).
The project, if implemented, was expected to provide connectivity to the two state headquarters (SHQ), 20 District Headquarters (DHQ), and 152 block headquarters (BHQ) with a minimum internet speed of 2 megabytes per second.
Further, the network would have connected all state and designated government offices located within a 15 kms radius of the SHQ, all state and other designated offices located within 10 kms of each DHQ), and all state and other designated offices located within five kms of each BHQ.
In 2009, the then government had prepared a Draft Proposal Report (DPR) for Rs 106.57 crores for implementing SWAN in the state and forwarded the same to Ministry of Information Technology Government of India. The tenders were floated four different times until March 2014 but all of them were cancelled since bids received for creating SWAN were apparently high.
SWAN would have substantially reduced the overall time taken in completing administrative tasks by providing converged communications services (voice, data and video) accessible to all government departments. “It would have reduced unnecessary movement of vehicles, employees and documents”, said an official.
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