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Game of Thrones in Pakistan

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By Aamer Ahmed Khan

Any political development that leads to consolidation or perpetuation of hereditary leadership bears a foreboding not dissimilar to that surrounding an omnipresent threat of military intervention. Yet in the 71st year of its existence, these appear to be the only two doors open to Pakistan’s political future. The choice could hardly have been poorer with its only sad consolation, if any is to be found, lying perhaps in the promised brilliance of the political theatre that is unfolding as scions of two of the country’s largest political houses, the Bhuttos and the Sharifs, lead their respective parties into the next general election, a battle that will pitch them against each other. Whatever the outcome, one thing is certain: the country will be plunged in a cesspool of hereditary politics.
Perhaps one way to explore which direction Pakistan may swing in the impending electoral shootout is to look at the politics of the two key figures holding hereditary flags, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz Sharif. But be warned: it could be a heart-breaking exercise.
Maryam Nawaz first, and it is not easy to decide where to begin. As with any culturally conservative elite Punjabi family, be it landed, industrial or commercial, or as has been the case of late, a combination of all three, the family’s women are never quite the public face of the politics behind their fortunes. Neither was Maryam Nawaz. But her days in exile seem to have been well invested in engineering quite a dramatic change, transforming herself from a shy, nondescript and domesticated person into a fiery and visually stunning public figure – a change that may have been impossible to imagine had it not actually happened for it is not just a cosmetic change.
Every time she takes the dais just ahead of her father in a public meeting, every expression, every gesture and every word she employs reflects the sheer hard work she has put into making this change happen.
For those working with her since before she went public as her father’s principal political champion and defendant, the change may not seem as dramatic as it does from the outside because she was perhaps one of the busiest politicians in her party long before she decided to go public. First she was kept busy by her father with cash-rich but politically debatable responsibilities, such as managing the Prime Minister’s Youth Programme, where her principal role was to lean on public banks to disburse billions among youngsters in unsecured loans – a job that earned her the reputation of a banker’s nightmare. She became deeply disillusioned with the vaporous utility of her background efforts as her father’s reckless political nemesis surrounded the federal capital in an anti-government campaign that was to last for over four months.
It was during Imran Khan’s dharna, it is said, that Maryam Nawaz became convinced that she needed to take centre-stage. Miffed at what she privately described as her party’s lacklustre response to Imran Khan’s aggressive politics, she started banging together a social media team that could at least be as aggressive in cyber space as Imran Khan was on the ground. Irrespective of the money at her disposal, and without any comment on her social media etiquette or taste, it goes to her credit that she was able to generate, in very quick time, a social media team of champions and trolls that soon began to rival the juggernauts previously boasted only by Imran Khan and, perhaps, the army.
It was to serve her well as Panama was soon to provide her with an opportunity to step out from the shadows. As the contentious Panama verdict drove her father out of office and a split bench set up a Joint Investigation Team (JIT) to posthumously find something that could stick better than the flimsy iqama on which its verdict rested, Maryam Nawaz was unveiled.
Flanked by her brothers and her husband, she walked confidently up to the media on July 5, 2017, after appearing before the JIT, and set herself a standard of public appearance that she has continuously improved upon since. She spoke calmly, confidently and with conviction, holding up her hand every time she was interrupted by an impatient reporter, saying “let me finish” without raising her voice and leaving after saying what she had planned to without taking any questions. It was clearly a heavily rehearsed performance.
By this time, her father’s decision to take the Panama verdict head-on by taking to the streets had set the stage for her. Starting with a series of indoors conventions, she made her first public appearance at a mass rally in January this year at KotMomin and once again, it was obvious how well practiced it was. Addressing the public , asking them questions, keeping them engaged, throwing in a calculated sentence in Punjabi, marking her speeches with anecdotes from her court appearances and tweetables such as “Mian sahib, I love you, roksako tau rok lo” (stop us if you can) and “vote koizzat do” (respect the vote), she even honed it down to catchwords like mohabbat (love) and yaari (friendship) to describe the feelings of her party’s followers and “saazish brigade” (conspiracy brigade) to cleverly hint at the uniformed shadows behind her father’s travails.
It wasn’t all form. As her confidence grew, so did the harshness in the substance of her speeches. Carefully maintaining the repetitiveness of her father’s “mujhekyunnikala” narrative, she kept upping the ante with every public appearance, asking the crowd in Sargodha if they could hear Imran Khan crying to warning the judiciary in Mansehra that “if you use Imran Khan’s language, be prepared to be answered in a similar tongue.”
Even her body language evolved visibly, from the tense girl with a steely resolve at KotMomin, to a relaxed and confident public speaker only a few months later, skillfully repaying her supporters’ slogans with a reserved smile, to a politician enjoying every moment of her public life with the subtle rhythmic nodding of her head every time her speech was broken by a party tarana. From sarcasm “wah, wah, wah, wah, what justice!” to love “wah, wah, wahwah, well done Faisalabadis,” Maryam Nawaz now comes across as a public orator perhaps better trained and more skilled than any of her adversaries.
In comparison, Bilawal clearly lives in a different universe. Wrenched from the anonymity of university life while still a teenager, he found himself publicly accepting the leadership of his party’s volatile political fortunes. “Democracy is the best revenge,” he shrieked, as a horde of international journalists grimaced at the spectacle of a 19-year-old spurting into a hereditary leadership position and that too in a place like London, the seat of a political system that is known as the mother of all democracies.
Unlike Maryam Nawaz, he never had the luxury of polishing his personal or political skills in the privacy and comfort of a wealthy exile. Each and every word he uttered, every gesture he made, his personal inclinations and political statements were minutely dissected by a content-starved media and immediately compared to a very dominant and politically demonised father. Unlike Maryam who sprang to the fore less than a year ago, Bilawal has been at the game for almost 10 years. It must have been a terribly hard journey, even if judged only by his painful public oratory, a curious combination of his grandfather’s fire and the sheer absurdity of Altaf Hussain’s arrhythmic sing song. The cool self-assuredness and control with which he speaks to the international media, be it at the World Economic Forum or the BBC, is nowhere in evidence as he bawls at his public gatherings in Urdu, a language that is as alien to him as it is native to Maryam Nawaz.
The only thing common between Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Maryam Nawaz Sharif is their sense of entitlement but even there, the nature of it is diametrically opposed between the two. From Maryam, her sense of entitlement to power comes across as a claim to a personal right, From Bilawal, it feels more like a claim to a political right. And that is where any similarities between the two come to a dead stop, their respective political narratives resting in two mutually exclusive spaces.
Maryam Nawaz plays on the victimisation of her family, her adversaries clearly identifiable at individual as well as institutional levels. There is a defined group of devils in khaki and mufti that she says she is battling, the entire apparatus of a state loaded against her with a seemingly unwavering public support for her father as her only ally. Pakistan too seems only to be a theatre in which her personal story must play out, the moral of the story having little to do with the country’s fortunes. In that respect, she bears a striking resemblance to the Benazir Bhutto of the late 1980s, a woman full of scorn for her detractors, tripping over herself to get to the prime minister’s house and angry at the opposition to her ambition.
(Newsline, Karachi)

 

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Religion and Religions

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By Amir Suhail Wani

Religion, as far as dictionary meaning is concerned is “the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods” or else as American heritage dictionary puts it “The expression of man’s belief in and reverence for a superhuman power recognized as the creator and governor of the universe”. These two definitions vaguely convey the meaning of religion in general, but it is highly impossible to give a harmonious and comprehensive definition of religion.

The issue of religion is a very subtle one and different people interpret it differently as demanded by their religion. The Islamic concept of religion may not be compatible with that of a Buddhist interpretation and alike the Christian picture of ascetic and celibacy may seem alien to Islam. But one thing that is invariably common in all religions is their allegiance and subordination to some superhuman powers.

 

All religions hold that the mechanism of universe can’t be self-substantial, but needs a divine will, divine power and divine energy to maintain its system. Religion teaches us to bow before this divine will, which permeates the whole universe and even what lies beyond the cosmic edges. By this subordination, religion wants to harmonize our position in the universe and to frame our actions according to the dictums of divine will.

The domain of religion is mainly spiritual, though it aims at the overall wellbeing of humans and aims at helping them to attain highest ideals of life. But before man could master his universe, religion teaches him to master his own self and helps him in unleashing the infinite power that already lies in the matrix of his constituents. The central point all thesis of knowledge be it philosophy, sociology, psychology, metaphysics or religion is man.

All the subjects try to see man from a particular view point and from a particular frame of reference. But religion transcends all frames of reference and analyses man in his totality. It takes into consideration his physical, mental, spiritual as well as metaphysical needs and thus aids him in perfectioning his attitude in this perfect universe. Religion prompts man to believe in supernatural, not on dogmatic basis, but on sound rational and analytic grounds. As Allama lqbal says:-

“Indeed in view of its function, religion stands in greater need of a rational foundation of its ultimate principles than even the dogmas of science. Science may ignore a rational metaphysics; indeed it has ignored so far Religion can hardly afford to ignore the search for a reconciliation of the oppositions of experience and a justification of the environment in which humanity finds itself.

That is why Professor Whitehead has acutely remarked that ‘the ages of faith are the ages of rationalism”. And by anchoring man with supernatural, religion next guides man through this infinite universe. It refrains from piece meal treatment of reality, rather sees reality as an organic whole and it does not see universe merely as a dichotomy of matter-energy but infuses in it a new spirit — the spirit that gives life even to pebbles and stones.

No matter how diverse their beliefs are, I pretend that the followers of all religions will agree upon these characteristics of religion, for they do not belong to any religion but to the religion on the whole. The historical evolution of religion is still another facet of religions that will require large amount of space for full description. But suffice to say that from theist’s point of view, religion was revealed upon the mankind by the supreme deity, to guide their conduct and to escort their transactions with the rest of universe. Time and again, God choose some blessed men and through them guided the whole of humanity from gloom to gleam.

Thus the origin of religion is divine, as opposed to atheistic stand who believe that religion is a social phenomenon which arises purely on the basis of man’s interaction with his universe. The atheists believe that due to his sheer fear of natural phenomenon like thunder, earthquakes and other natural calamities the early man reckoned the concept of divine to interpret these phenomenon. They are correct in saying that man needed explanation for these phenomenon’s and was scared by them. But to say that this fear gave birth to god hypothesis is highly unjustified, for man was already conscious of Supreme Being and thus sought refuge with him.

The lure towards religion and the concept of God is engraved very much in the psychology of man and to say that religion is something which arose as a social phenomenon and was imposed on the nature of man is highly disturbing—. Even most of the world’s greatest scientists were theists and openly confessed that the interpretation of this universe is impossible without invoking the presence of supreme conscious who directs its course. C.S. Lewis wonderfully wrote in The Problem of pain that “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell”. So the existence and acceptance of religion is a universal phenomenon even one may comply with it or not, its worth cannot be diminished. We shall now take up the concept of man in different religions keeping their implications in mind for future use.

Hinduism: – Hinduism is regarded as one of the most ancient religions of the world and in fact its origin is obscure to researchers and scholars. For academic purposes it can be said that Hinduism is the group of religious and philosophical traditions of India that accept the doctrinal authority of the Vedas and Upanishads, comprising the schools Mimamsa, Sankhya-Yoga, Nyaya-Vaishesika, and Vedanta. J.L. Nehru writes in his magnum opus the discovery of India, under the title “What Is Hinduism” that “In this quotation Vincent Smith has used the words ‘Hinduism’ and ‘Hinduised’. I don’t think it is correct to use them in this way unless they are used in the widest sense of Indian culture.

They are apt to mislead today when they are associated with a much narrower and specifically religious concept. The word ‘Hindu’ doesn’t occur at all in our ancient literature. The first reference to it in an Indian book is, I am told, is in a Tantric work of the eighth century A.C., where ‘Hindu’ means a people and not the followers of a particular religion. But it is clear that the word is a very old one, as it occurs in the Avesta and in Old Persian”. He further goes on to say that “The famous Chinese pilgrim I – Tsing, who came to India in the seventh century A.C., writes in his records of travels that the northern tribes that is the people of Central Asia, called ‘Hindu’ (Hsin-Tu) but, he adds, ‘this is not at all a common name … and the most suitable name for India is the Noble Land (Aryadesha)’ The use of the word ‘Hindu’ in connection with a particular religion is of very late occurrence”89.This account compendiously sums the rhetoric aspects of Hinduism. Now coming to its main tenets, we note that Hinduism is based upon diverse beliefs, rituals, customs and practices. Hinduism is also called the Vedic religion as is based upon the teachings inscribed in Vedas. Vedas form the fountain head of Hinduism and are the ultimate sources to which legacy of Hinduism can be traced. Although, it is difficult to fix any timescale for the composition of Vedas, but it is believed that around 1500 B.C., the Vedic age started, when the Aryans arrived in India.

It is believed that the facts mentioned within Vedas are infallible and invariable. It is also believed that Vedas were revealed to early mystics in course if their spiritual discourses, who expressed them in words. Thus it is assumed that the origin of Vedas is essentially divine. As Witzel puts it “We owe the transmission and preservation of the texts to the care and discipline of particular religious, or better, priestly schools (or, sakhas).

It should also be emphasized that both the composition and the transmission of the texts was completely oral for the entire Vedic period and some considerable time afterwards”.Thus the study of Hinduism is essentially the study of Vedas and affiliated texts. For convenience, the Vedas are divided into four main categories viz Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sam Veda and Atharva Veda. Each Veda deals with a particular aspect of human life. Besides Vedas, the religion of Hinduism stands on the texts of Upanishads. One of the most important doctrines in Hinduism is that of the theory of Karma, which states that action and its consequences are inseparable. Any deed, any thought that causes an effect, is called Karma. The Law of Karma means the law of causation. Wherever there is a cause, there an effect must be produced.

(The author is a freelance columnist with bachelors in Electrical Engineering and a student of comparative studies with special interests in Iqbaliyat & mystic thought. He contributes a weekly column for this newspaper that appears every Monday. He can be reached at: amirkas2016@gmail.com

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Criminalisation of Indian politics

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Shabbir Aariz

India after independence adopted the parliamentary form of government for it being the largest democracy in the world and a constitution with secular and democratic features as envisioned by its leaders who were part of the freedom struggle with laudable credentials.

Indian parliament was graced from the prime minister to the smallest member by the individuals who were like institutions unto themselves, the feature that continued, unfortunately not very long.
Soon after the first crop of leaders of independent India kicked the bucket, the degenerative metamorphosis of the system started setting in. People like Shashtri and Gulzari Lal Nanda and likes of them suddenly disappeared and the citizenry started suffering. Nehrus and Aazads those adorned the parliament were replaced by Pholan Devis and individuals with criminal background.

 

And as recently as 2018, the supreme court of India in its five judge bench including the chief justice, on a PIL by Public Interest Foundation & others V/S Union of India, observed that the citizenry suffers at the hands of those “who are nothing but a liability” to the country. The said bench however left it to the parliament to make a law to ensure that persons facing serious criminal cases do not enter the political stream.

The bench maintained that criminalization of politics strikes at the very root of democracy. This unsettlingly increasing trend of criminalization of politics, to which the country has been witness, tends to disrupt the constitutional ethos and strikes at the very root of its democratic form of government.

The judgement has also come under a great criticism for the reason that the Apex court instead of laying law has passed on the task to the parliament and the critics say that the judgment is disappointing because of the inconsistency and the fact that it “misses the wood for the tree”.

The apex court while sharing the petitioner’s concern about the growing criminalization of polity, which is a threat to the basic structure of the constitution. Still, it has expressed its inability to go beyond what it did, on the ground that it is bound by the doctrine of separation of powers between the legislature and the judiciary not to cross the “Lakshman Rekha’. The bench has ignored the precedents which it had set to determine what constitutes Lakashman Rekha. Petitioners had wanted the court to step in as the parliament had not enacted the requisite law to fill the void for so many years.

It was believed that politics is the last resort of the scoundrel and in India this is loud and clear as we see that criminals seek shelter in politics after contesting elections and even getting elected either to the parliament or state legislature.

It is also no secret that nexus between the criminals and some politicians exists.

Criminals need patronage and politicians need money and muscle that comes from the criminals to enable politicians to win elections.

And criminals also directly contest elections. Booths are captured, goons hired to mobilize or suppress turnout, criminals protected from the reach of law, favors showered and the competitive search for underground financing by the parties has made criminals most sought after commodity who in turn have sought space for themselves in the political stream and got it.

Studies suggest that a substantial percentage of individuals with criminal record of serious crimes like rape and murder, over the years have made it to the parliament and state legislatures. There have been political murders in India and the killers controlling the system never were brought to justice. Much of the nexus between the criminals and politicians has remained covert in the past but for the past few years it has not only been overt but also glorified in the ugliest manner.

We are witnessing mob lynching, killings, destruction of properties, humiliations and organized targeting of under privileged and voiceless citizens brazenly defended by the politicians in power. Meanwhile Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, 2008 Malegaon blast accused has been favored with a ticket by BJP for parliament elections in Bhopal.

The scnario does not only threaten the democracy but the basic edifice of India and there are no regrets or remorse for this socio-political degeneration and undermining the very constitution of India. So much so people involved in terror attacks that consumed lives of innocent people, have earned their freedom from the clutches of law through powerful political patronage. Feeble voices against the trend are indicted and gaged. The situation has come now to such a pass that it has attracted the attention of world bodies which have reported their concern on various happenings in India and have linked it to the human rights, which even if rubbished by the ruling class, does not do any good to the image of India.

It is, therefore, high time for the saner India to effectively rise against the menace and brave the adversity as that wrestles with you shall only strengthen your nerves and sharpen your resolve. Otherwise a society which is incapable of ridding itself of such barbarian element is indeed plunging into a primitive state of moral chaos and lawlessness.
(A leading lawyer and eminent poet, author contributes a weekly column. He can be reached at: vaklishabir@gmail.com)

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Refractory Brick Kilns operators in the State

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By Bhushan Parimoo

Was it a coincidence or the preponderance which accorded an opportunity to this writer to have privy to a deliberations, providing answers to many of unsolved riddles plaguing the J&K State Pollution Control Board.

It so happened the other day in one of the Office Chamber of the Board at Jammu Tawi. Discussion was between an owner of the daily English Newspaper and the coordinator of the Board, who had come to expedite the clearance of Plastic Bottles Manufacturing Unit.

 

To give legs to the file to run faster he raised the issue as a pressure tactics about the operation of Brick Kilns against norms.

Emphasising upon that he has raised the issue number of times, but things continue to be carried on unabated before the very eyes of the Board. The officer in chair meekly had no answerer to offer.

This refreshed the memory about the lines by Pearl .S. Buck Noble Prize novelist. In one of her novels The Promise “And promises were nothing but words, and words were bubbles of air, falling easily from men’s lips and broken and gone as though they had never been”.

What surprised this writer all the more that the coordinator took liberty knowing well that whole scenario in its totality is known to me as well .Because the matter had been consistently raised at various forum including him by me since 2014. Besides media has been consistently raising this serious issue umpteen times over the years.

It was last September on way to Pilgrimage to Badekali Shrine Handwara, I found Brick Kilns spewing huge quantity of smoke from their chimneys .The emission of  carbon dioxide  cause  serious  polluted air related diseases  beside adverse impact  on the environment.

Same was brought in to the notice of the authorities who concurred with the concern. Beyond it matter continued as it was being carried.

Still on pilgrimage I learnt that Advisor to the Governor Vijay Kumar had already held a meeting at Srinagar with regards to Brick Kilns functioning against Environmental norms, which was attended by Commissioner –cum-Secretary to the Government for Forest, Environment and Ecology Department, the Chairman and Member Secretary of State Pollution Control Board, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and others.

It was deliberated in the said meeting that in Kashmir Division none of 334 Brick Kilns active in manufacturing Burnt Bricks have Environmental Clearance. Badgam has the highest number 212, Anatnag 55, Pulwama 41,Kulgam 21, Shopian 3, Baramulla 2. While as Jammu South 44, Jammu North 85, Samba South 47.Samba 01, Kathua 41, Udhampur 9, Reasi 02. In Jammu Division these are not in conformity with the laid down eco-friendly technology norms.

All Brick Kilns use raw material from agriculture land against the norms. What transpired there in the above referred meeting has not been made public. State Pollution Control Board feigns ignorance about the meeting under an RTI, dated 9 January 2019, but do admit illegal function of the brick manufacturing units. Undeniable fact is that the matter has been deliberated thread bare in the meeting chaired by the Advisor Vijay Kumar.

Thereafter situation remained as it has been before. Now question arises did the Advisor drop hints not to act even as under rules authority is supposed to perform its legitimate duty. Or in other case did he directed to proceed under law which is generally it expected of him in a normal course. Then what made authorities not to act. It is a fit case before National Green Tribunal where citizens can claim damages on human life and environment.

The State Pollution Control Board is the sole authority established to ensure what is guaranteed under Constitution. But the orders of judiciary and National Green Tribunal are not being got adhered to. Commoner neither can afford to establish the unit nor he can influence the clearance agencies to establish these against laid down norms which are spewing death and destruction around? 

How these Units get permission which has to pass through various check and cross check passage to ensure these to be eco-friendly. It is well aware fact that every part of the machinery is well oiled to run it smoothly and noiselessly.

Hapless are the sufferers because civil society most of them retired or businessmen are busy to be in good books of the Government. State do has an act to regulate and control the establishment of Brick Kilns in papers never used. Jammu and Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulation) Act, 2010, makes it mandatory that No brick kilns shall be established on any land which Is agricultural land; is fit for cultivation of any agricultural produce; has not been declared as Banjri-Kadim in the Revenue records; or is within the demarcated forest area of the State under the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Acts,.

Every application under sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) shall be made in the prescribed form and shall contain the particulars regarding the location of brick kiln, the size and type thereof and such other particulars as may be prescribed. It shall invariably be accompanied by the following documents:, site plan and Revenue extract duly attested by concerned Tehsildar indicating the title, location, status and type of land; II no-objection certificates from (i) Deputy Commissioner concerned; ii) State Pollution Control Board; (iii) Divisional Forest Officer concerned; (iv) Wildlife Warden concerned; (v) Director, Geology and Mining; (vi) District Agriculture Officer concerned;(vii) Block Medical Officer concerned;(viii) Tehsil Education Officer concerned; (ix) The Executive Engineer (PWD/R&B) concerned; and(x) Tehsildar concerned. (6) Before granting licence under sub-section (5), the licensing authority shall make or shall cause to be made a full and complete investigation in the prescribed manner in respect of the application having due regard to the following, namely: (a) the suitability of the locality wherein the proposed kiln is to be established;(b) the number of kilns operating in the area;(c) whether such kiln is not detrimental to the health of general public, habitations, water resources, fauna and flora in close proximity;(d) whether such kiln is proposed to be set up on land which is or was put to agricultural use, save as that the existing brick kilns, if set up on such land, though categorized as “Banjar Kadim”, should be relocated within a period of five years and punitive action shall be taken for non-compliance as per the rules to be framed under this Act;(e) the setting up of brick kilns should be allowed on the areas considered suitable for the purpose without any detrimental effect to the agricultural/productive land.

It is to be ensures  that  every holder of Brick Kiln licence shall abide by the pollution control laws in force and shall take all precautions, adopt such measures and install such devices as prescribed for protection of environment and control of pollution as may be directed by the concerned authority. Air pollution due to dust, exhaust emissions or fumes shall be controlled and kept within permissible limits specified under the relevant laws in vogue from time to time.

And then there are penalties for violators  contravenes or abets contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or the rules made there under, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees, or with both. The cognizance of offence no court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act except on a report in writing of the facts constituting such offence made by licensing authority or any person duly authorized by the Government in this behalf. Apart from it these units are grossly violating Labour laws; incidents have been reported from time to time of bonded labour practices. Welfare schemes are denied to the workforce.

History of manufacturing of fire Baked Bricks in the Kiln is about 150 years old in the state. And the manufacturing procedure has remain by and large same hardly changed .Brick manufacturing had been started by Maharaja Ranbir Singh, in Kashmir during his rule. Maharaja owned a brick kiln which remained a major and assured source of his income apart from other royal revenues.

More significantly it had the name “Maharaji Seer’ (Brick in Kashmiri) .Because of the fact that Maharaja was the sole owner of such manufacturing enterprise.

Making them was the personal commercial enterprise of Maharaja Ranbir Singh. The term for the real estate affluence of a Kashmiri, the present writer, believes is the unforgotten phrase “Maharaji Seer” found in many house constructions of Srinagar of the recent past. Small, thin rectangular baked blocks of clay would accord its unique and distinct feature to Kashmir building architecture not seen elsewhere in the state.

This type of brick is still seen in several old houses in down town Srinagar. However, with changing times and use of modern- day European building materials, the houses in Srinagar no longer provide this conventional look of the brick used in their construction.  Any relics still left out must be preserved as state building heritage.(The writer is a Jammu based Environmentalist).

on pilgrimage I learnt that Advisor to the Governor Vijay Kumar had already held a meeting at Srinagar with regards to Brick Kilns functioning against Environmental norms, which was attended by Commissioner –cum-Secretary to the Government for Forest, Environment and Ecology Department, the Chairman and Member Secretary of State Pollution Control Board, Divisional Commissioner Kashmir and others.

It was deliberated in the said meeting that in Kashmir Division none of 334 Brick Kilns active in manufacturing Burnt Bricks have Environmental Clearance. Badgam has the highest number 212, Anatnag 55, Pulwama 41,Kulgam 21, Shopian 3, Baramulla 2. While as Jammu South 44, Jammu North 85, Samba South 47.Samba 01, Kathua 41, Udhampur 9, Reasi 02. In Jammu Division these are not in conformity with the laid down eco-friendly technology norms.

All Brick Kilns use raw material from agriculture land against the norms. What transpired there in the above referred meeting has not been made public. State Pollution Control Board feigns ignorance about the meeting under an RTI, dated 9 January 2019, but do admit illegal function of the brick manufacturing units.

Undeniable fact is that the matter has been deliberated thread bare in the meeting chaired by the Advisor Vijay Kumar. Thereafter situation remained as it has been before. Now question arises did the Advisor drop hints not to act even as under rules authority is supposed to perform its legitimate duty. Or in other case did he directed to proceed under law which is generally it expected of him in a normal course.

Then what made authorities not to act. It is a fit case before National Green Tribunal where citizens can claim damages on human life and environment. The State Pollution Control Board is the sole authority established to ensure what is guaranteed under Constitution. But the orders of judiciary and National Green Tribunal are not being got adhered to. Commoner neither can afford to establish the unit nor he can influence the clearance agencies to establish these against laid down norms which are spewing death and destruction around? 

How these Units get permission which has to pass through various check and cross check passage to ensure these to be eco-friendly. It is well aware fact that every part of the machinery is well oiled to run it smoothly and noiselessly. Hapless are the sufferers because civil society most of them retired or businessmen are busy to be in good books of the Government.

State do has an act to regulate and control the establishment of Brick Kilns in papers never used. Jammu and Kashmir Brick Kilns (Regulation) Act, 2010, makes it mandatory that No brick kilns shall be established on any land which Is agricultural land; is fit for cultivation of any agricultural produce; has not been declared as Banjri-Kadim in the Revenue records; or is within the demarcated forest area of the State under the Jammu and Kashmir Forest Acts,. Every application under sub-section (1) and sub-section (2) shall be made in the prescribed form and shall contain the particulars regarding the location of brick kiln, the size and type thereof and such other particulars as may be prescribed.

It shall invariably be accompanied by the following documents:, site plan and Revenue extract duly attested by concerned Tehsildar indicating the title, location, status and type of land; II no-objection certificates from (i) Deputy Commissioner concerned; ii) State Pollution Control Board; (iii) Divisional Forest Officer concerned; (iv) Wildlife Warden concerned; (v) Director, Geology and Mining; (vi) District Agriculture Officer concerned;(vii) Block Medical Officer concerned;(viii) Tehsil Education Officer concerned; (ix) The Executive Engineer (PWD/R&B) concerned; and(x) Tehsildar concerned. (6) Before granting licence under sub-section (5), the licensing authority shall make or shall cause to be made a full and complete investigation in the prescribed manner in respect of the application having due regard to the following, namely: (a) the suitability of the locality wherein the proposed kiln is to be established;(b) the number of kilns operating in the area;(c) whether such kiln is not detrimental to the health of general public, habitations, water resources, fauna and flora in close proximity;(d) whether such kiln is proposed to be set up on land which is or was put to agricultural use, save as that the existing brick kilns, if set up on such land, though categorized as “Banjar Kadim”, should be relocated within a period of five years and punitive action shall be taken for non-compliance as per the rules to be framed under this Act;(e) the setting up of brick kilns should be allowed on the areas considered suitable for the purpose without any detrimental effect to the agricultural/productive land. It is to be ensures  that  every holder of Brick Kiln licence shall abide by the pollution control laws in force and shall take all precautions, adopt such measures and install such devices as prescribed for protection of environment and control of pollution as may be directed by the concerned authority. Air pollution due to dust, exhaust emissions or fumes shall be controlled and kept within permissible limits specified under the relevant laws in vogue from time to time.

And then there are penalties for violators  contravenes or abets contravention of any of the provisions of this Act or the rules made there under, he shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to two years or with fine which may extend to fifty thousand rupees, or with both. The cognizance of offence no court shall take cognizance of any offence punishable under this Act except on a report in writing of the facts constituting such offence made by licensing authority or any person duly authorized by the Government in this behalf. Apart from it these units are grossly violating Labour laws; incidents have been reported from time to time of bonded labour practices.

Welfare schemes are denied to the workforce. History of manufacturing of fire Baked Bricks in the Kiln is about 150 years old in the state. And the manufacturing procedure has remain by and large same hardly changed .Brick manufacturing had been started by Maharaja Ranbir Singh, in Kashmir during his rule. Maharaja owned a brick kiln which remained a major and assured source of his income apart from other royal revenues. More significantly it had the name “Maharaji Seer’ (Brick in Kashmiri) .Because of the fact that Maharaja was the sole owner of such manufacturing enterprise.

Making them was the personal commercial enterprise of Maharaja Ranbir Singh. The term for the real estate affluence of a Kashmiri, the present writer, believes is the unforgotten phrase “Maharaji Seer” found in many house constructions of Srinagar of the recent past. Small, thin rectangular baked blocks of clay would accord its unique and distinct feature to Kashmir building architecture not seen elsewhere in the state. This type of brick is still seen in several old houses in down town Srinagar. However, with changing times and use of modern- day European building materials, the houses in Srinagar no longer provide this conventional look of the brick used in their construction. 

Any relics still left out must be preserved as state building heritage.(The writer is a Jammu based Environmentalist).

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