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Native Turtles & Their Untold Story

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By Samantak Das

On November 20, 2016, I was in a village in Hooghly district with other volunteers of our small non-governmental organization, waiting to interview applicants for one of our training programmes. We were in a samabay krishi unnayan samiti (a cooperative society set up, as the name suggests, for the benefit of farmers) at the invitation of the samiti’s members, who wanted us to conduct one of our courses there. Usually, these interviews are congenial, even jolly, affairs, with a lot of banter and crosstalk; occasionally, we would encounter someone who was clearly unfitted for our course (usually by virtue of belonging to a higher income group than our targeted beneficiaries) and sometimes there were far too many applicants than we could possibly accommodate; but this time there were just 28 applicants for 20-odd places in our course, so it should have been smooth sailing. Except that it wasn’t. An air of gloom, even desperation, seemed to hang over the proceedings; applicant after applicant spoke of the dire uncertainty of their future, not just in economic terms but in ways that embraced pretty much all aspects of their lives — the impossibility of being certain if a daughter would be able to go to college, a nephew get married, a chronically ill parent receive treatment, a close relative get a loan to set up a small shop, and so on and on and on.

Somewhat surprised to begin with, we were soon struck by the realization that it was less than a fortnight since the historic announcement of demonetization on November 8 2016, and just six days since the notification by the Reserve Bank of India that district central cooperative banks would no longer be allowed to accept deposits or exchange the now worthless 500- and 1,000-rupee notes. Virtually everyone we met that day had the bulk of her or his savings in cooperative societies which, in turn, did the bulk of their business with DCCBs. In the few days that DCCBs had accepted deposits and exchanged currency notes from SKUSs, transactions worth hundreds of crores had already taken place. Although people had had to stand in line for hours, most SKUSs had risen to the occasion and increased their work hours and the number of people at their counters. But now, it was all over. Not a single one of the people we met that day — the applicants for our course, family and friends who had accompanied them, members of the SKUS, other folk from the village — had any idea of how, if ever, this nightmare would end. This was the miasma of gloom and fear that hung over the meeting room that cool November afternoon 25 months ago. Things didn’t really change much in the following weeks and months and a year later they were still limping along at best, as samiti members kept telling us. It was not until next year, and after much litigation, that DCCBs were finally allowed to deposit the demonetized notes in their vaults with the RBI.

 

These memories swum to the surface as I read Meera H. Sanyal’s The Big Reverse: How Demonetization Knocked India Out — an account of the devastating effects of demonetization on the times and lives of hundreds of millions of ordinary Indians. Sanyal is one of India’s most successful bankers, someone who has served in top positions in some of the world’s largest banks and financial institutions. She is no air-headed socialist; on the contrary, she champions markets, competition, and the need to encourage entrepreneurship, small-scale and large. Like most of us, she believes the stated aims of demonetization, as announced by the country’s prime minister on the night of November 8, 2016 — eradicating black money, ending corruption and stopping terror-funding — are eminently laudable objectives that no patriotic Indian ought to argue with. To these three primary goals, she adds five others announced by the government’s spokespersons in the days following demonetization: moving to a cashless society, expanding the tax base, integrating the informal sector of the economy with the formal, lowering interest rates and bringing down real estate prices. In the sixth chapter, “Demonetization Report Card”, she draws on government statistics to show how not a single one of these eight objectives came even close to being achieved. In her other five chapters, not including the Introduction and Conclusion, Sanyal looks at the effects of demonetization from the angle of people, institutions, economics and history. And what she says does not make for pretty reading.

I am no economist or political scientist, but in over three decades of trying to understand literary texts, and by speaking with people from a wide range of backgrounds, I have understood two things: stories matter and memory is short. For most salaried city-dwellers like me, demonetization was a shock to the system, but a shock we recovered from fairly rapidly. In the days immediately after November 8, 2016 many (most?) neighbourhood shops opened khatas for their regular customers, where purchases were noted down and payment asked for only after the total had inched close to Rs 2,000; more establishments started accepting card payments; even queueing up outside banks and ATMs turned into something resembling a street-side adda, and the frequent (and often contradictory) orders issued by the RBI provided much grist for the mills of para humorists. Yes, there was hardship, which we encountered not always first-hand but often from those who worked in our homes or ferried fresh provisions to our doorstep or ran a local chai shop; and many times we helped them out in small but not insignificant ways — by not asking for change, by taking their now-useless notes and giving them fresh legal tender in exchange, by making advances against a future month’s salary, and so forth. Things were far worse in non-urban areas. There is little data on how many people lost livelihoods in villages, how many patients went untreated, how much additional interest had to be given to usurious moneylenders to pay for daily necessities, how many social gatherings and family events had to be cancelled or drastically curtailed… yet anyone who has even a nodding acquaintance with rural India will have heard many of these stories of loss and despair.

On the 21st day of the second month in the third year after demonetization most of those who read this paper will have probably forgotten the hardships undergone by ordinary people, the chaos created in every sector of the economy, and the failures swept quietly under the carpet by the architects of demonetization. Through her meticulously documented, carefully crafted, deeply felt and, most of all, profoundly human book, Sanyal has given us reason to remember the many stories that went into the making of this strange and, ultimately, tragic chapter in our country’s recent history.


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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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