It is usually the price in petroleum that determines the cost of air tickets. But in Kashmir the rise and fall of air tickets is subject to weather conditions. Airline companies are making the most of the ongoing bad weather condition in Kashmir by charging exorbitant airfare three to four times more than the actual prices from the flyers. There are no fixed airfares. Fares are driven by demand. With Jammu-Srinagar highway remaining blocked for traffic due to landslides at several places, the demon of arbitrary fares is back to haunt and fleece the stranded people in Jammu. It is highly shameful on the part of airline operators that they misuse the weather conditions in Kashmir to their advantage without caring about the degree of burden and miseries it brings to the local residents. In normal days, the air fare between Jammu and Srinagar rolls between Rs.2600 and Rs.3200. But it goes up four to six times once the Jammu-Srinagar highway gets blocked due to bad weather.
On Friday when the highway got closed due to landslides on many parts of the only road link, the air line operators increased the air ticket (from Jammu to Srinagar) to Rs.10000 to 15000. It is cheaper to travel to some foreign countries than from Jammu to Srinagar. A look out at international fares reveals that traveling from Delhi to Dubai is cheaper by almost 8000 than traveling from Srinagar to Jammu. If one wants to travel from Srinagar to Jammu on Tuesday, he would have to pay Rs.14, 285 whereas the ticket for Delhi to Dubai on the same day is just Rs.6311. The air tickets to other Asian countries is even less. Thousands of people are presently stranded in Jammu and Srinagar as the highway remains close due to landslides. They cannot dream of traveling by air as the airline operators have increased air tickets to a swooping high. The airline companies appear to be accountable no none. They are law unto themselves. Every time there is a natural disaster or other unforeseen event, airfares seem to shoot up. It can be said with great convenience that the airlines are like vultures preying on the misery of travelers left with few options given that road and rail links are often also cut in these conditions. Nobody is questioning them for the wrongs they do with the passengers. Ironically, the government is also mum over their outrageous conduct. It is all the more necessary for making these airline operators answerable. The state government should take up the matter with civil aviation ministry and other authorities who have control over these companies to fix cap on air fare.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) should step in and put the airline operators to task for their irresponsible conduct. Steep hike in airfares has raised serious concern in Kashmir’s tourism industry as well, with stakeholders accusing the airliners of deliberately trying to make Kashmir the costliest and least preferred destination to cut out tourist inflow. This has now become a pattern with the airliners that at the inception of every tourism season in Kashmir they unilaterally and arbitrarily increase the fares on this sector making Kashmir packages unaffordable. Ironically, the airfares for other destinations both within and outside the country are much cheaper as compared to Kashmir. The hikes have affected not only our tourism sector these have also hit students and patients who have to travel outside the state not for luxury but because of necessity. It is all the more necessary for making these airline operators answerable. Governor S P Malik, who enjoys great confidence in Delhi, should take up the matter with relevant people to get the menace of fare-hike under check.
The Universal Declaration of Independence
About fourteen hundred years ago, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) gave to humanity a document, containing universal truths including those mentioned in The Declaration of Independence.This also was a declaration of independence, based on permanent values, but it was for the entire human race. It was a declaration of universal human rights and freedoms, of universal peace and security, of universal trust, of a universal code of ethics, of universal human dignity, of universal freedom of thought and expression. In short, it was a declaration of the universal brotherhood of humankind. This document is called the Qur’an. Can it serve as the constitution for entire humanity? Can it save humanity from the destruction that seems to be its destiny? It boldly proclaims that it can.Under our Prophet’s leadership the world was transformed, as people were given freedom to develop their human potential. Even today, historians and philosophers marvel at how the most backward and barbarous people became the most advanced, most civilized in such a short time. Yet, sadly enough, today, instead of being astonished, we are perplexed at how the succeeding Muslim generations came to lose that glory. They lost independent thought by self-concentrated individuals.
Over and over again, AllamaIqbal emphasizes the importance of independent thought. For example, he says:The only course open to us is to approach modern knowledge with a respectful but independent attitude and to appreciate the teachings of Islam in the light of that knowledge, even though we may be led to differ from those who have gone before us( page 78). …The teaching of the Quran that life is a process of progressive creation necessitates that each generation, guided but unhampered by the work of its predecessors, should be permitted to solve its own problems (Page 134). …False reverence to past history and its artificial resurrection constitute no remedies for a people’s decay. ‘The verdict of history’, as a modern writer has happily put it, ‘is that worn-out ideas have never risen to power among a people who have worn them out.’ The only effective power, therefore, that counteracts the forces of decay in a people is the rearing of self-concentrated individuals. (The Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, Page 120).
AllamaIqbal goes on to explain the meaning of “self-concentrated individuals.” Individuals must have freedom of thought to be able to develop the self. In a well-known couplet, he compares the “self” or “khudi” to unique pearl, urging individuals to focus on the development of “self” through freedom of thought, and not to destroy it by blind following:
“Taqlid se naakaaraanakarapnikhudiko
[Do not destroy your self by blind following. Protect it because it is a unique pearl.]
This can be elucidated by an example. While every tree is subjected to restrictions by nature, these restrictions are imposed to optimize the growth and development of a tree’s latent potential. The same principle can be applied to human society. And the application of this principle is what our Prophet (PBUH) accomplished in Medina. He implemented, in Medina, a socio-economic and political infrastructure within the boundaries of the Qur’anic principles. The Quran constitutionally protected the human rights and freedom of all people. Everyone was equal, including the Prophet (PBUH), before the law. Within these Qur’anic limits, human beings enjoyed full freedom of thought, which, in turn, gave human beings the opportunity to realize and nourish their God-given latent potential. Hence, the glory of Islam in its early years!
The system that can guarantee equal rights and freedoms for all human beings irrespective of race, color, language, ethnicity, etc. must be based on permanent values. Since human thinkers and philosophers, searching for permanent values, are limited by time and space, it becomes obvious they cannot find these except through trial and error. On the other hand, if we are able to structure our society based on the permanent values contained in the Quran, then humanity will not only be assured dignity and equality, but it will also be set free to realize its God-given potential, as it did 1400 years ago in the glorious days of early Islam. The challenge for us is to show the world that the Quran is the only book that contains the complete set of Permanent Values.
Handle with care
Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik has said the migrant Kashmiri Pandits would be settled in separate townships of their choice and setting up such habitations is a “not a matter of choice but out of necessity”. In an interview with an English national daily, he said that the government has identified the places. “We are working on those places. There are several that are there, In Pulwama and in other places. We won’t just settle them anywhere but in nice places of their choice.We will give it to them for free.” He said, “I am just trying to provide them (Pandits) an alternate accommodation so that they have a home, a school and security.
Separate township is not a matter of choice but out of necessity. We have to give them a nice place to stay, of their choice.” Bringing migrant Kashmiri Pandits back to the valley is a welcome step. It would not only help restore Kashmir’s heterogeneous culture but would also help mitigate the problems of Pandits. The migrant Pandits not only suffered at economic front through their migration but their social fabric also got weakened. Successive government’s at the centre and state, since, 1996, devised and discussed various plans to bring migrant Pandits back to the valley. Huge financial packages, in terms of relief and repairing and reconstruction of their houses, were announced to lure Pandits back to the valley. However, it did little work, though, the situation on ground and security environment has substantially improved.
A keen study reveals that growing employment opportunities and financial security in outside states comes in the way of many migrant Pandits, more particularly younger ones, in returning to the valley. Many members of the older generation, who had the yearning for returning to their homes, have either passed away or have compromised with the growing new situations. That has made the issue (return of Pandits) merely a political slogan. The demands for separate homeland by a miniscule section of Kashmiri Pandits represented by Panun Kashmir has added all the more political colour to the issue. Bringing Pandits back to the valley is a dream project of BJP-led government at the centre. But the way the issue is being played up and debated raises more questions than answering the one. For the politics being associated with the issue by vested interests, the return of Pandits is likely to assume serious proportions, which needs to be handled with extra care.
Setting up of separate cities and townships for Pandits is not something that could bring the required results. It would rather defeat the very purpose of bringing Pandits back. It would deepen the societal wedge between them and majority community than bringing them together. The government appears to be ignoring this fallout. According to official data, 24202 families migrated out of the valley after the armed conflict broke out. Presently a total number of 38,119 families comprising 1, 42,042 Kashmiri migrants stand registered with the Revenue and Relief Ministry. But the media reports suggest figures quite exaggerated. This makes the whole issue doubtful. The state and central government are already working on a project for granting state subject status to non-state residents, more particularly West Pakistan refugees settled in Jammu. That is most unlikely proposition to be acceptable to the people of the state. Many sections view the move as changing the demographic character of the state.
Last time the government made similar attempts that ultimately culminated in six-moth long public unrest. The state government is again treading the same path.
Government, both, at the centre and state, need to understand the intricacies and sensitivity involved in the issue. Instead of dividing people on communal lines, the effort should be made to unite them culturally and socially. That could be done only if majority community in the valley would be taken into confidence, and Pandits settled among and alongside their Muslim neighbours. Rehabilitating them in separate colonies would only destroy further the social fabric and peace in the valley.
Taliban-America peace deal
The inevitable has happened. The mighty America is on way out in Afghanistan. After 18 years of military occupation during which the United States spent trillions of dollars to subjugate Afghans, America had finally to surrender before the Taliban, who it had dislodged from power in 2001 in the aftermath of disastrous 9/11 attacks in New York. After initial defeat at the hands of America-led NATO forces, it took Taliban almost two years to regroup and reorder its cadres to fight the foreign forces on its land. Having earlier defeated the equally might power the USSR, Afghans were confident that they were capable enough to drive out the foreign forces from its land. And the big news came on Monday when United States of America, China, Russia and Pakistan have come together to hammer out a peace deal with the Taliban. Quite at the same time another major development happened in Doha where a group of prominent Afghans, including some government officials acting in a personal capacity, managed to sit through a long — and by all accounts respectful — two-day meeting with the Taliban. Although it was unofficial, they managed to agree with the Taliban a roadmap as to how they might get towards a peace deal. The most important development that happened in Doha is the agreement that soft targets — the schools, women and children who should not normally be part of a conflict– would be off-limits for now. It’s the first time Afghans have made an agreement of this nature. And it comes after weeks of the tougher, preparatory stuff: the direct talks between the Taliban and the United States about the terms and pace of a troop withdrawal. Coming together of the big four—America, Russia, China and Pakistan—to devise Afghanistan peace road map must be viewed in the backdrop of closing in September 1—the deadline to conclude talks with Taliban. That reveals the desperation of America to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. Since American President Donald Trump is seeking re-election in coming American elections, he wants to sell Afghanistan peace deal as major victory of his government as he has little other to boast about before the American electorate. In the process Trump is ignoring the concerns of his allies like India and the present government in Kabul led by Ashraf Gani. It is most likely that the presidential elections in Afghanistan which are due in September would be postponed as America would not like to offend Taliban by supporting these elections without making any deal with Taliban.
Americans want to exit Afghanistan quickly. It is for this reason that the US engaged Taliban despite continuous attack by them on the present government. US special envoy on Afghanistan, ZalmayKhalilzad, after conclusion of Doha talks with the Taliban, briefed both Russian and Chinese officials. Taliban has every reason to see it as its victory against America. The defeat in Afghanistan has been starring at American face for several years as the Taliban has captured more than 60 percent area of the country. The American-sponsored Ashraf Gani-led government has been squeezed to the four walls of Kabul and the US was desperate to find a safe way out of Afghanistan. Donald Trump initially tried to terrorize and pressurize Pakistan through intimidating measures to fights his war in Afghanistan, and in the process stopped all the military aid the country was supposed to get as its share for being a partner in America’s war on terrorism. Trump directly accused Pakistan of harbouring and sponsoring the Taliban terrorists. America even threatened Pakistan of military action if it did not comply with the US orders. But the rise of Imran Khan to power saw a new and confident Pakistan refusing to toe the American line saying that Pakistan would no