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Editorial

Rise in air fare

The Kashmir Monitor

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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.


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Editorial

World diabetes day and Kashmir

The Kashmir Monitor

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Like all other parts of the globe, world diabetes day was celebrated in Jammu and Kashmir too on Wednesday, last. Different awareness programmes, seminars and functions were organized on the day by the health departments, SKIMS and other related institutions in the valley. But most of these functions were held in the capital Srinagar only where people in large numbers participated. But the way the deadly disease is catching up the people across the state, the campaign should have been more broad-based, comprehensive and more-focused, particularly in rural areas. Though no proper survey has been conducted to find out the magnitude of the dangerous disease, medicos believe that almost eight percent of the population is presently suffering from diabetes while 24% others lie in the risk zone vulnerable to falling prey to the deadly disease. The most disturbing fact is that youngsters are more prone to diabetes. Diabetes is worldwide disease. While type 1diabetes cannot be prevented, the type 2 variant is indeed preventable if the right lifestyle options are adopted. Diabetes, known as a ‘lifestyle disease’, is spreading its tentacles dangerously across Jammu and Kashmir. The lives of thousands of people have already got seriously affected by this disease. If greater efforts are not undertaken to control the ailment, we may have to confront another health epidemic. Doctors and health experts have warned of the outbreak of this pandemic disease if not confronted well in time.

Unfortunately, a sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy food choices and lack of physical activity have all contributed to an increase in diabetes cases. The same factors are at work in Kashmir and national health authorities need to consider ways and means to prevent the spread of the ailment here. What is worse here that more than 50% diabetic patients are not aware that they are suffering from diabetes? They come to know about the disease only when other organs of their boy get affected by the disease. Women and children are more prone to this disease. There is need to sensitize the women also because the disease could easily transfer to the child. Though, at present, there is no direct cure for diabetes, the thrust should be on stabilizing blood sugar levels. For this there is need for a comprehensive awareness campaign to aware people so that they can take care of themselves. Diabetes is a non-communicable disease, the state needs to launch awareness campaigns to identify the risk factors that can lead to the ailment. Experts note a healthy lifestyle is essential in preventing diabetes; healthy eating and physical activity are particularly highlighted. Experts have also called for regular screening of blood sugar levels to check for any signs of trouble. With a lazy lifestyle and traditional dietary habits, it is essential to immediately start addressing the dangers posed by diabetes and other ailments linked to unhealthy lifestyles. If we look at the size of food in Kashmir including wazwaan, we have the habit of taking heavy and high caloric diets with zero physical activity. We use a lot of cooking oil and we take a lot of carbohydrates like wheat products, rice and then we do not adhere to an active lifestyle. Besides we have been using machines for farming, cars to travel, TV to entertain ourselves replacing old traditional methods of compulsory exercise. The habit of exercise (a way to burn calories), is very less as the culture has not developed here yet. Add processed foods to it, it is sure lead to diabetes in children. Rather than wait for a full-blown epidemic, it would be wise for the state and health practitioners to help spread awareness about the benefits of eating healthier and staying fit amongst all age groups, especially youngsters drawn to junk food.

The state health department and primary institutions of medical health should take all these things into consideration and launch a massive awareness campaign all through the year to tackle this deadly disease.

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Editorial

Uncertainty over government formation

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Uncertainty looms large on government formation in Jammu and Kashmir. Though some circles claim that a new government of hotchpotch coalition is likely to be installed in the state any time by the end of October, there is no definite word on as who would lead the government. The speculations about the new government had strengthened after hints by dropped by some aspirants of chief ministerial post. However, the latest from the BJP point-man is that there is no possibility of government formation and the Governor’s rule will continue. Ram Madhav was recently in Srinagar and his latest statement is deemed as BJP’s failure to get required support for the government it wanted to install in Jammu and Kashmir. There are many a claimants/ aspirants of the chief minister’s post. Altaf Bukhari of PDP and Sajjad Lone of Peoples’ Conference (from Kashmir) are deemed as ‘front runners’. A section of PDP legislators are ready to break away from the party but they want their own party man to be the chief minister with Altaf Bukhari as their choice. BJP, however, is silently acting on a plan to get its own man installed as the chief minister.

Minister of state in Prime Minister’s Office, Dr Jitendra Raina is the BJP favourite. A BJP (Hindu) chief minister in a Muslim-majority state would be a big boost for the party ahead of next year’s general elections. For having failed to keep its election promises made in 2014, BJP is looking for some emotional issue to woo back the Indian voter. While five PDP MLAs who have rebelled against Mahbooba Mufti publicly are not averse to any chief minister from BJP, other “rebel” MLAs from the valley, however, have serious reservations. They believe that supporting BJP’s agenda of Hindu chief minister would cost them heavily. That is making the formation of the new government a difficult proposition. In disagreement between the BJP and PDP (rebel), the two-member party chief Sajjad Lone perceives a chance for himself. Sajjad’s dream of becoming the chief minister is for two reasons. First, no PDP or BJP MLA wants to go back to the electorate for fresh elections. Second, Governor’s rule for prolonged period too is not an option before New Delhi. In such a scenario, in his estimation, there is enough chance for him to emerge as alternate choice.

He is reported to have held meetings with several PDP MLAs and sought their help. Knowledgeable sources however reveal that BJP is not too keen to see Sajjad Lone as chief minister. But being their most trusted ally, the BJP leadership has told him that if he could manage support and get the required numbers, the party would support him. A strong lobby in the party believes that it would give rise to many questions for the party at national level. They say that ahead of next year’s general elections the BJP cannot afford any messy situation in Jammu and Kashmir. “If the state needed a chief minister from the valley only why Mahbooba was toppled then and the state was plunged into serious crisis” is a question that would be posed to the BJP even by its own cadres. BJP cadres think that there is a chance for their party to pitch for its own chief minister. But where are the numbers and wherefrom these will come is something that the party leaders have no answers. Mahbooba Mufti had, some time back, accused New Delhi of using NIA for breaking her party. That gives one the sense that BJP is working on influencing PDP legislators to get the required support.

Ram Madhav’s latest assertions that Governor’s rule will continue makes one to understand that BJP’s game-plan has seemingly gone to smithereens.

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Editorial

What’s in a name?

The Kashmir Monitor

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The RashtriyaSwayamSewakSangh (RSS), through its sectarian policies is creating conditions of the division of India on the basis of caste, religion and ethnicity. By renaming that sounded non-Brahman or non-upper castes the organization that has its strong presence in all aspects of Indian life is sending a clear message to minorities and Hindus who do not share its version of history that India is not for them and if they have to live in the country, they will have to submit to RSS vision of nationalism.

Its campaign to change Muslim or Christian sounding names is not different than what Taliban did in Afghanistan when they destroyed Buddhist structures or the ISIS did in Iraq and other places when it demolished historical monuments reminiscent of other religions. The RSS is doing exactly the same by changing names and removing all traces of history that contradicts its views on India.

The policy which is no different cultural genocide would leave few options for India’s Dalits, non-upper caste Hindus or Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Pagans, Jains and even non-RSS Hindus. In India’s six out of 29 states the Brahman or the upper caste of Hindus are between 10 and 20 percent of the population. In the remaining states they are between one and nine percent, Uttarakhand has 20 percent while Andhrapradesh has one percent of Brahmans.

The caste with highest population in India is known Other Backward Class or Castes. They account for more than 70% of the total Indian population. The lowest of the castes are described as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. They are about 16.6% and 8.6%, respectively, of India’s population The states with highest number of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is Uttar Pradesh, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Rajasthan, West Bengal, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh
Despite the fact that lower castes and backward communities suffer the worst treatment socially and religiously, the RSS and its political leadership has cleverly projected itself as a party of Hindus trying to save India from the culture of Muslim and Christian invaders and from the deviant behavior of religions that emerged in opposition to caste hierarchy perpetuated by Brahman.

Even though scholars regard Hinduism as a synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no single founder, the RSS view India as a special place in the world of Hindu deities, a place that India never achieved under its political rulers who despite sharing the same religious traditions never created a united India. The RSS believes that it has a divine mission to accomplish by turning India into a pure Hindu state in the image of its ideal.

Not all Hindus agree with that vision. Certainly, non-Hindus such as Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Muslims and pagans have different perspectives on India and its history. Yet, the RSS asserts that it owns India and if anyone claims to be Indian must accept its vision of the country.

The RSS and its political wing BJP are not only aware of the electoral advantage they might gain through this campaign but are also clear of their policies especially towards Muslims. The RSS view Muslims as invaders who challenged India’s caste system and Brahmanical hegemony. They blame Muslims for conversion of Dalits and other lower castes to Islam. They accuse Muslims of abducting their women and molesting them. They propagate that Muslim rulers during their rule in India demolished Hindu temples and subjugated Hindu masses. They even say that culturally, Muslims did everything to humiliate Hindus either in the form of beef eating or adopting a life style that was different than the Brahmanical domination.

The RSS believes that without humiliating Muslims and reducing them to a non entity, Hindus dignity cannot be restored. Brahmans and other upper castes are aware of their numerical weakness. They know that without the strength of Dalits and other backward communities, they cannot impact India’s electoral politics. Hence they poisoned the minds of Dalits and backward communities by projecting Muslims and Islam as enemies of India and Hinduism. In their effort to win over Dalits, they always use the Pakistan card saying that Muslims opted out of a united India by carving their own state in the name of religion, thus, forfeiting their right to live in India. They should either convert to Hinduism or settle in Pakistan. They have always questioned the loyalties of Muslims to India and projected them without any evidence as traitors.

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