In 2016, the central government declared that, both, Jammu and Srinagar—the rotational capital cities of Jammu and Kashmir—included in the list of 100 smart cities that BJP had promised to develop during general election campaign in 2014. Even as over two years have passed since but there is not even a modicum of movement on this front so far. There is no official word as when the work on making these cities as “smart” would begin. The Smart Cities would have automatic traffic signal, better public transport facility, quick accident relief, smart traffic system, data centre, face identification system to catch criminals, control room for crime, health, services and traffic for better coordination to provide quick help to the people besides series of other facilities for which several millions would be spent by the Central Government. Now have a look at Srinagar—the face of Kashmir. It is turning uglier with each passing day. Mounds of stinking garbage strewn in every nook and corner, Dug up roads, overflowing drains, coverless manholes, and swarms of wild and vicious dogs prowling everywhere is a common sight in Srinagar. The famous River Jhelum is like a sewerage drain of all the towns, cities and villages on its banks. Presently, Srinagar is considered as the dirtiest and the most polluted city in India. Santek Consultants Pvt. Ltd for Union Ministry for Tourism has very startling revelations to make about the city. In a survey, conducted last year, the agency found that the city is below mark in tourism related facilities as well. Gathering opinions from the visitors—both domestic as well foreign—the agency has found that besides the dirty surroundings, shortage of pure drinking water and power supply is also cause of worry for visitors. The findings are startling and speak volumes about our insensitivity towards our own surroundings. The daily look of such nasty stuff has made us insensitive and makes no difference for us. In a much more recent survey Srinagar listed in 15 dirtiest cities of the world. The city, once known for its spaciousness and cleanliness, has turned into a congested dirty place not fit for human living. The encroachment by greedy people with complete connivance of concerned officials has choked the roads and streets causing trouble even for pedestrians to walk about. The footpaths have been occupied by shopkeepers and street vendors forcing pedestrians to walk through the middle of roads enhancing the dangers of accidents. The officials responsible for keeping the footpaths clean and clear appear to have submitted to the will of street vendors and shopkeepers against monetary considerations. It looks as if these have been rented out to the occupiers. Srinagar Municipality has been raising hue of shortage of manpower. This is only a ruse being used for not doing the duty. The Municipality staff is found cleaning the roads and streets which are being travelled by senior state officials and VVIPs. What further mutilates the city is presence of street dogs. No lane, by-lane or street in the city could be found without dogs. Even Lal Chowk, the face of the city, is not without dogs. One finds dozens of stray dogs occupying Lal Chowk. The city outskirts are presenting more horrible picture. The famous Dal Lak is virtually on the last throes of death. Its area is squeezing and water stinking. Various governments in the past and present have time and again claimed to work for restoration of the glory of the lake. Hundreds of crores of rupees are reported to have been spent on cleaning the lake but its deterioration could not be arrested. It is generally believed that the officials responsible for taking care of the Dal have siphoned off most of the funds listed for it. There is absolutely no accountability. There is no co-ordination among various departments of the government. The only one thing where co-ordination and cooperation seems supreme is passing of underhand transactions. The people in the higher echelons of power should awake to the pangs of this dying city and take immediate measures to save the city. It would be great if the Governor takes note of this grim situation and take measures to save Srinagar. Making it smart is going too far away.
Looking beyond rhetoric
The government’s haste in implementation of highly controversial Triple Talaq bill, seems like an attempt to persecute Muslim community by criminalizing the not so prevalent practice of instant triple divorce.The move has triggered a heated debate all around and the opposition predominantly claims it as a direct intervention in Muslim personal laws. It is not surprising the bill has been drafted and presented in Lok Sabha by a political dispensation well known for their anti-Muslim stance – which itself raises several questions.
Divorce is the basic right of any individual as is the right to choose one’s partner and to criminalize such right is equal to crushing out the essence of freedom.In its final verdict Supreme Court’s bench found the practice of “triple talaq” as unconstitutional and non-theological, as well ruled out the possibility of any legislation by Parliament as was suggested by two judges. One of the judges of the Supreme Court’s bench, Justice Joseph said in the given verdict “What cannot be true in theology cannot be protected by the law.But despite, the declaration of instant triple talaq as invalid by the Supreme Court, the ruling party introduced a new bill in Lok Sabha, that makes the declaration of “Triple Talaq” (instant and procedural) to be void and illegal, and a cognizable offence (if information relating to the offence is given by the woman and her blood or close relatives).
Here, second thing that exposed the duality of intention of BhartiyaJanta Party while addressing the issue of Triple Talaq and scraping of IPC 497 is that, latter constrained adultery with the wife of another man, without the consent or connivance of that man, such sexual intercourse not amounting to the offence of rape, is guilty of the offence of adultery as well as per the law women as abettor was exempted from punishment.
So earlier, IPC 497 law was partially anti-women but the latter scraping of IPC 497 turned the scenario and became an apparatus to hit the loyalty and sanctity of marriage. Hence, somehow both the instant triple talaq and scraping of 497 are on same strata and responsible to break down the structure of marriage. On that ruling party, BJP showed a hypocritical attitude while addressing the two similar issues, they paid a great effort to challenge triple talaq and introduced The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2018 but remain unaddressed the issue of IPC 497 which is more against the spirit of the family & marriage institution.
Even, the most sacred Islamic text Holy Quran and Hadith has clearly invalidated the practice of instant triple talaq, as well provided a prescribed procedure of how to end up a nuptial tie.Quran described instant triple talaq as TalaqUlBidat (the sinful form of divorce) as it is against the spirit of the holy book, whereas Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) found it as invalid practice.“Three divorces were treated as one” during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), Caliph Abu Bakr and Caliph Umar’s reign.
Basically, the issue of triple talaq has been thoroughly discussed in five schools of thought, whereas in some cases Hanafi school of thought entertained the idea. But the clerics belonging to the particular sect have also accepted the facts that triple talaq was responsible for spreading social evils. Hence, 23 Muslim nations have already banned the practice.Here, all the schools of thought determined the punishment of instant triple talaq and there are ample resolutions available in the theology to provide the maintenance and means of livelihood to the affected women.
One cannot deny the fact that triple talaq as a political tool is used due to negligence of All India Muslim Personal Law board who failed to address the issue in the light of Shariah law. It was their responsibility to initiate a research to gather the data of such cases and to invalidate the practice of triple talaq as it is theologically irrelevant. If the BJP government was sincere enough they can collect data in collaboration with All India Muslim personal Law Board and seek out a solution.
The unabated border tension
The border tension between India and Pakistan shows no signs of decline. On Tuesday, an Assistant Commandant of Border Security Force (BSF) was killed in a ‘sniper fire’ by Pakistan along the Line of Control (LoC) in Samba district of Jammu. Elsewhere, three BSF personnel and an army soldier were injured in separate incidents of firing along Rajouri and Kathua districts. Last week, Pakistan summoned Indian Acting deputy High Commissioner to lodge protest against “unprovoked” firing by Indian army in Shahkote sector which resulted in death of a woman. The number of ceasefire violations (CFVs) and the resultant casualties of soldiers and civilians on both sides along the Line of Control and the international border between India and Pakistan have seen a dramatic rise in the past five years.
Official records say that 2936 incidents cases of ceasefire violations took place, last year, the highest in the last 15 years, making mockery of the ceasefire agreement of 2003 between the two countries. For two years – 2004 and 2005–there was not a single such violation on the border. In 2006 just three incidents of CFVs took place while in 2007 and 08, there were 21 and 77 such incidents. There had been a gradual increase in ceasefire violations 2009 and 2013 with 28 in 2009, 44 in 2010, 62 in 2011, 114 in 2012 and 347 in 2013. After 2013, the CFVs witnessed serious rise. Since 2014, the border tension hit new levels with the Line of Control and International Border brimming with artillery and firearm sounds. The seriousness of the situation can be understood from the latest threat by army chief Gen Bipin Rawat. He said that India would mind to strike inside Pakistan if the need arose. Pakistan army has viewed it as a direct threat from Indian army and retorted that they were ready for war if it was imposed on them. It is no exaggeration to say that the current level of hostilities is the most dangerous escalation since the 2003 ceasefire agreement. Though the ceasefire violations never ceased on the LOC or working boundary but it had never been so threatening as it is today.
The numbers of dead on both sides, civil and military, is rising. Indian and Pakistani armies, some time back, released videos of attacks on each others’ positions on the LOC claiming heavy losses on both sides. The most unfortunate part is that there is no agency or process or set of protocols that appear to be able or willing to stop or at least bring a pause to what is now dangerously close to outright warfare. The provocative statements by military and political leadership and incensed media propaganda on both sides go on un-endingly.
It is now an admitted fact that political factors play a major role in determining the relations between the two countries. Vajpyee, who was seen as a man of peace, and General Musharaf, despite serious provocations from hardliners with the government and the deep state, sorted out a strategy to lessen the tension between the two countries which worked quite successfully. It was Vajpayee’s political sagacity that brought Gen Musharaf on board who put a stop to what India called cross border terrorism. The present dispensation however has different priorities. They are using external trouble for political gains internally. That way they have developed a vested interest in border tensions. It is most likely that the tension may escalate further given the political compulsions ahead of the ruling party at the centre.
The general elections in India are being held in April/May, and BJP would desperately need heightening India-Pakistan tension to woo electorate on its side. That might help BJP gain electorally but India, as nation, would have to bear its fruits.
Kashmir is reeling under yet another deadly disease—Swine flu also known as H1N1. The valley recorded the year’s first casualty last week when two persons died of the disease in the premier SMHS hospital. One more patient is battling for life in the hospital with H2N3 virus. The H1N1 or swine flu is now considered a seasonal flu which mostly survives in cold humid conditions. At least 30 people died due to swine flu in Kashmir Valley where a total of 147 cases were reported last winter season. In the past three months, 12 people have fallen victim to the fatal run of the swine flu till date. The first death of this season occurred in September, last. Official record shows that 50 people have been admitted in SKIMS under the influence of the disease out of which 42 have been discharged after the treatment while eight are still being treated. Doctors in the hospital have warned that H1N1 is a contagious disease and can transmit from one person to another. They have asked for taking precautionary measures to escape the disease. This is matter of serious concern. The even more alarming is the shortage of medicines. Report says that the valley hospitals are without proper medicine.
Barring SKIMS and SMHS hospital, there is no flu vaccine available in any hospital in the valley. This leaves SKIMS and SMHS as the only testing and treatment centre. Experts say that the swine flu outbreak can be contained but only if medicines reach the affected on time.
When the hospitals are not equipped with the testing and treatment drugs, how the disease could be contained. There is every reason for the people to feel panicky and authorities need to take the problem seriously and equip hospital with adequate medicine before the panic take over the valley. The panic has gripped even the medical fraternity as well as the lack of relevant vaccines has put the lives of doctors at risk. Doctors at SKIMS, who are dealing with patients at the Emergency and the OPD of the hospital, too are vulnerable to the disease and could catch infection in the absence of immunization and protective gear. Doctors and other hospital staff are not provided with personal protectionequipments while dealing with H1N1 patients thus putting them also at risk of contracting the virus.
There are no H1N1 vaccines which are to be given to high-risk persons with diabetes, elderly, children below 5 years, pregnant women, chronic diseases, immuno compromised and healthcare workers as the virus can be fatal in them. The designated laboratory for testing at SKIMS does not have the desired Biosafety-3 level for handling and processing H1N1 samples which is dangerous to staff and community. No sensitization and awareness programmes are conducted in hospitals with the result majority of H1N1 patients are overlooked. What is even more criminal is the silence by the concerned authorities. They have maintained complete silence over the deadly contours of the disease and the non-availability of the medicines. It is no less than criminal that despite these disturbing realities, some sections in the government would give false hope to people and come out with advisories of ‘no-panic’. The state administration should, in first place, take note of health hazards in the wake of fast spreading swine flu and activate the administration to take necessary measures, provide relevant vaccines and other medicine and expertise for the disease.
Instead of keeping the lack of medicines a secret, the administration should approach central government for immediate help by providing medicines. An awareness campaign through advertisements in the media should also be launched to keep people abreast of the dangers of the disease and measures to be taken at individual level for self protection.