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Opinion

Thaw in Social Forestry campaign

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By Bhushan Parimoo

It appears that the thaw has just set in within the deliverance apparatus of the Social Forestry. Very minute and feeble softening yet gives sign of hope. A matter to rejoice among the Nature Watchers and those who exclusively dependant on it one way or the other on it. Social Forestry Department has been subject to a Series of multiple frozen layers of negligent accumulated over years. To take it from the morasses of insensitive administrative mill. Required efforts of the hurricane nature to put it once again on rails to move forward. Indeed a Commendable patient endeavour seen after a long time.


Despite its mission has a long way to go to achieve the envisaged goal. It has been the perhaps only Afforestation Programme in the state. Which in its short span of activities has unmatched roll of success stories to write home about. Claims to have planted 13.00 Crores of plants covering an area of about 1.69 Lac hectares so far. Besides it 16 .00 Crores of plants has been distributed to the farmers for planting in their own propriety lands free of costs. This resulted to take off ever growing unavoidable pressure from forests to meet the demand for Fruit boxes. Social Forestry activities brought in through the Farm Forestry delivered unbelievable role in meeting the demand for 7.00Lacs Fruit boxes annually since 1982.

 

Sustained the Bat manufacturing industry in the valley ensuring the required supply for the manufacturing of Cricket Bats. Jammu region could get entire requirement for plywood industry from Eucalyptus Farm Forestry.


At the National Level Social Forestry Activities got “INDIRA PRIYADARSHANI VRIKSHA MITRA AWARD “Awards twice 1993 and1998.

Social Forestry means the management and protection of forest and afforestation of barren and deforested lands with the purpose of helping environmental, social and rural development. Social Forestry term was first used here in the state some 29 years earlier in 1990.Although The National Commission on Agriculture, Government of India recommender in one of its reports in 1976. Recommended that there is a dire and immediate need to supplement the efforts to create enthusiasm among masses for forest conservation and planting trees under Van Mahotsav program. Which was started by Kulapati Kanhaiyalal Munshi,the then Indian Union Minister for Agriculture and Food .It was called Social forestry which shall have the basic element for the people by the people and of the people approach. In a democratic way approach of forest conservation and usage. Agriculture Commission Report on rural Development has 17 volumes, elaborating each and every facets of rural economy. The recommendation of the Agriculture Commission came as a blessing in disguise to the Forest Department here. This writer as environmentalist activists has been in watch from very close quarters the way vandalism of Forests was carried upon.


A Government Sponsored exploitation to denude its world fame Forests. In the process threw cautious to the winds. Ignored well defined forest management practices which were in vogue in the state. Grow more Food in which a tiller was given free hand to grab as much Forest land as he can convert it to Agriculture purposes. It was under the directions of Revenue Minister late Mohammad Afzal Beig post 1947.Another one unscientific extraction of Green Gold even mother trees were not spared. Till a time came there was very little Green Gold to exploit. So to cover up misdeeds, avoid hue and cry. As news trickled in from other states that Social Forestry Programmes and tacit support of the centre Government. Which requires less greasing and arduous efforts to push the file for the approval? Department followed the track and got World Bank loan for the project sanctioned. And one fine morning mission was started with an appropriate Slogan serve the Society through the Social Forestry .That was the years 19981-82, project had sanctioned time frame of five years. Extended on public demand up to 1990-91. Project had an area of operation in all districts of the State except Leh and Kargil..Intent to raise plantations on village waste lands, river banks, canal sides, roadsides, farm bunds and on degraded Forest lands. Through these plantations it intends to protect the environment restore its aesthetic appeal. With it to release pressure from fragile environment. Through public participation fuel Fodder and small timber is made available. This a basic requirement of dire necessity to rum rural economy. Although such programmes were already here in the state. But post 1947 were allowed to suffer due to paucity of adequate funds. And over a period of time allowed to be discarded altogether. Department Forests used make available sufficient timer on monthly quota as per scale to urban society. Department of Food and Supply would through its network used to supply the ration card holders the Fuel Wood with the Essential commodities. These items used to be transported through navigated boats and made available as per calendar at fixed points on the both banks of River Jhelum. To ensure its availability due care used to be taken by the Forest Department not to give reason to complain and face wrath .The nostalgic view of it is still in the memories to cherish.
Maharaja Partap Singh earned the distinction of setting up the first food rationing department in India in 1918 and later on supply of fire wood was added to this system to control reckless felling. To meet the ever growing demand on the sustainable basis .Department of Forests created in a phased manner subjected to fund availability .About scores of wood lots in the valley with a sixteen years of rotational cutting programme for sustainable availability of Fuel Wood. In Jammu where comparatively due to climate demand of Fuel wood was less and was locally available even in Winter Capital Jammu. Apart from the fuel which is a basic necessity and wood based Fuel is renewal and everlasting. Whereas LPG is not renewal source costlier and undependable one in rural scenario. With it the Fodder on which the Livestock sector exclusively rests. Supplements income from crop production and other sources and absorbs income shocks due to crop failure. It generates a continuous stream of income and employment and reduces seasonality in livelihood patterns particularly of the rural poor (Birthal and Ali 2005).


While crop sector is on decline, livestock sector has shown constant rise in spite of impedes, annual growth of GDP,gross domestic product, from livestock is 7.3% in compression to much pampered crop sector is said to be mere3.1%. With it raising Plants for minor timber for local needs were met besides surplus to be sold and supplement the meagre income of the villagers. Project had envisaged with the World Bank loan to bring 440000 hectt area under various categories of plantation and 11 crores plants to be planted. Which shall generate over 12 million man days of employment during this period. And as per record which this a writer has with him had shown to achieve the target cent per cent. Under Strip Plantation, Wet Lands, Degraded Forests, Village Woodlots and Farm Forestry. Graph of achievement from a low key went up steadily. To start with first years it was 1700 hectt, next 4800 hectt, than 8650heecct, 13,359 Hectt, 15,500 hecct and grand total 44,000 hecct. Project had not a smooth sailing to start with.

Worrisome teething trouble were experienced to sell the idea to the villagers .Who were aware of its method of working. But with hard persuasion engaging Motivators from the wards of Opinion Leaders of the villages. Project started moving gaining momentum with each passing days.


Unfortunately with the World Bank period of assistance over, whole Project was brought to screeching halt. It was starved of funds and despite demand, in mid-June 2001 it was ordered to wind up. However it dragged its feet, only how to deal with its regular Staff. Paucity of adequate funds to carry on the mission to its logic end its growth started showing considerable retarded effects. It is standard practice observed in that when a Project period comes to end. It is left high and dry asking the locals protect and maintain themselves these raised assets minus required finical support on minimum basis. It is an irony what make those in the administration to comprehend that the marginalised section of the society shall do it. Knowing well this section has to toil hard just for a meagre two square meals. At times miss it too. Nurseries those established with a passage of time were discarded, and thus lost.


After procreated correspondence, some lobbying pleading the case Social Forestry Project was given sanction to convert it a full-fledged Project in October 2001. In its hay days Project had vibrant with its activities with peoples participation. Department has to double its efforts to meet the aspirations and demands in grey area. one of it is Fodder, and how to make value added Items out of Wood so produced, Which at present is sold as raw produce, not remunerative one to grow. Mass awareness; inculcate confidence, through the institution its Students induced to participate with enthusiasm. Let be a Social revolution active participation. Youth clubs, Women Clubs, opinion leaders of repute and off course the Panchayata has to be involved. Let it be called peoples movement with the Social Forestry participation. Availability of sapling should not be more than a Km away. All the more provide what is in demand in the area instead what the department has in hand. For it detail planning methodology has to be put in action.


(The Writer is a Jammu based Environmentalist)


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Opinion

Growing crimes against women

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Aritry Das

For years India has grappled with the tag of being the ‘most dangerous country for women‘. Successive governments introduced measures, but there is increasing evidence that they don’t work – and are counter-productive. Indeed, in key Indian states, cases of sexual violence are on the rise.

The Constitution of India mandates that as a federal union of states, law and order issues remain primarily with state governments, unless there are overarching issues such as terrorism. This results in many states trying different methods to tackle growing violence against women, and creating a range of other problems rather than solutions.

 

States like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra are the top states for registered rapes and sexual assaults, according to data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a federal body that collates statistics across states. These state governments are introducing new measures to increase women’s safety, but experts say their moves are not addressing root causes and systemic failures in India’s creaking criminal justice system.

As many as 38,947 rapes were reported in 2016, which was a rise of 12% from 2015. The number of cases reported under “sexual assault, harassment and molestation”, was 84,746 nationally. This is the second-most common crime against women after “domestic violence” cases.

When Uttar Pradesh chief minister Ajay Singh Bisht, (Yogi Adityanath) came to power in 2017, he decided to tackle the problem of women’s safety by creating the controversial ‘anti-Romeo squad’, with police roaming in civil dress to surveil public spaces to keep a check on street harassers (also known as “roadside Romeos”).

The squad was eventually disbanded. But following a spate of rapes of minors, Bisht directed the police to revive the squad with the new power to issue a warning ‘red card’ to ‘suspected harassers’. If a person is caught twice doing a similar act, he will face criminal proceedings.

The squad had earlier drawn flak after reports surfaced about them targeting and publicly shaming young men, giving moral advice to couples, while some were made to do sit-ups or had their heads shaved in public.

Vaibhav Krishna, a Senior Superintendent of Police in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, told Asia Times that police officers for 23 anti-Romeo squads were receiving gender sensitization and training programs to help them handle cases better.

The squad’s further empowerment has raised concerns. Reports of the squad “moral policing” couples and a subsequent increase in sexual violence cases indicated that the measure was not working, according to PoonamKaushik, a women’s rights activist and general secretary of PragatisheelMahilaSangathan.

In the neighboring state of Rajasthan, crimes against women under all sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) jumped by around 40% and rape cases rose by 30% in the first five months of this year compared to the same period last year. This happened despite the government setting up its own version of the anti-Romeo squad in 2018 with policewomen on two-wheelers.

“In Rajasthan, the government has not set up enough women’s help desks or One-Stop Crisis Centers [to assist rape victims]. Instead, they are trying to create these mechanisms [anti-Romeo squad] that are working against women being in public spaces due to moral policing,” said women’s rights activist KavitaSrivastava, who played a key role in the framing of the Vishakha guidelines to address sexual harassment at workplaces.

Now the Rajasthan government plans to set up special investigation units for crimes against women.

Delhi, meanwhile, had at least five rapes reported every day last year, according to NCRB data. So, the state government wants to boost safety by bringing more women into public spaces through free metro and bus rides, and installing 300,000 CCTV cameras. The Delhi Police, which reports to the Home Ministry, also launched a motorcycle-fleet of female cops to patrol the streets called Raftar.

But it is hard to spot this patrol squad on the road, according to Jaya Velankar, director of Jagori, a women’s organization that works to make city spaces safer. She also pointed out that unless roads are safe, free public transport won’t work.

Data from Delhi Police shows that sexual violence against women has only marginally decreased in recent times. In the first six months of 2019, reported cases of rape (IPC 376) were 973, down from 1,005 cases in the same period in 2018, while cases of assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty (IPC 354) decreased by 172 and insults to the modesty of women (IPC 509) decreased by 101.

Madhya Pradesh was the first state to propose the death penalty for men who rape girls under the age of 12, back in 2017. But violence against women has not gone down. Rape of minor girls in the state made headlines throughout June this year. Now the government has taken an initiative to introduce GPS tracking devices and emergency “panic buttons” in passenger vehicles such as buses and taxis.

Maharashtra assigned a 2.5-billion-rupee (US$36 million) budget for women’s safety initiatives. But sexual violence cases have risen despite this. But a survey by non-government groups Akshara and Safetipin found that 44% of areas in Mumbai, the state capital, were unsafe. It said women were only safe to walk on 22% of Mumbai’s streets.
This year the Maharashtra government finally proposed safety measures such as setting up SOS hotspots, tracking apps and installing more CCTV cameras.

However, feminists are not convinced that surveillance leads to greater safety for women or a loss of autonomy.

The rising number of crimes has put state lawmakers in a difficult position and they have criticized the police, who then discourage women from filing cases, Velankar claimed. But a higher number of reported cases also meant that more women were coming out to report violence and governments now had greater responsibility to assure they get justice, she said.

The implementation of a major national scheme to increase women’s safety is also not faring well. Recent reports revealed that between 2015 and 2018, states and union territories used less than 20% of the 8.5-billion-rupee ($124 million) budget allocated to them under the Nirbhaya Fund, which supports schemes for women’s safety. The fund was set up in the aftermath of a brutal gang-rape of a paramedical student in New Delhi in December 2012. Delhi, which has the highest rate of crime against women, fared the worst by using only 0.84% of the 350 million rupees it received.

“The Nirbhaya Fund is used as per proposals from different departments of the central and state governments. It will not be implemented if there is no will to do so,” a senior federal official of the Ministry of Women and Child Development told Asia Times on the condition of anonymity.

Experts say government initiatives and implementation of laws won’t create change if a culture of impunity has made the criminal justice system weak. Kaushik noted that some of the worst accusations against the police stem from recent rape cases of minors in Unnao and Kathua, where they are alleged to have bowed to pressure from people of influence to bury cases and evidence.

The Unnao rape victim, who claimed she was a minor at the time of the incident, tried to self-immolate last year due to the police not registering her complaint against a BJP lawmaker. In the Kathua case verdict, four police officers were convicted among the six accused in connection to rape and murder of an eight-year-old Kashmiri girl.

Another major hurdle that stops victims of sexual violence from getting justice is the low conviction rate in India, which is a mere 25.5% for rape and just under 22% for sexual assault and harassment, according to NCRB data.

(Courtesy: atimes.com)

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Opinion

Why justice matters in Jammu and Kashmir

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Harinder Baweja

Pakistan has for long sponsored terrorism in?Kashmir. But is it enough for India to point to “causality”, without introspecting on the fact that Kashmir has a long litany of documented human rights violations that have gone unpunished?

Think about it. Why does India get prickly each time allegations of human rights abuse in Jammu and Kashmir are placed at its door? Is it because there is some truth in the allegations? Does India have a lot to hide when it comes to violations committed by its men in uniform?

 

Dismissing an updated report by Office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), which faulted both India and Pakistan for not improving the situation in Kashmir, a ministry of external affairs (MEA) spokesperson said last week, “A situation created by years of cross-border terrorist attacks emanating from Pakistan has been analysed without any reference to its causality.”

Reflecting India’s indignation at being called out, the spokesperson said, the report “seems to be a contrived effort to create an artificial parity between the world’s largest and most vibrant democracy and a country that openly practices state-sponsored terrorism.”

Let us get this out of the way first.

Yes, it can be said, with no hesitation at all, that Pakistan has for long sponsored terrorism and will likely continue to practise its “bleed India through a thousand cuts” policy. It has suffered humiliation at the hands of the United Nations Security Council, which recently declared Jaish-e-Mohammad chief, MasoodAzhar, a global terrorist. But that tag too is unlikely to lead to the Pakistani deep State severing its ties with the jihadi outfits it sees as “assets.”

But is it enough for India to point to “causality”, without introspecting on the fact that Kashmir has a long litany of documented human rights violations that have gone unpunished? The Valley, in fact, has erupted in anger each time the men in uniform have crossed the line, but justice – that ever so important balm for a population as alienated as Kashmir’s – has mostly stayed elusive.

Let’s talk about the two occasions when the Valley boiled over with anger.

First, in 2010, Kashmiris took to the streets after the Indian Army, in a fake encounter, killed three civilians and passed them off as infiltrating terrorists. The gross violation was proved beyond a doubt. The unsuspecting civilians had been lured to Machil, a forward sector along the Line of Control, and killed in cold blood. Despite an Army court martial pronouncing five of its men guilty and sentencing them for life, the Armed Forces Tribunal suspended the sentence, arguing that civilians ought not to have been in a forward location, wearing “pathan suits”.

Just like in 2010, when over 100 protesting youth were shot dead, in 2016 too, the civilian toll crossed 100 after stone pelters – angry with the killing of militant commander Burhan Wani – took to the streets. Kashmir gave vent to deep anger and betrayal – not only because Wani was eliminated – but because the trust deficit between the Valley and Delhi had eroded over years, and reached break point.

The pellet gun became the symbol of oppression. It blinded, maimed and killed. The OHCHR report that India summarily dismissed, pointed to the basic tenets of injustice: “There is no information about any new investigation into excessive use of force leading to casualties. There is no information on the status of the five investigations launched into extrajudicial executions in 2016… No prosecutions have been reported.”

Kashmiris live with this reality every day. Why must brazen killings go unpunished? More importantly, why lash out at a report that questions excessive use of force?
The Kashmiri wound is deep and it has festered for too long. One major step forward would be to reduce the repressive security measures. Instead of negating charges of abuse and human rights violations, India ought to take steps towards setting up a truth and reconciliation commission. Why not encourage public hearings in which victims and their families are encouraged to speak?

Reaching out and admitting to violations will help rebuild trust. It is not enough to merely look at figures that point to a reduction in infiltration. The problem now centresaround home-grown militants. Violations only fuel the cycle of violence.

Admit, address and provide justice, for Kashmir is not a piece of real estate, to be ruled by force.

(Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

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Opinion

Remove stigma, report psychiatric ailments

The Kashmir Monitor

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By Dr Arif Maghribi Khan

“All patients are mad. All psychiatric medicines cause sleep.” Yes, this is the common perception in Kashmir. While the fact remains that according to easiest classifications of diseases, there are two types of psychiatric ailments – neurotic and psychotic. In neurotic diseases, patient does not lose contact with reality.

The patient can tell you his or her name, address, locality correctly while in psychotic ailments, patient’s contact with reality is lost and he or she lives in world of their own. Such patients often report seeing angels, strange figures, or hearing voices or sounds, which nobody else sitting with the patient sees or hears.

 

One example of psychotic ailments is schizophrenia, the prevalence of which is as low as 0.5 per 1000, while ailments like depression, anxiety, phobia form the bulk of psychiatric ailments. Even in this day and age, when all the world of knowledge and information is at our fingertips, we as a society have not been able to differentiate between the two.

So the stigma remains attached with psychiatric ailments thus delaying diagnosis and treatment. It is because of this stigma, people visit psychiatric settings with faces covered or masked. Young adults and children fear to disclose to their parents if they suffer from depression or anxiety disorders, which leads them to live an impaired life, wherein they struggle with issues like loss of interest in studies or even loss of employment as their inability to concentrate consistently tears apart their social and professional lives.

Parents are there to discipline and guide children but not to make them fear depression. Another problem hitting psychiatric healthcare in Kashmir is the myth that all medicines prescribed by psychiatrists cause sleep, while the fact is that psychiatric medicines work by increasing, changing or blocking activities of neurotransmitters.

Nerves carry information from the body to the brain and vice versa. The brain is composed of roughly 86 billion neurons. Chemical messengers called neurotransmitters carry messages between neurons to help the brain receive the information, decide what it means and execute a reaction. Neurotransmitters are responsible for emotional regulation, pain perception, motivation, concentration, memory energy, mood, sleep patterns, libido. Any imbalance can result in Depression, Nightmares, Mental Fatigue, Anxiety, Impaired cognition, attention, and arousal, Apathy, Lack of motivation, Poor attention, and Fatigue. Most of the time a qualified psychiatrist uses anti-depressants which do not cause sleep, in first few months of treatment depending upon the psychiatric ailment anxiolytics, also known as ‘tranquilizers’ are used.

So let’s stop assuming that all medicines cause sleep and we will be dependent on them for rest of our life.

The biggest challenge faced by doctors today and specially psychiatrists is that due to easy availability of internet most patients start Google searching medicine for 8 minutes prescribed by a doctor who studied medicine for 8 years, fact is that not all information surfers get on medicine by Google search is authenticated. Patients are well advised to seek such information from doctor rather than what is searched on internet or what a specialist from other field like education or engineering has to say!

We need to fight epidemic of psychiatric ailments including drug abuse on basis of science and not search on internet. It’s as simple as that, to aware common people doctors, counsellors from field of mental health need to work vigorously in community to clear myths and mist surrounding psychiatric ailments. We need to give patients of anxiety disorders or drug abuse respect and not scare them with unfounded information. Also next time we label some person as mad for being stressed kindly read this survey of again “Nearly 1.8 million adults (45% of the population) in the Kashmir show symptoms of significant mental distress according to a comprehensive mental health survey conducted by the medical humanitarian organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) between October and December 2015. The research was done in collaboration with the Department of Psychology, Kashmir University and the Institute of Mental Health and Neuroscience (IMHANS).

(Author can be mailed at [email protected])

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