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Editorial

The rot in education system

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The annual examination result of 10th class students, declared on Saturday, has once again shown that the poor state of government-run schools in Kashmir. While the pass percentage of the students in non-government schools is around 85%, government-run schools lag largely behind. The overall pass percentage of students in government-run schools is around 63 percent. Thirty seven percent, who failed to qualify, is by no means a less figure. It is rather a disturbing gap. The performance of private schools, where around 90% have been declared successful, is though encouraging but there is need to lessen the gap further. Private schools are definitely capable enough for it. But the indifference and apathy one witnesses in government-controlled education sector is and should be a matter of concern for all.

That the learning in government schools in Jammu and Kashmir is abysmal is a widely recognized truth. Despite big claims by the government in recent time, it still remains the trickiest proposition. Take the case of much-hyped rationalization of government-run schools. It is going on a sluggish pace. The so-called project has been undertaken almost three years back but the government is yet to streamline the pupil-teacher ratio in the school. Latest figures show that over 1000 schools at primary level are still run by single teacher whereas there are many schools were number of teachers is more than the students. The rationalization was started, last year, after 124 government schools were found with no students on the rolls. However, these schools were functioning for years in one- or two-room accommodation. It needs well-designed planning in tune with the needs and requirements to change the system. The people responsible for correcting the system would take refuge in the turbulence that has swept the valley over years. But the pass percentage in the most turbulent zones like Pulwama is the highest followed by equally turbulent zones of Shopian, Kulgam and Anantnag. That speaks that the malaise in government schools is from the within. And the worst part of it is that the concerned authorities do not even use common sense to identify and fix the problems.

They rather add to the problems by their ‘intellect’ and ‘authority’. When Kashmir erupted in revulsion in the wake of Burhan Wani’s killing, voices were raised that the education of children has become the casualty. They have now maintained criminal silence when the government itself shuts down schools more-often-than-not. At the slightest provocation schools, colleges and even universities are shut in the name of maintaining peace. The practice of closing down the educational institutions has become a weekly affair. Every other day educational institutions in one or the other district—on occasions all over the valley—are shut for one or the other reason. Internet service is the only other sector that shuts and runs like our educational institutions in the valley. Add it to the condition of schools we have. The average (government) primary school is a dingy, dilapidated spaces (in many cases rented place) without electricity.

 

A recent study has shown that 80% schools in Kashmir are without electricity. Imagine a scenario where students would be made to sit and taught in a building without windows, electricity and proper infrastructure in a shivering or humid temperature. What could be the concentration level of the students and teachers? Few would dispute with the fact that Jammu and Kashmir has a legacy of weak schooling for its young because education has never been on the political agenda in the state. Reckless teachers, is another issue that is taking toll of quality education in government schools. No doubt, Government schools in Jammu and Kashmir have the highest qualified teachers who, as against private teachers, get handsome salaries. But most of them are suffering from the chronic disease of not-working. Many of them have teaching (in schools) a side job. They are doing other businesses. In rural areas majority of fruit dealers come from teachers’ community. In cities and towns, they have set up shops and business centres of their choice. They ‘buy’ postings of their choice (where they have no work or accountability) from concerned offices and officers and rarely perform the duties they are paid for by the government. The rot is from top to down. Removing it needs overhaul of the entire system with a sense of honesty and sincerity.


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Editorial

The “messy” business of assembly elections

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The Assembly elections, which many people had speculated would be held soon after parliamentary elections, are unlikely to be held so soon.

The 40-days polling process has come to an end with final phase of polling for 59 parliamentary seats across different states on Sunday.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) took stock of Kashmir situation on many occasions in the past one month to weigh out the possibility of Assembly elections but there has been no definite word from the Commission so far.

 

Last month, some hints had been dropped from different sources that the Assembly elections could be held in June before the start of Amarnath Yatra. However, the way ECI has maintained silence on the subject; it is now unlikely that any such plan is under the consideration of the Commission. It is believed the elections could be postponed till November. Jammu and Kashmir is currently reeling President’s rule.

Last year, Governor’s Rule was imposed in the state on June 19 after the ruling alliance between the BJP and Mehbooba Mufti fell apart. Six months later, on November 21, the state Assembly was dissolved by the Governor. A month later, on December 19, President’s Rule was imposed.

Its six-month term ends in July 18. President’s Rule in the state needs to be extended before July 2 for which the new government at the centre has to take charge immediately after the election results on May 23. What makes the issue even more complicated is what if new government at the Centre refused to extend President’s rule beyond the scheduled date. ECI is reported to have sought legal opinion on the subject to escape the blame for the mess that could happen.
Almost all the pro election groups in Jammu and Kashmir are in favour of holding assembly elections without delay. NC, PDP and BJP have been demanding that elections should be held as soon as possible. Election Commission of India visited the state and held consultations with the relevant political parties and state administration many a times over the past six months. The elections are delayed under garb of ‘situation not being conducive’. But there is one silver lining which suggests that the assembly elections would not be too difficult proposition. The “peaceful” conduct of parliamentary elections shows the way. Though there had been unprecedented boycott of the polling but these were peaceful as well. A general refrain is that major sections of society were in favor of elected government in the state. They believe that presence of elected government is necessary to safeguard the interests of the state. A common refrain is that the BJP-led central government has been trying to trample upon the state’s special position by undoing Article 35-A and 370 of the Indian constitution which grants some special position to Jammu and Kashmir. With Delhi’s man (Governor) at the helm of affairs, it is unlikely the present dispensation would defend it. A few months back Governor’s administration took a slew of measures including separating Ladakh from Kashmir division, changes procedure of issuing Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC), amendment in rules of Jammu & Kashmir Protection of Human Rights Act — by virtue of which the State Human Rights Commission will be unable to investigate any complaint of human rights violation submitted one year after the incident — “an act beyond its mandate” has necessitated the need for an elected government. In that context, the sentiment for boycott of polls is not so deep among common people. ECI should take the advantage of the situation and it should not have deferred the assembly polls. The ECI can still rethink and re-schedule the assembly elections soon after the parliamentary elections.


Almost all the pro election groups in Jammu and Kashmir are in favour of holding assembly elections without delay. NC, PDP and BJP have been demanding that elections should be held as soon as possible. Election Commission of India visited the state and held consultations with the relevant political parties and state administration many a times over the past six months. The elections are delayed under garb of ‘situation not being conducive’. But there is one silver lining which suggests that the assembly elections would not be too difficult proposition. The “peaceful” conduct of parliamentary elections shows the way. Though there had been unprecedented boycott of the polling but these were peaceful as well. A general refrain is that major sections of society were in favor of elected government in the state. They believe that presence of elected government is necessary to safeguard the interests of the state. A common refrain is that the BJP-led central government has been trying to trample upon the state’s special position by undoing Article 35-A and 370 of the Indian constitution which grants some special position to Jammu and Kashmir. With Delhi’s man (Governor) at the helm of affairs, it is unlikely the present dispensation would defend it. A few months back Governor’s administration took a slew of measures including separating Ladakh from Kashmir division, changes procedure of issuing Permanent Resident Certificate (PRC), amendment in rules of Jammu & Kashmir Protection of Human Rights Act — by virtue of which the State Human Rights Commission will be unable to investigate any complaint of human rights violation submitted one year after the incident — “an act beyond its mandate” has necessitated the need for an elected government. In that context, the sentiment for boycott of polls is not so deep among common people. ECI should take the advantage of the situation and it should not have deferred the assembly polls. The ECI can still rethink and re-schedule the assembly elections soon after the parliamentary elections.

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Editorial

Ramadan beggars

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Begging is legally prohibited in Kashmir. But it is the most cherished profession for a large number of people with no fear of law. The generosity with which people oblige beggars by giving them alms is driving more and more people to the profession. Come Ramadan, non-state residents also join this class and one sees beggars surfacing in huge numbers, swarming streets and homes like mosquitoes. They are found everywhere—homes, mosques, streets crossings, shopping malls, government offices, public places. There is no class distinction of these beggars. They are young and old—men, women and children. They are healthy but pose to be infirm, put up indigent faces when they approach their target. It is the easiest and simple way to find sympathy. Begging is professed even by ‘respected’ citizens. They have found novel ways for begging, which do little affect their ‘respectability’. It rather adds to their ‘stature’ and ‘standing’ in social life. They would approach their targets in the name of helping orphans, physically infirm and poor people. One comes across hundreds of people collecting alms in the name of ‘orphanages’. A single ‘orphanage’ generally uses dozens of people—young and old, mostly with long beards—to collects alms, who are paid a particular percentage of the money collected as their return commission. This gives the ‘collectors’ more a sense of commitment and dedications.

Since Kashmir has witnessed deaths at large-scale in the past years of armed trouble, people get influenced easily by the ‘orphan’ theory of money seekers. No doubt there are some credible institutions run of by people of impeccable integrity and honesty which are dedicated to the cause of orphans and poor. One cannot ignore the services rendered by RahatManzil (YateemKhanaBemina), JK YateemTurst and JK Yateem Foundation in this field. People running these institutions deserve all praise and encouragement, and there should be a great reward for them before Almighty Allah as well. There could be some more institutions, which might be contributing towards the society in their own way. But most of the ‘orphanages’ exist only in name. All you need is a hand bill indicating Iftar and Sehri timing and a coupon or receipt book under some orphanage-name. One finds sign boards (of orphanages) erected at various places across the city. But their veracity has never been checked. One wonders how an orphanage can be run in a small room. It should have been the job of police to check the activities of such people. Many such centers are being run under the very nose of police. Some years back KothiBagh Police Station arrested office-bearers of a so-called orphanage for being involved in immoral activities.

Since Ramadan is the month of sympathy and compassion, people give alms to the seekers generously and without checking their antecedents. This has quite a serious negative impact on the entire social fabric of our society. It not only encourages people to take recourse to means of easy money but also inculcates sick and corrupt mindset. Last year, the begging was restricted to some extent after ban on it at public places by district magistrate Srinagar but this time it is the very old scene that is being witnessed on Srinagar streets. There is urgent need to protect our society from this negative fallout. We have already suffered much on this front, and we cannot afford any more losses if we want to live as a responsible and civilized people. Police can play a major role in reining in fake and fraudulent people.

 

During Shaikh Mohammad Abdullah’s government in late 70s, police had cracked down on beggars and the practice had somewhat stopped but for a brief period. It is necessary that the anti-begging law is practiced and society be cleared of this uncivil and insulting menace. People seeking alms in the name of institutions may also be verified, and fake among them be dealt under law.

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Editorial

Beware of anti-social elements

The Kashmir Monitor

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The outrage over the alleged rape of a three-year old girl in Bandipora district is spilling on streets. Hundreds of residents in Srinagar, Budgam, Pulwama and Bandipora districts took to streets on Monday in protest against the horrific incident. Political leadership of all shades too has expressed their anger, and voices for stringent punishment for the accused are getting harsher and louder. Some political sections had called for shutdown on Monday. The outrage on social media is even more severe. Every individual and group is demanding death penalty for the accused. Police too has acted in a professional way. The accused has been arrested and booked under relevant sections of the law. This makes it a case of collective conscience of the entire people of the valley, leaving no scope for doubts and misgivings. Not a single voice, even from the family, has been raised in support of the accused. However, there are attempts from certain sections to side track the issue and give it a sectarian colour. One should not be oblivion of the fact the society’s overall response too was befitting. That makes one believe that as society we are still active, live and conscious. There is no reason for one to be sceptical about the way people and police responded to the gruesome incident. There is not iota of evidence that suggests that the accused is shielded from any quarter. Not a single voice, not even from his family, has been raised in support of the accused. The principal of the school who had issued a fake date of birth certificate in favour of the accused has equally been condemned which led to his arrest.

Despite this certain sections are hell-bent on giving the incident a sectarian colour. They are trying to portray the incident as an organized crime from a particular sect against the other sect, which is the most shameful and dangerous. The act is purely a heinous social crime, not happening in our society for the first time.Such crimes are happening everywhere, with Kashmir being no exception. Only last month, a teenage-girl committed suicide in the same district after she was raped by her own father. In Uri, last year, a woman got her step-daughter raped and murdered by her son and his friends. The latest is indeed a rare of the rare cases in view of the age of the victim and the accused. One must not be oblivion to the fact that the situation in Kashmir is not normal. We are living under extreme conditions.Any wrong move from any side can result in enormous damage to our societal fabric. There are dozens of self-interested groups, state and non-state, who are on watch to exploit the situation to their end. It would the most unfortunate moment for the entire people if these elements succeeded in their nefarious design. People of the valley need to understand this intricacy. They should know that any wrong move at public level can have dangerous consequences for the entire society. It is time that political and religious leadership of the valley accept the challenge and rise collective against wrongs of these sections. They need to educate people about the consequences such ‘hangamaAaraei’ is bound to lead. It is very unfortunate that the protestors indulged violence at several places, blocked traffic and pelted stones at every passing vehicle. They did not spare even ambulances. Around half a dozen ambulances carrying patients were showered with stones causing serious damage to them.The patient, their attendants and the medical staff had narrow escape. This is sheer ‘gundagardi’. As responsible people, we should not get carried away by sectarian whims. We should demonstrate a civilized attitude even in extreme provocations, and discourage the anti social elements who are attempting to destroy our social fabric.

 
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