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.
January 21, the day when it all started
January 21 is the unforgettable day in today’s Kashmir. It was on this day in 1990 that around 50 unarmed civilians were savagely killed and more than 100 others wounded in indiscriminate use of firearms by the central reserve police force (CRPF) at Gawkadal in Srinagar. It was a peaceful procession by all means. Thousands of unarmed civilians from uptown localities of Raj Bagh, Jawahar Nagar, Batamaloo and other surrounding localities had taken out the procession and were marching on the streets when CRPF men encountered them at Gawkadal. The state administration, then or now had never been able to reason out as what made the CRPF men to go berserk.
A common refrain in the peoples’ circles in Kashmir is that the massacre had the state approval. It was meant to cause horror among local population to submit to the authority and power of Jagmohan, who had taken control of the state government as Governor just two days before. Jagmohan was appointed governor against the wishes of chief minister Farooq Abdullah. He took it a ruse and resigned from the government. This was second time that Jagmohan was appointed as governor of Jammu and Kashmir. People of the state had a mixed bag of sweet and bitter memories of his first stint. He acted as Indira Gandhi’s stooge to dislodge Farooq Abdullah’s elected government in 1984 to bring Ghulam Mohammad Shah as chief minister of the state. In 1986, he dismissed Shah’s government under an engineered pretext of communal clash at Wanpoh village in south Kashmir’s Kulgam district to see himself at the helm of affairs. This way he came to be known as anti people and anti democracy bulldozer. After taking control of the state administration, he however, tried to rework his image by taking some developmental initiatives. However, his communal instinct awoke when majority of Muslim candidates were ignored in admissions in professional colleges—medical and engineer in particular. This created a massive unrest in the valley which ultimately led to restoration of NC-Congress coalition government.
In 1990 he was reappointed as Governor in the backdrop of very volatile situation. Armed uprising against Indian rule had started with massive public support. Since no action was ever taken against the guilty CRPF men involved in the carnage, it is widely believed that Jagmohan had very obnoxious and lethal plans to undo the Kashmiri movement. Most people in Kashmir believe that the January 21 massacre was a part of this plan. Two days before (January 19), just a few hours after he took over as the state reigns, Kashmir Pandits started migration from the valley. Most of them were provided transportation facilities by the state government itself, and in many cases security was also provided to the fleeing Pandits giving the impression that the state administration had vested interested in assisting Pandits to leave the valley. Gawkadal Massacre was followed by other half a dozen even more heinous incidents of mass killings. The Tengpora Bypass and Zakoora Crossing killings on March 1 in which around 46 persons (26 at Tengpora and 20 at Zakoora) were done to death by the CRPF. Around 30 people were killed in yet another massacre at Karfalli Mohalla with more than 20 others at Handwara. The Hawal massacre was the culmination when around 50 persons were massacred during funeral procession of Mirwaiz Molvi Mohammad Farooq. Though Jagmohan was recalled after the Hawal carnage, the bloody footprints he left behind are still visible. Since the bloodshed continues unabatedly, it is unlikely for the valley people to forget the day when it all started.
Politics of deceit
Far away from the ideal perspective, success in politics demands one to have the ability to control truth and lies and, more importantly, the middle ground between the two. These days, the politicians of Jammu and Kashmir are clearly following this ‘success mantra’. We see them cautiously choosing their words depending upon the audience they are addressing. In the valley, they pose as the messiahs of the people, trying to warp the listeners with their politicking of deceit and double-talk. Elsewhere, they conjure tricks up their sleeve: When in Rome do as the Romans do. While ‘autonomy’ and ‘Kashmir struggle’ become a dominant part of their glossed glossary here, elsewhere, it is ‘Kashmir belongs to India’ parroting that defines their boondoggle of political careers.
Be it the leaders of National Conference or Peoples Democratic Party, their seemingly heartfelt gestures on and about Kashmiris and Kashmir these days are a perfect example of this paradox. Few would dispute with the fact that politics of deception has become a fundamental technique for survival in politics. This is practiced by almost all the politicians in the state. In the midst of all this experimentation is the commoner in Kashmir finding him/herself turned into a lab-rat, peeled and pricked, ridiculed and tricked, again and again. Politicians here are stricken with recreating the tapestry of their fake achievements embedded in the notion of selective amnesia. They pull and tear each other down in an attempt to what is being referred to as ‘regaining lost ground’. What ‘gain’ on which ‘ground’ depends where they stand and deliver their cantankerous speeches–ones that make a lot of noise but change not a bit. We are dog-tired questioning the politicians, who zealously pursue their politics of balancing truth and lies. It is the seemingly sheep of a people here (read every section of the society including the media) that makes an interesting case. Bedazzled and bamboozled we become each time the politicians juggle in front of us. Their tricks are old and repeated, bereft of any pledge, turn and prestige. But as nonchalantly as ever, we always rouse to them in tumultuous applause. We march on their chants exactly how Orwell’s ‘sheep’ did to ‘Napoleon’ in ‘Animal Farm’. The world apparently knows Kashmir as a place of confrontation and struggle, but the rules here are not that hard and fast. They are always moulded in the cauldron of lies and fake hopes. It is not surprising that politicians come back to people, impenitent and equally poised, knowing that they will ultimately get what they want from them. Suggestions aside, it is time to shatter that poise and make them aware of their wrongdoings. It is time to stand-up, ask those tough questions and not take trickery or blabber as an answer.
For the immediate attention of the Governor
It is an oft-repeated story. The winter’s only blessing and charm—snow—always turns into curse in Kashmir. People, who, generally, crave for the snowfall in winter, rue when it actually happens. Not that there is something wrong with the aesthetic and arty sense of the people, but because of the problems they are subjected to after the snowfall. It goes without saying that the snow is the only attraction for people in winter. This year God has been quite gracious to bestow His blessing on Kashmir in the shape of snow. It is for the third time that the valley witnessed a rich snowfall adding a new charm to this beautiful part of the world. The entire valley and its surrounding mountain peaks give a striking charm with white snow capping and covering them all. Social media is agog with photographs and videos of snow accumulating on streets, house lawns, trees and house tops. Videos capturing citizens celebrating the snow fall with awesome charm gave a new meaning and sense to the winter. The whisper of swirling and falling snowflakes evoked a sense of extra delight, marking the arrival of a new feeling to hold onto, this charm captures the imagination and beauty of winter. The snowfall gave a respite to the valley people in some other way as well. The valley had been reeling under harsh cold coupled with dryness causing serious problems like scarcity of water as water bodies and taps had got frozen under sub zero temperature. The snowfall has lessened these problems to some extent. But the peoples’ joy, as always, proved short-lived as new and more problems serious in nature and consequences are staring at their faces. In fact the problems of the people begin with the fall of the first flake of the snow. Power and road connectivity are the first to become the casualties, exposing the traditional lackadaisical and easygoing attitude. As the authorities were yet to overcome the problems that overtook the valley due to January 7 snowfall, this week’s snowfall (on Wednesday) came as another ruse for them to conceal their worthlessness.
Kashmir is snow prone region since its existence. It is not something unexpected or unforeseen has happened. The basic question is why the power supply system is so fragile that three or four inch snow dashes it to the ground. Kashmir is not the only place where there is snowfall. But Kashmir is the only place where everything gets buried under snow—the government in the very first place. Snow falls every winter in Kashmir, and the problems get repeated every time there is a snowfall. The government should have taken all this into consideration well before the time, and efforts should have been made to make maximum of the minimum. But here everything goes in reverse direction. It is not only the power supply that has affected the lives of the people. The road connectivity has also got badly affected in the wake of the snowfall. Most of the roads and streets in capital Srinagar are under snow. Nobody from the Municipality or Public Works department is seen anywhere on the streets clearing or monitoring the road clearance. Srinagar Municipal Corporation, which has an army of people to meet such eventualities, appears to be under deep slumber.
What has made the situation even worse is the water logging on crucial city centers. The exhibition chowk, Jahangir Chow, Hari Singh High Street, Lal Chowk, Regal Chowk and several other surrounding localities have turned into water pools and lakes due to water logging. The drainage system seems to have failed completely.The state government which has moved to Jammu for the winter season is basking in the sunny and warm weather. The valley has been handed over to a few bureaucrats with divisional commissioner as their head, who have ensconced themselves to their cozy offices. The essential commodities and eatables of daily use too have disappeared from the market. They are being sold in black against whopping prices. There is no control over prices. Governor S P Malik, who is currently head of the government, needs to take stock of the worsening situation in the valley, and activate his machinery to mitigate the peoples’ problems. He speaks on everything that comes his way but is turning a blind eye to the daily problems of the valley people.