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World’s costliest vegetable gasps for breath-`Kanegeich’ faces threat from habitat destruction, urbanization:

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar:  World’s costliest mushroom is feeling the tremors of habitat destruction in Kashmir.

Locally known as ‘Kanegeich’, the morel mushroom is a rare sight in the valley as it cannot be cultivated commercially and instead it grows wild in some forest regions.  The vegetable is sold at Rs. 10,000 to Rs. 30,000 per kilogram.

Morels or Gucchis are a delicacy used not only in elaborate feasts of Kashmiri weddings but also feature in the menus of high end restaurants in different parts of the world.

 

However, with the growing habitat destruction and rapid urbanization, the extraction of prized mushrooms is wavering every year.

Forest Departmentdata accessed by The Kashmir Monitor reveals that 88.90 quintals of morel mushrooms were extracted in 2017-2018 against 281.16 quintals in 2016-17.

Similarly, the 134.75 quintals of morel mushrooms were extracted in 2012-13, which increased to 175.65 quintals and 429.43 quintals in 2013-14 and 2014-15 respectively. This was followed by slump in 2015-16 with only 122.11 quintals being extracted.

An official of the Forest Department said there has been frequent disturbance in the natural eco-system of J&K in the last few years.

“Guchchi mushrooms usually grow on logs of decaying wood or decaying leaves and even in humus soil. They may or not grow in the same spot the next season and they are notoriously unpredictable as they may show up anywhere,” he said.

However, the extractions have been vacillating due to various anthropogenic activities.“This can be attributed to various reasons like rampant constructions, illegal encroachments, increasing forest fires and overgrazing in the forest areas,” he said. 

Dr Rouf Hamza Boda, a researcher who has worked extensively on the guchchies, said it is believed that morels share a deep relationship with the roots of Deodar and Pine trees.

“With unchecked deforestation going around, the connection seems to have lost. Mushrooming is a natural occurrence on Himalayan mountain tops,” he said.

Dr Boda noted due to climate change and habitat destruction, the harvesting seasons have shifted to early winter. “Due to modern lifestyle, the mushroom collectors which were mostly women and children have dwindled over the years. They no longer feel inclined towards mushroom picking, which demands a sharp sight and close attention to the ground.  If only government showed some concern towards this prized crop and incentivize the collectors, this wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

Researcher at Centre for Bio-diversity and Taxonomy, Kashmir University, Akhtar Malik pointed out that there is threat to the premium vegetable.“Like unauthentic saffron brands posing as original products, the mushrooms are also sold as false morels called `Phosa’. This is mixed with some quantity of original morels for trade purposes,” Malik said.


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Treated worse than bonded laborers: No country for Safai Karamcharis

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Feb 19: It has been two months since Riyaz Ahmad, a sanitation worker at Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC), has taken a day off. His work starts at the break of dawn when he holds long-handled broom to clean the streets.

 “I was directed to send my son, who is still studying, to work then I can take a day off to visit hospital. I was suffering from severe chest infection,” Ahmad said.

Another sanitation worker said he was instructed to take day off only if his wife would stand-in for him at his workplace. “We have to work in two shifts to clean Srinagar. If someone is sick, he cannot take a day off because there is dearth of sanitation workers in SMC,” he said.

 

The current manpower is not able to cater to whole Srinagar despite double shifts. Against the need of 7000 Safai Karamcharis, there are less than 3000 workers who have to cover 246 sq km area of Srinagar.

Chairman, Safai Karamchari Union, Ghulam Mohamad Solina said that they never stop cleaning city no matter what conditions they face.

“More than 40 years have passed since 1600 men were recruited as Safai Karamcharis’. At that time  city had 17 wards only. Around 1000 people have been taken as daily wagers in recent years. Now, Srinagar has extended to more than 35 wards but the manpower is same.   We need at least 7000 people to cover whole Srinagar,” he added. 

An official at SMC said Srinagar has expanded to 74 electoral wards, 35 administrative wards with population of more than 15 lakh and three lakh households.

The official noted that apart from human resource shortage, they don’t even have sanitation equipment and proper safety gear for Safai Karamcharis. “We only have 40% of transport available for carrying garbage,” he said.

Chief Sanitary Officer, SMC, Syed Nissar admitted that they need at least 6000 Safai Karamcharis to cover entire Srinagar.

“New rules have to be framed. According to 1970 rules only 500 budgetary posts are available. Recruitment of Safai Karamcharis is under consideration for which new rules are being framed,” he added.

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Hundreds of candidates singled out: Baramulla Medical College tweaks rules for nursing posts

Hirra Azmat

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Srinagar:  Career of hundreds of trained nurses is at stake after Government Medical College, Baramulla, arbitrarily tweaked eligibility rules and sought applications from M.Sc (Nursing) pass-outs to fill up the vacancies of 10 staff nurses.

Under Indian Nursing Council (INC) rules, the eligibility for staff nurse is B.Sc in Nursing, while M.Sc is the preferred qualification for academic posts like tutor, assistant professor, associate professor and professor.

However, an advertisement by Government Medical College, Baramulla, has left out candidates with B.Sc nursing and diploma holders in nursing..

 

According to the advertisement, there are 10 vacancies for staff nurse with eligibility criteria as “MSc Nursing from recognized institute in relevant subject along with experience”.

Wasim Ahmad, a nursing graduate said eligibility criterion is clear violation of the norms set by the Indian Nursing Council.

“As per the rules, those with three-year and six-month diploma programme in General Nursing and Midwifery or GNM and B.Sc in Nursing are the ideal candidates for the job,” he said.

He noted that though the people with M.Sc degree can apply for it, singling out B.Sc and diploma holders is a sheer injustice with other candidates having lower qualification.  

Another female nursing graduate said this advertisement came as a jolt.

“I am desperately in need of a job. I have the basic qualification for the post, but they are taking candidates with M.Sc degree. This is totally unacceptable,” she said.

Principal, Government Medical College, Baramulla, Dr Abdul Hamid Kathoo said the advertised posts are temporary. “This is not a permanent post and is specifically a need-based appointment,” Dr Hamid said.

Medical Superintendent, District Hospital, Baramulla, Dr Syed Masood said the recently advertised posts are not for the “routine staff nurses”.

“The posts demand specialized nurses. This is the reason why we have created only 10 posts. Also, the candidates are nobody to determine the criterion of the particular post. The posts have been created after much deliberation,” Dr Masood said.

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All party meeting: NC, PDP, Cong say no to Panchayat polls till leaders are released

Firdous Hassan

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Srinagar, Feb 18:  Efforts to convince political parties to participate in the Panchayat polls suffered a major setback on Tuesday when Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) National Conference (NC) and Congress reiterated their decision to stay away from the election citing prolonged detention of its leaders.

Chief Election Officer (CEO) Shailendra Kumar held an all party meeting on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming election for vacant Panchayat seats in the Union Territory.

However, the representatives of National Conference, Congress and PDP told the CEO to release the mainstream leaders in order to their participation in the election.

 

PDP’s Surinder Chaudhary, who was flanked by Narinder Singh Raina, walked out of the meeting claiming that they are not allowed to conduct political activities freely in J&K.

“I walked out of the meeting, when we realized that Chief Election Officer was bereft of any agenda. I clearly told him that the meeting was called very late as two phases of Panchayat elections were already over. We demanded release of our president,” he said.

Chaudhary said they told the CEO that democracy is nowhere seen on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir. “Our leaders are detained under Public Safety Act. Only BJP is being allowed to carry out activities while security and vehicles of rest of the political leaders have been withdrawn,” he said.

National conference leader Ratan Lal Gupta said the party is of the view that the situation is not conducive for holding elections. “The meeting should have been called much earlier to know the view of political parties about holding the polls,” Gupta said.

Congress vice-president Ghulam Nabi Monga, who was accompanied by Party Chief Spokesperson Ravinder Sharma, said they raised issues of freeing detained leaders and allowing parties to conduct political activities.

“We asked CEO to ensure releasing detained leaders, their free movement and lifting of restrictions on political leaders, if they want us to participate. Otherwise the government should defer or postpone elections,” Monga said.

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