Monthly Archives: July 2014

The Road Ahead

HazratbalMuslim Awqaf Trust (Muslim Waqaf Board) was initially formed back in 1940, with the name Idara Auqaf Islamia, it has been managing various Masjids, Shrines, Institutes and working for the development of the community from last 75 years but in spite of huge assets and income it has not able to contribute much to the Muslim society in Kashmir, which is attributed to lack of vision and transparency.

Below are only couple of objective of the Muslim Awqaf Trust:

  • To set up homes for destitute women and children and otherwise to grant financial assistance to needy women and children including setting up or aiding and assisting vocational centers for the betterment of the lot of the Muslim women and orphans or needy children.
  • To grant stipends, scholarships, loans or other financial assistance to deserving persons of the State for education, vocational training and other pursuits.

Now let’s ask few questions to ourselves.

  • Is there any orphanage that Muslim Awqaf Trust has created with state of art facilities for numerous orphans in Kashmir?
  • Do we know of any well publicized scholarship test, where tests are conducted transparently and results are declared publically?
  • Do the needy people in Kashmir have easy access to money, which they can borrow from the Muslim Awqaf Trust?

How many of the questions listed above did you answer affirmatively? I believe none of the above. If we look at the income and expenditure of the Muslim Awqaf trust, which is in crores, it seems that trust could have not achieved only all of the above but much more.

Muslim Awqaf Trust is running many educational institutions under its supervision but it has not able to create a brand yet. If there would have been zest and spirit to achieve and to excel. We should have seen a family of schools where students would have been equipped to access the best opportunities of growth and advancement. The concept of enlightened Muslims could have been the backdrop of all their endeavors. Some percentage of the seats could have been reserved to the poor but meritorious students without compromising the standard of the education.

Below is the list of schools run under the supervision of Muslim Awqaf trust.

  • Sultan-ul-Arifeen Wakf Higher Secondary School, Srinagar
  • Mantaqui Memorial Wakf Higher Secondary School Awantipora
  • Muslim Boys & Girls Wakf High School, Qalamdanpora Srinagar
  • Muslim Gousia Girls Wakf Secondary School, Khanyar Srinagar
  • Baba Shukur-ud-Din Wakf Memorial Wakf High School, Watlab Sopore
  • Gousia Wakf Secondary School, Kakapora Pulwama
  • Alamdar Wakf Secondary School, Charar-i-Sharief
  • Hanfiya Nabiya Wakf Middle School, Kabamarg, Anantnag
  • Hanfiya Wakf Middle School, Asham
  • Baba Payam-ud-Din Reshi Wakf Middle School, Hajibal, Tangmarg
  • Sheikh Hamza Memorial Wakf Middle School, Aham-i-Sharief, Bandipora
  • Shah Namatulla Qadri Wakf Pry. School, Safakadal, Srinagar

None of the above schools seems to be in the list of top schools in Kashmir. The schools set up by missionaries and outside societies are still leading in Kashmir.

The Muslim Awqaf Trust has been spending lacks of rupees in replacing the beautiful lush green lawns in the shrines and other religious places with devir stone flooring. One fails to understand what is the need of the same, should we not beautify the green lawns instead and spend the money where it is needed the most.

Many shopping complexes have been constructed till now by the Muslim Awqaf Trust but the design and construction of almost all of them has been mediocre. Why could we have not started with fewer shopping malls but of world class quality that every Muslim would have been proud of.

It seem Muslim Awqaf Trust needs to do some introspection and build a vision statement for itself. It needs to open up for the society and use its resources prudently for the betterment of the Muslim community in Kashmir.

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Union Budget and Development in Kashmir

In the union budget 2014, although Jammu division has got one IIT but Kashmir division has been completely neglected. It has got nothing except some grants to develop sports infrastructure. Although many people have demanded IIM in Kashmir division but that doesn’t seem to be what Kashmiris needs most because that is again going to displace Kashmiris and force them to work outside Kashmir. There are five Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs) in India, which focus on science education and research in basic science. If an IISER is established in Kashmir, it will not only provide higher education but also some high-end job opportunities in the valley. There are already lot of people who study science here but don’t get opportunity to excel in the same. The government of Jammu and Kashmir also needs to setup a premier institute in state that will provide quality IT education on the lines of International Institute of Information Technology, Hyderabad. Again it will not only provide world class training to engineers but also create lakhs of job opportunities in the state. Of course, we will also have to develop both physical and digital infrastructure, high speed and reliable WiFi has to be a priority. Medical sector has to be a priority as well, like other states if AIIMS is established in the Jammu and Kashmir, it will help in promoting medical tourism here, which has lot of potential.

RoadInGeorgeThere have been lots of funds allocated for transportation, waterways are going to be revived and couple of states have also got metros. Although Srinagar and Jammu may not need a metro but it definitely needs better roads. There is traffic congestion, roads are narrow and even if we have to drive few kilometers in the city it is a nightmare. There is some road widening going on and few fly over have been proposed but the speed of development is very depressing. The vision of a wide road that goes via historical Jamia Masjid and Dast-i-geer Sahib was laid out by the previous generation. Even after one generation has passed the widening of this one kilometer stretch is still not complete. Decades have passed when the work on the Soura-Nagbal (90 feet) road had been initiated and even today neither there is street lighting nor any beautification has been done on this road. There are some state governments, which are planning for 245 feet roads with bicycle tracks, separate lanes for public, private transport, etc. but we are still not able to finish the projects that have been started many years back.

There is a lot of work for us to do and we have very little time left otherwise our generation will also not be able to see a developed Kashmir.

RTI – A Retrospective

Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act lets people to access government data but the process of getting the data is daunting. We have law in place for a decade now but we have not been able to put the data on the fingertips of people.

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Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act (RTI) initially came into force in 2004. There were some amendments done in 2008 and it was then finally replaced with Jammu and Kashmir Right to Information Act 2009. It is important to get data from government agencies as it helps people to educate themselves and make informed decisions. This law is designed to increase the transparency of the administration so that people can keep themselves abreast of the work that is being performed by government agencies. In a system of government designed by the people, for the people, the RTI helps to access information that previously would have not been available to common people. The law has helped many people to uncover facts, results from unpublished studies, which would not have been otherwise available to the public. However, the process of getting the data from the government agencies is intimating, it is time consuming, needs people to interact in person, etc. We need to build a process around it so that everybody has data readily available and doesn’t have to go from door to door to fetch it.

There is a similar law like RTI in States, which has the same purpose and it is known as Freedom Of Information Act. If we want to get any information under this act, we can visit FOIA website and do the quick search if the information we need has been requested by someone else and there is a good chance that it may have been already requested. If anybody requests the information under FOIA, it is publically made available on the website so if anybody else needs the same information it is immediately available and same request doesn’t get processed over and over again. If the required information is not already available we can submit the request online or we can send via email or even postal mail. When the request is processed the information is made available immediately on FOIA website and we don’t have to run after people or be anywhere in person. We need to build similar process in Jammu and Kashmir as well, which will empower people.