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EDITORIAL

Continued re-engagement

India-Pak re-engagement on Kashmir centric CBMs and also other important matters of bilateral concern signifies improved and upgraded approach to the overall spectrum of bilateral relationship. There is a flurry of meetings and exchanges on the cards, beginning with a Pakistani delegation that landed in New Delhi on Sunday evening. The 13 July bomb blasts in Mumbai have not been allowed to vitiate the atmosphere of bilateral talks and Pakistan has formally, and her Prime Minister personally, condemned the terrorist act and sympathized with the victims. From smaller beginnings, there will be ascent to more important and crucial issues for deliberation including talks on nuclear security and anti-terrorist strategies. All this indicates maturing of interlocutors on both sides and their sincerity of intentions to iron out angularities. . .......more

Blasts condemned

There has been widespread condemnation of 13 July Mumbai bomb blasts from leadership of all hues in and outside the country. In a rare instance, the Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, Maulana Bashiru'd-Din also condemned the blasts calling it inhuman. The Maulana is highly venerated in Kashmir and is considered a very senior and mature religious figure who speaks very less and very rarely on political issues. But he has taken the human aspect of the bomb blasts into view and has suggested that "people from all walks of life have to cooperate to bring an end to these acts, which result in colossal loss of human life, particularly of innocent people." ...more

Department of Posts? Or, Department of Rural Banking?

By Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala

The Department of Posts has sent the Draft Post Office Bill, 2011 to the Cabinet for approval. Courier Companies will be required to charge double the amount charged by the Post Office for letters up to 50 grams sent by Speed Post. Present charge for Speed Post is Rs 25. It will obligatory for Courier Companies to charge minimum Rs 50 for such letters. This will provide some relief to the Department. Postal delivery will become cheaper than Courier. This restriction will be removed after 15 years.. .. . ...more

Education in rural India

By Ram Rattan Sharma

In a country that had more rural population than any other country in the world the education was largely confined to metropolitan centres and larger cities. Even the smaller towns and other urban settlements were seriously lacking adequate educational facilities, ... ...more

Ishwar Allah Tero Nam

By Amit Kushari (IAS Retd)

Kashmiri muslims are not fanatic muslims who hate India because India is a Hindu majority nation.Many of them are very tolerant towards Hindus and do not have any grudge or malice against the minorities.Social relations between Hindus and muslims have always been excellent- in fact it was perhaps the best in India. Common uneducated Kashmiris . ...more

 

EDITORIAL

Continued re-engagementT

India-Pak re-engagement on Kashmir centric CBMs and also other important matters of bilateral concern signifies improved and upgraded approach to the overall spectrum of bilateral relationship. There is a flurry of meetings and exchanges on the cards, beginning with a Pakistani delegation that landed in New Delhi on Sunday evening. The 13 July bomb blasts in Mumbai have not been allowed to vitiate the atmosphere of bilateral talks and Pakistan has formally, and her Prime Minister personally, condemned the terrorist act and sympathized with the victims. From smaller beginnings, there will be ascent to more important and crucial issues for deliberation including talks on nuclear security and anti-terrorist strategies. All this indicates maturing of interlocutors on both sides and their sincerity of intentions to iron out angularities. Political observers across the continents are closely watching the progress of Indo-Pak détente and the brightening of the prospect of peace in the sub-continent. The question is not who gains and who loses from what is mutually agreed upon; the fact of the matter is that it is the vast population of the sub-continent, almost one fourth of the entire human population that is going to benefit from friendly and cordial relations between the two warring neighbours. The process of re-engagement has to be looked upon from that angle.
If wisdom and statesmanship are allowed to have their way, good and friendly relations between the two countries could become a catalyst to a radical change in their economic condition. Both are developing countries and both have many problems in common. For some reasons, Pakistan is faced with more stringent economic conditions today than ever before. Though India is not in a very happy economic position as well, but she is on the path of economic improvement and is expected to emerge a strong economy in the Asian region after China. Pakistan as her next door neighbour can immensely benefit from this scenario. Trade and commerce with India on the basis of equality and justice would go a long way in cementing relations between the two countries. Europe is one economic zone and it has drawn immense benefits from it. India and Pakistan, too, can tie up in a manner so that there is free flow of trade between them. This is precisely what the US believes in. "India's economic rise presents a huge opportunity for Pakistan, a bilateral breakthrough could provide a catalyst for wider regional economic integration in South and Central Asia," Robert Hormats, Under Secretary for Economic, Energy and Agricultural Affairs, said. This official will be part of the delegation scheduled to be held in India this month, and from what he has said, is a signal to both the countries that the US would welcome any step forward in this direction. The foreign ministers of the two countries are expected to meet later this month and prior to their meeting the two foreign secretaries are again meeting to pave the way for some definite progress and measures to be announced following the foreign minister level meeting in New Delhi. We hope that this rare opportunity will not be missed by one or the other country, and that they will not get bogged with small and insignificant things. The ground is smooth for delivery and the people in both the countries expect concrete outcome of the process of re-engagement.

Blasts condemned

There has been widespread condemnation of 13 July Mumbai bomb blasts from leadership of all hues in and outside the country. In a rare instance, the Grand Mufti of Jammu and Kashmir, Maulana Bashiru'd-Din also condemned the blasts calling it inhuman. The Maulana is highly venerated in Kashmir and is considered a very senior and mature religious figure who speaks very less and very rarely on political issues. But he has taken the human aspect of the bomb blasts into view and has suggested that "people from all walks of life have to cooperate to bring an end to these acts, which result in colossal loss of human life, particularly of innocent people." Earlier other separatist leaders in Kashmir also condemned the attacks and implored people to unite against such heinous crimes. Thus while terrorism is spanning the entire sub-continent in one form or the other, there is growing realization among the civil society in both the countries, India and Pakistan, that they should coordinate their efforts to meet the challenge. Obviously, condemning terrorism also means rejecting the training and infiltration of armed gangsters on a foreign soil and inducing them to operate in India. This is not acceptable to anybody who is seriously interested in supporting peaceful atmosphere in relations between the two countries.

Department of Posts? Or, Department of Rural Banking?

By Dr Bharat Jhunjhunwala

The Department of Posts has sent the Draft Post Office Bill, 2011 to the Cabinet for approval. Courier Companies will be required to charge double the amount charged by the Post Office for letters up to 50 grams sent by Speed Post. Present charge for Speed Post is Rs 25. It will obligatory for Courier Companies to charge minimum Rs 50 for such letters. This will provide some relief to the Department. Postal delivery will become cheaper than Courier. This restriction will be removed after 15 years.
The imposition of minimum charges defies logic, however. Objective of the Government should be to bring about a reduction in the cost of these services. The Government is making efforts to bring down the cost of infrastructure such as by privatizing distribution of power in metropolitan cities. The same policy should be applied here.
It will be difficult to implement such a provision anyways. Small courier companies will issue a receipt for Rs 50 but charge only Rs 30 from the customers. The Government will be providing encouragement to the people to violate the law. This provision will be especially harmful for small courier companies. Bigger Companies presently charge about Rs 40 to Rs 100 for a letter. They will be scarcely affected. Small Companies presently charge Rs 25 to Rs 40. They will come under pressure. Some may have to close down. This will be harmful for the country. The Government must provide protection to small companies and enable them to stand up to the big brothers. Such competition alone will save the customers from the tyranny of big business.
The purpose of providing protection to the Department of Posts is to compensate it for the services provided by it in the rural areas. The Department runs many post offices in small villages. These Post Offices provide less business but cost of running them is high. On the other hand Courier Companies only serve the large-volume big city markets. Thus the costs of the Department are high. This needs to be compensated. The argument is correct. However, this compensation can be provided by imposing an 'Access Deficit Charge' on Courier Companies along the lines imposed on telecom companies.
The courier companies can be classified in categories such as those providing services in metropolitan cities, state capitals, district headquarters, small towns and rural areas. The rates of service tax can be lowered and subsidies provided to both private- and government players on a staggered basis. This will encourage courier companies to provide courier services in small towns and help spread economic development to remote areas. Higher use of courier services in small towns will reduce the losses of Department of Posts.
We have successfully followed this model in mobile telephony. The Private players pay Access Deficit Charges on the services supplied by them in urban areas and Government-owned Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited collects subsidies on services provided by it in rural areas. Private players too are entitled to receive subsidy on provision of services in rural areas. This has led to intensified competition for provision of services in rural areas. It has also exerted pressure on BSNL to improve its services both in terms of cost and quality. The same model can be applied to the postal services.
Another objective of the Government is to reduce its budget deficit by increasing income of the Department of Posts. The idea is that restriction on carrying of letters by courier companies will lead to an increase in the business of the Department of Posts and reduction of losses that are to be met from the Union Budget. It is doubtful whether this approach will be successful. Courier companies work as grease in the economy. They collect cheque from one company and deliver to another the next day at a low cost leading to growth of business. The resultant economic growth leads to higher tax receipts by the government. Restriction on Courier Companies, therefore, will impact the economy negatively. It will lead to slower delivery of documents and bring down the growth rate of the economy. That will lead to lower tax receipts and higher budget deficit of the government. The Government will also get less service tax, income tax because of less business done by courier companies. On the positive side, the new law will lead to more income for the Department of Posts and reduction of budget deficit. The final impact will depend upon the sum of two impacts. In my opinion, the budget deficit of the Government will increase. The proposed amendment will, in the main, provide more opportunities to Postal Inspectors to harass small courier companies and for indulging in corruption.
The objective of reduction in budget deficit can be better attained by allowing full freedom to courier companies to fix charges but imposing higher taxes on them.
The government can calculate the amount of subsidy it wishes to provide to the Department of Posts for its rural services and impose taxes of like amount on courier companies. The economy can bear the burden of such taxes but not that of restrictions on charges.
The Department argues that Postal Departments enjoy monopoly on delivery of letters in most countries. India is only trying to follow this international best practice. This is only partially true. The Civil Society Exchange tells on its website that the Postal Department has monopoly on letters weighing less than 350 grams in England, 250 grams in Australia and 50 grams in Netherlands and Germany. On the other hand there is no restriction in New Zealand. Japan is slated to privatize its postal services. European Union also requires its member countries to open up their postal services to private players. Clearly the international best practice is moving in the direction of privatization, not monopoly. Indeed the Postal Department has monopoly in many countries today but this is being dismantled.
The basic problem is that technological developments have made postal delivery outdated. It is cheaper to talk on mobile phones than to send a letter. Email has reduced the need to send many letters. The Department is moving into provision of financial products to regain profitability. 4000 post offices will soon have Core Banking Services. It will be possible to encash a cheque at any CBS post office. This step is in the right direction. The Department of Posts should pursue this reorientation actively and not derail the courier industry. Ten years down the line, the Department of Posts may be renamed as Department of Rural Banking.

Education in rural India

By Ram Rattan Sharma


In a country that had more rural population than any other country in the world the education was largely confined to metropolitan centres and larger cities. Even the smaller towns and other urban settlements were seriously lacking adequate educational facilities, so at that time, it looked obvious that villages were given the limited resources of nascent Independent Indian state.
In 1881, there were 82916 schools in the entire country. A separate department for education was formed for the first time during 1910 by the British Govt. As for adult education upto 1920s, the sphere was confined to few night schools in metropolitan cities while villages were totally unattended. Some Indian rulers of princely states extended support to night schools through financial support, setting up of libraries in rural areas and other sort of patronage in the 19th century. Education of rural masses was a part of the independence agenda of the national leaders. In 1946-47, the number of schools had increased to 134866, while the total enrolment stood at 10525943 students.
In 1947, India achieved independence and inherited a system of education which was characterized by large scale inter and intra regional imbalances. The system educated a selected few. The country's literacy rate was a mere 14 percent and only 8 percent of females were literate. There was social inequality gender disparity, and rigid social stratification. After independence a full-fledged ministry of education was established on 29th August 1947. It indicated the need, commitment, and determination of the Govt. towards extension and growth of education in India. Eradication of illiteracy was one of the major national concerns at the time of independence. Most of the villagers were illiterate and had no access to education centres, Govt. of India established a council for rural higher education for promoting the graduate level manpower through rural institutes. A standing committee on education was established and a national fundamental education centre was started in 1956 to boost the rural education and rural development programmes. Various states at their level also took interest in this direction. Despite these efforts, the rural literacy and did not take much headway. The literacy increased from 14 percent in 1947 to 18.4 percent and 24 percent in 1961. The Kothari Commission in 1964 took up the threads again and emphasized the need for eradication of illiteracy suggested certain measures. In 1974 the central advisory board of education recommended for non formal education programmes and for functional dimension. The National Policy on Education gave an unqualified priority to universalization of education system and there was no formal education in educationally backward states. The major thrust of policy was literacy promotion among women, schedule castes and schedule tribes particularly in the rural areas. Despite all such efforts the results were not satisfactory. Eradication of illiteracy from one of the world's most populated country is not easy. The need was for a more comprehensive and specifically targeted approach. Realizing this National Literacy Mission came into being and was implemented on 5 May, 1988 to impart a new sense of urgency and seriousness to mass education. As per the census of India 2001, the literacy rate had increased to 65.38 percent. The remarkable performance under NLC Programmes received International recognition.
The Ministry of Rural Development has been working as the apex body in implementing and supervising progammes for poverty alleviation, education, employment generation, infrastructure development, social security and allied issues. Several new initiatives have been taken to bring the children to schools. Several programmes intended to provide rural children access to education, includes stipends, free uniform and text books, midday meals and special attention to girl child education. These initiatives have encouraged parents to send their children to school. Besides, their have been attempts to keep the rural children up to date with the latest technical know how.
The progress that the country has made during the last sixty years has been remarkable. The country of villages is seen differently than it was sixty years ago by the outside world. There is much still pending work to be done, the efforts that have been made in the past, the outcome should be fruitful, more sincerity and dedication is required at all levels for success of the programmes.

Ishwar Allah Tero Nam

By Amit Kushari (IAS Retd)


Kashmiri muslims are not fanatic muslims who hate India because India is a Hindu majority nation.Many of them are very tolerant towards Hindus and do not have any grudge or malice against the minorities.Social relations between Hindus and muslims have always been excellent- in fact it was perhaps the best in India. Common uneducated Kashmiris also know that Allah is not the sole property of muslims --He belongs to all the religions of the world. He is Rab-ul-alameen and not only Rab-ul- musalmeen.Hindus call Rab-ul -alameen as Vishwanath.Kashmiris also know it very well that all religions lead to the same God.
The flight of the pandits was really an extra ordinary event.
The Kashmiri Pundits were forced to flee Kashmir in 1989/90 because they refused to fight with their muslim brothers for achieving an independent Kashmir. They were also suspected to be spies of India.
The Kashmiri muslims, as I have found them, are very tolerant towards Hindus and they bear no malice against them , in general....although they are very religious in their day to day actiuvities. The people belonging to Ahlehadees and Jamaat-e-Islami communities need a special mention. I have seen that even in the cold weather of chill e-kalan (December/ January) they get up at 4 a.m. and go to the village mosque for fajar prayers. They observe 29 fasts strictly in Ramzan---which would appear to be a very difficult task for non-muslims.
This brings back to my mind a youg boy called Firoz Ahmed who belonged to a remote village of Pulwama district. He was my bungalow peon and belonged to a very poor family who could not afford two square meals a day and had to go to bed hungry quite often----of course, prior to his getting a govt.job . I had helped him to get the govt. job for which he was grateful to me. He had a brother called Mohammad Yaquab and he wanted me to take him also in a government job. In those days the rules were not so strict and Ministers and bureaucrats could help people get into class IV jobs. Firoz used to pray five times with a lot of devotion and he used to say that Allah always responded to his prayers. He had prayed to Allah for Yaqub's job and that in his dream Allah appeared to him to assure him that Yaqub would get a job through Kushari sahab.
I was a bit disgusted with his constant reminders about his brother's job.I told him that there was not a single class IV vacancy in my department in the whole of J&K and that his brother had no chance at all. He wouldn't listen to me and insisted that Allah could never be wrong in His assurances. " You will surely get a message from Him about Yaqub." Every morning when I woke up Firoz would bring tea for me and enquire ,"Hukm ma aao kanh?" (Did you get any order from God?"] I was sick and tired of telling him every day " No message at all-and please stop this daily nonsense. "
One night indeed I had a dream. I found myself lost in the forests of a big mountain and was trying to grope my way forward when I found a Goddess riding on a tiger just in front of me. I exclaimed," Are you the Mother of the universe?" She replied, "Yes I am." She then smiled at me and spoke in very clear Kashmiri,"Mohd. Yaqub chhu myon nechu- yaad chhu thaaun." [Md Yaqoob is my son -remember that]I asked her ,"Mother, do you speak Kashmiri?" The Goddess looked at me and laughed. "I know all the languages of the world."
Next morning Firoz asked me the same question, "Hukm ma aao kanh?" I told him," I didn't get any message from Allah but I got some sort of a message from Goddess Durga." Firoz exclaimed,"It is the same thing! When Allah has to give a message to a Kafir He takes the form of gods and goddesses, otherwise the kafir will not recognise Him." These simple words actually gave a message that all religions lead to the same God.
A month passed after the dream and I could not help Yaqub because there was no vacancy at all. However, suddenly one day I noticed that the Planning department had sanctioned quite a few posts for an office to be opened in Kargil district. There was one post of orderly also in the list. I sent the file to the Finance department for concurrence and lo and behold the Finance deparment gave their concurrence in two weeks only. Normally the finance department takes one year to send their agreement. Yaqub was ultimately posted in Kargil.
Firoz's happiness knew no bounds. He said, "I told you that an assurance from Allah can never be wrong."
I was really amazed by his unwavering faith in God. The faith was coupled with his realisation that God is only one although He may appear in different forms before people of different faiths.
(The author is former Financial Commissioner J&K)
Feedback to the writer at amitkus@hotmail.com or 09748635185.



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