Academicians across disciplines and even prestigious institutions across the country spend precious time and public money on annual birthday celebrations. I feel it appropriate to counsel men of letters to celebrate the great ideas of legendaries and visionaries frequently rather than to celebrate their birthdays annually. Our intellectuals need to come out with new and serious ideas to create knowledge wealth for the progress of humanity and betterment of society. The real potential of our bright students can be unleashed only when there are significant improvements in education, environment and healthcare institutions. These institutions can be radically reformed to regain its glorified legacy of learning and knowledge, but needs cooperation from all including the general public. Few of the following prominent issues need kind consideration of all:-
A- Education Reforms and New Initiatives
(i) Establishing Branches of Few Prestigious Universities:- There is an offering in NEP-2020 that well-established universities can set up their branches. AMU has five (05) branches across the country and it is possible to have one branch in remote districts J & K too, where students have to travel long distances to receive university education in cities. Even my alma mater, Jamia Millia Islamia, can also branch out from its campus. The university is being headed by a visionary lady and a band of insightful academics are at the helm of affairs, and can extend support. People need to come forward, identify good pieces of land (not like land for CUK) and support the government for such initiatives, instead of celebrating days in Hotels and Clubs. For North and South Districts of the Valley and even Jammu too, where population is more than 20 Lakh in each region, there is an urgent need to have full-fledged Universities.
(ii) Setting up of IISER in J & K: Ministry of Education (MoE), Govt. of India have established IISERs (Indian Institute of Science Education and Research)/ NISERs across the country. Many students (more than one lakh/ year) who can’t make an entry in Medical/Engineering institutions (NEET/JEE) can proceed for sciences in such institutions. It will set-up a science base, which will help our young children to inculcate scientific temper, innovation and creativity. We need to trap them immediately after their failure in competitive examinations; else they get trapped in bad deeds. Good science and social science institutions will pay us beyond our imaginations and fascinations. People of Jammu and Kashmir, need to remain indebted to Prof Rakesh Sehgal, Director NIT Srinagar and his team for making functional MoUs with prestigious institutions, including with IIT Roper which is also a timely relief to students.
(iii) Agriculture University in Wadoora-Sopore (Baramulla): North-Kashmir has only one university and during turmoil it has been put in pieces and scattered. Agriculture university at Wadroo (Sopore) in North Kashmir needs to be restored and strengthened by all means as it has been in the past, during our school days. Besides restoring it, we need to set up Agriculture Technology Parks in each district to promote technology incubation and promote sustainable methodologies, where school students can be involved in projects for first hand knowledge about agriculture and food issues.
(iv) Shifting of Central University of Kashmir:- Marshy land is dangerous and there is always a danger of building structures on wetlands. It has been objected to many times and it is impossible to build multi-storey buildings, as needed for institutions & universities. For time being or even permanently, it should be shifted to Sainik School Manasbal (Safapora), which has enough land in its adjoining area. Give it a temporary shelter, till it flourishes, as was done to NIT Delhi by NIT Warangal. It is terrible to see a university despite more than a decade of its establishment. Even Harvard and Cambridge in the US took only a decade for its full establishment.
B- Restoring old glory of water bodies
(i) From the last two decades, water channels (which were once adored, both in villages and in cities) have been polluted to the extent that one can’t even wash their hands. These Natural Fresh water canals passing through hundreds of villages providing clean water to thousands of families free of cost and free of service are not in good shape. It needs a taskforce to regulate these channels from their origin. The open water channels/bodies need to be covered at junctions which are mostly populated and need to be guarded round the clock. I was fortunate to meet a religious scholar Haji Manzoor Ahmad Wagnoo, who has taken on many pilot projects of cleaning lakes and water bodies. People like Haji sb from villages need to come out to protect water canals and I am hopeful that it is going to pay off in long run multiple ways.
(i) Clean drinking water used for constructions and other purposes (washing of vehicles or gardening etc) have to be made punishable. Municipal Corporations should make it mandatory to have a bore well/ Hand pump before granting construction permission. There should be a clear cut rule that prohibits construction within a specified distance from any water body. It includes proper rehabilitation of our neighbors in Dal and other lakes.
(ii) Limited use of pesticides and fertilizers should be permitted, in consultation with the Agriculture and Horticulture experts. Excessive use of agrichemicals by farmers should be banned and strictly monitored by the Agriculture/Horticulture Department. Excessive sprays shall create unmanageable health issues in Kashmir. The issue was also raised by Prof Dhar, VC recently during a scientific gathering in Srinagar, in presence of Hon’ble Union Minister of Science and Technology, Prof Jitendra Singh.
(iii) From the last three decades for one reason or another, the forests (Green Gold) were ruthlessly destroyed. The forest acts need to be more stringent and uncompressing. These trees are natural oxygen banks and have the ability to keep elevated temperature in control, thus helping in coping with climate change, which is of major concern for all of us. Dr. Sonum Lotus, Director Meteorology needs to educate students occasionally.
C- Robust Medical System
(i) Every district should have one Maternity Hospital along with one Children Hospital, where prominent doctors have to be deputed to avoid the unnecessary travel of women and children to city Hospitals spending months in Hospitals. They should be constructed away from markets and polluted places, as has been done by Maxwell while establishing Hospitals like Drugjan.
(ii) Nursing/Para-Medical institutions have to be established in each district to avoid future crises. Allied health care education has to be improved and institutions be established in every district. I am thankful to Prof Sahasrabudhe, Chairman AICTE and his team for giving a chance to hundreds of girls to receive Nursing training through PMSSS and almost all are adjusted.
(iii) Drug addiction is another growing menace across the valley. It is painful to listen and recall over here. It can be controlled by the parents and teachers who have a paramount role in eradicating this menace. Parents need to keep track of their children, visit their schools/workplaces frequently. It too will become unmanageable and need to be eradicated from the bud and religious scholars like Prof Hamid, Dean CUK need to work on these crises seriously.
(iv) Another challenge is to stop Fake spurious and unfit drugs. It needs to be strictly banned. Those involved in purchase and selling of these drugs should face the law. This racket is a blatant violation of the most precious right of life and those involved deserve the harshest punishment. Prof Nasir of GMC Srinagar and Prof Geer have been raising these issues frequently.
The bottom line is:-
Hon’ble Lieutenant Governor of J&K can fix some of the major issues permanently with kind cooperation of the people in general and intellectuals in particular to establish branches of few universities. In addition, Jammu & Kashmir need to have one–Umbrella Structure (Education Commission) for joint monitoring, vigilant planning and collaborative implementation of Policy and other crucial issues. Now and then, it appears in the press that the education system including governance needs to be streamlined. For precious water bodies, Government departments / enforcement agencies/ NGOs should join hands with the public to save running water bodies, fresh forests and ban what is disastrous for the environment including frequent sprays. As an umbrella institution, we need two Medical Universities which will offer various undergraduate, post graduate, certificate and diploma level programs, besides monitoring the various newly established medical colleges. Those need to be headed by visionaries like Prof M S Khuroo and Prof A G Ahangar.
The author works in department of Physics, NIT Srinagar and can be reached at email@example.com.