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Thoughtscope: Looking Ahead to 2021

Khurshid Ahmed Ganai

The year 2020 was annus horibilis, which in Latin means a horrible year. However, the optimists do not see it that way entirely. They argue that covid-19 pandemic which stalked the world for most of 2020 has also taught us humans to be more patient, slow down on consumption and give some well deserved rest to mother earth and the nature who provide us with their bounties every moment of our living.

Covid-19 in Kashmir

Kashmir seemed to be quite badly affected in the beginning, around May-June-July 2020 but then massive effort by the government authorities, the doctors, nurses, paramedic and other covid warriors ensured that it was brought under control. Unfortunately, the common people did not seem to give the required importance to the three main protocols namely face mask, social distancing and hand hygiene.

One aspect which stood out clearly was that societal discipline has yet to become a feature of the Kashmir society because violation of the protocols was visible everywhere – roads, streets and in all types of public places, even when these protocols were as much for personal safety as for the safety of fellow citizens. It is learnt that compliance with the protocols was better in many other parts of the country. In the western and advanced societies, compliance with the announced protocols is the given thing.

Experts from certain countries and WHO have warned of a second wave of covid virus infection
notwithstanding the soon to arrive vaccine. We need to remember that we may not be second time lucky with protocol violations. Next time round, the doctor associations have to become much more active in advising the people through all types of media to honour the protocols as it is felt that it is only the doctors who will be able to convince the common people on the indispensability of the prescribed protocols.

Societal Discipline and Natural Resources

Many of our environmental degradation problems and sorry state of our natural resources like the wetlands, lakes, rivers, streams , land, forest , fauna and flora are largely due to lack of societal discipline. As members of the society, we do not show due concern and consideration for the
protection and preservation of these natural resources for which Kashmir is known the world over. A society that does not respect good individual conduct and discipline and concurrently, does not condemn poor conduct and indiscipline, is inherently vulnerable. If we have to save our natural resources, which we must, from further degradation due to wanton human interference and encroachments, then we need to do something differently to usher in societal discipline. The only way to do that is to create awareness at every level about what we may end up with in case we do not stop the process of steady destruction of our natural resource. The neighbourhoods, cooperatives, non-governmental organizations and community leaders have to step in to create strong collective opinion against violations and in favour of protection, not half heartedly or hesitatingly but effectively and courageously. The governmental authorities enforcing the law and the rules have to do their job with the same objectives.

Youngsters must launch startups

Kashmir has of late witnessed launching of innovative startups by youngsters which is a good sign because it indicates a movement away from the belief that government jobs are the best option for employment. While the urban youth are realizing this fast, the rural youth is still hesitant. The mind set about primacy of government jobs needs to change so that the youth pursue their dreams in alternate ways and fields. The society through its business organizations and associations needs to honour the promoters of successful start ups and so must the local media. The governmental authorities must encourage the start ups in whatever ways possible but it is equally important that the startups do not wait for government incentives before launching because craving for crutches is a sure route to failure of entrepreneurship. The startups must not allow themselves to be bogged down or halted due to delay in the release of government incentives. Agriculture and horticulture sectors are promising as agro based startups are sure to give a fillip to the agriculture and horticulture activities of the farmers. A self sustaining business loop will automatically emerge between the startups and the farmers who are generally marginal farmers for whom this would be a hugely beneficial association. The startups would automatically promote farming in commodities for which there is demand. For example, if certain startups would want to use walnuts, the walnut growing areas will automatically become more active to provide the raw material and walnut cultivation will spread to newer areas. The business and supply activities will leverage better technology, productivities and efficiencies in the loop.

Startups have a great opportunity in the area of waste collection and management. The municipal authorities in Jammu and Kashmir need to involve the private entrepreneurs in waste collection and disposal with suitable incentives as these bodies have not had the required success doing all things themselves, that is doing both steering and rowing, which need to be separated. They should just do the steering and leave rowing to private entrepreneurs.

Everyone must embrace technology

Technology has become the driver of all contemporary activities; personal, family, social, financial etc. No one can escape from technology due to its all pervasive nature. However, it is being seen that the elderly and certain sections among all age groups are still avoiding to learn operation of smart phones and computers and availing of online services. It is a fact that there are no government schemes for training of the elderly to familiarize them with the operation of daily use gadgets and how to utilize the facility of online services provided by the public and private sector. The startups can fill this gap and meet the demand through online and offline training modules. Doubtlessly a difficult proposition, but worth trying as the scope is vast and advantages to the society immense and wide ranging.

(Khurshid Ahmed Ganai, Retd. IAS, is former Advisor to Governor, J&K and Former Chief Information Commissioner, J&K)

What do you think?


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