Category Archives: Kashmir

Googling your Memories

Published / by Jehangir

In February 2011 I blogged about the demonstrations and revolts in the Middle East which later came to be known as the Arab Spring. In the post I quoted a Persian ode that had figured alongside Laxman’s caricature of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi in the Illustrated Weekly of India in 1979.

Think not, 0 King! thy sceptre or thy pow’r
One moment can arrest the destin’d hour !

After years of fruitless searching, I managed to track down the image after a long and hazardous quest that took me into the depths of the Deep Web and beyond.

Not really! I just googled it today and voila.

A growing number of newspapers, archives, and institutions are publishing searchable databases of their data on the internet. It is a researchers dream come true – with the flip side that anyone can post false or biased information online. While accessibility vs accuracy concerns are justified, just the sheer number of books and historical photographs available online is staggering.

Amazingly enough, I found this rare colour photograph of my parents in an online photo archive published from New Zealand.

The persian sceptre/power quote is from the great persian poet Firdausi .
Apparently miffed by the lacklustre response shown by Sultan Mahmud Ghazni towards his epic 'Shahnama' or 'Book of Kings', Firdausi wrote a satire on the king. The complete 'Shahnama' can be read here.

So you like Daffodils?

Published / by Jehangir

Daffodils and narcissi in Kashmir. Happy Nauroz!

Narcissus ‘Ice Follies’ (Trumpet Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘Dutch Master’ (Trumpet Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘Replete’ (Double Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘White Lion’ (Double Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘Fortissimo’ (Large-Cupped Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘Sempre Avanti’ (Large-Cupped Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘Flower Drift’ (Double Daffodil)

Narcissus tazetta White

Narcissus tazetta Yellow

Narcissus ‘Chromacolor’ (Large-Cupped Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ Yellow (Double Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘Cheerfulness’ White (Double Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘Actaea’ ‘Pheasant Eye'(Poeticus Daffodil)

Narcissus ‘Rip van Winkle’ (Double Daffodil)

Enjoy!

Moon As Bright As The Sun

Published / by Jehangir

Finally, a world class effort by a resident Kashmiri author.

The Captured Gazelle is a highly accomplished translation of the Persian poetry of Ghani Kashmiri published by Penguin Classics.

The transliterated passages are like manna for someone like myself – tantalised by, yet unable to read Persian – and thus ignorant of the full genius of Ghani Kashmiri.

Well done Mufti Mudassir Farooqi,
More power to your pen, my friend!

Archived post from August 2008:

The 17th century poet Mulla Muhammad Tahir Ghani Kashmiri {born 1630 A.D} lived during the reign of Aurangzeb and died in the early years of the 18th century. Even during his lifetime his fame transcended the borders of India and he was acknowledged in Iran as one of the great masters of Persian poetry. In India he exerted a great influence on the development of Persian and Urdu poetry. The great poet Mirza Ghalib translated more than 40 of his couplets into Urdu.

Mahjoor refers to him in his famous poem ‘Arise, O’ Gardener’:

Littérateurs of Iran will bow
To you in reverence
if you create a poet with powers of
magical narration like Ghani.

Mirza Muhammed Ali Saib {1601 – 1677}, a famous Persian poet, unable to understand the meaning of a famous verse – in which Ghani Kashmiri had intermingled Persian and Kashmiri words – travelled all the way from Iran to Kashmir to meet him.

The verse, contained in “Diwan-e-Ghani“, reads:

Moi Miane Tu Shud Kraalpan
Kardah Juda Kasai Sar Ze Tun

Like the potter’s thread, your tresses made me dazed and senseless,
severing the head (pot) from the body (lump of clay).

When the Iranian poet arrived the poet was not home yet the doors of his house were open. Iqbal refers to this incident thus in his “Payam-i-Mashriq“:

That nightingale of poetry, Ghani,
Who sang in Kashmir’s paradisal land,
Used, while at home, to shut up all the doors,
But leave them open while away from home.
Somebody questioned him concerning this.
“O charming bard,” he said, “Why do you do
This strange thing, which nobody understands
The meaning of ?”
Ghani, who had no wealth
Except his gift of poetry, replied:
“What people see me doing is quite right.
There is nothing of any value in my house
Except myself. When I am in, the house
Is to be guarded like a treasure-house.
When I am out, it is an empty place,
Which nobody would care to walk into.”

I recall Dr. Ajaz Baba explaining to me how Ghani Kashmiri’s influence inspired the visitor, Saib of Tabriz, to immortalise a chance encounter on the banks of the Jehlum by composing his own version of fusion poetry. The traveller concluded a Persian couplet with an Arabic phrase.

Dast Aaluda Ba Gil, Ay Mahe Hamchu Aftaab
Shud Mara Virdi Zuban, Ya Laytanee Kuntu Turab

Mud Smears Your Hands, O Moon As Bright As The Sun
And My Tongue Recites, O Would That I Were Mud

An example of Ghani’s Urdu poetry :

“Dil yun khayale zulf mein phirta hai n’ara zan
Taarik shab mein jaise koi pasban phire”

Ironically, Ghani Kashmiri is  almost forgotten in his native Kashmir today, while his writings are prescribed study material for scholars in Iran – where some learned scholars regard him as a greater poet in Persian than even Allama Iqbal.

In the sixties a library/reading room was established at his birth place in Rajouri Kadal – and later a sports stadium was developed nearby – but the fall into decay of this reading room and stadium illustrates our apathy towards the great poet.

This is how we treat our heroes.

In Camera Out Camera

Published / by Jehangir

‘Craters on the moon, wildlife from afar, your child's face on a crowded school stage’ is what the brochure for my new camera promised.

Built-in Wi-Fi connectivity with NFC and a mega 65x optical zoom is what convinced me to go for the Canon Powershot SX60 HS .

Craters on the moon: Check

Wildlife from afar : Check

Kids on stage will have to wait 🙂

Archived post from 13.10.2010:

I finally got myself a new camera. It is a Fujifilm FinePix HS10. The 30X zoom and amazing wide-angle capability were deciding factors as I dabble a bit in nature and architectural photography.

Here is a sample picture :

The time has come, therefore, to bid farewell to my trusty old FZ10.

Over the years, It has helped me capture some memorable photographs. You can view some of them here:

The Fluzi Gallery

I had zeroed in on the Panasonic DMC FZ10 after it won an award as Best Superzoom Camera at the TIPA Awards <2006>. It was after I recieved my new camera that I realised that I hadn't seen this year's TIPA Awards. Funnily enough the FinePix HS10 too was the winner in the Best Superzoom Camera category. I guess some things are just meant to be.

P.S : I hope Jamshed has half the fun I had with the Fluzi.

Respite for a Valley

Published / by Jehangir

The Bangus Valley comprises of two immense 'alpine' valleys of the Pir Panjal – Bod Bangus and Lokut Bangus – separated by a narrow strip called 'gur bar' or 'gateway of horses'.

The Bangus mountain biome comprises of high altitude taiga/coniferous forests descending through a grassland biome to a marsh biome traversed by the Tilwan Kohl brook at the valley floor. The biome is nestled 10,000 ft. above sea level below high hilltops of the Qazinag and Shamswari ranges in Kupwara.

While trekking through the pristine unexplored Bangus valleys in the 80s, I remember thinking that you could tuck Gulmarg away in one of the side valleys and not even notice it there. The valleys were nothing short of magical – towering peaks, dense pine forests, galloping herds of horses, uniquely springy meadows, bubbling brooks and rocky hillocks that gave the appearance of ancient ruins. One felt an awesome sense of unity with the universe accentuated by non-existent human contact. The air itself had a enchanted quality – even the most conservative members of our trekking party let their hair down and danced an impromptu jig around our campfire.

Recently there was talk of opening up Bangus to commercial tourism including a '36-hole' golf course. I guess some people cannot get over their obsession with holes. I blogged about it in 2012:

'I am appalled at plans to convert the Bangus Valley into a major tourist resort. Having trekked through Bangus in happier times, the thought that this untamed paradise will soon be commercialised into a Pahalgam-like circus like torments my soul. I hope that a saner voice will call for preservation and the 'powers-that-be' shall listen.'

Apparently the powers-that-be have listened and Bangus will be preserved as a 300 sq. km. biosphere encompassing the 76 sq. kms of the twin valleys and the surrounding ranges.

As I had predicted, the conservationists seem to have prevailed over the environmentalists, but it is their apparent victory over the commercial exploiter/profiteer nexus which is more significant.

Fingers crossed on this one.

Links:

www.kashmirlife.net

What is Wrong with this Picture?

Published / by Jehangir

My childhood was spent in and around the Dal Lake. I grew up in a house bursting with assorted cousins and post-school hours were devoted to exploration and fun – climbing up the Shankracharya hill, riding in 'borrowed' shikaras and dakotas, mass participation in games of football or 'birra' cricket, flying kites and gawking at visitors (tourists) being disgorged by huge buses on to the boulevard.

On rare occasions we would venture as far as the mysterious lanes of the Dalgate bazaar which, with its strong Central Asian flavour, seemed to have a fairytale aura to our young eyes.

Beyond the tonga stand lay smoky shops filled with huge sacks of wares peddled by turbaned and pheraned shopkeepers pulling languidly on their hookahs.

The flower-covered roofs of earlier times and the tonga stand of my childhood are long gone – unplanned 'progress' having doomed the area into 'modernity'.

So, decades on from the earlier photograph, what is wrong with this picture?

My take:

Heritage buildings replaced by hodgepodge structures

Responsibility : Public as owners/builders and SMC for granting permission, not ensuring a common building code and not providing incentives for maintaining heritage buildings.

– Ramshackle sheds and garish billboards obscuring the delicate architecture of the area

Responsibility : Public as owners/builders and SMC for granting permission, and not ensuring a common building code.

– Iredeemably ugly poles and overhead wires, and unmaintained switch boxes

Responsibility : BSNL and PDD.

– Handcarts and illegally parked cars and autorickshaws obstructing traffic

Responsibility : Traffic police for not ensuring the smooth flow of traffic by allowing obstructions, not penalising offenders and not posting enough personnel.

– Leftover building material on roads

Responsibility :Public/Contractors

Not in picture:

– Street hawkers blocking pedestrian access.

Responsibility : SMC

– Cows and sometimes horses blocking roads.

Responsibility : Public as owners

– Packs of feral dogs harassing passers-by.

Responsibility : SMC

– Garbage strewn on roads.

Responsibility : Public/SMC

– Roads left un-repaired after digging for pipes/cables etc.

Responsibility : PHE, R&B and BSNL for not ensuring their contractors repair roads after digging for maintenance/repair.

– Zero public toilet facilities.

Responsibility : SMC

It is not like the government cannot preserve and maintain its architectural heritage.

Rebuilt Arts Emporium.

Restored Boathouse at Nagin Lake.

I feel that we need a project for soft loans and hand-holding for restoration of privately owned buildings so generations after us can enjoy these timeless works of art.

Dalgate, being the nerve centre of tourism in Srinagar, can be a priority area for preservation of heritage structures, efficient traffic control, ample parking facilities and cleanliness.

The lessons learnt here can be replicated across Srinagar city so it can live up to its name which historians tell us means 'city of wealth and beauty'.

P.S All those 'experts' who quote natural progress, market forces, tourism demands blah blah can compare wartime and modern-day Europe, some 70 years later:

A Tale of Three Schools

Published / by Jehangir

Last week my elder son Jamshed had to make a 'school history' presentation for the benefit of younger students at assembly. While preparing his speech he asked me why our school was called Burn Hall School.

Flashback to the 70s

A favourite teacher asked our class the same question in primary school. Nursing a huge desire to impress said teacher, I tracked down a senior cousin during recess. It was very uncool to be tailed by a younger sibling in school but I was willing to risk public humilation for a higher cause. Luckily my cousin let me off lightly. 'Buddy, everyone knows the old school hall burnt down.'

The teacher, however, was not as kind.

'Dont be stupid, no school hall ever burnt down. Who told you this rubbish? Its named after a river in England.'

The flush of humiliation still rankles as does the memory of classmates sniggering at my embarrassment.

Cut to present day

Jamshed had gone through the history section of his school diary and the school website but could not find any clues to the peculiar name of the school.

I knowledgeably proposed the 'river' hypothesis omitting any mention of smart-alecky cousins or unsympathetic teachers. A quick bit of googling revealed that the school was not named after any particular river but for 'burn', a generic Scottish term for a smallish river or largish stream.

We also learnt that there was an Abbottabad branch of the Burn Hall School. Though there is no interaction between the two schools, they share a common history.

Quote:

The school is named after an English Manor House which had a hall with a stream (burn) running through it, hence the name 'Burn Hall'

My teacher having saved me from a second dose of embarrasment almost four decades later, we managed to put together the following sequence of events:

The Mill Hill Missionaries, officially known as the St. Joseph’s Missionary Society of Mill Hill, are a catholic missionary society founded in 1866 at Holcombe House in the Mill Hill locality of north London.

Having expanded their missionary activities to South Asia in 1875, the Mill Hill Missionaries took charge of the mission to Kashmir in 1884.

After successfully establishing St. Joseph's School at Baramulla in 1905 they founded another school called the 'Senior Cambridge School' at Srinagar in 1942.

The new school was started in the building which currently houses the College of Education (formerly the Teacher's Training College) at Maulana Azad Road. (Incidentally I have many happy memories of the Teacher's Training College and its heritage buildings, especially it's well-stocked library, which I could access by virtue of my mother being the Principal.)

In the aftermath of the 1947 tribal invasion, the Mill Hill Missionaries moved to Pakistan and established a school in the Abbott hotel in Abbottabad under the Diocesan Board of Education, Rawalpindi. They called it called Burn Hall School.

The school motto was 'Quo non Ascendam', which in Latin means 'To what heights can I not rise.'

After a spell of nine years the Mill Hill Missionaries returned to re-establish their Srinagar school.

The new school, also called 'Burn Hall School', was started in April 1956 in a building called "The Willows" at Gupkar Road. Fr. J. Boerkamp was the founding father and the first Principal of the school which was established under the management of the Catholic Diocese of Jammu & Srinagar.

The school motto was 'Industria Floremus', which in Latin means 'In toil we shall flourish.'

The Mill Hill Missionaries managed the Abottabad and Kashmir institutions till 1977.

In 1977, the charge of Burn Hall School in Kashmir was handed over to the Capuchin Fathers, while the Burn Hall School at Abbottabad was taken over by the Pakistan Army's 'Education Corps' and has since become a military style cadets institution known as the 'Army Burn Hall College and School.'

The Capuchin Fathers inaugurated the new Burn Hall School complex in Srinagar in 1978 and the school celebrated its Silver Jubilee in 1981.

In 1990, the Montfort Brothers of Saint Gabriel took charge of the school for a contract period of 12 years.

The Catholic Diocese of Jammu & Srinagar took over the administration of Burn Hall School from the Montfort Brothers in 2001. Fr. Ivan Pereira is the current Principal of Burn Hall School in 2014.

Now that we are up to date with the history, why the name 'Burn Hall'?

In 1947, after shifting the school from Kashmir to Abbottabad it was renamed the Burn Hall school after the seminary in England where the Mill Hill fathers received their religious training. This seminary was housed in an ancient hall dating from 1821 in Croxdale, Durham county.

Croxdale is at the point where the river Browney joins the river Wear. On the banks of the latter stands the Burn Hall, designed by Ignatius Bonomi in the Gothic and Neo-Classical style for the wealthy Salvin family who had lived in the area since 1409.

In 1926, Burn Hall was sold to the Mill Hill Missionaries who used it to train boys as missionary priests at the Burn Hall seminary till 1995.

The building now serves as a private apartment block set within 72 hectares of the Burn Hall estate.

So teacher did know best.

'Burn Hall School' was named by its founding fathers after their own religious school housed in an ancient hall on the banks of a 'burn' called Wear in Croxdale, England.

No burnt-down halls anywhere in this tale.

Healthcare Innovations in Kashmir – II

Published / by Jehangir

Last week I wrote about innovations and reforms introduced by the K-RICH team of the Directorate of Health Services, Kashmir. This column will detail some forthcoming projects which are pending approval and two proposals that have the potential to revolutionise healthcare delivery in Kashmir.

Forthcoming Projects

A major innovation by the K-RICH team was the development of a comprehensive plan for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) incorporating a world-class 108 Emergency Ambulance Service and 104 Health Helpline Service under PPP mode. Dr Niyaz Jan was instrumental as his dissertation work was related to EMS services in J&K. The entire process including development of EoI, RFP and tendering process was facilitated by K-RICH.

M/S GVK-EMRI, who are acknowledged leaders in EMS in India were selected as the private partner for the JKATS EMS project. The service is expected to roll out soon across the state of J&K.

The concept of River Ambulances to avoid traffic bottlenecks while transporting patients was also developed by my team as well as a joint-venture with J&K Tourism Department to provide healthcare services in the inaccessible areas of Dal Lake.

Another area high-focus area for the government is development of Public Private Partnerships in healthcare. The K-RICH team identified key areas and developed comprehensive Public Private Partnership (PPP) proposals for setting up Advanced Cardiac Care Centres, Advanced Dialysis and Nephrology Centres, and Cancer Palliative Centres in Kashmir.

K-RICH also developed a model for a pilot project for field testing of innovative equipment like Swasthya Slate developed by Dr Kanav Kahol, Head of the 'Affordable Technology' Division of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) for Indian conditions in the rural districts of Kashmir as a joint venture between the Directorate & PHFI.

A modern Drug Warehouse for scientific storage, management and distribution of medicines to be constructed at Bemina was conceptualized and designed and an outline for a State Drug Corporation was proposed as one component of a comprehensive e-procurement and drug and material management initiative of the Department of Health & Family Welfare.

The K-RICH team also finalized a new Health Secretariat building to house the Directorate of Health Services and other directorates like Family Welfare, SM, and NRHM etc. The concept includes a corporate-based design with all modern public and business amenities including a 500-seat Auditorium.

Planning for the Future

Far reaching as these reforms and innovations may be, more needs to be done. I have proposed two concepts whose potential deserves to be explored.

Zone Management

The first concept which I feel we must adopt is the Zone Management concept. Based on the unique geography of the Kashmir Valley, which is 135 km long but only 32 km wide, it should be divided into three zones for optimal delivery of healthcare and disaster management services:

A. Central Zone – Srinagar, Ganderbal, Bandipora, Budgam and Pulwama Districts with JLNM Hospital Srinagar being designated as the Central Zone Referral Hospital.

B. North Zone – Baramulla and Kupwara Districts with District Hospital Baramulla (DHB) being designated as the North Zone Referral Hospital.

C. South Zone – Anantnag, Kulgam and Shopian Districts with District Hospital Anantnag DHA) being designated as the South Zone Referral Hospital.

Ideally the Zonal Referral Hospital should be part of a Zonal Medical College, but initially the hospital could simply be upgraded with tertiary level staff and facilities. This will ensure that every patient in Kashmir can reach a fully-equipped well-staffed Zonal Referral Hospital within one hour – the ‘golden hour’ in emergency care. If required, the patient can avail a post-stabilisation inter-facility ambulance transport service to a tertiary care hospital. This service has been planned by my team as the ALS component of the JKATS EMS project.

DNB Courses

The second concept that I proposed was the setting up of DNB courses in our district hospitals. Diplomate of National Board (DNB) degree is equivalent to M.D Degree.This will ensure that sufficiently motivated doctors are available in the hospitals round-the-clock. This proposal was enthusiastically followed up by Dr Omar Salim Akhtar, who came up with a comprehensive document which has been submitted to the Union Government for approval and funding.

If approved and repeated in other states, this one concept can have a revolutionary effect on healthcare delivery at the international level as India supplies health manpower to many other countries. Just imagine the enormity of the impact if postgraduation facilities become available in all 22 districts of J&K State compared to only the 2 capital districts.

Till DNB training facilities or Zonal Medical Colleges are set-up the problem of trained manpower can be addressed by inter-zonal pooling of specialists.

The ultimate aim is to deal with the patient load at the zonal level itself so that the pressure on central hospitals is relieved to the point that they can truly start functioning as tertiary level research institutes.

In Conclusion

The K-RICH team worked with many people who did not belong to Kashmir yet made extraordinary efforts to help alleviate the suffering of our patients. Mr Ulrich Balke, InterPLAST co-ordinator, all former and current staff members of ICRC in Kashmir, and Dr Kanav Kahol of PHFI were eager to collaborate on healthcare projects in Kashmir. Dr Eric Bernes, master trainer of the ICRC deserves special mention for his efforts in imparting BLS trainings in less developed regions of the world especially Kashmir.

The efforts of K-RICH were a part of the overall focus of the Directorate of Health Services to improve healthcare delivery as well as accountability.

In the first year itself (2011-1012), the performance statistics were astonishing with significant increase in all performance parameters – OPD performance increased by 30.5%, IPD by 33.5 %, Investigations by 48.5 % and Major Surgeries by 38.5% over the previous year. Similar improvements were noted in the following year. Advanced surgeries are now routinely being conducted at district level. The scale of these improvements culminated in the State of J&K being awarded as the best performing state in Primary Healthcare in India with the award being personally received by the Hon’ble Chief Minister.

Ideas and suggestions for improving the healthcare delivery system in J&K are welcome.

Postscript: After this article was submitted, news came of the approval granted by Union Ministry of Health for medical colleges to be started in Anantnag and Baramulla Districts. This will give a huge boost to the concept of the Zone-based healthcare delivery system when and if it is put into practice.

(Concluded)

Link: Newspaper version in Greater Kashmir

Healthcare Innovations in Kashmir – I

Published / by Jehangir

In 2011, I rejoined the Directorate of Health Services Kashmir (DHSK) after two decades in Government Medical College Srinagar including a stint as an International Visiting Fellow at Harvard Medical University (MGH, Boston). I was given the dual responsibility of reviving the defunct Kashmir Nursing Home as Medical Superintendent, and the open-ended task of conceptualizing and implementing healthcare reforms and innovations as Member-Secretary of the newly formed K-RICH committee (Kashmir Reforms & Innovations Committee for Healthcare).

SDH Pahalgam Concept

Fortunately, my team members were two energetic and dedicated young doctors who had recently been trained in Public Health at the National Institute of Health and Family Welfare, New Delhi. The personalities of Dr Niyaz Jan and Dr Arshad Rafi could not be more different, but between the three of us we came up with a series of health reforms and innovations that have transformed the face of health care delivery in Kashmir.

Our initial focus was on logical manpower placement. I was astonished to learn that super-specialists were languishing in the field without the necessary resources to utilise their skills– for example, an onco-surgery specialist was posted in a remote area of Kupwara without access to an operating theatre. Immediately we conceived the idea of conducting SuperSpecialist Outreach Clinics (SSOC) at Kashmir Nursing Home where super-specialist doctors from the field could utilize their training and skills in a favourable environment. OPDs were started in Cardiology, Gastroenterology, Endocrinology, Urology, Plastic Surgery, Orthopaedics, Pediatrics & Pediatric Surgery, Haematology and other super-specialties.

By the time Kashmir Nursing Home was taken over by Government Medical College Srinagar in 2013, upto 200 patients per day were being provided super-specialist consultation and the total patients treated ran into tens of thousands. Thousands of Day Care Surgery procedures had been conducted along with hundreds of endoscopies. Numerous free testing camps including BMD, Lipid and Diabetes testing camps had been conducted along with Patient Awareness Camps for lifestyle diseases. Regular Basic Life Saving (BLS) training sessions and Blood Donation Camps were held and hundreds of blood units collected.

The K-RICH team introduced BLS (Basic Life Support) training in collaboration with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). A core team of BLS Trainers was trained by Dr Eric Bernes, world-renowned expert from International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). These trainers in turn have provided BLS training to almost 5000 health employees in a phased manner. Photo/Video Journalists and drivers belonging to health services were also trained in BLS as they are often the first on the scene of an emergency and plans were developed to focus on BLS trainings for students and police personnel.

Advanced Human Simulator at RIHFW

A bottleneck in optimal healthcare delivery was found to be the lack of adequately trained paramedics in Kashmir. K-RICH developed and implemented a state-of-the-art Patient Simulation Laboratory at RIHFW Dhobiwan with the advice of Dr Kanav Kahol from the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI). This in-house innovation of the first Patient Simulation Lab in the public health sector in India is enabling students, paramedics and doctors to learn, practice, and repeat procedures as often as necessary in order to correct mistakes and refine their skills without compromising the safety of real patients. Dr Manzoor Kadri, the proactive Principal of RIHFW, helped us to develop a schedule for weekly training of doctors and paramedics from district institutions under his direct supervision so as to maximize benefits of the SimLab.

Another area where we benefited from the wide experience of Dr Manzoor Kadri was the revival of academic activities including publication of the Indian Journal for the Practising Doctor (IJPD), the indexed peer-reviewed journal of the Directorate of Health Services, besides Kashmir Healthline, a quarterly newsletter and an annual comprehensive performance review book. An eye-catching calendar showcasing the achievements of the Directorate has also been introduced from the past two years.

During a meeting with the Asia Head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to review our progress and to explore further avenues of collaboration, I requested the ICRC to arrange ATLS trainings for our specialists. Since we had set exacting international standards for the JKATS EMS project, I also requested the ICRC to share their experience in ER development so that the same level of care would be maintained once the patient was transferred from the JKATS ambulances to our hospitals.

In 2013, twenty trainers of the Directorate were trained in ERTC (ATLS) by master trainers from the ICRC in April 2013. Meanwhile the Directorate constituted its own ER development team which is setting up modern fully-equipped Emergency Rooms in hospitals in the field. This team is doing a fantastic job and hopefully the ICRC will help with targeted trainings in modern ER concepts.

InterPLAST Reconstructive Surgery Workshop in Kashmir

Another collaborative effort achieved by K-RICH was a joint Reconstructive Surgery Workshop with InterPLAST-Germany. A plastic surgery team from Germany headed by Dr. Andreas Schmidt and assisted by specialists from DHSK conducted free reconstructive surgeries during which 80 patients of cleft deformities, burn injuries and other functional disabilities were operated upon. Two hundred more patients were registered for subsequent camps.

In 2013, I was appointed as Nodal Officer for DHSK for the Amarnath Pilgrimage. Dr Niyaz Jan had left for the USA to pursue Masters in Public Health, but with the assistance of Dr Arshad Rafi , we developed an Active Health Management Manual for pilgrimages and similar events. Health facilities were drastically overhauled and the event was micro-planned to such a level that there was a drastic reduction in Yatra deaths this year.

Another perplexing state-of-affairs was the manner in which new hospitals were being constructed in J&K. Agencies like PWD, JKPCC etc were being handed over enormous amounts of money and land to build hospitals in any manner they pleased. Facilities were being planned in a haphazard manner, and building vertically to reduce the footprint while conserving available land was an alien concept. Major hospitals had been in the pipeline for decades without being commissioned, and those few that had been completed lacked major facilities like patient lifts and ramps.

District Hospital under construction at Kargil

The K-RICH team did an intensive study of international and national hospital standards as well as relevant codes like the National Building Code. Based on these principles we designed a series of prototype DH, CHC and PHC designs wherein latest hospital concepts as well as disaster management and patient accessibility standards were incorporated. Major Hospitals like District Hospitals of Bandipora, Kargil, Sub- District Hospitals at Pahalgam and Tangmarg, Trauma Hospital at Bijbehara, Primary Health Centres at Quimoh, Kalamchakla, Chanapora, and numerous other health institutions are being constructed on prototype designs developed by K-RICH. We also redesigned a number of existing or under-construction hospitals to become more standards-compliant and user-friendly with the addition of ramps, wheelchair access, sub-waiting spaces, additional toilets and attendant facilities.

As Nodal Officer for NABH (National Board for Accreditation of Hospitals) Project efforts were initiated for getting selected hospitals of the health department accredited by NABH. Proposals for Colour-coded aprons and QR-Code based ID Cards were introduced as well as Biometric employee attendance systems with remote surveillance.

With the transfer of Kashmir Nursing Home to the Medical Education department, we shifted the Super-Specialist Outreach Clinics (SSOC) to the underutilized Mini Maternity Centre (MMC) at Zakura to provide the population of the underserved area with advanced healthcare facilities at their doorstep. Specialist Outreach camps are being held at district level in collaboration with NGO’s like Zakat Trust etc.

(To be concluded)

Link: Newspaper version in Greater Kashmir

A Bridge named Albion?

Published / by Jehangir

On this day in 1929 newspapers carried an article exposing the sectarian and autocratic character of the Dogra rule. The publication of this article emboldened Kashmiri muslims to raise the banner of protest. Remarkably, the article was written by the serving Prime Minister of KashmirSir Albion Banerji.

Sir Albion R. Banerji, Kt., C.S.I. C.I.E., (1871 – 1950) was the first Bengali Brahman to be born in England, hence his unusual first name. He earned his Master's Degree at the Balliol College, Oxford and joined the Indian Civil Service in 1894. At the Delhi Durbar of 1911, Albion Banerji was awarded the Companion of the Indian Empire (CIE).

He served as Magistrate in the Madras Presidency, and as Diwan of Cochin and then of Mysore before joining the Maharaja's administration in Kashmir as the Foreign and Political Minister.

In 1927 Sir Albion Banerji was appointed Prime Minister of Kashmir.

On March 16, 1929, he published a scathing indictment of the administration of the Kashmir State – criticising the Maharaja's lavish lifestyle sustained by a poor population – and then resigned from his post.

Some excerpts from the note:

'Jammu and Kashmir state is labouring under many disadvantages, with a large Mohammedan population absolutely illiterate, labouring under poverty and very low economic conditions of living in the villages, and practically governed like dumb driven cattle.

There is no touch between the government and the people, no suitable opportunity for representing grievances…

The administration has at present no or little sympathy with people's wants and grievances…'

Sir Albion Banerji's resignation effectively ended his hitherto stellar career in the Indian Civil Service. This act should have made him a hero for the common Kashmiri.

Strangely, or maybe I should say expectedly, there is no mention of Sir Albion Banerji in the sponsored hagiographies that masquerade as history in today's Kashmir. His selfless act has been forgotten because no self-serving separatist, mainstream or 'slipstream' politician can legitimately claim his legacy.

Even the numerous 'civil society' groups peculiar to Kashmir, ever keen to jump on to any 'kashmir/kashmiriyat' bandwagon, have not instituted an award (their favoured ploy to stay news-worthy) in his name – the ultimate ignominy for a man who has had such an undeniable impact on the history of Kashmir.

Perhaps there is an undercurrent to Sir Albion Banerji's service in Kashmir that I have failed to observe, but the fact remains that he championed both the cause of the downtrodden muslim population of Kashmir and of the backward classes of India. Much to the discomfort of his peers, he protested the failure of the Dogra and the British rulers respectively to address their problems.

The erstwhile state of Cochin, which also had cause to honour the gentleman, has a street named after him. I had suggested in an earlier post that the new bridge over the river Jehlum at Rajbagh could be named the Albion Bridge to honour Sir Albion Banerji.

Any takers?