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    Dated : Saturday, July 01, 2017

As tension escalates, Tourism in Kashmir collapses

By Athar Parvaiz

We have nobody to take a ride… When people watch TV, they think Kashmir is burning and we should not go there.

At the Dal Lake in Srinagar, Rizwan Ahmad Bhat stands next to his traditional boat, the shikara named Do Badan Ek Jan (two bodies, one soul), waiting for tourists. Last year this time, the lake was packed with visitors exploring its waters and the views of the surrounding Zabarwan hills.
This summer, the lake and its shores are empty of tourists and the smartly-dressed boatman is upset. "Look at our empty boats," said Bhat, 31. "We have nobody to take a ride."
Half-a-dozen other boatmen, dressed in T-shirts and jeans, stood around, listening to the conversation. They complained that the media is scaring tourists away from Kashmir. "When people watch TV, they think Kashmir is burning and we should not go there," said one of them, and others agreed.
Until July 2016, when young militant leader Burhan Wani's killing sparked a prolonged chain of violence in the Valley, Bhat and other boatmen used to earn Rs 1,000-Rs 1,500 a day. Now they count themselves lucky if they make Rs 400 a day.
It is the same story at Ali Shah Carpets on Saida Kadal Road, seven kilometres off Srinagar's city centre. Unsold rugs and shawls worth crores of rupees are piling up to the dismay of general manager Rafiq Ahmad Shah. "Tourism is a flop this year, so is our production," he said. Orders were given to artisans in winter for summer sales as no one had foreseen the crisis.
Tourism is important for Jammu and Kashmir's economy, contributing eight per cent to the state's gross domestic product. In 2016, the state had recorded 1.3 million tourists. The sector employs over 100,000 people, directly and indirectly, according to approximate industry estimates.
But tourism is also highly sensitive to issues of law and order. In recent months, the national media have been swamped with stories of violence in the Valley and between April and early June, only a few thousand tourists arrived, said tourism officials who did not wish to be named.
The Valley has seen a decline in insurgency-related violence in recent years but there has been a rise in street violence, mostly stone-pelting, as IndiaSpend reported on May 30, 2017. Tour operators and tourism officials argue that this violence is too sporadic and localised to affect travellers.
For tourists, however, any trouble, big or small, is avoidable. Bengaluru resident Badri Raghavan scrapped a long-awaited Kashmir vacation with his wife and three children in June 2017 though the cancellation cost was steep. The family's plans had included a houseboat stint on the Nageen lake in Srinagar and homestay in Sonamarg.
"The tour operator insisted that it is safe but if I have all of seven days in hand for a vacation why would I spend it looking over my shoulders all the time?" said Raghavan.
Tourism figures for the Valley have had a direct link with its law-and-order situation. Kashmir was a strong favourite among national and international tourists until 1988, with over 700,000 arrivals. But in 1989, armed violence began in the Valley and the numbers dropped by 200,000. That year, there were 1,500 violent incidents which included bomb blasts and firing.
In 1990 and 1991, there were 4,211 and 3,780 violent incidents reported, respectively, thereby bringing tourist arrivals to a meager 6,287, a 98 per cent decrease from arrivals since 1989.
In 1995, violence eased in the Valley and in early 1996, assembly elections were conducted after eight years of governor's rule. With a civilian government in place, tourist confidence too returned. In 1998, over 100,000 visitors arrived in Kashmir.
Four years later, India and Pakistan were on the brink of war following the December 13, 2001, attack on Parliament. Assembly elections held in Jammu and Kashmir in September in the same year were also marred by violence. Consequently, tourist inflow declined sharply in 2002, falling to 27,356.
With the start of the India-Pakistan peace process in 2003, and up until 2012, tourist figures climbed steadily to over 1.3 million. In 2015, the numbers fell below one million, but this time because floods had devastated Kashmir in September the previous year, affecting its tourism infrastructure badly.
Hotels fully booked last year now only have 25 per cent occupancy.
Foreign tourists are scarce too, exacerbating tourism woes. Many countries including the US, UK, Germany and France issued travel advisories against Kashmir.
"In a place like Kashmir, tourism inflow is often dependent on peace. But the media reportage about Kashmir is disrupting tourism by creating a false narrative about the situation in Kashmir," Mahmood Ahmad Shah, director-tourism, Kashmir, told IndiaSpend. "In winter itself, TV channels were predicting the start of a bloody summer in March."
The tourism crisis has affected workers more than owners, said Hamid. "Hotel owners at least get tax rebates when the tourism industry suffers, but most workers are either laid off or have their salaries slashed up to more than 50 per cent," he said.
In his late 20s, Shabir Ahmad from Tangmarg (Baramullah) was employed as a service boy by a Srinagar hotel in March 2015. He was asked to either accept a 60% wage cut or leave. “I preferred to stay as I have no other skill," said Ahmad. "Now, I and other employees are just hoping that the tourist inflow to valley improves." (IANS) 

Importance of media literacy

By Pallabi Dutta Baruah

Media Literacy in today's world has become very important for a better society. Actually to know what the term "media literacy" defines, first we have to know the meaning of the two basic terms i.e. 'media' and 'literacy'. 
In simple terms, Media is that prime source through which people consumes maximum information about different happenings and incidents taking place in various parts of the world. While on the other hand, literacy itself defines in it that people, who are able to read, write and act accordingly can be known as literates. Today, media has mainly grown up in three categories-electronic media, print media and new media.
Though it has covered a vast area of the world and has reached to a maximum number of doors, yet people are still unaware of many facts about it. 
In a global media culture, people mainly need two important skills in order to engage themselves in a democratic culture-'thinking ability' and 'self-expression'. People now engage themselves more in media either directly or indirectly. We can say here that, today though the society has become technical and alongwith it the people have also become mechanical, yet 3/4th of their time from their busy schedule is engaged in Media. 
It is important to note that, here we have to consider the people as a whole rather categorizing in different categories according to service or age. There is no doubt that people especially learn from all those media which they see, learn and experience in their day to day life. An average kindergartener sees about 70 media messages everyday; be it news, information or any type of advertisements. 
But only few of us understand how those media messages affect us and our society. It's not always necessary that those messages provided to us are always 100% real, at these times maximum of those are highly sensationalized and the actual matter goes beyond somewhere. 
So, what is the key to open its door to know what actually goes on over the media? The key is Media Literacy. Media Literacy is a set of skills that helps people to analyze the content of media messages that they receive and to be said. This powerful key helps us to be a better digital citizen as we consume media, produce and share our ideas and stories. Every single person has a unique role to play in case of media literacy. It's not that, only a certain number of people have the sole responsibility to act and stand for each and every prospect of media either it is positive or negative.
The consumption of media is increasing day by day with the increase rate of population. If we have a look in the field of electronic media, we will notice that today there is a competition going on in the market of establishing channels. Mushrooming of private channels have grown up and occupied the market of business and due to that people have got a better scope to choose in between those channels. As a result, a kind of competition has started amongst them in telecasting the programmes whether it is news, talk shows, advertisements or any other programme. 
If we just have a current look on the channels we will see that, as from the earlier times the actual timing of the "prime time" is from 7pm. But as we see now, due to the over competitiveness of each of the channels, the "prime time" has been forwarded to 6.45PM in some while some follows it from 6.00PM itself. In this case if people are media literates, they will able to understand the exact timing of telecasting the shows and enact and go through according to it.
In today's world where the use of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube has increased so much, here lies a huge difference between India and other countries. 
We are living in a multi-media world. While schools are still following the print texture to educate the children or can be said that schools are still dominated by the print medium, our world has become full of visual interpretations starting from the billboards or building logos, or to the access of Internet. Learning how to "read" the multiple layers of image-based communication is becoming a necessary accessory to traditional print literacy.
For centuries, literacy has been defined as the ability to read and write. But today in the fast increasing world with various new technologies it is not limited only till reading and writing. We get most of our information through new technologies and systems. Here, we can say about Facebook which is a part of new media. Facebooking is increasing so much today that whenever an incident or anything happens in any corner of the world, it is updated and people gets informed by no time regardless of any part of the planet. We can cite some of the examples here. 
The ability to read and react to various types of media has become an important skill in the 21st century. Media literacy skills have been also included in various institutions in the state. Media literate adults and youths are only able to understand the messages that we receive from television, radio, newspapers, journals & magazines, books, video games, music and any other form of media. 
Though Media Literacy is very important yet the media has also to maintain that the targeted audiences are not taken into a wrong direction from their programmes. But no doubt, it is an effective and engaging way to apply critical thinking skills to a wide range of issues. 
Understanding media is not that simple because it includes in it a vast network of ideas. Our education system is not that highly developed through which we could learn about the strategies and agendas of various forms of media. No matter the students are engaged in media education or not, yet they should be indulged in such courses from their kindergarten days itself.

Teachers' crisis becoming political hot potato in Tripura

By Sujit Chakraborty

Tripura's Left Front government is facing an unprecedented shortage of teachers to run its 5,000 schools from the next academic year beginning in January.
The Supreme Court order of March 29 upholding a state High Court order terminating the jobs of 10,323 government teachers has added to the vacuum. The state also faces a dearth of eligible candidates to fill up 15,436 teachers' posts.
The Tripura government has appealed to the Centre for relaxation in the norms for recruiting teachers in order to fill up the posts -- an issue that is turning into a political hot potato ahead of the Assembly elections early next year.
"We had sought one time relaxation in qualifying marks and exemption of professional qualification with the MHRD (Ministry of Human Resource Development) for recruiting teachers, but the ministry rejected our request," Tripura Education Minister Tapan Chakraborty told IANS.
Chakraborty said he met Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar last month and also wrote several letters to him on the issue. "Our senior officials met the ministry officials in Delhi many times on the issue, but the central government disallowed our appeal. This has deprived thousands of unemployed youths in the state an opportunity (to take up teachers' posts)," he added.
The Minister said that the Union HRD Ministry in April relaxed the minimum qualification norms for teachers notified by the National Council for Teacher Education (NCTE) for Assam and West Bengal states. He wants that Tripura should be extended the same relaxation.
According to Chakraborty, Tripura has only six teachers' education institutes. "The intake capacity of the six institutions is only 1,130 for a two-year teacher's course," he said, adding, “Hence to fill up the vacancies of 15,436 teachers posts with qualified teachers will take a few decades."
Under the Right to Education (RTE) Act, before recruitment of teachers in government schools, Teachers Eligibility Test (TET) is mandatory. To appear for the TET, the candidate has to have 50 per cent marks in certain subjects and a Bachelor degree or Diploma in Elementary Education or Diploma in Education.
The Education Minister said that Tripura requires 52,315 teachers to run 5,000 government schools. The state currently has around 47,000 teachers -- of whom 10,323 face the axe due to the Supreme Court order.
"Like other states in India, the pass percentage of candidates in TET is very minimal in Tripura too. This makes the situation worse," Chakraborty added.
The apex court on March 29 upheld the Tripura High Court order to terminate the jobs of 10,323 teachers, but allowed them to continue in service till December 31.
The court asked the government to frame a new Employment Policy, to initiate a fresh recruitment process and complete it by December 31.
The Tripura High Court's division bench headed by then Chief Justice Deepak Kumar Gupta (now elevated to the Supreme Court) on May 7, 2014, terminated the jobs of the teachers citing "incorrect selection procedure".
However, on May 17, the state government announced the creation of 13,000 non-teaching posts in two departments -- ostensibly to "accommodate" the teachers facing ouster.
Ahead of next year's assembly elections in February, the opposition and ruling Left parties are hurling accusations at each other over the issue.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) state secretary Bijan Dhar said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led central government and the party leadership have been playing a "double role" on the crucial education issue.
"The BJP government at the Centre gave a relaxation in teachers' recruitment norms to Assam and West Bengal, but rejected Tripura's proposal. The BJP leadership also asked the union HRD Minister not to give any relaxation to Tripura - thus depriving the state's youths," Dhar told IANS.
On April 11, when three Tripura MPs met Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar demanding one-time relaxation on TET for the youths of Tripura, BJP's observer for Tripura Sunil Deodhar tweeted: "Prakash Javadekar assured me that there is no question of relaxation regarding eligibility of 10,323 teachers."
Tripura Lok Sabha member Jitendra Chaudhury, who had led the three-member MPs team, said: "Rejection of Tripura's demand for relaxation will create a huge vacuum in the state's school education system and cause immense inconvenience for the school students." (IANS)
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