The going rate paid by the Taliban for an attack on a police checkpoint in the western part of Afghanistan: $4 (repeat FOUR Dollars). While foreign consultants working for the Western aid agencies in Kabul can command salaries of $250,000 to $500,000 a year. Such are the profound ironies one comes across in the war-torn Afghanistan.
“The high degree of wastage of aid money in Afghanistan has long been an open secret. In 2006, Jean Mazurelle, the then country director of the World Bank, calculated that between 35 per cent and 40 per cent of aid was ‘badly spent’. ‘The wastage of aid is sky-high,’ he said. ‘There is real looting going on, mainly by private enterprises. It is a scandal’,” reports The Independent.
” Whole districts of Kabul have already been taken over or rebuilt to accommodate Westerners working for aid agencies or embassies. ‘I have just rented out this building for $30,000 a month to an aid organisation,’ said Torialai Bahadery, the director of Property Consulting Afghanistan, which specialises in renting to foreigners.
” ‘It was so expensive because it has 24 rooms with en-suite bathrooms as well as armoured doors and bullet-proof windows,’ he explained, pointing to a picture of a cavernous mansion.
“Though 77 per cent of Afghans lack access to clean water, Mr Bahadery said that aid agencies and the foreign contractors who work for them insist that every bedroom should have an en-suite bathroom and this often doubles the cost of accommodation.
Some officials working for non-governmental organisations in Afghanistan are themselves troubled by the amount of money which foreign government officials and their aid agencies spend on staff compared to the poverty of the Afghan government.
” ‘I was in Badakhshan province in northern Afghanistan which has a population of 830,000, most of whom depend on farming,’ said Matt Waldman, the head of policy and advocacy for Oxfam in Kabul. ‘The entire budget of the local department of agriculture, irrigation and livestock, which is extremely important for farmers in Badakhshan, is just $40,000. This would be the pay of an expatriate consultant in Kabul for a few months’.”
Photo above courtesy Getty Images: Kabul City shopping centre, which opened in 2005
Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.)
Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department’s SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi.
In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF’s Eco-tourism policy.
He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on “Development Journalism” to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years.
In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India — West Bengal and Orissa.
Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia.
Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there.
He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation.
And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.