A CMs’ CONCLAVE

Srinagar is holding a major meeting on September 27. Home Minister P Chidambaram is flying to preside over the Northern Zonal Council meeting that comprises the states of Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Punjab, Rajasthan, National Capital Region (NCR) of Delhi and Union Territory of Chandigarh. The Council was set up to focus on areas of common interest and seek solution to the pending issues among the neighbouring states. Chief Ministers of all these states are expected to attend the meeting.

J&K government has already framed a list of issues that it intends to take up in the Council meeting. Its protracted crisis with the neighbouring Punjab state is the major irritant in the relations.

On agenda is the continuous breach of water and power sharing agreement by Punjab with the J&K government. The two states had inked an agreement on January 29, 1955 under which J&K was given an 0.65 million acre feet (MAF) over and above its pre-partition share of 0.04 MAF from the Ravi and the Beas rivers. Punjab started implementing Thein (Ranjit Sagar) dam in 1957. Almost six years after, the J&K started drawing 0.215 MAF using the Kathua canal.

The balance share of 0.475 MAF, according to 1955 agreement was to be supplied partly from free flow supplies and partly from storage of Ravi water respectively as 0.285 MAF and 0.19 MAF. The storage availability was only possible after construction of Thein Dam. On its part, J&K government in May 1972 formulated the idea of constructing 82 Kms long Ravi Canal between the proposed dam and Chak Salarian, a village in Vijapur. Work started on this canal in 1975 from its proposed tail end.

But Punjab faced a problem. It could not set up the project unless it was supposed by Himachal Pradesh and more importantly by the J&K. Dam was supposed to be at a place where 22 villages lived. In fact Thein, the village that gives the barrage its name is a J&K hamlet. This necessitated an agreement between Punjab and J&K on January 20, 1979 between Surjeet Singh Barnala and Sheikh M Abdullah. The agreement promised J&K a basketful of benefits.

J&K was taken as a partner and it was asked to invest in the canal network that had the capacity to take 0.69 MAF. It was given rights over 20 percent of the generations at bus-bars and 15 percent stakes over all kinds of jobs that the project would generate. Affected population was to be compensated and rehabilitated by Punjab and the areas inundated or the roads damaged were to be aligned by it under the agreement.

But now, the government says they are left high and dry. Calculations by the state government suggest Punjab owes it compensation on account of power and agriculture produce losses besides payments against the utilization of state and forest land covered under Ranjit Sagar dam to the tune of Rs. 8599 crores. The irrigation water / agriculture produce losses are at Rs 6250 crore at the rate of ` Rs 250 crores per year for 25 years and power share of Rs 2349 crore.
There are many other issues supposed to crop up. These include occupation of many state government properties in Delhi and in Punjab. Let us see what J&K gets now.

Fly By WIRE
Kashmir’s all time destination, Gulmarg, has a new attraction – a state-of-the-art chairlift that connects Kongdoori with Mary Shoulder over a ravine that might look frightening from the wires. The chairlift has a length of 1.6 kilometres and vertical rise of 498 metres. It operates on a total of 16 towers. It is expected to be very popular with the skiers.

The Kongdoori Chairlift Project cost Rs 9.25 crore that J&K Cable Car Corporation managed from its own resources without raising any loan. (Another report put its total cost at Rs 18 crores) The lift has ninety four-seat coaches which are open unlike the gondola car.

It can ferry 1100 skiers per hour at the speed of 1.5 meters per second during summers for tourists and while as it will move up at 2.5 meters per second for skiers in winter.
Cable Car Corporation is one of the best earning PSU in the state. Unlike last financial year when its earning was Rs 12 crores, it has already reached Rs 16 crores by the end of August.

This is because of the massive rush of the domestic visitors to Gulmarg that reached half a million this year. Interestingly only 8000 foreigners visited the spot this season so far. Only 150 thousand tourists have taken Gondola car ride by the end of August. The Corporation is expecting the revenue of Rs 19 crores by the end of this year’s season.

The Last VISIT?
The interlocutor trio comprising Dilip Padgoankar, Ms Radha Kumar and M A Ansari that Home Ministry appointed on Kashmir is out of the squabbling sessions within. The latest on this front is that they are submitting their report on October 12 to P Chidambaram that coincided with their completion of first year as interlocutors.

Another thing that the media projected about them is that their last week’s visit was the wrap up visit. They have finally been able to visit all the 22 districts of the state during which they met 700 delegations, 5000 delegations and organized three round table conferences. In Jammu they were quoted saying while they would not suggest restoration to pre-1953 position, they would actually suggest respecting the aspirations of all three regions, sub regions and communities. The solution to Kashmir, they averred, would follow the people meet their respective aspirations. The report would revolve around Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that is J&K’s main bridging document with the union of India.

The interlocutors say their report would not be incomplete because separatists did not meet them. They have taken the separatists demands from the documents and statements which are in public domain.

In Srinagar, they said that despite a lot of improvement over the past one year, the situation continues to be fragile. The main focus, they said, was on a permanent political settlement of issue within the framework of Indian Constitution. Padgoanker said he and his colleagues were convinced that sovereignty and integrity of the state was a fait accompli and there was no question of breaking it into different administrative units.

He, however, suggested that delegation of more powers to the state would satisfy the aspiration of a large number of people. In Kupwara, they faced an embarrassing situation as ‘Azadi slogans reverberated’ during their meetings with recently elected representatives of panchayats at Dak Banglow, here on Tuesday. It started with a local accusing a key official of corruption.

The person Mohammad Assadullah Magray, a resident of Kandi Keygam village was later detained by police triggering a crisis and forced people to resort to sloganeering. Things became normal when the youth was brought back and was given a patient listening, they concluded. On the grave issue, interlocutors believe the government should address it with “absolute sincerity and sensitivity” which will be a “good movement for Indian democracy”. Padgoanker said he is personally against the capital punishment (of Afzal Guru).

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