After Three QUARTERS

Development is the predominant part of the official discourse in J&K. And the development is a failed story; at least the official statistics suggests so.

For the current financial year 2011-12, the state government had projected an expenditure of Rs 6600 crore in 12 months ending March 31, 2012.

By the end of December 2011 – after nine months of the financial year, the overall expenditure booked by various government departments is Rs 2659.18 crores which makes an expenditure of only 40.29 percent.

There are certain departments which have not spent even thirty percent of their allocations. Officials say spending this much is an achievement because the expenditure in the same period for the last financial year was only 38.21 percent. They say the works are going on and the payments are usually being made in the last quarter which has remained a tradition over the years.

Part of the official response is correct. But the end of March would mark the mad rush at the treasuries. Hundreds of crores would be withdrawn. As the pressures on booking the expenditure mount, the monitoring takes a hit. With cheques for works implemented, the official-contractor-politician nexus helps lot of non-existent works to get counted and paid.

It does happen year after year. Every year! If the funds are huge and the respective department is not in a position to spend, these are being surrendered. These funds are finally diverted by the officials from one place to another and this trend has been a reality for the last many years now.

The larger reality of state’s climatic condition is that it is literally impossible to spend any major amount in Kashmir November onwards. There cannot be any major masonry work because the cement would not set. Same is the case of Ladakh where working season is much limited. In case of the arid Ladakh desert, the local politicians have been wise. They have set up a fund in which they keep the saved and excess resources.

Like North East, it does not lapse. There has been a demand from Kashmir trade for a long time that a similar non-lapsable fund be created for Kashmir on the grounds of climate and geography as was done in case of north eastern states but the politicians are not interested. They want the system in vogue to continue.

Elected FINALLY
Dr Mubin Shah, former president of the Kashmir Chmaber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) was elected as the new president of the J&K Joint Chamber of Commerce – an organization that represents (trans-LoC) trade from both the sides of the political divide.

He replaced Zulfiqar Abbasi, a PaK industrialist who had almost hijacked the joint chamber. The elections were held by a British charity that is seemingly interested in the politics of trade and not capacity building. An earlier effort to hold the polls failed and now Dr Shah, one of the bold trade leaders, was elected by consensus.

The joint chamber has three major stake holders – Kashmir, Jammu and PaK. The votes are divided between various trade formations within these three regions. Ladakh and Northern Areas are expected to be listed later. In the first term, the leadership of the joint chamber was with PaK. Belatedly, it shifted to Kashmir and now will move to Jammu. But Dr Mubin’s election to the important position in the formative years of the organization is a good omen, trade insiders suggest.

Dr Mubin who spent more than two years taking care of his off shore business returned this year. He has immensely contributed to the trade politics of the region as the Chamber leader. In fact he has drafted a detailed report about how the trans-LoC trade should look like in coming days within and outside the SAFTA framework. But his major exercise would be to make the fundamentals of the new organization strong and institutionalize and eventually register the organization somewhere. But will the joint chamber be registered in India or in Pakistan or in a third country?

It will be only after the basics are managed properly that Dr Shah can explore the possibility of replicating Dubai or Singapore model in Kashmir. His first priority should be to move to Poonch and Uri and see the basic problems that the trade is suffering from. Let this chamber be more active than the pace of peacemaking between India and Pakistan.

Twist In A TRAGEDY
Terror of Papa Kishtwari is haunting again. A son in search of his father approached Court. Zahoor Ahmad Mir filed a petition seeking DNA testing of bodies lying in alleged mass graves so that the body of his father is traced out. The High Court responded by issuing order asking the state government to file objections, if any, within two weeks.

Justice Hasnain Masoodi heard the matter and asked the state counsel to file a reply within two weeks and list the matter immediately after this period. Mir pleaded in his petition that his father- Ali Mohammad Mir, was allegedly killed by pro-government gunman Ghulam Muhammad Lone alias Papa Kishtwari and his associates.

He had sought court directions to the government to conduct DNA testing of all the unnamed graves so that the body of his father can be identified and recovered. Mir’s seeking of DNA testing came in resonance with recommendation of State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) recommendation. The Commission had also recommended DNA testing of bodies lying in alleged mass graves in Kashmir. Besides DNA testing, Mir also prayed to the court that government should be directed to pay a compensation of rupees five crore and a job under SRO-43.

Counsel of Mir, Syed Babar Qadri also pleaded for providing him reasonable security, stating that he is under constant threat from the absconding criminals and killers of his father.

Mir’s ordeal began in 1996 when his father was abducted. Advocate Qadri says, “The petitioner is struggling to get the body of his father and perform his last rites.” Kishtwari, currently in jail, is facing trial before the Sessions Court for his alleged involvement in killing of Ali Mohammad Mir. The order came from Kaneez Fatima Principal District and Session Judge in a complaint filed by Zahoor on October 31, 2011.

A Verdict In WAITING
Erstwhile ‘encounter specialist’ Sewak Singh must be busy trying to get his lawyers prepare the case for an appeal before a superior court after he got lifer for a murder of a subordinate. But the judiciary is about to deliver a decision on another murder – that was jointly committed by a senior superintendent of police (SSP) Karnail Singh and his wife.

The court of Principal Sessions Judge Jammu Jang Bahadur Singh Jamwal has already convicted Karnail Singh, then SSP (IRP) Rajouri, and his wife Ratno Devi, under section 120-B, 302 and 109 RPC, besides other accused including Naresh Kumar, Sohan Lal, Jeet Kumar, Jaimal Singh, Daleep Singh and Suresh Kumar under section 120-B, 302 and 364 RPC. The entire gang had murdered Nitin Sharma. His crime was that he had married Karnail Singh’s daughter and it was a love affair.

The marriage was against the young woman’s parents’ wish. Sharma was kidnapped and his corpse was later recovered from a canal in August 2005. Police investigations led to the arrest of accused and all the individuals who helped in Sharma’s execution. The case is waiting for award of punishment.

Battle For SURVIVAL
It was a battle in Lalchowk, again. This time it was people related with medicine and, as usual, the police. Police came into action and resorted to intense lathi charge and used water cannons, when thousands of medical representatives, drug stockists, dealers and pharmacists took out a massive protest march to Lal Chowk against the draft drug policy. Dozens of persons were injured in the police action and over a dozen protestors detained.

The chemist shops also remained closed as a mark of protest in most parts of city. The protesters demanded amendment in drug policy while raising slogans against it.

The pharma fraternity describes itself as an important stakeholder and “rejected any decision” without taking them on board. “This drug policy will simply push the private dealers to wall and at the very same time raise questions over the quality control of drugs,” said  Muhammad Younis Mir, Chairman, Emco Drug Agencies.

Police justifying the use of power alleged that a policeman was beaten by a group of protestors at Pratap Park and that some of them also resorted to stone pelting. The demonstrators denied the charge.  “We are not going to hold back. Even if the state and police try to suppress our voices, we will not relent. This Drug Policy is a direct attack on the profession of more than two lakh people who are directly associated with this trade and at least 10 lakh families who depend on this industry for their livelihoods,” said Muhammad Hanief, member co-ordination committee, J&K Pharma Traders and professionals.

Dealers alleged that this policy is to shift control. To the state government and accused minister of running the unit. “Under the garb of public service, this drug policy is nothing but a mere eye wash aimed at taking the control of this industry.” Aafaq Ahmad, member, co-ordination committee said.

Doctors Association Kashmir (DAK) came in support of the dealers. They said that the present draft of the Drug policy is a mere eye wash and a simple lip service to people. DAK in its statement further said that the government should not have gone ahead with the approval of this policy unless various stakeholders were consulted and their response sought.

Fined FINALLY
They have been fighting the case for a long time and finally they lost it. When the J&K government asked them to pay entry tax for the massive equipments they have been getting into the state, the cell phone companies challenged state government’s constitutional right to issue such an order. They termed the order a violation of Article 301 of the Constitution of India. Finally, they lost the case. Last week, Justice Muzaffar Hussain Attar directed all the seven cell phone operators in the state to pay a fine of Rs 10 lakh each to the state government. As per the court order they will have to pay the entry tax on their equipment to the state government. The fine which the companies will pay will be spent on the welfare of the orphans across J&K.

Cell phone operators are planning to go a superior court against the order. If they fail to get a relief, they will have to cough up Rs 459 crore as entry tax for the last five years on the massive equipments they imported. Besides, they will have to pay entry tax on everything they get into the state. The services they are providing is not a social service but a commercial service. Be informed, all the tariffs hawked by the cell phone companies are going to change in near future.

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