Belated commissioner

After a long long wait, J&K which was the first state to pass of right to information act at a time when the central law was still being discussed, finally appointed its first Chief Information Commissioner (CIC).

Ghulam Rasool Sofi, a commissioner in Income Tax who is retiring in April, was appointed as state’s first CIC on Thursday. The decision said was taken by chief minister Omar Abdullah, in a meeting with opposition Peoples Democratic Party president Mehbooba Mufti and Deputy CM Tara Chand.

Though there were a number of aspirants but there were only three persons in the race to bag the coveted position-  IPS officer Dr Ashok Bhan, who retired last year as additional DG of J&K Police, IAS officer S S Kapoor who is retiring as the chief secretary this month and IRS officer G R Sofi.

 The meeting to finalise the CIC was cancelled twice in the recent weeks because of non availability of Ms Mufti.

 “It is going to be a great challenge,” an excited Sofi said. “We have to exhibit and ensure we are open and transparent and it is high time to tell the people that we do care.”

A 1977 IRS batch officer, Sofi did his MA from AMU in 1975. He has served in Mumbai, Chennai, J&K and Chandigarh in different capacities and is currently operating as Chief Commissioner of Income Tax Amritsar division that has territorial jurisdiction over J&K as well.

Last time the state government had accepted the Congress high command decision of appointing Kashmir expert Wajahat Habibullah as the CIC. It created a lot of hype suggesting that he would work as centre’s point-man in Kashmir to negotiate with the separatists. Finally, he refused to come as he was discharged from his earlier assignment in Delhi.
 
 Heading the Information Commission is going to be a challenging job in J&K because authorities are generally wary of sharing information regarding human rights issues.

An official spokesman said the Committee will meet again before the start of next assembly session to finalize the names of two State Information Commissioners.

Balloon defiance
As the Lal Chowk was sealed and barricaded for any civilian movement on January 26, security forces were all alert. Security forces had thwarted a few attempts of hoisting of national flag by BJP activists in the previous days. With streets sealed there was hardly any chance for anyone with a flag- tricolour, green or saffron – to show up in the square.

And then they were caught off guard when some balloons, painted with a JKLF flag were seen flying in air.

It was some time later that police barged on a house in  Maisuma locality, and arrested two non-state residents, who were allegedly sending the balloons in the air.

The two youngsters from Jhansi in Uttar Pradesh were according to reports caught red-handed while inflating and sending the balloons in air with the help of a pumping machine. Prakash, 30, and the woman, Koli, 20, were allegedly hired by Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front to send balloons with its flags in air  on January 26, when it had announced a march and a flag hoisting programme to counter the BJP’s tricolour hoisting plans.

Meanwhile, Malik himself was arrested along with, Hurriyat (M) leaders Bilal Ghani Lone, Shahid ul Islam and party activists.

Two decades in post
A postcard sent from Kashmir in 1987 has finally arrived at its destination in Liverpool UK – after 23 years.

The card, dated 4th October 1987, was written to ‘Pete and Gail’ and sent to a Peter Livingstone at an address on Errol Street, Aigburth.

The flat’s current occupiers, friends Chrissie Golling and Amy Ryan, have no idea who Mr Livingstone is and want to trace him, newspaper reports said.

Chrissie, 23, was just a few months old when the postcard was sent and lived on Alwyn Street, two streets from its intended recipient. She grew up in Australia but returned to Liverpool last year and found the card on January 15.

She said: “It was really random. I went through the phone book but I couldn’t find anything there, or on the internet.

“If someone sent me a postcard and then 23 years later someone rang and said, ‘I’ve got some mail for you that took 23 years to arrive’, I’d be like, ‘Wow, I want it!’ I don’t know where it would have been – maybe it fell through floorboards and has only just been found?”

The card was sent from Srinagar, Kashmir, described by the sender as “a noisy, chaotic, dirty tourist trap”. They also write of beautiful scenery in the “fabulous” Kashmir valley.

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