Briefing December 12-18, 2021

COONOOR

Gen Bipin Rawt with wife Madhulika Rawat. They died in an air crash in Tamil Nadu along with 11 others on December 8, 2021.

In one of the worst air crashes in recent years, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, the only 5-star General, was killed along with his wife, Madhulikha and 11 others when his Mi-17V5 helicopter crashed barely minutes before it could have landed at Willington. The air crash was reported in Tamil Nadu’s Coonoor area.

The first CDS, General Rawat would talk in unambiguous terms on Pakistan, China and the situation in Kashmir. Some of his statements would trigger controversies but the outspoken General would never compromise on what he believed. A highly decorated soldier, General Rawat became the army chief in December 2016 and took over as the CDS in 2019, a day after he completed his term.

In Jammu and Kashmir, the crash is has revived the memories of a similar chopper crash on November 22, 1963, that killed Lt General’s Daulat Singh, and Bikram Singh, Air Vice Marshal EW Pinto, Major General KND Nanavati, Brigadier SR Oberoi and Flight Lieutenant SS Sodhi. As Lt General, Rawat had survived a helicopter crash in 2015. Those killed in the Coonoor crash along with the CDS and his wife include Brigadier LS Lidder, the military adviser to the CDS, and staff officer Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh.

In Kashmir, the commander of the Srinagar based 15 Corps, Lt Gen Devendra Pratap Pandey accompanied Kashmir Police Chief to Baramulla where they attended a memorial event. They later joined a candlelight event in Srinagar’s Lal Chowk.

After 2400 schools were merged in 2015 to improve the pupil to teacher ratio (PTR), 2000 more – one thousand each in Kashmir and Jammu, are being merged in coming days.

DELHI

Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha

In Agenda AajTak, which a Delhi based channel hosted last week, Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha said his administration is working on “demolishing the whole terror ecosystem.”He said there are people including scribes and intellectuals, – some of whom having “great standing and reputation in foreign countries” who are involved in terror funding. He said the era of flying people, who were threat to peace in Kashmir, to Delhi has ended. Sinha said the period of talking to people with “soft separatist tendencies” is over, and from now on, talks will only be held with those who believe in the idea of India and its tricolour. Asked about the additional deployments, Sinha said: “If one killing happens, everyone says that we are not able to tackle militancy. If we say that we will secure the places which did not have the dominance of forces and which supplied oxygen and fertilisers to terrorism, are we committing a crime by demanding five companies of forces? What is wrong in that?”

On the same show, interestingly, Mehbooba Mufti said the new India belongs to Godse and not to Gandhi. “And the Naya Kashmir that is being created is also Godse’s Kashmir, where I am not allowed to talk, where my gate is locked twice a week,” she said. Appreciating the “wonderful job” of the security grid, Ms Mufti said that they should not be used to further political ends. She called for a “political process, a dialogue process, a reconciliation process if you really want to make a Naya Kashmir”, insisting “that won’t happen by showing a snow-covered Gulmarg.” She said Kashmir has been converted into a laboratory.

Of the Rs 31000 crore industrial investment proposals received, the Jammu and Kashmir government has approved proposals worth Rs 15,000 crore

SRINAGAR

Secretariat

An employee of the Jammu and Kashmir government can not in any way be a critique of the government actions, even if it is the issue of service delivery, one instance surfaced recently explains. An employee of the forest department had used social media to give vent his feeling overload shedding as a result of which he alleged the students are unable to attend online classes. Within days, he got a show-cause notice asking him to explain his position or face the consequences. His conduct was seen as a violation of Section 18 of Jammu and Kashmir Government Employees (Conduct Rules) 1971.

LEH

A rare click in the assembly showing Sajjad Gani Lone as the only lawmaker present in the house in late 2017. That day, he was slightly earlier than all others. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

After waiting for a few years, the Jammu and Kashmir government has finally accorded sanction to the continuation of payment of a pension and family pension to 26 former lawmakers who belong to the Ladakh region. This payment was withheld after Ladakh was separated from Jammu and Kashmir as a separate Union Territory in 2019. The Legislative Assembly of Jammu and Kashmir will make these payments as the administration in Ladakh expressed its inability to pay it. Those lawmakers who would be benefitted by the decision include former minister, Qamar Ali Akhoon, Feroz Ahmad Khan, Asgar Ali Karbali, Tsering Samphel, Deldan Namgial, Syed Muhammad Baqir Rizvi, Skalzang Angdoo, Nissar Ali, Ghulam Raza, Narboo Gialchan, Aga Syed Ahmad Rizvi, Togdan Rimpochey, Anayat Ali, Tsetan Namgyal, Nawang Rigzin Jora, Sonam Gyalson, Sonam Wangchuk Narboo, Chering Dorjay and many others. The list includes many others whose families will get the family pension. The decision of payment of pension from the erstwhile legislative assembly of Jammu and Kashmir was taken after the MHA studied the issue and clarified it.

BANIHAL

A tunnel along Baramulla – Jammu railway line. KL image by Bilal Bahadur

The Northern Railway achieved a major milestone by completing a tunnel near Bankot. The completing of this tunnel on the Katra-Banihal section will improve the implementation of various other tunnel projects on the 272-km long line connecting Udhampur with Baramulla. The tunnel completed last week is almost 2-km long and would eventually cost Rs 300 crore.

The 110-km Katra-Banihal section of the prestigious railway line is one of the most challenging parts as 96 per cent of the 53-kilometre-long railway line in the mountainous Ramban district passes through underground tunnels. This tunnel section was implemented by Kashmir based Beigh Construction Company (BCC) that used a road-header machine, perhaps for the first time in any tunnelling project in Jammu and Kashmir. This machine prevents blasting in the fragile mountains.

Meanwhile on the upcoming 14-km Zoji La tunnel, the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) connecting Sonmargwith Drass, will continue during the winter. From the Baltal side, so far, about 390 metres of the tunnel stand completed. From Minamarg, NHIDCL has achieved almost about 675 meters.

More than 5.13 lakh tourists including 1317 foreigners visited Kashmir till November 2021.

KULGAM

Though not for the first time, residents of Begamin Kulgam came out in hoards to manage the last rites of Lajwanti Devi, 75. A Kashmiri Rajput Hindu, her family had stayed put and not migrated out of Kashmir in the 1990s. Though some of her family members were around but the locality came out and participated in the funeral. Her family has said that they have lived together and the attendance of the majority population members was part of the tradition the two communities have evolved with for generations.

JAMMU

CSIR-NAL’s octocopter took off from CSIR-Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR-IIIM) Jammu carrying Covid-19 vaccines and delivered to Government Sub District Hospital Marh on November 27, 2021

In order to counter the use of drones in the trafficking of arms into Jammu and Kashmir, the BSF, NSG and DRDO have started a tie-up with some foreign companies to develop an anti-drone technology. Once ready, it will be installed at various locations between Amritsar, AboharFazilka, Hiranagar and Akhnoor. MHA is reportedly funding the entire project. Jammu and Kashmir has 198 km of international border with Pakistan and in Punjab, it is 553 km. After these two areas are tackled, the technology will be deployed in Rajasthan and Gujarat. On LoC, however, the army has already installed certain types of equipment to check drone flights. So far the security grid is physically managing the drone physically which is cumbersome.

RAJOURI

Representational Picture of Starlink satellite train

It was quite unusual for the residents of Rajouri and Poonch to see such a glittering long object on Delhi. Well before the panic would takeover, the authorities somehow clarified that the huge line of bright stars moving in a direction smoothly was neither the sky-lab nor the elusive UFOs. They were actually a constellation of Starlink Satellite. Owned by Elon Musk’s SpaceX, these satellites in low earth orbit are providing satellite internet facilities. The company has launched 1892 satellites of a total of 42000 it has planned. The satellite train covers the entire globe but the service can be availed in 21 countries. India is expected to get this service in 2022.

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