Briefing January 9 -15, 2022

DUBAI

Jammu and Kashmir Lt Governor, Manoj Sinha during the signing of investment MoUs with Business Groups in Dubai during Dubai Expo 2022.

Dubai Expo 2022 has emerged as a major newsmaker for Kashmir as Lt Governor Manoj Sinha led administration signed a series of proposals aimed at investment in Jammu and Kashmir. Details released by the government suggested the deals were done with Al Maya Group, MATU Investments LLC, GL Employment Brokerage LLC & Noon.

DP World that takes care of the ports has already inked a deal to create dry ports in Jammu and Kashmir. Now it is exploring possibilities of investing in various other sectors. Its executives will soon fly to Jammu and inspect the 250-acre site for the dry port.

Emaar Properties is planning to build a 500000 Sq Ft mall in Srinagar. Lulu Group, a UAE-headquartered company headed by an Indian billionaire, plans to have a logistics and food processing hub worth Rs 2000 crore. According to an understanding between Dubai and Delhi, the island nation will deliver more than a billion dollars worth of projects in Kashmir, including industrial parks, a medical college, a speciality hospital, logistic centres, IT towers and multi-purpose towers.

Kamal Vachani, a partner of the Al Maya group that has started importing Kashmir origin items including saffron said they have also signed an MoU.

“In the last 28 months, Jammu and Kashmir has transformed from sleeping business destination to the land of opportunities and investment”, Sinha told potential investors. “We are devising new paths, new policies, creating critical infrastructure and unlocking the business potential of Jammu Kashmir to strengthen our business ecosystem for the post-pandemic world and embarking on the journey of growth and development.”

Vaishno Devi Shrine Katra

PM Modi is laying the foundation stone of Rs 39,500 crore 669-km Delhi-Amritsar-Katra Expressway that will link five key religious sites and bring pilgrims to Vaishno Devi in slightly more than six hours.

GULMARG

The Gulmarg Gandola

Almost 14 months after the Jammu and Kashmir administration notified a law allowing earmarking of land for use by armed forces, two land parcels measuring 1388 kanals (70 hectares) in Gulmarg and Sonamarg tourist resorts were declared as “strategic areas”. The army can use it the way it wishes and get into constructions, an activity that was banned for a long time. The order was issued by the tourism department on December 31, 2021, declaring 1,034 kanals (approximately 52 hectares) at Gulmarg and 354 kanals (approximately 18 hectares) in Sonamarg as “strategic areas”.

This is for the first time since the Control of Building Operations Act, 1988, and the J&K Development Act, 1970 were amended in 2020 that the government has issued such a notification. The amendments give the administration the authority to notify “strategic areas” for use by the armed forces and regulate construction through a “special dispensation”.

There were reactions. “Allocating thousands of kanals to armed forces, that too in tourist areas, confirms GOI’s intention to convert J&K into a military garrison. Under the ‘state land’ pretext, our land is up for grabs and, to add insult to injury, locals are being evicted from their homes,” Mehbooba Mufti tweeted. “Gulmarg and Sonamarg, along with Pahalgam are the three most popular tourist destinations and need to be promoted for tourism purposes,” PAGD spokesman M Y Tarigami said. “The need of the hour is to develop tourism infrastructure in Kashmir, which can generate employment. We hope that the government will review its decision.”

Jammu and Kashmir is sending a lot of youths to the armed forces – 1954 in 2016-17, 1817 in 2017-18, 3672 in 2018-2019.

SRINAGAR

Three former Chief Ministers’ who have cumulatively ruled Jammu and Kashmir for almost a quarter-century are leading the Peoples’ Alliance for Gupkar Declaration. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

The Special Security Group (SSG) that was taking care of the security requirement of the former Chief Ministers’ and their families is being downsized to “bare minimum”. Its existence is expected to cease. The group takes care of the security of Ghulam Nabi Azad, Dr Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who fall under Z+ security cover. Farooq and Azad also have NSG cover. “Reduce the posted strength of SSG to the bare minimum preferably headed by DySP for maintaining continuity,” an order issued by the Home Department said. The order said that a “suitable number of personnel” be posted in the security wing of the Jammu and Kashmir Police Close Protection Team. “Post the remaining SSG personnel to other wings to make the best use of their knowledge/ training/ expertise,” said the order. “All the resources including vehicles, access control gadgets etc of the SSG be transferred to the security wing.”

Constituted in 2000, SSG is a 500-personnel force led by an IGP rank IPS officer with two deputy directors, four superintendents of police and around 15 DySPs. It may now have around 50 personnel led by a DySP. The move comes a little over 19 months after the Centre had issued a gazette notification, Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation (Adaptation of State Laws) Order, 2020, on March 31, 2020, amending the Special Security Group Act by omitting a clause that provided former Chief Ministers and their families with SSG security. Officials said the SSG will be revived post elections and will be exclusively meant for the Chief Minister and his family.

Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE) data suggests the unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir fell from 21.2 per cent in November to 15 per cent in December 2021

HYDERABAD

Walnuts enhance cognitive and motor functioning in old age. Pic: Bilal Bahadur

Telangana government invited traders for the yearly 45-day Numaish, one of Hyderabad’s most-awaited and longest-running trade exhibitions. Many people from Kashmir felt lured to the event in the Nampally Grounds. A day after it was closed wing to Covid19 fears. A Kashmiri trader said they have spent everything on the event and even lack money to return. “I have material worth about Rs 15 lakh that I have brought here only with a hope to sell them. I have already spent a few lakhs on transportation, taxes, stall rent, carpenter, electricity charges, wages, food, and accommodation here. And there is no way I can take the material back home,” said Javed Bhat, who was participating in the event with four of his staffers was quoted saying.

RAJOURI

Kashmiris collect saffron flowers after plucking them at a saffron field in Pampore, South Kashmir, on Monday 01 November 2021. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

Taking a cue from Kishtwar, the sensitive Saffron flowers has finally bloomed in Rajouri. Vishal Chander Sharma emerged as the first grower who successfully cultivated the flower that is the costliest spice on earth.

“It is a dream cum true,” Vishal Chander Sharma was quoted as saying. “I never thought saffron could be cultivated here (Rajouri). But we were successful in bringing in new areas of J&K on the saffron map.” Till he sowed the Saffron bulbs, he was cultivating wheat and maize. A resident of KotDhara (Dhangri), Sharma was selected by the agriculture department he was encouraged to plant saffron on part of his 15-kanal land.

Sowing of the seed was done on August 24, 2021, and flowers bloomed on December 12. In 15 days, 734 flowers bloomed.

JAMMU

Female police contingent march during R-Day Parade at Srinagar’s Sher-i-Kashmir Stadium on Tuesday.

Jammu and Kashmir Police are acquiring American Sig Sauer assault rifles and pistols for counter-insurgency operations. Reports appearing in media suggest it will procure 500 Sig Sauer-716 rifles and 100 Sig Sauer MPX 9mm pistols. The 3.82 kg Sig Sauer-716 assault rifle has a more powerful 7.62x51mm cartridge as compared to the 5.56x45mm intermediate cartridge of the INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifles and has the capacity to fire 650-850 rounds per minute in 500 metres range. The 2.94 kg SIG MPX 9mm pistol fires at a cyclic rate of 850 rounds per minute. Both weapons are gas-operated.

KUPWARA

Pune-based NGO, Sarhad has opened a school in Dardpora. Sanjay Nahar, who heads the NGO, said the school will provide education to the downtrodden and underprivileged children. Divisional Commissioner Kashmir, PK Pole was part of the school inauguration.

SRINAGAR

Lal Ded hospital, the main gynaecological and obstetrics hospital in Kashmir. KL Image: Bilal Bahadur

A Kupwara father, Mohammad Amin, lost his child when he was caught at the main gate of the Labour Room in Lal Ded Hospital by security guards for tips. Doctors had advised the father to ensure quick transfer of his newborn to the ICU owing to certain complications. He was stopped by the two female guards who sought Rs 1000. He was willing to pay Rs 800. The negotiations took 10 minutes and by that time the newborn was no more. Hospital administration has sacked the two guards and blacklisted them forever. The guards were provided to the hospital by a private security group. Seeking tips from parents after childbirth is normal in the hospital. The security guards are just an addition to the fleecing layer. Police have also registered a case (FIR 1 of 2022 at PS Rajbagh under RPC section 304) and arrested the two female guards who were identified as Dilshad Begum and Tasleema Jan.

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